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Evidence of Cultural Factors in Responses of African Students to Items in an American Test of Scholastic Aptitude PSAT

Coffman, William E.
Publication Year:
Report Number:
ETS Research Memorandum
Document Type:
Page Count:
Subject/Key Words:
African Scholarship Program of American Universities, Africans, Cambridge School Examinations, College Entrance Examinations, Cultural Influences, Preliminary Scholastic Aptitude Test (PSAT), Test Bias


Three factors may distort measurement and cause bias against foreign students taking entrance examinations for American colleges. First, they may lack experience in taking long, timed, objective tests. Second, aptitude items, in testing knowledge gained in the home and community, may involve language that is not familiar to foreign students who learn English in classrooms and libraries. Finally, if English is the second language, the examinee may lack the fluency to read and think as rapidly as the test requires. This project attempted to minimize the first two factors and to assess the magnitude of the third, for candidates of the African Scholarship Program of American Universities (ASPAU). Candidates were undergraduates from sub-Saharan Africa who were instructed in English in British-influenced secondary schools. The Preliminary Scholastic Aptitude Test (PSAT) was administered to about 4,300 students over a three-year period; 467 students received scholarships. Preliminary data suggested a similar relationship between PSAT scores and Cambridge School Examination scores for East African students as exists between PSAT scores and college grades in the United States. On the basis of group differences indicated by the results, specifications were drawn for a special Scholastic Aptitude Test (SAT) to be used in the next year of the ASPAU program.

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