College Entry Exams Show Money Counts - and Roots

Tel Avivians and kibbutzniks score the highest marks in psychometric exams, while residents of the eastern Galilee score the lowest, a recent analysis of the average grade scores indicates.

The analysis was conducted by the National Institute for Testing & Evaluation, the body responsible for the exams.

The Institute also found that examinees of Ashkenazi (European) origin score higher than those of Mizrahi (Middle Eastern) origin, and that the higher the parents' education and the better their economic condition, the higher their children's score.

In 2007, some 74,000 people took the psychometric exam, which, in addition to matriculation exams, is used as a criterion for college acceptance.

The exam consists of six sections, two on each of the following subjects: mathematics and quantitative knowledge; English; and grammar and logic. The score ranges from 200 to 800 points, with most people achieving about 500 points.

The average score last year was 532 points, marking a 10-point drop in four years. The test results varied considerably by gender - men averaged 558 points, compared to women's 515.

One explanation for the gender distinction stems from the difference in mathematical study in high school. Boys study more mathematics and many of them take the five-unit matriculation mathematics exam.

This means they have an advantage over the girls in the psychometric test's mathematics section, although the required knowledge is equivalent to a three-unit matriculation exam, an expert said.

A breakdown of would-be university students' scores according to their place of residence showed that kibbutzniks and Tel Avivians came first, with respective average scores of 597 and 587, followed by Dan region residents and Jerusalemites.

Examinees from the south and eastern Galilee closed the list with an average of 498 and 495 points respectively.

A breakdown on the basis of the examinees' communities lists the kibbutzniks first (597 points) and villagers, mainly from the Arab community, last (456 points).

The average score among those who took the psychometric exam in Hebrew was 565, compared to 494 among those who took it in Russian and 458 among those who took it in Arabic.

"The psychometric exam reflects the existing education system, which explains the low grades in the south, north and among the Arabs," said a university researcher in education. "The schools are supposed to 'compensate' the underprivileged students but once again it transpires that the education system fails to do so," he said.

About 5 percent of the would-be university students - 3,255 Jewish and 257 Arab examinees - achieved more than 700 points in the test.

The age factor

The test results indicate that ethnic origin and the parents' education and economic situation significantly impact the results.

The average score achieved by examinees whose father had no more than a basic education was 451 points, compared to 590 points scored by those whose fathers had a master's degree or higher. The mother's education had an even stronger effect on the examinees' test results.

The average score of examinees whose family income was "much lower than average" was 476 points, compared to 594 of those whose income was much higher than average.

The difference between examinees of Mizrahi and Ashkenazi origin was 28 points and the gap between examinees whose mothers were born in North America and those whose mothers were born in Asia or Africa reaches 73 points.

The data shows that examinees aged 14 to 18 - i.e. who were still in high school - achieved a higher score than those aged 18 to 20. However, in general, the older the examinees were, the higher their score, up to the age of 25, when the mark was 570. The average score of those aged 30 and above was the lowest - 479 points.