Test Prep in the News: March 2018

Join ArborBridge’s Weekly News Flash and receive the latest headlines in test prep and college admissions every Tuesday


We are committed to providing you with the most up-to-date resources and announcements from the college admissions testing landscape. Here are some of the top headlines from this past month:


Debunking(?) SAT/ACT Myths

Summary: Written by two researchers who have studied the SAT and ACT, this article attempts to correct perceptions of the exams. Some of the most interesting: First, it argues that “longitudinal research demonstrates that standardized tests predict not just grades all the way through college but also the level of courses a student is likely to take.” Second, there is no “high-scorer plateau,” a point at which the difference in life outcomes between students who reach that score or score higher evens out. “If anything, the relationship between scores and success increased as scores went up.” Third, letters of recommendation correlate modestly with success in college, while essays and personal statements have no correlation. Lastly, score increases attained through test prep are very modest, usually less than 20 points a section on the SAT.

What this means: Interesting look at some of the most pervasive myths in the testing field, but it looks like these researchers have fallen for one of the most pervasive and oldest myths, too. The researchers claim that test prep doesn’t work. But the SAT data they use is nearly 25 years old. It predates not only the current version of the SAT, but even the old version of the SAT. It also predates major changes in the test prep industry. We’ve said it before when articles cite this same old data: using this old study to argue that today’s students don’t improve is like using data from 1990 to say people today aren’t comfortable with cell phones. We need new data.

The Truth About the SAT and ACT (Wall Street Journal)


ACT Lunches ACT Academy: Free, Online Prep Platform

Summary: On Thursday, ACT launched its own online platform where students can prepare for the ACT for free: ACT Academy. ACT has billed it as an adaptive learning experience where student can learn the skills they need to succeed on the official ACT Test. The system is free, and anyone can register for an account. The platform contains only one full-length practice test and almost all of the instructional materials are videos sourced from YouTube (not created by the ACT or specifically for the ACT).

What this means: 

  • This platform is ACT’s response to the College Board’s partnership with Khan Academy (even the new platform’s name is a little obvious…). A few years ago, the CB and Khan created a free, adaptive SAT prep platform to help students prepare for the new SAT. The platform has been a major SAT selling point to states and school districts who looked at adopting either the SAT or ACT for federally mandated testing. ACT knew it had to come up with a free test prep option if it was to remain competitive.
  • We’ve taken a deep dive into ACT Academy and found that Khan Academy’s SAT platform is far superior. Khan has 8 full-length exams, ACT Academy only 1. Khan’s videos and strategies are specifically geared to the SAT; ACT Academy has curated a number of unrelated and confusing videos with little to no instruction on how to apply them to the ACT. That’s not to say Khan Academy is perfect, but it is significantly better than ACT Academy.


Harvard Cuts Essay Requirement for SAT/ACT

Summary: In its efforts to increase applicant diversity, Harvard announced last week that it would no longer require the essay section of the SAT and ACT. The decision will go into effect beginning with student applying for entry in August 2019.

What this means: Harvard follows in the Columbia, UPenn, and other prestigious schools that have dropped the Essay requirement in the wake of the SAT redesign. Expect the trend to continue as data on the Essay’s ability to predict college success come out in the next few years (or don’t come out and further undercut the section’s validity).

Harvard Applicants No Longer Required to Submit SAT, ACT Writing Scores (Harvard Crimson)

Megan Stubbendeck

About Megan Stubbendeck

Dr. Megan Stubbendeck is an eight-year veteran of the test prep industry with ten years of teaching experience. She earned her PhD in History from the University of Virginia where she taught for three years in the History Department. She brings many years of experience as both an Elite Instructor and the Coordinator of Instructor Development at Revolution Prep. As the Senior Director of Instruction at ArborBridge, Megan oversees the curriculum team and their developments.

You also might like: