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Women

Scholastic Aptitude Test
Achievement Tests
Advanced Placement Exams
Intended Undergraduate Major

Scholastic Aptitude Test Up arrow

The Admissions Testing Program of the College Entrance Examination Board collects and tabulates data on the scores of college-bound seniors who have taken the SAT. The examination consists of two components: The verbal component tests reading comprehension and vocabulary skills; the mathematics component assesses the ability to solve problems by using arithmetic reasoning and such skills as basic algebra and geometry. The score range for each component is from 200 to 800.
Continuing a long-time trend, in 1993 females scored below males in both the mathematics and verbal portions of the SAT. This pattern persists despite the fact that females tend to do as well as males in high school in courses that they take and they tend to have better grades in college than males (see the related discussion on undergraduates in chapters 4 and 5). This section presents SAT trend data through 1993; a new format will be implemented in 1994. [2]

SAT Scores and High School Classes

Mathematics
On the mathematics component of the SAT, scores for both sexes have increased since 1983, a period of increased emphasis on mathematics and science education at the K-12 level. Nevertheless, females in 1993 continued to score considerably below males in mathematics, although the gap is growing slightly smaller. (See figure 3-1.) Since 1983, female scores increased 12 points to 457 in 1993, while male scores increased 9 points to 502. Females are narrowing the gap from male scores very slowly: a 45 point difference in 1993, from a 48 point difference in 1983. (See appendix table 3-1.)

Figure 3-1

This large difference in mathematics scores occurred despite the similarity in high school characteristics between the two genders. In 1993, females who took the SAT exam reported completing an average of 3.7 years of mathematics coursework and receiving a grade point average (GPA) of 2.94. [3] Males taking the SAT reported completing an average of 3.8 years of mathematics coursework and received virtually the same mathematics GPA in high school (College Entrance Examination Board 1993, p. 10).
A larger percentage of males than females took an intensive concentration of coursework, however: Fifteen percent of the males took more than 4 years of mathematics in high school, while only 11 percent of the females took that much math. (See appendix table 3-2.) This difference may contribute to the result that females were also much less likely than males to place in the top range of scores on the mathematics component, i.e., in the 600 to 800 range. In 1993, only 14 percent of females scored in this top range versus 25 percent of males. (See appendix table 3-3.)

Verbal
In 1993, females also continued to score somewhat lower than males on the verbal component of the SAT. (See figure 3-1.) This occurred even though females reported a higher high school grade point average than males in both English and social sciences/history. [4] Females and males also took the same average number of years of coursework in English (3.9 years) and social sciences/history (3.4 years) (College Entrance Examination Board 1993, p.10).
The percentage distribution of scores on the verbal component of the SAT was similar for females and males in 1993, except that males had slightly higher performance at the upper levels. (See appendix table 3-3.)

SAT Scores and Level of Difficulty of High School Mathematics and Science Courses

Intensity of coursework in high school may account for some of the differences between males and females in mathematics test scores, according to an analysis of the profiles data reported by high school seniors who take the SAT. In particular, although males and females took about the same average number of years of high school mathematics classes, participated at almost exactly the same rate in honors courses, and had almost identical GPA's in mathematics courses, a smaller percentage of females took the most advanced coursework.
The discrepancy in course-taking between the males and the females taking the SAT occurs in courses that are normally electives following the geometry course. For example, 93 percent of both females and males reported taking a geometry course and 96 percent of males and females took algebra. There is a 3 percent difference in the proportion taking precalculus, however: 32 percent for females versus 35 percent for males. The gap increases to 4 percent for trigonometry (52 percent versus 56 percent) and there is a 5 percent difference in the proportion of high school students taking calculus (18 percent female versus 23 percent male). (See appendix table 3-2.)
There is a similar pattern in enrollment in advanced natural science classes. Females' GPA's are very similar to males', they take about the same number of years of coursework, and they participate almost equally in honors courses. [5] As is the case with math, however, a smaller percentage of females take the most advanced coursework in the natural science fields. For example, 97 percent of all students, both female and male, had taken biology, and 82 percent of both sexes had taken chemistry. Only 40 percent of females took physics, however, compared with 51 percent of males. In coursework intensiveness, only 7 percent of females took more than 4 years of natural science, compared with 9 percent of males.

