English Proficiency and Differences Among Racial and Ethnic Groups in Mean SAT and GRE Scores: A Longitudinal Analysis

Pennock-Román, María
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English (second language) ethnic groups language proficiency longitudinal studies racial differences selective admission test interpretation


Although limited proficiency in the language of a test is known to depress aptitude test scores, the changes that occur as proficiency rises over time have been less well studied. The objective here is to contrast longitudinal changes in test performance for persons who indicated that English was their best language (EBL) or was not their best language (ENBL). Analyses were based on a sample of U.S. citizens and permanent residents (N=65,987 EBL and N=1,592); each individual had taken both the Scholastic Assessment Test (SAT) and the Graduate Record Examinations (GRE) General Test some years later. The distance in verbal mean scores between the EBL non-Hispanic White group and ENBL groups (such as, non-Hispanic White, Asian-American, Black, Puerto Rican, other Hispanic) grew closer by 0.21 to 0.48 standard deviation units from the taking of the SAT to the taking of the GRE. These findings have implications for the interpretation of test scores in longitudinal studies of linguistic minorities and for selective admissions of students with limited proficiency in English.

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