An anonymous reader left this comment about the SAT.


Once upon a time, 25 years ago, I ‘offered’ SAT tutoring (at a rather high price of $50/hr.) to denizens of a tony private school. I could charge that much because I ‘got results’. But, it was rather easy to improve scores.

First, there was the fact that almost all of my clients had scored ‘too low’ when they first took the test. The probability was, therefore, that if they simply took it again, they would ‘improve’. Secondly, most low performers had a certain level of anxiety when they took the test. Simply being familiar with the format by reviewing former tests helped those students assess the test in a more calm and analytical manner. Thirdly, despite the subtraction of ‘wrong’ answers from the score (at a rate commensurate with the number of answers), the students needed to understand that they actually knew something, if only at the subconscious level, and they needed to ‘guess’ (even randomly) because an inaccurate random guess didn’t really count against the score. They needed to trust their instincts.

The result was often (among ‘median’ scores) a 100 point increase. Were the students any ‘smarter’ after the tutoring? Well, no. Were they more ‘scholastically fit’, well, no. All they learned was how to contain their anxiety and (to some extent) ‘psyche out’ the test. Nothing more.

The test is (and always was) a scam. I say this as one who has benefited from such tests as a youth (I always did well, even qualified for MENSA on my GRE’s). These tests measure nothing of value, and I’m ever so happy to see more and more colleges relying on a body of student work and the recommendations of former teachers (sometimes in the form of ‘grades’… although ‘grades’ are only a shapshot in time, and often a narrowly forced evaluation by a particular teacher who would have much more to say, if asked).