Assessment

Students, Test-Prep Firms Get A Jump on Revised SAT

By Catherine A. Carroll — May 26, 2004 3 min read
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The first administration of the new SAT is nearly a year away, but it is already causing sweaty palms among the college-bound set and a fresh round of conflict between one test-preparation company and the exam’s owner.

Companies have begun to offer practice or sample runs of the revised college- admissions exam, even though the College Board, the New York City-based owner of the SAT, has not publicly released any official practice version of the new test. Meanwhile, students are being pulled in different directions about which version of the SAT they should take next school year.

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See the accompanying table, “Sharpen Those No. 2 Pencils.”

The first major revision of the SAT in 10 years includes a number of changes, most notably a writing section with an essay question, which is worth an additional 800 points.

Princeton Review Inc., a New York City-based test- preparation company that has long marketed its services as helping students beat the system, was gearing up to offer a free “practice” version of the new SAT at its outlets nationwide on May 22, with more than 10,000 students signed up to take the test.

The College Board took issue with the Princeton Review’s practice offering for the test, which will be administered for the first time next March.

Kristin Carnahan, a spokeswoman for the College Board, said last week that students could be confused by the Princeton Review’s practice test.

"[Princeton Review] certainly gives the impression that they are offering a genuine SAT or PSAT, but it’s not a genuine SAT,” she said.

A law firm for the College Board wrote to Princeton Review on May 13, accusing the test-prep company of making marketing statements that “falsely suggest” that it is “offering genuine SAT and PSAT examinations for practice purposes.” It demanded that Princeton Review “cease and desist” from making any references to “free, full-length new SATs” or to practice tests.

Company Responds

In a reply issued through its law firm on May 19, Princeton Review said its future marketing materials would be “unambiguous in the manner in which they refer to practice tests.” But it rejected the College Board’s statement that no practice tests have been released for the new SAT and PSAT, a preliminary test that students take before the exam that counts for admission. The letter said Princeton Review considers its offerings to be valid practice tests and its marketing of them “is in no way misleading.”

“It’s actually just this little game that everybody’s playing,” said John S. Katzman, the founder and chief executive of Princeton Review.

“Of course these are practice SATs,” he said in reference to his company’s offerings. “The kids all know who we are, and they all know who the College Board is. I’ve never heard of anyone being confused on the issue.”

Kaplan Inc., the other major test-preparation company, has been offering free “sample” tests of the new SAT for the past six months without problems, said Jon Zeitlin, the general manager of SAT and ACT programs for the New York City-based company.

“We don’t have access to information other people don’t,” said Mr. Zeitlin, “but I’d say we have a healthy relationship” with the College Board.

He added that most of the material being added to the new SAT is currently available on other College Board tests. He noted that the SAT II writing test has a grammar section and an essay, and that the SAT II math test has advanced algebra.

“We have a 95 percent view of what the new test is going to be like,” Mr. Zeitlin said.

Multiple Choice

Students in the high school graduating class of 2006 face the additional confusion of being the first that will have the option of taking the current SAT or the new version next spring. The test-preparation companies offer differing advice for such students.

Mr. Zeitlin said that based on Kaplan’s research, most colleges will accept a combination of scores from the current and new SATs. He recommends that students take the current SAT in the fall and the new one next spring, and send both sets of scores to colleges.

Jeff Rubenstein, the vice president of technology for Princeton Review, believes that it will be better for the class of 2006 to focus on the new test, since some colleges will inevitably not accept scores from the old version.

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A version of this article appeared in the May 26, 2004 edition of Education Week as Students, Test-Prep Firms Get A Jump on Revised SAT

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