Skip to main content
Article thumbnail
Location of Repository

Sex differences in Cognitive Abilities Test scores: a UK national picture

By Steve Strand, Ian J. Deary and Pauline Smith

Abstract

Background and aims. There is uncertainty about the extent or even existence of sex differences in the mean and variability of reasoning test scores ( Jensen, 1998; Lynn, 1994, ; Mackintosh, 1996). This paper analyses the Cognitive Abilities Test (CAT) scores of a large and representative sample of UK pupils to determine the extent of any sex differences.\ud \ud \ud Sample. A nationally representative UK sample of over 320,000 school pupils aged 11-12 years was assessed on the CAT (third edition) between September 2001 and August 2003. The CAT includes separate nationally standardized tests for verbal, quantitative, and non-verbal reasoning. The size and recency of the sample is unprecedented in research on this issue.\ud \ud \ud Methods. The sheer size of the sample ensures that any sex difference will achieve statistical significance. Therefore, effect sizes (d) and variance ratios (VR) are employed to evaluate the magnitude of sex differences in mean scores and in score variability, respectively.\ud \ud \ud Results. The mean verbal reasoning score for girls was 2.2 standard score points higher than the mean for boys, but only 0.3 standard points in favour of girls for non-verbal reasoning (NVR), and 0.7 points in favour of boys for quantitative reasoning (QR). However, for all three tests there were substantial sex differences in the standard deviation of scores, with greater variance among boys. Boys were over represented relative to girls at both the top and the bottom extremes for all tests, with the exception of the top 10% in verbal reasoning.\ud \ud \ud Conclusions. Given the small differences in means, explanations for sex differences in wider domains such examination attainment at age 16 need to look beyond conceptions of `ability'. Boys tend to be both the lowest and the highest performers in terms of their reasoning abilities, which warns against the danger of stereotyping boys as low achievers

Topics: LC
Publisher: The British Psychological Society
Year: 2006
OAI identifier: oai:wrap.warwick.ac.uk:460

Suggested articles

Citations

  1. (1990). A broadly based analysis of mathematical giftedness. doi
  2. (1999). Accounting for the differential attainment of boys and girls at school. doi
  3. (2001). Cognitive Abilities Test 3: Technical Manual.
  4. (2001). Cognitive Abilities Test Third Edition.
  5. (2003). Comparing the predictive validity of reasoning tests and national end of Key Stage 2 tests: Which tests are the best? British Educational Research Journal, in press. Sex Differences in Cognitive Abilities Test Scores Author Note Steve Strand, doi
  6. (2004). Consistency in reasoning test scores over time. doi
  7. (1987). Demographic characteristics and IQ among adults: analysis of the WAIS-R standardisation sample as a function of stratification variables. doi
  8. (2001). Determinants of degree performance in UK universities: a statistical analysis of the 1993 student cohort. doi
  9. (1983). differences on the WISC-R. Personality and individual differences, doi
  10. (1922). Differential action upon the sexes of forces which tend to segregate the feebleminded. doi
  11. (2002). Education and Skills (DfES) doi
  12. (1996). Educational reform and gender equality in schools. Manchester: Equal Opportunities Commission. Sex Differences in Cognitive Abilities Test Scores
  13. (1990). Gender differences in mathematics performance: A meta-analysis. doi
  14. (1988). Gender differences in verbal ability: A meta-analysis. doi
  15. (1995). gender stereotypes: examination and coursework performance in the UK at 16. Assessment doi
  16. (2003). Getting the best from CAT: A practical guide for secondary schools.
  17. (1970). Intelligence and personality.
  18. (2004). Issues arising from the use of effect sizes in analysing and reporting research. in
  19. (2000). Minding the gap: ethnic, gender and social class differences in attainment at 16. doi
  20. (2002). Office for Standard in Education (OFSTED)
  21. (1997). Office of Her Majestys Chief Inspector (OHMCI)
  22. (2003). Population sex differences in IQ at age 11: The Scottish mental survey doi
  23. (1992). Sex differences in cognitive abilities. doi
  24. (1994). Sex differences in intelligence and brain size: a paradox resolved. doi
  25. (1998). Sex differences in intelligence: A rejoinder to Mackintosh. doi
  26. (1995). Sex differences in mental test scores, variability, and numbers of high-scoring individuals. doi
  27. (1992). Sex differences in variability in intellectual abilities: A new look at an old controversy. doi
  28. (1977). Statistical power analysis for the behavioural sciences. doi
  29. (1994). The bell curve. doi
  30. (1997). The ETS Gender study: How females and males perform in educational settings.
  31. (1998). The g factor. doi
  32. (1974). The psychology of sex differences. doi
  33. (1998). Trends in gender differences in academic achievement from 1960 to 1994: An analysis of differences in mean, variance and extreme scores.
  34. (1992). Variability: A pernicious hypothesis. doi

To submit an update or takedown request for this paper, please submit an Update/Correction/Removal Request.