- - Friday, October 10, 2014


It came as no surprise that recent data released by the College Board on SAT scores showed stagnant, and in some cases declining, results. The test-preparation industry is in dire need of a makeover.

The fact is that traditional resources available to students — and even some online resources — are outdated and inefficient. Self-study books and packed classes focus on tricks and a one-size-fits-all approach, not addressing the underlying concepts being tested by the SAT and each student’s specific skill gaps. The same old tricks yield the same old results.

Some of the newer online resources, such as self-guided courses that use adaptive learning to customize a student’s SAT prep, can be very effective and can seem like the magic bullet. However, they rely on students (many of whom are already stretched thin with course work and extracurriculars) to be very disciplined and self-driven.

Hopefully, these unacceptable results will help parents think more critically about which test-preparation option to choose for their child. Learning the basic tricks that have been taught for decades can only can take students so far if they want to increase their scores. True improvement comes when students can actually address the underlying academic weaknesses causing them to get questions wrong, and that takes a customized approach, either with a one-on-one tutor armed with strong analytic tools or with a self-guided, adaptive software program.

I hope this serves as a wake-up call for the test-preparation industry. Too many large companies focus their time on marketing, sales and boosting profit margins and not enough time and money on actually creating a better product and improving student outcomes. The College Board’s criticism of test preparation does have some justification, and if these companies don’t adapt, they will go the route of Blockbuster and Borders.


Brooklyn, N.Y.

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