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Racial Bias and the SAT: Testing as a Black or Brown Student

Last updated February 25, 2021

When it comes to standardized tests, research has proven that racial bias and other threats make the testing experience unfair on Black and brown communities. The SAT is not a level playing field, and lack of equal access to resources, as well as stereotypes may make students from BIPOC communities more anxious on test day.

One thing to realize, however, is that no one test determines a person’s worth, and there are many ways that a student can empower themselves to excel on their educational and career journeys. Many educators, scholars, and activists have pushed for less focus on standardized testing, and many colleges are trending toward test-optional college admissions, and an application evaluation process that aims to see the whole picture of the student, rather than focusing on one test score. 

However, until more widespread change happens, here’s how to navigate the murky waters of standardized testing as a BIPOC student..

The Challenges:

  • Racially biased questions - The history of the SAT is full of instances where test questions are chosen based on criteria that centers middle/upper class income students. Students from Black and brown communities sometimes come across questions that ask them things that don’t relate to their lives personally. This can be in a math word problem, or even an essay passage. If you don’t know what the question is asking, how can you feel confident to answer it? Students from more affluent backgrounds can breeze through these questions that leave other students stumped.
  • Access to resources - When a student is not surrounded by good test preparation programs in their school or community, it becomes more important for them to get outside help. Unfortunately, the costs associated with these test prep programs can get expensive, often making it unaffordable.
  • Stereotypes - A student from Black and brown communities or underserved schools may have a notion in their head that they are not smart enough or that other people are more qualified for college. That mindset can lead to discouragement, and keeping the student from giving their all in test prep and taking the exam.

The Opportunities

  • Consider applying to test-optional colleges. With more colleges shifting to this form of admissions, especially during the pandemic, you have some flexibility to show off your other characteristics that make you a great student beyond your SAT scores. Don’t let being unsure of the SAT stop you from achieving your college goals.
  • Take advantage of free test prep resources like Khan academy. Khan Academy has extremely in-depth lessons, practice quizzes and exams, and tips. You can also text us by texting “Hello” to 33-55-77 to talk to our advisors who can help connect you to SAT tips and help you raise your score.
  • Tell yourself positive mantras daily that you are worth it, you are intelligent, you are going somewhere. Also surround yourself with encouraging mentors or school counselors who can remind you that scores don’t define you and that you are a unique smart individual!

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