FIGURE 2-3 Group means on Medical College Admissions Test (MCAT) performance by ethnicity and race.

SOURCE: Camara and Schmidt, 1999.

cal Sciences (.21) scale, and score equivalently on the Biological Sciences scale (Camara and Schmidt, 1999).

What Causes Group Differences in Standardized Test and Academic Performance?

The causes of the persistent gap in test performance between URM and non-URM students have been the subject of hotly contested debate, with explanations ranging from accusations of test bias to assertions of genetic differences in intellectual ability among racial and ethnic groups (e.g., Hernnstein and Murray, 1999). A growing plurality of social scientists, however, agree that historic and contemporary social and economic forces and discrimination play a powerful role in shaping differences in racial and ethnic groups’ educational opportunities and life experiences that affect test performance (American Sociological Association, 2003).

Bowen and Bok (1998), in their seminal research on the academic performance of African American and white students who attended selective U.S. colleges and universities, suggest two sets of factors that may contribute to poorer URM performance on standardized tests, as well as their tendency to perform at lower levels academically than non-URM students who achieve the same standardized test scores. The first set of factors refers to pre-college influences, such as the quality of prior academic preparation and family influences on educational preparation. The second set of factors emerges from experiences in higher education settings (and in this instance, health professions education institutions [HPEIs]).

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