In certain parts of the country, among those who are affluent enough to afford it, tutoring for the SAT has become the norm. Starting in 10th grade or even earlier parents begin their search for SAT tutor recommendations and by the summer before junior year, teens are already heavily immersed in practice SAT tests.
For years, The College Board said that tutoring does not significantly raise scores on the SAT test. On their website, “Effects of Coaching on SAT Scores,” states that, “Coached students are only slightly more likely to have large score gains than uncoached students…” and that “Coaching seems to result in about one more verbal question correct for 25–30 hours of effort and one more math question correct for 8 or more hours of effort.”
In 2015, The College Board partnered with Khan Academy, a free online tutoring organization (with free video lessons in math, science, art history, and other subjects and free personalized SAT test prep in partnership with The College Board). According to College Board, nearly 40% of all test takers have used Official SAT Practice on Khan Academy.
We all know students whose scores went up by a lot after tutoring so anecdotal evidence has always seemed to disagree with College Board’s claims that scores cannot be raised. This week The College Board appears to have reversed its long-held position with the following statement, “New data show studying for the SAT for 20 hours on free Official SAT Practice on Khan Academy is associated with an average score gain of 115 points, nearly double the average score gain compared to students who don’t use Khan Academy.
Out of nearly 250,000 test-takers studied, more than 16,000 gained 200 points or more between the PSAT/NMSQT and SAT…Researchers confirmed that practice advanced students regardless of gender, race, income, and high school GPA.”
Adding to the confusion surrounding the College Board’s new statement is the fact that students began taking a newly redesigned SAT in March 2016. The new test is said to be more associated with material actually covered in classroom. Could the redesign of the SAT test have more to do with higher scores than the Khan Academy coaching?
The idea of the partnership between Khan Academy and College Board was to give low-income students who otherwise couldn’t afford expensive test prep the same opportunity to excel on the test as those who could afford such tutoring, leveling the playing field.
When asked for comment Zachary Goldberg, Senior Director of Media Relations for The College Board said, “I hope you would focus on the students who have benefited from Official SAT practice on Kahn Academy and achieved significant score gains.” In addition, he pointed out that the new SAT is, “an achievement test that measures what students are already learning in high school and what they need to know in college and career…The (new) SAT makes it easier for students to show their best work.” Finally, Goldberg suggests that the “College Board and Khan Academy firmly believe in practice, and particularly practice that is personalized…” as opposed to commercial college prep which encourages students to find shortcuts and other ways to “beat” the test.
Does test preparation really help boost your SAT test score? What exactly does the SAT measure, intelligence or test-taking ability? The answers to these questions remain murky.