College Boards Admits SAT "Writing" Test Can be Coached

University Testing
For decades the College Board has denied that test preparation can have a meaningful impact on SAT scores, despite reams of independent studies demonstrating that coaching works (see Examiner, August 2006). Now, however, a senior College Board official has revealed that short-term training can dramatically alter student performance on the SAT's highly promoted "Writing" test.


Speaking at the organization's 2006 National Forum in San Diego, College Board Vice President for Research and Analysis Wayne Camara reported that as few as nine hours of preparation boosted scores on the "Writing" test essay by an average of three points on a twelve point scale. According to the newsletter Inside Higher Education, Dr. Camara said the results are "not a bad thing" even though the College Board website indicates that the "new" SAT, which includes the "Writing" section, is "less coachable than the previous SAT."


In fact, the disclosure that coaching can significantly boost scores on a portion of the SAT undermines the College Board claim that the test is a "common yardstick," useful to compare students from different high schools. Since admissions officers cannot tell whether a score reflects intensive coaching or no preparation at all, there is no valid way to use the SAT to rate applicants. Of course, the fact that major SAT prep courses, such as those offered by Kaplan or Princeton Review, now cost $900, $1,000 or even more means that students from wealthier families gain an additional advantage.