The College Board
has adopted a Score Choice
™ policy for the SAT that, according to the College Board website, will give students the option to choose, by test date, which SAT scores that they will send to colleges and thereby “allow students to put their best foot forward on test day by giving them more flexibility and control over their scores.”
Articles in U.S. News and World Report
, and, most recently, The New York Times
covering the College Board’s new test-reporting option raise a number of questions about the motivation for and benefits of the policy. The coverage strongly suggests that the new policy may be less altruistic and more financially motivated than the College Board statement implies.
Newsweek cites an internal e-mail sent by Laurence Bunin, general manager of the SAT, that refers to "less kids taking SAT," thereby "threatening the viability of the program itself." In fact, it is well documented that College Board is losing market share to ACT, so the potential financial motivation behind its opting for Score Choice is probable enough. The Times quotes Richard H. Shaw, dean of admissions at Stanford, raising the obvious questions of the College Board’s reasons for introducing Score Choice: “Was this a student-centered decision? Or was it business-centered because they’re worried about losing market share?” U.S. News and World Report relates the suspicion of a critic who has done the math: “[I]f roughly 3 percent of the 1.5 million students who take the test annually took it just one additional time—so 50,000 tests at $45 apiece—that would mean an extra $2.25 million for the College Board.”
Some colleges, Stanford, Cornell, Pomona, the University of Pennsylvania and the University of Southern California are named, have decided to opt out of the score choice policy and, instead, require applicants to submit all SAT scores. The overzealous test-taker who sits for ten administrations of the SAT will be sorely disappointed to find that he must display all the fruits of his obsessive labors when applying to these schools. Such a test-taker would more wisely spend all of those testing hours on intelligent, academic study that builds a better G.P.A. as well as better test scores?
If the objective of a standardized test is to assess whether students are college ready, that is, proficient in a vital set of academic skills, then the relevance of SAT Score Choice does indeed seem quite negligible. Our years of experience at Academic Approach,
where we have helped thousands of students prepare for both standardized exams and high school core curriculum, has made obvious to us that repeated testing without intelligent assessment, analysis, and curriculum yields little or no measurable improvement. Attempting to game the SAT by taking it ten times will look a bit desperate to admissions officers. At the same time, such repeated testing does not necessarily improve a student’s performance on the test or in the classroom.
Through our experience, we have developed our own best practices on standardized testing and test preparation—we teach in such a way that we are always simultaneously preparing our students in the fundamental skills that will be demanded of them not just on the standardized exams but also in their high school and college classrooms. Our practices accord with those of the National Association of College Admissions Counselors (NACAC) as articulated in its recent study of the place of standardized testing in college admissions
. In that report, NACAC stated that, “the best form of test preparation is focused on core knowledge content and on skills that will help prepare students for their academic future.”
What is the best way to achieve this effect?
- Take diagnostic tests to determine which test features your skills best—the SAT or ACT.
- Develop an academic, skill-building program around the test that is best for you, focusing in to save time and money.
- Take a maximum of three official SATs or ACTs (4 in extraordinary cases).
What really matters is early assessment, determining which test to take, designing an intelligent plan, and following up by moving through the appropriate course work. Choosing such an approach is the best, most reasonable path towards success on standardized exams.
Courtney Federle, PhD from The University of California, Berkeley, has taught at The University of Chicago and is currently working as a teacher and curriculum developer at Academic Approach.