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American tests 'favour the richest'

The idea that American-style aptitude tests are the key to making university admissions fairer has been challenged by a leading US expert.

John Douglass, senior research director at the Centre for Studies in Higher Education, University of California, said research shows that typical American SAT tests favour "students from higher income groups with greater cultural capital".

There are two types of test: SAT I is a multiple choice mathematical and verbal reasoning test, while SAT II, testing mastery of a particular subject, includes writing an essay.

The UK taskforce suggested using an exam based on SAT I as a way of judging students independently of their achievement at school. But a study carried out on 78,000 first-year students in California in 2001 found SAT II was a far better predictor of eventual university performance and more useful for identifying high-potential students in poor performing schools, Mr Douglass said.

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