Scandinavian Working Papers in Economics

Umeå Economic Studies,
Umeå University, Department of Economics

No 874: Who benefits from university admissions tests? - A comparison between grades and test scores as selection instruments to higher education

Magnus Wikström () and Christina Wikström ()
Additional contact information
Magnus Wikström: Department of Economics, Umeå School of Business and Economics, Postal: Umeå University, S 901 87 Umeå, Sweden
Christina Wikström: Department of Applied Educational Science, Educational Measurement, Postal: Umeå University, S 901 87 Umeå, Sweden

Abstract: In Sweden, there are two separate instruments for ranking applicants in the admission to higher education; the GPA from upper secondary school and the Swedish Scholastic Assessment Test (the SweSAT). A problem in the selection is that different groups of students perform differently on the instruments. Also, while the GPA is regarded more valid but with reliability problems, the test is seen as reliable but with lower predictive validity. Hence, in 2011, the test was revised, with the purpose to increase its relevance for university studies. New item types and new subtests were introduced, and the weights of the verbal and quantitative parts of the test were made more balanced. This study compares how students are ranked on the basis of the new test compared to their GPA, to find out if previous group differences still remain. The data consists of test participants in the autumn of 2011 and spring of 2012 at the ages 17 to 25. The results show that the correlation between test scores and GPA is approximately the same as before the revision. It is also found that there are still group differences in terms of boys performing better on the test and girls on the GPA. However, when studying separate sub-tests and grades and national course tests from isolated subjects, the students seem to be ranked more similarly than in the overall SweSAT-GPA comparison. Although students with a non-Swedish background are performing lower than other students on both instruments, boys in this group seem to be graded more leniently than the girls with a similar background in mathematics, and the opposite is the case in verbal subjects.

Keywords: admission; selection; higher education; score differences

JEL-codes: I23

49 pages, January 23, 2014

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