The debate over "aptitude" versus "achievement" tests in college admissions is an old one. Aptitude-type tests, exemplified by the SAT I, are intended to assess students' capacity for future learning, whereas achievement-type tests, exemplified by the SAT II subject tests, are designed to assess students' current mastery of college-preparatory subjects. As one of the few institutions in the nation that requires both the SAT I and SAT II, the University of California (UC) has an extensive database with which to assess their relative utility in predicting student success in college. This study examines the relationship between SAT scores and freshman grades based on the records of 77,893 students who entered UC between Fall 1996 and Fall 1999. The study found that (a) the SAT II achievement tests are consistently better predictors of student success at UC than the SAT I, although the incremental gain in prediction is relatively modest and there is substantial redundancy across the tests; (b) the predictive validity of the SAT II appears to be less conditioned by socioeconomic factors than is the SAT I; and (c) racial/ethnic group performance is substantially similar across the SAT I and SAT II. Contrary to the conventional wisdom, these findings suggest that the benefits of achievement tests for college admissions-greater clarity in admissions standards, closer linkage to the high-school curriculum - can be realized without any sacrifice in the capacity to predict success in college.
UC and the SAT
Predictive validity and differential impact of the SAT I and SAT II
Geiser, S., & Studley, R. E. (2002). UC and the SAT: Predictive validity and differential impact of the SAT I and SAT II. Educational Assessment, 8(1), 1-26.