Cultural Bias in Testing: Examples & Definition

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  • 0:01 Defining Cultural Bias
  • 1:44 Example of Cultural Bias
  • 3:04 Lesson Summary
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Lesson Transcript
Instructor: Yolanda Williams

Yolanda has taught college Psychology and Ethics, and has a doctorate of philosophy in counselor education and supervision.

Cultural bias in testing occurs when the test scores of people from one group are significantly different due to cultural differences. Learn more about cultural bias in testing from examples and test your knowledge with a quiz.

Defining Cultural Bias

Cultural bias in testing refers to a situation where the scores on a test are significantly higher or lower between cultural groups and are better able to predict the future performance of one cultural group than the rest of the population.

Sam is a high school student whose family immigrated to the United States from Brazil when Sam was five years old. During his junior year, Sam took an admissions exam for a local university. Despite having a 4.0 grade point average and being in his high school's advanced placement program, Sam's score on the admissions exam was 356 out of 1000, which is well below the average exam score. All of Sam's classmates in the honor's program that took the exam scored between 800 and 900, which made Sam feel like a failure.

Sam was devastated with his results and went to talk to his guidance counselor about his scores. After several inquiries, Sam's guidance counselor found out that Sam was not the only honors student that had received a low score on the admissions exam. In fact, over 85% of high school students who were originally from a country in South America received scores similar to Sam's on the admissions exam despite their academic abilities.

In this example, the admissions exam yielded lower scores for individuals who emigrated from South America than it did for the rest of the students who took the exam. Furthermore, the honors students that were not from South America all had high scores, which means that their scores on the exam were related to their performance in school. Sam's score, on the other hand, did not reflect his academic abilities; he had a 4.0 and still scored low on the admissions exam. In this example, the college admissions test is culturally biased.

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