The Instigator
KevinL75
Pro (for)
Losing
22 Points
The Contender
repete21
Con (against)
Winning
37 Points

Standardized Tests Such As The SAT Are Socioeconomically Biased

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Voting Style: Open Point System: 7 Point
Started: 12/15/2007 Category: Education
Updated: 9 years ago Status: Voting Period
Viewed: 2,757 times Debate No: 467
Debate Rounds (3)
Comments (7)
Votes (18)

 

KevinL75

Pro

The first point I'd like to make in this argument is that in the world of standardized tests, such as the SAT, ACT, LSAT, GRE, GMAT, and MCAT, there is no such thing as an "aptitude test." Each test is designed to focus on a specific skill set that can, to some extent, be learned. None of these tests are designed in such a way that they reflect innate ability.

That being said, standardized tests are biased towards wealthy students. Since these students are wealthy, they can afford professional help in studying for these tests, and will therefore score higher than students who cannot afford, for example, a course designed to increase scores.
repete21

Con

First off, I would like to say that if any test at all was based on innate abilities, we would take them when we were born, and no later. I also believe that these tests are aptitude tests, which test your ability to learn, and your determination to learn. To say that you must be wealthy to be good at, and prepared for these tests is foolish, although the wealthy may be able to do it with greater ease, it is possible for anyone with the determination to do good to succeed on these tests. It is true that the wealthy can hire someone to show them how to take the test, but it is also true, that with effort, even the poorest person can find a library, and find countless books on test taking skills, SAT & ACT practice books, etc, and more likely than not, can take practice tests online, at that library, so it may be easier for the wealthy, that does not show that the tests are biased towards them, but rather, that they have the ability to prepare themselves for the test with more ease than someone else, after all, once you are sitting down, taking the test, it is all you, and no matter how much money you have, you have to do it alone.
Debate Round No. 1
KevinL75

Pro

I agree on your point about testing aptitude - some tests come closer than others, but I don't think standardized tests make much of an effort to test aptitute at all. But that was more of a side note.

You said: "To say that you must be wealthy to be good at, and prepared for these tests is foolish"

That is foolish, which is why it's not what I said. I said that that the wealthy are more likely to achieve a higher score. The difference is the ease with which the wealthy can prepare - I don't think being rich makes you better test-taker by default, but it certainly gives you an advantage in preparation.

Standardized tests, because of their nature, repeat the same patterns over and over again. They test the same concepts, and most of the time they test them in the same exact ways from test to test. Because of that, with enough practice, a student can become completely familiar with the concepts tested, the way those concepts are tested, and the best way to attack those problems.

A rich student can find all of this information neatly laid out by a private tutor, and practice to his or her heart's content with the help of that tutor until he or she is fully familiar with the test. A poor student, on the other hand, will find it difficult to practice the same amount or get the same level of advice, because of his or her economic status.

Certainly if we compare Student A (who is rich) and Student B (who is poor,) Student B happens to be extremely determined whereas Student A is very lazy, B may very well out-score A on the SAT, but if we compare the groups of students as a whole, because of the ease with which affluent students can prepare for standardized tests, there is a socioeconomic bias built in.

I suppose I need to underscore my argument with an assumption about tests like the SAT: they presume to objectively compare students' abilities. Since rich and poor students start off on unequal footing when preparing, that presumption of an objective comparison is incorrect.
repete21

Con

I agree with what you have said, mostly, but what you stated is that "Standardized Tests Such As The SAT Are Socioeconomically BIASED" I emphasize the word bias, in that, they do not make the test for the rich, but that the rich make themselves more apt to do good on the test, therefore, the tests are not biased, the wealthy are often simply more prepared. You state that they test the same concepts with each test, if that is true, someone who cannot afford a tutor could simply go to the library and practice online tests, would be well prepared, because as you stated, "They test the same concepts, and most of the time they test them in the same exact ways from test to test", this could arguably be easier than learning the all the concepts tested, then learning the concepts, because you would simply prepare yourself for those concepts, without knowing what they were, but you don't have to know the name to know how it works. Also, you seem to try to pin the blame on the test, they cannot simply make the test easier for the poor, and harder for the rich, because then it would not be objective at all, I still don't believe that the tests are biased, but rather that the wealthy more often have the ability to compare than the poor have the motivation to prepare, which could be perceived as a bias by the test.
Debate Round No. 2
KevinL75

Pro

You said: "the tests are not biased, the wealthy are often simply more prepared."

