Everybody is lying about SAT prep. Here are 5 of the biggest lies, and the people who tell them.
1) Gaston Caperton, the President of the College Board, which administers the SAT, is lying about SAT prep.
Yesterday in the NY Times, Mr. Caperton responded to this question from a reader, “How does the College Board feel about SAT test preparation?”
“Research shows that short-term prep can’t replace years of learning, and it won’t result in big score gains.”
He’s completely wrong. Everything is coachable.
Business, politics, sports, dieting, fitness, cooking, and acting are just some of the fields where skilled coaching can help a motivated “student” advance much faster than he or she would otherwise without the benefit of such help.
Why would anybody expect a high stakes test like the SAT to be any different?
I wonder if Mr. Caperton ever had a mentor at some point in his political or business career. Assuming that he did, I would bet that he probably performed better and rose faster because of having a mentor than other people who did not have access to such coaching.
The study he’s referring to states that, “average gains are more in the neighborhood of 30 points.”
What’s the problem? The term “average” is meaningless.
I don’t doubt that if you averaged together all of the students who did any kind of paid test preparation you might get an average increase of 30 points. If you average all the families in America, we have an average of 1.7 kids.
2) The large (and medium size) test prep companies are lying about SAT prep.
They run tons of students through their programs and trot out a couple of them who raised their score a few hundred points.
Then they say, “250 point score increase!”
It’s like a fad diet or a weight loss pill. “Amanda lost 180 pounds and went from a size 24 to size 8!”
Sure, some people do lose that weight, and some students will have huge score gains with competent instruction.
Most people won’t. Not with a generic, “one size fits all” approach.
3) People who say that the SAT only measures how well you take standardized tests, and therefore can be “gamed” with some sort of test taking tricks are lying about SAT prep.
Seriously? There’s a clear difference in academic ability between a student who scores, for example, a 2250 and an 1800. There’s a clear difference between one who scores a 1400 and an 1850.
To pretend otherwise is just insulting to all of the students who worked hard and applied themselves in school, or put in the time with a skilled tutor or good class, and did well on the test.
4) The people at FairTest, The National Center for Fair & Open Testing, are lying about SAT prep.
FairTest claims that because test preparation can help a student raise his score, that makes the SAT invalid for use in the college admissions process.
Of course there are many other factors, other than test scores, which contribute to how well a student will do in college.
Want to know the biggest one? Motivation to study hard.
What else does motivation to study hard produce? A better score on the SAT!
5) Some high school college counselors are lying about SAT prep.
I hate to say this one. And I want to be clear that I’m saying “some”, not “all”.
Some college counselors tell their students not to put too much effort into studying for the SAT. They tell their students that high school grades are more important.
That’s true, to a point. But remember this:
By the time most kids get ready to take the SAT, they’ve already completed 5 semesters of high school. Those grades are sealed, and they no longer have any control over them.
What do they have control over? Two semester’s worth of grades, and their SAT scores.
Students who don’t study for the SAT are greatly harming their chances for admission to the college of their choice.
So those are the lies. At least some of them.
Want to know the truth? Stop back soon.