Gender Differences & SAT Math Scores

Building off of Taylor’s post referring to standardized tests and today’s gender differences lecture, I did a little research on SAT score statistics. As expected, men were generally seen to score on average higher than women, especially on the math section. What is interesting however is that women typically are known to be better students compared to men as measured through higher average GPAs. A professor who commented on the College Board’s statistics claimed that women having higher GPAs in math puts them a step ahead going into the SAT because they are thought to be more knowledgeable and display a higher level of ability on the material. The professor concludes by saying that the only real take away message from the statistics could logically be that high school men, in general, are better at math as compared to high school women. He essentially supports a stereotype and the idea that there are gender differences in math believing it is the only real explanation.

I do agree that there could be a gender difference when it comes to approaching math, but I don’t think men scoring higher on the SAT math section necessarily means they are better at math in general. Like Taylor said, people can use strategies to “beat” the SAT and score well on it. I am curious if this gender difference in SAT math scores is due to the fact that men are better at test taking while women do better in a classroom setting, explaining their higher GPAs.

Pulling in our knowledge of personalities, it would make sense that men who are less neurotic and less of perfectionists would do better on a high pressure timed exam. In addition to the effects of personality, something deeper could even be going on in the synapses or in terms of brain capabilities. If it is the case that gender differences are the reason women are not seen to do as well as men on the SAT, should the format of the test be changed? Is it more wrong for colleges to give women the benefit of the doubt because they know women don’t typically do as well or for women to take a test that doesn’t fairly make use of their strengths?

http://www.dailymarkets.com/economy/2010/09/13/sat-math-test-2010-huge-gender-gap-persists-with-a-34-point-advantage-for-high-school-boys/

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2 thoughts on “Gender Differences & SAT Math Scores

  1. I think that your point about personalities is really interesting. So many other factors go into taking a standardized test and I definitely think that personality is one. Even from personal experience, I remember that my male friends were a lot less worried about the SATs than the girls. So to me it does seem like a reasonable hypothesis that personality could be a bigger factor playing into the score differences than intellectual ability.

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  2. I also think this is interesting. We often are interested in the link between emotionality and cognition in the lab. I know there are some baseline differences in emotional reactivity between males and females but I’ve always considered the relation between the emotion and cognition to be the same in both sexes. I wonder if that is indeed the case… maybe the relationship is inverse depending sex… I must have these data somewhere….

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