I don't agree with your definition of bias here. If I said that the tests were inherently biased, I think you'd have a good point. But bias simply means a predisposition toward favoring one group or another, for whatever reason. Here, the reason is that the rich can prepare for the test more easily, and therefore on the whole have an advantage over students with less money.

You said: "someone who cannot afford a tutor could simply go to the library and practice online tests, would be well prepared"

Just because standardized tests repeat the same concepts and patterns doesn't mean they're obvious or easy to grasp simply by practicing. If a student takes, let's say, 10 practice tests, I don't think we can assume that just by doing that practice the student will have learned the patterns of the test, and be as familiar with them as someone who's gone over each of the patterns with a private tutor.

But the crux of my argument is still that the rich are much more easily able to prepare well for standardized tests, and will therefore on the whole score higher than those who do not have access to money - that is a bias. It's not an inherent or malicious bias, but it's a bias nonetheless.

Finally, I'm not proposing a solution to the problem (certainly not one that makes the test harder for certain individuals,) or trying to assign blame - the debate is simply about whether or not the problem exists.
repete21

Con

You have still not acnowleged the fact that someone pointing out the pattern for you doesn't mean that you understand the concept, they STILL HAVE TO LEARN THE CONCEPT. It is like saying that someone who knows the mechanics of a gun inside and out is a better shot than me simply because they know how the gun works. This isnt true, you dont have to know the patterns, you only have to know the concepts, so even if you do point out all the patterns to a wealthy student that doesn't mean that he understands the concepts, but if you teach him the concepts, he can do the problem no matter where it comes up, pattern or not. I believe that by taking ENOUGH tests, (not by stoping after ten or fifteen tests), but by taking enough practice tests that they know the processes to solve the problems, a poor person can learn concepts just as well as any rich person who knows where the concepts show up.
Debate Round No. 3
7 comments have been posted on this debate. Showing 1 through 7 records.
Posted by the_last_Patriot 9 years ago
the_last_Patriot
If anything these tests are not biased toward anything but the mindless memorization of facts and key concepts. Preparing for a standardized exam does nothing more than teach you how to take a test. Basing college entrance largely on a standardized exam teaches students that everything is black and white, correct or incorrect, and that everyone is a number and a score and a GPA. It is a celebrated attack on critical thinking skills. Secondly I don't think that the test is biased towards any group what so ever. That is why it is standardized. Having a lot of money in a society where money is needed as a means of exchange is going to make everything easier. Wealth making life easier is just a fact that has been true in every society where currency has existed since the dawn of time. This does not suggest a test is biased against the poor, the capitalist system itself is biased against the poor, but it is biased toward the hard-working, the innovative, and the dedicated, as it should be. Also just as a side note, I went to a public high-school which offered free tutoring for the SAT, and im sure there are many schools nationaly who do the same. This kind of destroys the argument that the poor cannot prepare in the same way as the rich can.
Posted by Ineffablesquirrel 9 years ago
Ineffablesquirrel
Haha, thanks. =)

And I say why can't you formally debate here? Go for it.
Posted by KevinL75 9 years ago
KevinL75
Well I meant formally debate, I suppose :)

I love your username by the way, Ineffablesquirrel!
Posted by Ineffablesquirrel 9 years ago
Ineffablesquirrel
Actually, you both have the chance to debate more in the comments section. Additionally, this is the place you get to defend your opinions to the public...if they have questions/concerns.

That's kinda the point of the comment section.
Posted by repete21 9 years ago
repete21
you dont have that chance, so dont, it wasnt a new argument
Posted by KevinL75 9 years ago
KevinL75
Wish I had a chance to repond to round 3! Of course students still have to learn the concepts themselves, but I don't see why that makes any difference to the argument. What matters is the potential for an INCREASE in score from that student's baseline, and rich students are in a much better position to increase their scores.
Posted by Ineffablesquirrel 9 years ago
Ineffablesquirrel
I agree with your view, so I won't debate you. I would like to see how this debate turns out. =)
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Vote Placed by JBlake 8 years ago
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