However the SAT is changed, test prep isn’t going anywhere, writes James S. Murphy, an SAT tutor, in The Atlantic.
David Coleman, the president of College Board, thinks companies that offer SAT prep services are “predators who prey on the anxieties of parents and children and provide no real educational benefit.”
It’s not the test prep companies that make students anxious, writes Murphy. It’s the test.
Although more schools than ever are making SAT scores optional for application, good test prep will remain important as long as high-stakes, time-constrained, multiple-choice exams are being used to determine who gets admitted to the most selective colleges and universities. Since most of the metrics these colleges use to determine who to accept are based on indelible aspects of a person’s identity or long-term accomplishments like GPA and extracurricular activities, it would be foolish for a student not to try to improve the one thing that can be improved in a relatively short amount of time.
Tricks don’t make much difference, he argues.
Test prep raises scores by reviewing only the content students need to know for the exam, teaching them techniques they have not learned in school, and assigning students hundreds if not thousands of practice questions. It is this work, and not tricks, that overcome test anxiety. As Ed Carroll, a former colleague of mine, puts it, “Competence breeds confidence.”
College Board is partnering with Khan Academy, which will offer free SAT test prep online. That validates the test prep companies’ contention that test prep is helpful.
SAT correlates with family income because more-educated and affluent parents develop their children’s vocabularies and general knowledge, pay for homes near good public schools or pay for private school tuition, hire tutors if their kids need help in elementary, middle and high school, etc. The advantage is huge long before the student thinks about how to prep for the SAT.
If you don’t have a clue, guess. The new SAT eliminates the penalty for wrong answers, observes Walt Hickey on FiveThirtyEight. That adds “noise” to the results.