Test Prep

4 Apr 2017
This is part two of a multipart series on the quality of commercial test-preparation material.

In part one, I made the rather unoriginal claim that most commercial test-prep material sucks, and suggested that one major reason it's so bad is that doing good work is hard and that there is insufficient financial incentive for publishers to put resources into doing it right.

30 Mar 2017
Yesterday, I picked up a recent edition of the Kaplan SAT Subject Test Literature guide (the 2015-2016 edition, which I gather is actually identical to the more recent edition) and went through the diagnostic test in it. Unfortunately, this mock test had so many flaws and outright errors, was so unrepresentative of the actual Literature Test, that it's hard to see how it could diagnose much of anything. Just how terrible was it? Here's just one example:
1 Mar 2017
Topic: 
The question of whether—or to what extent—the SAT is "coachable" is a perennial controversy. When the recent overhaul to the SAT was announced, College Board CEO David Coleman made a big deal about how the changes would orient the test so that it more closely measured the skills needed for college success. One intended consequence of those changes was that the test would be less susceptible to coaching. Eliminating sentence-completion questions, for example, was meant to discourage students from memorizing long lists of "SAT" words that they would never need again.
8 Jan 2012

Can the SAT be gamed? (Part II)

Submitted by Karl Hagen
Topic: 
In the first part of this series, I suggested that many strategies taught by test-preparation companies cannot legitimately be called gaming the SAT. Which is not to say that there aren't strategies out there that do amount to gaming the test. But many test-prep people, including myself, take the line that actual improvement comes from building fundamental skills and takes real work. (The test-prep guy writing in the Times debate I mentioned last time takes this attitude.)
2 Jan 2012

Can the SAT be gamed? (Part I)

Submitted by Karl Hagen
In December, the New York Times had a "Room for Debate" piece called Why Does the SAT Endure? The viewpoints expressed include those of two psychometricians, a college admissions officer, someone working for a test-prep company, and an education policy wonk. Taken together, the pieces didn't constitute much of a debate, but the introduction to the discussion poses the question of why the SAT is still around if, as its critics say, it can be gamed.
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