Predicting Performance

Case 01: Predicting Performance

Alix Maher is the new admissions director at a small, highly selective New England College. She has a bachelor’s degree in education and a recent Master’s Degree in educational administration. But she has no prior experience in college admissions.

Alix’s predecessor, in conjunction with the college’s admissions committee had given the following weights to student selection criteria: high school grades (40 %); Scholastic Aptitude Test (SAT) scores (40 %); extra-curricular activities and achievements (10 %); and the quality and creativity of a written theme submitted with the application (10 %).

Alix has serious reservations about using SAT scores. In their defense, she recognizes that the quality of high schools varies greatly, so that the level of student performance that receives an “A” in American history at one school might earn only a “C” at a far more demanding school. Alix is also aware that the people who design the SAT argue forcefully that these test scores are valid predictors of how well a person will do in college. Yet Alix has several concerns:

    • The pressure of the SAT exam is very great, and many students suffer from test anxiety. The results, therefore, may not truly reflect what a student knows.

    • There is evidence that coaching improves scores by between 40 and 150 points. Test scores, therefore, may adversely affect the chances of acceptance for students who cannot afford the $600 or $700 to take test-coaching courses.

    • Are SATs valid, or do they discriminate against minorities, the poor, and those who have had limited access to cultural growth experiences?

As Alix ponders whether she wants to recommend changing the college’s selection criteria and weights, she is reminded of a recent conversation she had with a friend who is an industrial psychologist. He told her that his company regularly uses intelligence tests to help select from among job applicants. For instance, after the...