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Students taking an exam.

Standardized tests predict student success

From eNews, March 8, 2006

In the largest and most comprehensive study of graduate and professional school admissions tests, a University of Minnesota-led team has found that standardized test scores are more accurate than prior academic experience in predicting student success.

Nathan Kuncel, assistant professor of psychology at the University of Minnesota, and Sarah Hezlett of the Personnel Decisions Research Institute say that after 80 years of controversy about the value of such tests, their study reinforces the correlation between students' standardized test scores and success in their graduate studies and in their field. The study was published in the Feb. 23 issue of Science.

The study evaluated graduate school tests as they relate to several indicators of performance, including first-year grades, overall grades, licensing exams, faculty ratings, degree attainment, research productivity, citation counts and comprehensive exams. Outcomes showed that standardized test scores outperformed prior academic experience in predicting success.

"Standardized tests from the GRE to the MCAT and from the LSAT to the GMAT predict a lot of important and complex student outcomes--years after the test was taken--in fields ranging from the humanities to engineering, medicine, management and the law," says Kuncel.

Graduate admissions tests are designed to indicate students' abilities in a range of disciplines. Most of these standardized tests combine verbal, quantitative and reasoning sections with field-specific knowledge. They are a primary selection factor for admission into many graduate programs, such as law, medicine, science and business.

"Both advocates and critics often have their favorite study or two that supposedly proves their point," says Kuncel. "This study is based on an exhaustive synthesis of the literature, both pro and con. The final analysis is that the tests are solid predictors."