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Female Performance in Standardized Tests Research Paper

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Updated: May 26th, 2020


In order to understand how females perform in standardized tests, defining the term-standardized tests would be important. A standard test is a test that is programmed or standardized such that the mode of their provision and grading is somehow fixed.

These tests treat all the takers in an equal manner in that, they are given the same test under the same conditions and therefore they are perceived fair as compared to other tests such as non-standardized tests.

Although these tests are perceived to be fair in the manner of administration and all other procedures pertaining to them, on average, females normally perform poorly in these tests having a significant difference between their scores and scores by males.

Many scholars and other groups that are concerned with female welfare have tried to look into the root causes of such disparities between female and male performance.

Some scholars argue out that these tests are administered in a gender biased and boys or males are perceived to be favored by the tests whilst in other cases , stereotypes held by the society regarding women inability to score well in such tests are to blame for low scores by women in standardized tests.

These tests are somehow seen as the gatekeepers to women progress since they are used to make important decisions such as programs to be undertaken by students and the schools they enroll in. This paper will focus on how women perform in the standardized tests and explain whether such are beneficial or not.

Female Performance in Standardized Tests

Generally, boys perform better as compared to women in standardized tests. Those who advocate for girls argue that girls tend to perform well, they are academically active, and majority of them manage to secure places in higher education institutions. The minor gap between their performance and that of boys is mainly attributed to sociological and psychological disparities, which include but not limited to confidence and self-esteem gaps.

However, the girl crisis crowd argue it out differently and point out that boys perform better in standardized tests such as “scholastic Assessment Test and law school, medical school, and graduate school admissions tests” (Pinnick et al 115). For example, in 1998, boys scored 35 points ahead of girls in math and 7 points ahead in English during the Scholastic Aptitude Assessment Test (Pinnick et al 115).

He argues that the lower score in girls is not attributed to unfairness or biasness, but other reasons play part such as, a greater percentage of girls as compared to boys sit for the standardized tests and gives a ratio of 54% to 46% respectively.

In addition, the college board profile of SAT and achievement Test takers shows that a large number of girls from “at risk” category sit for the tests as compared to the number of boys who take the test from the boys “at risk “ category.

The number of girls who sit for the SAT from poor families or families with low income and parents with poor educational background is also high as compared to the number of boys who sit for the same having a similar background. Due to the large number of disadvantaged girls taking the test, the average score of girls tent to be lower as compared to that of boys (college bound seniors, cited in Pinnick et al, 115).

The SAT should therefore not be entirely used to create a bias against the girls’ performance, criticize them, or draw a conclusion that boys perform better than girls do since there are various factors that should be put into consideration. Girls are perceived to perform poorly in the standardized tests without considering that the test results are normally skewed.

On the side of boys, the trend is that there are more male geniuses as well as male idiots. Therefore, the male scores are highly spread in terms of abilities and disabilities as compared to the spread in girls’ scores.

The list of males who drop out of school, the failures, and those with learning disability is also large as compared to that girls, the implication is that these males do not take the standardized tests leaving a large of males with potential to do the test as compared to that of females.

Over the past few years, statistics show that girls have come of age in their performance in mathematics and sciences, yet there are no significant improvement in boys’ performance in languages.

According to a1995 research conducted by Hedges and Norwell (cited in Pinnick et al, 116), an observation of girls performance in math showed that there was an insignificant deficit although it could affect the number of females made it in technical and scientific careers.

On the other hand, the number of boys with poor writing skills was alarming and posed a great danger considering that the world is rapidly growing as information driven economy.

Stereotypes play a major role in determining the performance of women in standardized tests. There has been a stereotype that men perform better than women in standardized tests have.

According to Inzlicht and Zeev (cited in Alexander $ Winnie 623), if women were given say for example a math test in a group that men were the majority, and the same women placed in a group with other women for the same test, women would score lower in the men’s group than in the women group.

That was attributed to the stereotype that men are generally better as compared to women and therefore they would lack the confidence.

According to Kendall (399), females tend to perform poorly in standardized tests due to Gender biasness and hidden curriculum that present in both informal and formal educational systems.

For example, females in the US have a greater opportunity to receive formal education as compared to the females in the developing countries where in most cases they are seen as housewives who should stay at home, take care of the children as well as the homesteads as men go to school and work. However, the same females in the US are not exposed to the same or equal learning opportunities as men in the same social class.

