Does gender have an impact on one’s SAT strategy? According to a “Freakonomics” piece on SAT strategy that details the research of a Harvard economics grad student, Katherine Baldiga, the answer is a resounding yes. Using data from the World History and U.S. History SAT Subject Tests, Baldiga found that when there exists a penalty for guessing like on the SAT, women answer significantly fewer questions than do their male counterparts. When there is no penalty for guessing, males and females alike tend to fill in all the bubbles.
And so what’s the researcher’s explanation for this difference in SAT strategy along gender lines? According to Baldiga, “We see no differences in knowledge of the material or confidence in these test-takers, and differences in risk preferences fail to explain all of the observed gap. Because the gender gap exists only when the task is framed as an SAT, we argue that differences in competitive attitudes may drive the gender differences we observe. Finally, we show that, conditional on their knowledge of the material, test-takers who skip questions do significantly worse on our experimental test, putting women and more risk averse test-takers at a disadvantage.”
Do you think this explains why females tend to do better than males once they actually get to college regardless of their supposedly predictive SAT scores? Do you think that in this research on guessing is the solution to the gender gap on the SAT? Should guessing be penalized on the SAT or should this aspect of the SAT be revised? Let us know your thoughts by posting below! And check out this newsletter on respectable SAT scores.
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