Use of an Aptitude Test in University Entrance: a Validity Study. 2008 Update

Chris Whetton, Ian Schagen, Catherine Kirkup, Rebecca Wheater, Jo Morrison

01 February 2009

2008 Update: further analyses of SAT® data

Research report available to download from BIS

The 2008 report looks at differences between students according to A level subjects and examines social, educational and economic background variables using more complex statistical modelling of the data.

See also

Key Findings

  • There is some evidence that the SAT® could prove useful in differentiating between able pupils either at GCSE or at A level.
  • The current evidence suggests that the utility of the SAT® may differ according to the subjects studied at A level or in HE.

The evidence relating to disadvantaged students is inconclusive:

  • When prior attainment at GCSE is taken into account, students with similar A level and GCSE points perform similarly on the SAT® irrespective of household income as measured by the IDACI index.
  • Using the affluence measure derived from survey responses, SAT® scores (Critical Reading and Writing) tended to be higher for more affluent students (compared to less affluent students with similar GCSE and A level attainment).

Based on the current evidence the SAT® may have limited use in identifying economically or educationally disadvantaged students with the potential to benefit from higher education whose ability is not adequately reflected in their A level results. However, it may provide an additional strand of evidence for some students - see below.

  • Although small, the SAT® appears to offer additional information to aid the selection of HE candidates over and above the information provided by performance at both GCSE and A level.
  • Differences in SAT® scores may be useful in differentiating between students with similar attainment from schools within the same GCSE band (and that the utility of the SAT® for this purpose may be greatest within low-performing schools).

The SAT® appears to be reflecting factors identified by admissions tutors on the most selective courses. The value of this information will depend on whether students with higher SAT® scores perform better in HE than students from similar schools with similar attainment and lower SAT® scores. It will also be necessary to determine whether this information just reflects current practice or whether it can be used to identify young people who would benefit from accessing the most selective courses.