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"Gaming the system" for better SAT scores - January 2013

How "gaming the system" can help improve SAT scores.



On “Gaming the System”.



By Mark Greenstein, Founder of Ivy Bound Test Prep.



Parents and
educators routinely post comments that SAT prep is "gaming the
system".  I happen to agree.  But no student should feel guilty
about gaming.   "Gaming" is simply making use of coaching
to improve skills that are improvable. 



Students who take
advantage of SAT coaching improve their SAT skills as wholesomely as students
who improve their athletic skills by listening to their team coaches.  The
"blockhead belief", that a mid-range student could not change his SAT
scores and was thus "stuck" with that mid-range score, was disproven
long ago (by Stanley Kaplan and other test prep pioneers)*.  Meekly
following the "blockhead belief", thinking that your scores won't
improve much, is stupid.   



The stoic way of
being "above coaching" is a LOSING way.   SAT skills are
valuable in their own right -- the SAT tests grammar, essay writing, reading
skills, vocabulary, basic math, practical math, and resourceful math.  The
lone impractical element on the old SAT was "analogies", and the
College Board rid the SAT of analogies in 2004.  SAT coaching is abundant,
and often less expensive than athletic coaching, so it's wise to take advantage
of a good SAT coach. 



Test prep firms
are not helping students cheat.  They help their students MASTER. 
Gaming is a good thing, especially where ingenuity is one of the very elements
that colleges like seeing in applicants.  Colleges embrace the SAT in part
because the skills tested there reveal an element of "resourcefulness"
that a transcript alone does not reveal.   



Highly ranked
colleges' use of the SAT is one of the most meritocratic things possible for
students.  The SAT largely replaced the "primping, poise, and
pedigree" that held sway up until the 1960s.  The College Board makes
the SAT eminently accessible to students with low financial means, and colleges
bend over backwards to admit students from disadvantaged backgrounds if they
possess strong SAT scores.   When more educators banish the thought that
SAT gaming is tawdry, they will help make the SAT the greatest democratizer in
human history**. 



Again, an
athletic analogy.  No counselor would
suggest that a student who aspires to be on a varsity team eschew
coaching.   Please find me an athlete who
has reached elite status in the last 20 years who has done so without a
coach.  (Many succeed by having a SET of
coaches, including a trainer, nutritionist, and even sports psychologist.)  The SAT is a gateway for far more students
than athletics; SAT prep takes less time than athletic development, costs less,
and offers surer rewards.   “Gaming” the SAT is improving yourself for
life. 



The SAT is a
coachable test.  That is a fact.  The days of the SAT being perceived as a test
of innate intelligence are also long over. 
 Stubborn guidance counselors who
finally wise up to this are 30 years too late, but at least they have a few
more years of students they can serve well. 



It is infuriating to hear of guidance
counselors in urban schools not pushing their students to excel on the SAT or
to apply to top-ranked collages.  The
rewards from attending a top tier college are higher than ever.  Students with good grades at top tier
colleges have never had more opportunities for great work and great earnings in
their 20s.   Good students with math or engineering degrees
have NOT experienced a recession. 



If a guidance counselor in your orbit is
not alert to the realities of modern college admissions, please implore him or
her to get with it, for the sake of all the students in your community.  More about college admissions realities is
contained at www.ivybound.net, and I
personally give a “Know the SAT / Understanding College Admissions” seminar for
parents the first Sunday evening of each month.   (Wayward-but reform-minded guidance
counselors are welcome!)  Contact info@ivybound.net for the upcoming seminar.

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