The Case of the Unfair Test

Sydney Groshong examines test bias.

To most people, an exam is an exam, homework is homework, and a writing response is a writing response. Sometimes, a student’s intelligence can’t be measured correctly because some tests and essay questions can be culturally biased.  Various audiences, gender dominance, and racial diversity are two major infuences of culture bias.


According to Bright Hub Education and, some tests can be inappropriate to their audience.  Some tests can include culturally related information that can throw a student off that is not familiar with that culture.  For example, in the article provided from Bright Hub Education, a teacher gave a test asking the students to identify a casserole.  Not all family households serve this kind of food, so the culturally different students were already at a disadvantage.


Another type of bias is gender bias.  Sometimes, in order to be accepted into a program, a student is asked to give a response regarding leadership capacities.  Some cultures are male dominated.  So, there is a barrier for females in this type of response due to the fact that their culture doesn’t allow them to take on the same activities as males.  Because of how skewed a culture can be towards dominance, a gender will have a limited response making it hard for them to qualify for the program. Dominance within a culture usually pertains to male dominance. This type of qualification response isn’t equal depending on opportunities allowed in a culture.


Recently, Lauren Ruedebusch,a student at Beechwood, talked about her college scholarship responses.  She is going to the University of Cincinnati for Chemical Engineering and was asked to participate in a scholarship award competition.  It involved answering two questions, one about contributing to the program and one about racial diversity.  Obviously, the second question is culturally biased.  This is the exact question: What has been your experience and major contributions in improving race relations with groups other than your own within your school or community and why is diversity important to you? Lauren explained how frustrating it was to answer the question because of how uncommon it is to see other races in the neighborhood.  She has grown up in the Beechwood community– mostly made up of white people.  The scholarship response is bias because not all contending recipients grow up in racially diverse communities.  There is an unfair advantage for the students contending for this scholarship that do grow up in a racially diverse community.  She did tell me she found an outlet, though.  She wrote about how she tutors and exposes hispanic kids to the English culture through an Extended Learning program.


All in all, it may be hard to adapt tests to the numerous ethnicities in America.  This is why is it not rare to see a culturally biased question on a test or response.  The reason why Lauren saw this response question was probably because the University of Cincinnati Engineering program was looking for a way to separate the incoming students, but there are also many other approaches to this other than creating a culturally bias question.  Being acclimated to a culture or diversity is much different than growing up with a culture or diversity.







Sydney Groshong


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