ETS Policy Notes — The Gender Gap

ETS Policy Information Center
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Academic achievement adolescents elementary secondary education females high school students higher education males mathematics achievement national surveys performance factors reading achievement sex differences test results


This issue of ETS Policy Notes (Volume 2, Number 1) discusses gender differences in educational achievement. The first article--"The Gender Gap in Education: How Early and How Large?"--discusses the National Assessment of Educational Progress (NAEP), which first measures achievement at age 9 years. Gender differences at that age are generally small, but significant in some academic subjects. By age 17, average scores for females are higher in reading and writing; with males, advantages are apparent in science and mathematics. Student attitudes begin to affect curriculum choices in the high school years and large differences emerge as college-bound seniors report their choice of intended college major. ETS publications reflecting data from the NAEP are listed at the end of the article. The second article--"Scholastic Ability"--considers the gender differences in performance on the Scholastic Aptitude Test (SAT) and the Preliminary Scholastic Aptitude Test/National Merit Scholarship Qualifying Test (PSAT/NMSQT). Over the years, male and female verbal scores have converged, although males still outperform females in mathematics. Information on a more detailed report on gender differences in SAT takers is provided. The third article--"Sex Differences in Test Performance: A Synthesis of Research"--describes a comprehensive new summary of several decades of research on these gender differences, prepared by ETS researchers G. Wilder and K. Powel. This synthesis suggests that performance differences may be slowly diminishing, although women still lag in some aspects of spatial ability and achievement at the top levels of mathematics. ED 314 431.


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