Tuesday, July 13, 2010

SATs and PhDs

For better or for worse, the Tierney articles got me thinking: is it really true that those with SAT math scores at the 99.9 percentile level are that much more likely to get a doctorate in science or to win tenure at a top university than those at the 99.1 level, as Tierney claims? My gut feeling, from having interacted with hundreds of PhD astronomers, including myself, is that it isn't true. Heck, I doubt the scores themselves are even that accurate. Also, while I can see that math scores are important for achieving in science, verbal scores are surely very important also. After all, the way scientists communicate our ideas to each other is through talks and papers, both of which surely involve good verbal and communications skills. In which case, shouldn't girls' superior verbal scores balance things out?

So, if I were to conduct a thoroughly non-scientific internet survey on PhDs in astronomy and your SAT scores (if you can remember them) to analyze Tierney's thoroughly non-scientific claim, would you participate? If there's sufficient interest, I'll go and figure out how to set up a survey.