Achievement Tests Up arrow

The differences in coursework taken may also affect the differences between males and females in scores received on the achievement tests offered by the Admissions Testing Program. Approximately 18 percent of both males and females who took the SAT also elected to take at least one achievement test. [6] Although females took 48 percent of the achievement tests in science and mathematics in 1993, [7] female participation was concentrated in mathematics I (the less advanced of the two mathematics exams), where women took 56 percent of the exams, and in biology, where they took 54 percent. Females took only 40 percent of the chemistry achievement exams and 25 percent of the physics exams.
In the achievement tests they did take, females' mean scores were lower than the mean scores for males in 1993: The discrepancy ranged from 32 points on the biology test to 57 points on the physics exam. (See appendix table 3-4.)

Advanced Placement Exams Up arrow

The College Board also administers the Advanced Placement (AP) Program, [8] which offers a series of exams in 29 areas, 9 of which are in science and mathematics/computer science. Although females took 51 percent of the total number of AP exams, they took only 42 percent of the exams in the mathematics and science fields. Only in biology did females take the majority of the AP exams (53 percent); for the other eight mathematics and science fields, females participated at a much lower rate (Advanced Placement Program of the College Entrance Examination Board 1993). Repeating the pattern of the overall SAT scores, females scored below males on all of the mathematics and science AP exams in 1993. (See appendix table 3-5.)

Intended Undergraduate Major Up arrow

Differences between females and males in their intended preference for degree major are striking for students planning to enter college. [9] Perhaps in keeping with their lower scores on the mathematics SAT, relatively few females about to enter college in 1993 intended to pursue a major in engineering. (See figure 3-2.) In 1993, 18 percent of males but only 4 percent of females intended to major in this subject. (See appendix table 3-6.) [10]

Figure 3-2

Engineering was the largest single probable major for males, followed by business (16 percent). The natural science and mathematics fields combined was the third choice of males (14 percent), with health and related fields following (13 percent).


2. In 1987 the College Board initiated a review of the Admissions Testing Program and, in 1988, established the Commission on New Possibilities for the Admissions Testing Program. The Commission's report stated that "the new testing program should do more than predict college grades. It recommended that the new program of tests be used to 'reinforce the growth of sound high school curricula and...assist school and college officials in guiding and placing a more diverse student population'" (College Board 1993, p. 1). The SAT program was revised into two formats: the SAT I: Reasoning Test (the mathematical and verbal sections, with revisions beginning in March 1994) and SAT II: Subject Tests (the Achievement Tests, with revisions beginning in May 1994). Up arrow

3. Based on the grading of A = 4 points, B = 3 points, C = 2 points, and D = 1 point. Up arrow

4. Females earned a GPA of 3.24 in English, compared with 3.0 for males; they earned a GPA of 3.22 in social sciences/history, compared with 3.18 for males. Up arrow

5. In 1993, female college-bound seniors reported that they had studied natural science for an average of 3.2 years and received an average GPA of 3.06. Males took natural science courses for an average of 3.3 years, but received a slightly lower GPA of 3.05. The percentage who reported taking honors courses in natural science was very close (23 percent for females versus 24 percent for males). Up arrow

6. The achievement test series includes 1-hour multiple choice exams in 14 academic areas. The score range for each exam is 200 to 800. The College Board reports that students who take achievement tests tend to apply to selective colleges and universities. Up arrow

7. Of the 14 academic subjects in which achievement tests were administered in 1991, 5 were in science and mathematics fields: mathematics level I, mathematics level II, biology, chemistry, and physics. Up arrow

8. This program is based on the premise that college-level material can be taught to well-prepared secondary school students. A student who does well on one or more of these exams may be granted college credit and/or appropriate college placement by participating higher education institutions. The advanced placement grading scale ranges from 1 (no recommendation for credit) to 5 (extremely well qualified in the subject area). Up arrow

9. This program is based on the premise that college-level material can be taught to well-prepared secondary school students. A student who does well on one or more of these exams may be granted college credit and/or appropriate college placement by participating higher education institutions. The advanced placement grading scale ranges from 1 (no recommendation for credit) to 5 (extremely well qualified in the subject area). Up arrow

10. See the discussion in chapter 5 concerning faculty as role models. Up arrow


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