Do companies use practice SAT tests to demonstrate inflated score increases?

May 10, 2010 at 3:13 am | Posted in Choosing a SAT Prep Course | 1 Comment

Yes, taking a practice test from any test facility other than College Board can lead to incorrect score assumptions. Many prep sites actually design their questions to be especially difficult in order to show more dramatic score increases. In fact, the College Board has designed the SAT with an experimental section to normalize future tests. Research completed by the College Board states that “high gains are computed using flawed research methods, and the ‘guarantees’ may simply permit students to continue participating in coaching programs at no additional charge after initially paying a large fee.” Additionally here are some reasons for why score increases can be inflated:

  • An assumption by test prep companies that their prep course is the only reason for score increases, even when the course may have been taken more than a year prior or when additional methods of study were used.
  • Most test prep companies use an initial diagnostic test to determine starting score. However, many students are likely to be much less motivated to perform on a diagnostic and have done zero preparation at all.
  • Students who enroll in expensive test prep courses may perform at higher levels because of subjective reasons, such as coming from families with more formal education, or having higher education aspirations or are simply more motivated.
  • Large test prep companies have huge overhead costs that need to be paid by exorbitant class fees to run their business.  There are executives with huge salaries and bonuses, venues for the classes that need to be rented, quality assurance and logistical people to answer phone calls and handle day to day issues, not to mention all of the other expenses incurred to keep a business in operation.  When you purchase a $500-$1,000 course, most of your money is going to help cover this overhead, and very little is being used to directly improve your son or daughter’s SAT score.

That being said, students enrolling in some sort of formal test prep will on average have higher test scores than if they did no preparation. Just be wary when a test prep company claims to guarantee the biggest score increase.



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  1. […] claims made by many test prep companies. We previously brought this issue to light in our blog post on this specific topic. The Princeton Review has “agreed to stop using claims about average score gains in its […]

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