SAT Introduces ‘Adversity Score’ to Capture Social and Economic Background


David Coleman, CEO of The College Board, recently announced plans to assign an adversity score to every student who takes the SAT in an effort to capture their social and economic background.

In an interview with the Wall Street Journal, Coleman said wealthier students are more likely to score better on the SAT. “We can’t sit on our hands and ignore the disparities of wealth reflected in the SAT,” he went on to say.

The adversity score will be calculated using 15 factors. Among the categories included in the calculation are the crime rate in a student’s neighborhood, rigor of their school’s curriculum, and their family’s median income. Colleges will be able to see the number when assessing each student’s application, but students themselves won't know their scores. Student adversity scores will be measured on a scale of 1 to 100. A score of 50 would be considered average, while a number above 50 indicates hardship, and a number below 50 privilege, according to the WSJ interview. The score will not account for race.


Some higher education advocacy groups are welcoming the new system as a means of promoting equity in the college admissions process, while others argue that it promotes reverse discrimination, the WSJ noted. About 50 schools used the adversity score in their admissions process last year during a beta testing period. Testing of the new score will expand to 150 schools this year.

"We have to make sure that colleges can see a full range of talent, including for groups of kids who don't yet do as well on an exam like the SAT," Coleman said in a speech he gave to a group of veterans in late 2018. "So we feel a profound urgency to act, to give colleges tools to look at a wide range of factors, including race neutral factors," he said.

News of the adversity score comes after federal prosecutors revealed a widespread college admissions cheating scandal earlier this year, through which wealthy parents paid bribes to secure admission for their children into elite colleges including Georgetown, Yale, and USC. So far, multiple parents, coaches, and others involved in the cheating have pled guilty as a part of the scam.