For a long time, females have received differential treatment from teachers and families and this has affected their self-esteem, making them feel as if they are less important as compared to men. This has made them fail to take courses that are science related or math and even when they take, they score poorly.

Though this perception has changed slightly, the number of girls or females who enroll for courses such as computer science and design is still wanting. Even in cases where females enroll for such courses, most of them will do data entry and clerical jobs while men will engage in more tasking areas such as development of computer programs.

In most parts of the world, females are a group that is socially stigmatized and this affects their performance in standardized tests. It happens that they are constantly reminded either intentionally or unintentionally of their membership to the social groups that are associated with negative stereotype regarding intellectual ability.

This contributes to poor performance in standardized tests. However, this ideology can be changed or used to improve their performance by identifying them with other social groups that are associated with positive stereotypes.

This hypothesis was proved by Vandenberg Mental Rotation Test (McGlone 9) where different social identities were given to women who were pursuing their undergraduate program before the standardized test was administered to them. The test results showed that women who had an identity as students from a selective private college scored better than those who identified with their gender or a test irrelevant identity.

It can therefore be said that standardized tests can be used as a tool to help women perform better in other tests by disregarding the stereotypes associated with their gender and focusing on their abilities and potential just like any other human being.

In addition to how stereotypes affects females performance in standardized tests, its important to look at how standardized tests involving mental rotation displays a huge gap between male and female performance.

Such tasks require the student to visualize a still two or three-dimensional objects from various perspectives and determine how the mentally rotated object is similar to another comparison object. Men are believed to perform better in such tests while women are viewed to be weak in how they conceptualize the images.

Therefore, even when such a test is to be administered, the female students’ attention and focus will not be entirely to the test, but rather divided between the test and the way their failure would confirm a preconceived stereotype regarding their performance in such tests. This divided attention will therefore to some extent account for their poor performance in standardized tests.

Over the years, standardized tests have been a major determinant of educational opportunities accessed by the students. They determine which students gain access to secondary education and securing places in institution of higher learning. As if that is not enough, they also determine the institutions to be joined by the students in terms of facilities and quality of education.

Ordinarily, a person would think that the road ends there; unfortunately, it is the beginning of another journey since, more often, these educational opportunities are the key to success in securing competitive job opportunities and boosting the economy. Some standardized tests such as the PAST determine the students to benefit from valuable college and higher education scholarships based on their performance in the test.

For instance, the National Merit Scholars offer $27 million every year as scholarship to high school juniors. Though there are many students in dire need of the scholarship, not all of them can benefit from it since it is not enough. The implication is that more than one million students compete for the scholarship by taking the PSAT.

Generally, the average score of girls in the PSAT test is lower than that of boys and therefore end up receiving only 40% of the scholarship even though they constitute the biggest percentage of the test takers (56%) (Women Equity Resource Centre Para 8).

With all that in consideration, it seems that these standardized tests at times are gatekeepers to female progress. To understand this concept better, let us look at how things were before enactment and implementation of Title IX’S. By then, test administration and interpretation of results showed aspects of gender biasness as well as stereotypes instead of revealing the interests and capabilities of the students.

A good illustration is that in the 1960’s were a pink vocational test, which was for women and a blue vocational test for men. Such tests indicated that women had neither the ability nor the capability to become presidents. Based on such tests, SATS could at times be seen as gatekeepers to women progress.

However, the intensity of gender biasness has reduced since enactment of Title IX and most SATS currently emphasize on a context of national educational reform (Women Equity Resource Centre, Para 9).

Advantages of Standardized Tests

Though standardized tests have a number of flaws, they are beneficial in some way. These tests ensure that all students or the test takers are given the same test without favoritism and the grading system is standardized in such a way that test scores are identical irrespective of who is taking the test. This shows objectivity in the tests and eliminates any doubts that may be harbored by the scorer if a subjective test is otherwise used.

Though not all, some standardized tests are a good predictor of students performance in the school applied for. Standardized tests such as MCAT help in testing whether the student has crucial skills required to be successful in a medical school. Though the test does not give 100% guarantee, research has shown that it is a better tool as compared to interviews (standardized tests para.2).

