Gender differences in tertiary entrance scores

Year: 1994

Author: Peck, Bob, Trimmer, Karen

Type of paper: Abstract refereed

The imbalance between the numbers of male and female students at high levels of achievement continues to attract comment, not only from the public but also from some of those engaged in studies of gender difference. In all Australian States university admission is based primarily on a single aggregate mark (known as Tertiary Entrance Score, Tertiary Entrance Rank, Overall Position, etc.) which is intended to capture students' achievement in a wide range of secondary courses, and which is also intended to be a good predictive measure of aptitude for tertiary study. In some States, students who achieve very high tertiary entrance scores (TES) have not only been able to enter high-demand university courses but are also rewarded with well- publicised awards and exhibitions.

This paper discusses some well-known sources of gender difference and goes on to discuss some features in the formulation of a TES which amplify these differences, namely: (1) males are more variable than females between courses, and thus benefit more from the use of a restricted number of course marks in the TES; (2) males benefit more than females from a lack of requirements for breadth of study.

A number of changes to the formulation of tertiary entrance scores, which will achieve a more equitable outcome, are recommended.