Computerized Testing, Coaching Rapidly Expanding

General Testing

To stay on top of the latest developments in the testing industry, it is often necessary to read the newspaper financial pages as well as education journals. Increasingly, it is in the business section where deals and new products, which will have major impacts on the future of assessment in the U.S. and around the world, are launched.


For example, Sylvan Learning Systems, which is partially owned by the Educational Testing Service (ETS) and holds the exclusive contract to administer ETS computerized Graduate Record Exam (see Examiner, Summer 1994), recently announced it had bought Drake Prometric, an international testing management company. The 740 sites previously run by Drake in 70 countries will give ETS-Sylvan a global network of testing centers.


Reportedly, the purchase price for Drake will range between $75 million and $140 million, depending on how well the newly-acquired facilities perform. According to the Washington Post, the new company will be the largest player in the emerging business of computerized educational testing.


With its expanding capacity, look for ETS to offer other exams with worldwide audiences, such as the Test of English as a Foreign Language (TOEFL) and the Graduate Management Admissions Test (GMAT), in computer format in the near future.


Coaching by Computer

Meanwhile, the huge publishing company, Random House, has acquired what it calls a significant equity position in the Princeton Review test coaching company. The move provides capital for a major expansion of Princeton Review s courses, test prep books and software into the areas of occupational licensing exams for lawyers, accountants, nurses and the like. In addition, a new Princeton Review SAT coaching computer program, Inside the SAT, was recently released.


Not to be outdone, Stanford Testing Systems has purchased the exclusive license to translate an alphabet-soup of test coaching books published by Harcourt Brace & Company into interactive, test-prep software products. Stanford has already sold SAT training programs to high schools with total enrollments of almost one and a half illion students. By the end of 1996, the company plans to release computerized coaching packages for the ACT, GRE, GMAT, LSAT, MCAT, Miller Analogies Test, and Nursing exams. Stanford is also making a version of its SAT coaching software available on the Internet through a service called WebWare for the SAT.


Even the test-makers are getting in on the act. The College Board sells a $49.95 program titled One-on-One with the SAT, which it advertises as the only software containing real SAT questions. Among the selling points are unique guessing and eliminating features to help you develop an effective guessing strategy. This product complements a new video called Look Inside the SAT I, which the Board touts as a hands on preparation program to [r]educe your anxiety and increase confidence for the day of the test. Of course, no score gains are promised for any of these products because that would contradict the Board s long-standing claims that no one can tell if coaching really works (see The SAT Coaching Cover-Up, order form page 27).


Lost in all this corporate wheeling-and-dealing are test-takers and their parents who end up shelling out increasingly large amounts of money for admissions and licensing tests, more and more of which are being administered on computers, and for the equally sophisticated preparation programs that help students perform well on them.