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The Validity of the SAT at the University of Hawaii: A Riddle Wrapped in an Enigma SAT

Wainer, Howard; Saka, Thomas; Donoghue, John R.
Publication Year:
Report Number:
ETS Research Report
Document Type:
Page Count:
Subject/Key Words:
Grade Prediction, Minority Groups, Scholastic Aptitude Test (SAT), Test Validity, University of Hawaii


The SAT is the most widely used college admissions test in the United States with an annual volume of more than a million examinees. Its value has been debated widely, but empirically it is commonly found to predict first-year college grades (FYG) about as well as high school grades. Since selection to university is based, to some extent, on a student's performance on the SAT, it is erroneous to calculate the correlation between SAT and FYG and call it `validity.' Nevertheless, this correlation, based on a censored sample, is often used as a measure of the test's validity. There may be some reasonable comparative inferences that can be drawn from such a measure. Certainly, when the correlation between SAT and FYG was found to decline, it was cause for a flurry of investigations (Willingham, Lewis, Morgan & Ramist, 1990). In this paper we provide the facts for a mystery regarding the low and decreasing validity of the SAT at the University of Hawaii among students from Hawaiian secondary schools. Moreover, while we are unable to provide a complete solution, we do eliminate one onerous suspect and provide an evocative hint. (10pp.)

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