College students commonly have considerable course choice, and they can differ substantially in the proportion of their coursework taken at an advanced level. While advanced coursework is generally viewed as a desirable component of a student's education, research has rarely explored differences in student course-taking patterns as a measure of academic success in college. We examined the relationship between the SAT, high school grade point average (HSGPA), and the amount of advanced coursework taken in a sample of 62 colleges and 188,985 students. We found that both the SAT and HSGPA predict enrollment in advanced courses, even after controlling for advanced placement (AP) credits and demographic variables. The SAT subtests of Critical Reading, Writing, and Math displayed differential relationships with advanced course-taking dependent on student major. Gender and race/ethnicity were also related to advanced course-taking, with women taking more advanced courses in all major categories except for science, technology, engineering, and mathematics (STEM) where they took fewer, even after controlling for other variables. Socioeconomic status had a negligible relationship with advanced course-taking. This research broadens our understanding of academic achievement in college and the goals of admissions in higher education.
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© 2018 by the National Council on Measurement in Education
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- academic achievement
- advanced course-taking
- major choice
- standardized testing