Individual differences in course choice result in underestimation of the validity of college admissions systems

Christopher M. Berry, Paul R. Sackett

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

37 Scopus citations

Abstract

We demonstrate that the validity of SAT scores and high school grade point averages (GPAs) as predictors of academic performance has been underestimated because of previous studies' reliance on flawed performance indicators (i.e., college GPA) that are contaminated by the effects of individual differences in course choice. We controlled for this contamination by predicting individual course grades, instead of GPAs, in a data set containing more than 5 million college grades for 167,816 students. Percentage of variance accounted for by SAT scores and high school GPAs was 30 to 40% lower when the criteria were freshman and cumulative GPAs than when the criteria were individual course grades. SAT scores and high school GPAs together accounted for between 44 and 62% of the variance in college grades. This study provides new estimates of the criterion-related validity of SAT scores and high school GPAs, and highlights the care that must be taken in choosing appropriate criteria in validity studies.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)822-830
Number of pages9
JournalPsychological Science
Volume20
Issue number7
DOIs
StatePublished - Jul 2009

Bibliographical note

Funding Information:
This study was supported by a research grant from the College Entrance Examination Board. We would like to thank Brent Bridgeman, Wayne Camara, and Andrew Wiley for their thoughtful comments on an earlier version of this manuscript. We also thank Adam Beatty, Richard Landers, and Haoyu Yu for their database-management support.

Copyright:
Copyright 2012 Elsevier B.V., All rights reserved.

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