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Student Group Differences in Predicting College Grades: Sex, Language, and Ethnic Groups

Lewis, Charles; McCamley-Jenkins, Laura; Ramist, Leonard
Publication Year:
Report Number:
RR-94-27, CBR-93-01
ETS Research Report
Document Type:
Page Count:
Subject/Key Words:
College Freshmen, Ethnic Groups, Grade Prediction, Language Dominance, Minority Students, Performance Factors, Scholastic Assessment Test, Sex Differences, Student Characteristics, Test Validity


Part 1 of this study investigated possible causes of the observed decline in correlations between SAT scores and freshman grade-point average (FGPA). The results were described in Chapter 12, "Implications of Using Freshman GPA as the Criterion for the Predictive Validity of the SAT," and were the basis for much of Chapters 2 and 3 of the monograph "Predicting College Grades: An Analysis of Institutional Trends Over Two Decades" (Willingham, Lewis, Morgan, and Ramist 1990). Working with a data base of 38 colleges, the study found that the comparability of course grades received by entering freshmen declined in the 1980s. Three new measures of grade comparability--variety of courses taken, variation in average student aptitude among courses, and appropriateness of average course grade in relation to student aptitude level--proved to be excellent indicators of both the level of and the change in SAT validity for predicting FGPA among the 38 colleges. Using course grade as the criterion instead of FGPA reduced the decline in both SAT and high school GPA (HSGPA) validity for predicting course grades by 40 percent. Contrary to the assumption that high school record (HSR) is a better predictor than the SAT, compared with HSR the SAT had higher or equal average validities for predicting course grade in almost all categories of courses. (Each course was placed into one of 37 categories based on subject, skills required, and level.) Part 2 of this project examines course selection, grading patterns, grade comparability, SAT predictive effectiveness, and average over- and underpredictions in each type of course for groups defined by an academic composite index, sex, English as best or not best language, and ethnic group. SAT predictive effectiveness is determined with and without HSR on the basis of correlations that are corrected for restriction of range. Over- and underpredictions are determined by residuals from predictions. All results are analyzed by college selectivity level and size. (46pp.)

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