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High scores for Chile’s university entrance exam drop in 2013

Council of University Directors of Chile

PSU high scores drop 31 percent, socioeconomic gap widens.

Results published of the University Selection Test (PSU) yielded apparently unfavorable results for Chile’s incoming college students. Only 219 students throughout the country achieved the maximum score of 850 points in 2013, a decrease of 97 students compared to 2012. These are the lowest results since 2004, when only 112 students stood out.

In Chile, the PSU is a selection test required to enter one of 33 universities that are part of the Council of University Directors of Chile (Cruch), and thus have access to 1,394 courses of study; a system that heavily penalizes students who perform poorly.

María Fernanda Ramírez, an education policy researcher for the think tank Educación 2020, said PSU scores are not as important as they may seem.

“The PSU is an imperfect way of measuring a student’s performance,” she said. “Perhaps we need a new type of exam that measures a student’s argumentative skills through a writing section rather than just multiple choice.”

The admission process as a whole shows some novelty this year. According to a decision of the Cruch made last June, a ranking of all students’ grades is now part of the admission process to higher education; a step that Ramirez said makes for a “fairer and more complete admissions process.”

According to Ramírez, PSU scores as they currently stand “are almost perfect indicators of the socioeconomic level of students.”

The average difference between PSU scores of private school students and public school students increased to 160 points in 2013, and the averages of state-funded schools decreased from 2012.

The PSU consists of four different tests. The “Languages and Communication” and “Mathematics” exams are mandatory, but students can choose between ”Sciences” and “History and Social Sciences”. This year, only one out of the 270,000 students who took the exam was able to get the maximum score in the “Languages and Communication” test.

Students who took the PSU have until Jan. 5, 2013 to enroll in the university of their choice. The next step will take place on Jan. 13 with the announcement of admissions. Amid the apparently decreased scores, Ramírez painted a relatively optimistic picture for students whose scores were too low to get into their dream school.

“Students should know that a university is not the only path to higher education,” she said. “There is a great necessity for technical degrees,” she said. “In some cases they even bring with them better employability than some university degrees.” (The Santiago Times)

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