Asian Americans Advancing Justice - LA

Building upon the legacy of the Asian Pacific American Legal Center

Numbers Do Not Measure Merit

Test scores are not created equal. 

SAT scores are largely perceived as neutral, fair benchmarks for academic ability—how can you get any fairer than a standardized test, right? Actually, research shows that, controlling for socioeconomic factors, SAT results correlate strongly and increasingly with the race of test-takers, which further penalizes students of color who are already at a disadvantage because of structural racism. In 2009, self-identification as Latino or African American became the strongest predictor of SAT test scores (more than family income or parental education), which suggests that race matters as much as, if not more than, class.

SAT scores are not even good predictors of college success

A recent study of University of California admissions, which uses holistic review like almost every other selective university, showed that standardized tests predict less than 2 percent of the variance in student performance at UC. This basically means that SAT scores are not the sole factor in predicting what kinds of grades a student will get once they are in college. Statistically, a 100-point increase in SAT score only leads to a 0.13 increase in GPA. Both a student who scored 1400 on their SAT and another who scored 1300 are as likely to receive A- grades their freshman year as C+ grades. All this to say, SAT scores aren’t necessarily accurate markers of academic qualifications.

But what about the test score gap? 

A lot has been made of the so-called “gap” in SAT scores between Asian American students and other applicants. However, any test score gap between Asian American and other students is not related to affirmative action because the same test score gaps exist whether a university considers race in its admissions policy or not

The bottom line:

SAT scores tell you more about a person’s race than how qualified or successful they will be in college (and in life).


For Legal Help

Advancing Justice - LA’s hotlines prioritize assistance to low-income persons in the following areas of law: family, immigration, consumer, public benefits, employment, housing, and civil rights.

English: 888.349.9695
需要協助嗎: 800.520.2356
हिंदी 855.971.2552


도움이 필요하십니까?: 800.867.3640
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Cần sự giúp đỡ: 800.267.7395


Our mission is to advocate for civil rights, provide legal services and education, and build coalitions to positively influence and impact Asian Americans, Native Hawaiians, and Pacific Islanders and to create a more equitable and harmonious society.