Test-prep firm to drop SAT claim




Princeton Review will no longer promise big boost in student test scores
By BETH J. HARPAZ, Associated Press
First published: Tuesday, May 18, 2010

NEW YORK — Why don’t most students’ SAT scores dramatically improve the more times they take the test?

A. They don’t study hard enough.

B. Their parents don’t enroll them in fancy test-prep classes.

C. Most kids who take the SAT twice simply do not see large improvements in their scores.

The correct answer is C, according to the College Board, the nonprofit organization that administers the SATs. And here’s the latest development in the debate over whether kids can dramatically improve their scores: The Princeton Review company no longer claims that its “Ultimate Classroom” SAT test-preparation course can boost SAT scores by 255 points.

The National Advertising Division of the Council of Better Business Bureaus, which examines accuracy in advertising, announced May 12 that The Princeton Review would “voluntarily discontinue certain advertising claims” following a challenge by Kaplan, Inc., a competing test-preparation service.

High school students and their parents are often bombarded with SAT test-prep solicitations as they approach the college application process. Test-prep offers come in the mail; they’re sent home by schools, and they’re not cheap. (The Princeton Review’s “Ultimate Classroom” course costs $1,199 in New York City.) When students take these courses and don’t see their scores improve, parents may wonder if their kids studied enough or if they’ve wasted their money.

Last year, the National Association for College Admission Counseling released a report concluding that test prep courses have minimal impact in improving SAT scores — about 10-20 points on average in mathematics and 5-10 points in critical reading. The NACAC report noted that this evidence is “contrary to the claims made by many test preparation providers of large increases of 100 points or more on the SAT.”

Kathleen Steinberg, a spokeswoman for the College Board, says that on average, students who take the SAT test twice only “increase their scores by about 30 points.”

She added that “the College Board does not recommend taking the SAT more than twice, as there is no evidence to indicate that taking the exam more than twice increases score performance.”

Parents might also be surprised by actual average SAT scores: 501 in critical reading, 515 in math and 493 in writing, according to Steinberg. (The highest score you can get on any section is 800.)

Copyright 2010 Associated Press. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten, or redistributed.

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