Letter: Sats don't help access

March 9, 2001

It seems extraordinary that the UK is now engaged in a debate on the merits of United States Scholastic Assessment Tests ("Britain is urged to adopt US Sats", THES, March 2).

American research has already revealed that the tests do not provide a level playing field for students of different backgrounds and ethnicities. Leaving aside the lucrative Sats coaching industry, a 1998 study showed that underrepresented minorities in the US accounted for only about one in 20 of the students with the high scores typical of those admitted to top institutions.

When University of Warwick staff visited some leading US universities last year, all independently confirmed that test scores counted for only about 25 per cent of the admissions decision. They also emphasised that national test scores are evaluated alongside detailed information about the school in question and what might reasonably be expected of its brightest pupils.

Making comparative and contextualised judgements of this kind is clearly fraught with difficulties but is probably the only way to do anything meaningful about access.

Katherine Lloyd Clark
Assistant registrar (undergraduate admissions)
University of Warwick

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