American-style admissions test pilot
In the biggest pilot study of its kind, some 50,000 UK students will sit US-style university admissions tests from the autumn of 2005
The Sutton Trust is funding a huge pilot study to see if American SAT tests could work in the UK.
The scholastic aptitude tests aim to allow universities to identify talented students who perform badly at A level, often because they attend a school that fails to develop their potential. The Sutton Trust estimates that as many as one in 20 students falls into this category.
"In an earlier trial in below-average performing schools," says Sutton Trust chairman Sir Peter Lampl, "30 students - 5 per cent of the sample - scored well enough on the SAT to be considered by a top US university. Yet only one of them achieved the three A grades at A level required by our most selective universities. Internationally, the SAT is the most recognised and administered test for university entry. It surely makes sense for us to adopt the oldest and most widely-used test."
Sir Peter is a member of the group set up to review fair admissions to higher education, under the leadership of Steven Schwartz, vice-chancellor of Brunel University. In April, the Schwartz group, alarmed by the proliferation of a number of different additional tests being introduced for university entrance, published a report backing the development of US-style SATs as a potential single common-entry test for UK universities.
The Sutton Trust is now deliberating whether to conduct blind trials as part of the study. This would mean that university applicants would sit the tests next year, but the results would not be disclosed until after their graduation - when the success of SATs in predicting degree success could be evaluated. Alternatively, universities could take account of the test results when making offers to applicants. A combined scheme, under which some universities use the results and others do not, would also be possible.
Candidates will sit the tests either in the September of their upper sixth year - before the October 15 deadline for admissions to Oxford and Cambridge universities and to medical schools - or simultaneously with AS levels at the end of the lower-sixth year.
Sir Peter has also welcomed the Schwartz recommendation that universities should judge pupils on their actual A level results, rather than predicted grades.
For more information on the Higher Education Admissions Review, visit the website at: www.admissions-review.org.uk