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Navigating Racial Bias in Testing

Last updated March 11, 2024

Research has proven that racial bias makes the standardized testing experience unfair for students of color. Lack of equal access to resources, as well as stereotypes, may make students of color more anxious on test day and more likely to underperform.

With this in mind, it's important to understand that no one test determines a person’s worth or capabilities, and there are many ways a student can empower themselves to excel in their educational journeys. Here are some tips for navigating racial bias in testing.

Student taking a writing test with a led pencil - Navigating Racial Bias in Testing

Challenges you may face

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 communities of color sometimes come across questions that ask them things that don’t relate to their lives personally. If you don’t know what the question is asking, how can you feel confident in answering it? Students from more affluent backgrounds may be able to successfully answer questions that might leave other students stumped.

Access to resources

When a student doesn't have access to standardized test preparation programs or resources in their school or community, it becomes even more important for them to get outside help. Unfortunately, the costs associated with these types of resources– such as private tutors or classes– may be unaffordable for students of color or students who come from a lower economic background. 

Stereotypes

Students of color and students attending underserved schools may have a belief that they are not smart enough or that other students are more qualified to get accepted to and attend college. This mindset can lead to discouragement and a lack of motivation in preparing for and taking standardized tests.

Overcoming challenges 

Take advantage of free test prep resources

Read here about free SAT prep resources you can use and read here to find free ACT prep resources.

Consider applying to test-optional colleges

In response to the pandemic, many colleges and universities in the U.S. have either stopped requiring or accepting standardized test (SAT/ACT) scores. These colleges, usually known as test-optional colleges, give you some flexibility to show off your other characteristics and accomplishments that make you a great student beyond your test scores. Regardless of your performance on standardized tests, you are still completely capable and worthy of getting accepted to college! 

Have any questions about standardized tests? Text #Hello to 33-55-77 to chat with one of our advisors. If you're using a mobile device, click here to have the text message set up for you!

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