The College Board is at it again. Despite professing for years that test prep doesn’t work, in May of this year the $750 million per year “non-profit” announced that students who studied the Official SAT Practice on the Khan Academy website for 20 or more hours were achieving average score increases of 115 points. Their hypocrisy was bad enough, but now we see yet another financial motive for suddenly changing their tune: college admissions counselors received notice last week that the College Board is now offering the “SAT Practice Award” to students who use the Khan Academy website for 10 more hours and then increase their score by 150 points or more from the PSAT to the SAT or by 100 points or more from one SAT to another. The organization even brazenly encourages test takers to mention the award on their college applications or résumés “to showcase their hard work.”
Not so long ago their website stated, “Coaching companies’ current estimates of the benefits of coaching for the SAT are much too high. Coached students are only slightly more likely to have large score gains than uncoached students. In addition, about 1/3 of students experience no score gain or score loss following coaching.” But now they are rewarding students who study a minimal number of hours—without the guidance of a real, live human expert, no less—for their score increases. Why? The same reason that the College Board does anything: money. By creating a trifling award that anxious students and panicky parents will erroneously conclude is important, the makers of the SAT are trying to sway high school students away from the ACT and toward their own test. “Why take the ACT when it doesn’t offer a reward for all your hard work?” Or “Hey Mom and Dad, your child NEEDS this badge of merit on their resume!”
Don’t buy into the hype. The award will not hold sway with college admission officers, and many of them are already poking fun at this newest announcement in online forums.
One final musing: the College Board will often assume that students with significant score increases have cheated. I wonder where the line will be between, “Great score increase! Here’s a trophy” and “Your score increase is too high and your scores have been canceled.” Hypocrisy, once again, at its best.
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