Aggregation is also crucial as it gives more precise and steadfast assessment on a groups potential in terms of understanding and ability to perform. A large group of people normally takes the test and therefore aggregate scores provide more accurate information since assessment error is reduced when there is an increase in sample size (standardized tests Para. 3).

Disadvantages of Standardized Tests

SATS are a poor indicator or benchmark of a student’s success in subjects such as mathematics and physics. Women performance in the test is significantly lower as compared to that of men in graduate and undergraduate math and physics courses hence stand a higher chance of elimination during the admissions screening process.

These tests do not take into consideration factors such as the gender gap that is on the boys case or better put, it favors the boys. Gender gap has a great implication since it is prevalent across all demographic traits, which include but not limited to course work, parental education, class rank, grade point average, as well as family income.

Wallace (Para.4) also supported the idea that Standardized tests are a poor indicator of a woman’s potential and therefore it should not be used by colleges and universities to evaluate a student’s eligibility in securing a place. The argument is that a test that takes three hours is inadequate to portray all the characteristics of a successful candidate.

Another flaw in the test is that there are so many and varied preparation techniques and do not necessarily show what the student is familiar with. For example, some firms claim that their product can help a student get a score hat would assist the student land into the dream college.

The main question lies in whether admission to college should be based on four short week knowledge or on twelve years knowledge investment in education. Wallace (Para 5) added that use of standardized tests implies unintentional favoritism to males and those from upper class by the colleges or universities.

The tests are biased tending to favor only those who have a shared culture and common upbringing background with the test makers. Schools should therefore come up with better mechanisms to evaluate a student instead of discrimination.

Bearing in mind that the role of a woman has increasingly changed allowing the woman to study and further her studies as much as she wants, use of standardized test would not be an ideal idea since it discriminates against women, which is counterproductive (Wallace Para.7). Standardized tests do not give the student a chance to be thorough and do good work.

The tests are done in haste since they have timed sessions for doing the test. For instance, a math SAT will primarily focus on answering many simple questions paying little or no attention to the difficult questions; here, the student cannot do much since only 25 minutes are allowed to do 20 math’s questions.

Though the questions are not very difficult, students never get time to go through their work and correct mistakes if any. Other than poor work in math test, the essay session does not necessarily test quality of the work done but rather the quantity since the students are encouraged to write a lot in a short time.

Standardized tests are used by the government to control or direct concentration towards certain preferred areas. For instance, a need to add a new section in the math section test might compel changes in the local curriculum in order to compensate for the new section added.

Tests then become the forum used by government and school systems to convey what policy makers believe is important in the curriculum and requires more attention. Such tests that influence decisions are known as “high-stakes.” The test can also be used to buy educators to highlight their strengths and weaknesses in terms of development (Jones Para. 4).


Based on information gathered regarding female performance in standardized tests, it can be concluded that on average, females score low in the standardized tests. However, this does not mean that they are foolish or have less potential as compared to males. Other factors such as gender biasness, gender gap, parent educational background, income levels among other factors play a role in their performance.

Most girls from “at risk” categories sit for the test as compared to the number of boys who take the test from the same category. Standardized tests have their advantages and disadvantages though they should not be used to solely determine a students’ potential since they do not reveal all the qualities that may be required.

Works Cited

Alexander, Patricia & Winne, Philip. Handbook of educational psychology. NY, Routledge. 2006. Web.

Jones, Stan. ”The Neutralization of Benefits in Standardized Testing.” The Neutralization of Benefits in Standardized Testing. 1996. Web.

Kendall, Diana. . KY, Cengage Learning. 2008. Web.

McGlone, Matthew, et al. “Social Identity Salience and Stereotype Threat in Standardized Test Performance.” Social Identity Salience and Stereotype Threat in Standardized Test Performance. Web.

Pinnick, Cassandra, Koertge, Noretta & Almeder, Robert. . NC, Rutgers University Press. 2003. Web.

Standardized Tests. “Standardized Testing Advantages.” Standardized Tests. 2010. Web.

Wallace, Katie. “Standardized Test Scores and their use in College Admissions Decisions.” Standardized Test Scores and their use in College Admissions Decisions. 1 Web.

Women equity resource centre. “Women equity resource centre. 2010. Web.

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