The Graduate Report Examination, or GRE, is a nationwide test mandated by most universities for students to achieve access to Graduate-level education. No test taker desires the opportunity to experience this daunting test. A lot of questions, a lot of confusion, and a tremendous amount of incorrect answers. I did not perform well on the GRE, or the Scholastic Aptitude Test (SAT) for that matter (a nationwide test mandated for high school graduates interested in undergraduate studies). In fact, I scored in the last percentile in two of the three categories on the GRE (quantitative analysis and analytical writing). But how? I felt I prepared for both tests at the best of my ability. I knew I would not receive scores similar to students with educational privileges, but I thought I was capable of receiving average scores.
My scores did come as a surprise, so I became curious about the structure of the test, and participants by race. I am aware most students with wealthy family backgrounds have opportunities to score high on test due to the family’s financial ability to hire a private tutor, or pay for test-prep courses worth up to a $1000. But I wanted to know what ethnicities performed the best and worst on both tests. Lucky me, the ETS organization (the nonprofit group responsible for the organization and administration of both tests) provides recent reports disclosing the average scores by racial group on the GRE. This report shows Black test takers scored the worst in all three categories as a group through 2011-14. They scored 147 (verbal reasoning), 145 (quantitative analysis), and 3.3 on the writing portion. Meanwhile, on the suburban side of town, white test takers scored 154, 150, and 3.9, respectively.
As for the teenagers taking the SAT, results were no different. Black students had an average score of 428 in 2014. Latinos scored an average of 457, whites 534, and Asians 598. Asians as a group should be lauded for their competitive edge on the GRE as well (153, 154, 3.9, respectively.). They’re the only minority group to outscore whites on either test. One may presume the stereotype that most Asian parents endeavor their children to achieve higher education and financial stability, and therefore, prep their children intently for these nationwide tests. On the other hand, Blacks did the the worst as a group on both test. So what is the issue? Are Blacks not capable of learning? Are Black parents inefficiently preparing their children for educational success and financial stability? Maybe, or maybe not. But I certainly do not believe Blacks are incapable of learning. I believe Black students are ill-equip for nationwide tests, and their cultural background deters them from performing better as a group on mandated testing.
So why do Black teenagers, and adults, score the worst as a group? I’m not sure yet. I do know most Black children attend worthless or mediocre public schools. Very few Black children get the chance to experience a private school compared to their counterparts. Therefore, public schools are responsible for teaching children the basics of writing and English. I do not recall any of my public schools demonstrating correct syntax and grammar. Of course, we practiced those skills, but now as an adult expanding my knowledge on academics, I recognized my education was not presented to me as efficiently as they are to students attending other polished public schools, or private schools in America. It is essential elementary schools equip students with proper grammar and syntax abilities. With most Blacks attending mediocre public schools, they may not attain proper education to formulate the English language, or math. The GRE and SAT are based off of basic principles of English, writing, and 9th grade level math. Attending mediocre public schools my entire life, I do not feel I attained the meticulous fundamentals of the English language. And I certainly did not have the family-relative mentorship that some Asians and whites gain from private schools, or college-educated parents. As a Black child and adult, it was up to me to learn the fundamentals of English and writing. And clearly, I am still not there yet. Let us continue.
Some of Black culture may disrupt the educational qualities of Black students. Blacks scored the absolute worst on the verbal reasoning section. Blacks scored worst than Puerto Ricans (149.6). Don’t they speak Spanish??? Unbelievable. But I am sure you have noticed, Black people all over America speak broken English. Even educated Blacks understand the lingo that circumvents poor Black inner-cities. I can confidently say when I personally speak to a Black individual, I am more comfortable with my lack of consideration to speak proper English and delve into the realm of “Black-linguistics”, as oppose to speaking to a Caucasian or Asian.
Growing up with a Jamaican father, English was definitely broken around the household. Caribbean adults were breaded on broken English in the 17th century, and it still sticks today. Its just the way they have spoken English since it was introduced to them by slaveholders. English slaveowners did not want their slaves learning to read, so the language was never introduced to them emphatically. Wow, just like me and millions of other underprivileged students that went to public schools. Now, I am not certain this had an affect on other students growing up with a Caribbean parent, but through my experience, I recognize the grammatical mistakes I make just because of my natural introduction and comprehension of the English language. Jamaicans prefer to call their English Patwa. Their English is very broken and still to this day incorporates fragments of West African linguistics. Its fair to say my father’s English may have overwhelmed my academic comprehension of the English language in public schools. And with the lack of tutoring and private education, I was forced to configure the American-English language for myself.
This blog is an introduction to a significant problem most universities are ignoring. Uncompetitive test scores deprive Black students of the same education as their counterparts. Accomplished schools, such as Harvard, UCLA, Princeton, and many others, will find more interest in students with high test scores and an excellent gpa. With Blacks scoring the worst, they do not have the same opportunity to be accepted to these polished schools and must settle for a mediocre public university, which can limit their academic and professional potential compared to students at top universities. I look forward to conducting more research on this unfortunate situation confronting Black students, as well as Hispanics. There have been theories that suggest these tests, administered by a white administration, favor white students and promote racial profiling. (Malsbury, Christine Brigid. CommonDreams.org. 2015.)
GRE Test Scores. A Snapshot of the Individuals Who Took the GRE revised General Test 2011-14. Educational Testing Services. 2015. https://www.ets.org/s/gre/pdf/snapshot_test_taker_data_2014.pdf
Halikias, Demitrios. Reeves, Richard. Race gaps in SAT scores highlight inequality and hinder upward mobility SAT Scores. The Brookings Institution. 2017. https://www.brookings.edu/research/race-gaps-in-sat-scores-highlight-inequality-and-hinder-upward-mobility/
Malsbary, Christine Brigid. Standardized Tests are a Form of Racial Profiling. Common Dreams. 2015. https://www.commondreams.org/views/2015/10/26/standardized-tests-are-form-racial-profiling