Levelling the field 1

November 5, 2004

Alison Wolf's argument for the introduction of an SAT-type test was persuasive (Opinion, October 22). Selecting on the basis of A levels alone does not always ensure the brightest students get to the universities they deserve, not least because A levels differ so much between subjects.

We need a common currency, such as the SAT, accessible to all, that offers universities a different perspective on a candidate's potential.

In 2000, the Sutton Trust funded the National Foundation for Educational Research to conduct a pilot of the SAT among 1,300 secondary school pupils at 70 schools. From the lower-achieving state schools included in the study, 30 students out of 600 achieved a SAT score sufficient to be considered for entry to a top US university. Of these, only two or three achieved good enough A-level results to be considered by a leading UK university.

The SAT can clearly play a role in identifying talent that would otherwise be missed.

The NFER has drawn up a proposal for an operational SAT trial involving 50,000 students, and we hope that - in light of the findings of the admissions task force and the growing tide of opinion in favour of a universal test - the trial will soon proceed as part of the Government's consideration of this issue.

Peter Lampl
Chairman, Sutton Trust

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