A former, very-high priced SAT tutor notes the following about ‘beating the exam‘ (boldface mine):
I’ve spent a decade tutoring the SAT. In that time, I’ve developed a reputation for efficacy. My students routinely improve their scores by more than 400 points, and wealthy parents desperate for a solution to their test prep woes have no problem paying me what most would consider outrageous rates: up to $1,000 an hour. I work from home, I make my own hours, and I have a job that a friend of mine describes as “cushy beyond belief.”
…How is it possible that a student who can ace his trigonometry tests and get an A+ in English can’t apply those same skills to the SAT? On the surface, it seems unlikely. But as I learned, parents and students around the country have been conned into thinking that it’s not only possible but standard.…
What do you need for a perfect SAT score? A thorough knowledge of around 110 math rules and 60 grammar rules, familiarity with the test’s format, and the consistent application of about 40 strategies that make each problem a bit easier to solve. If you can string together a coherent essay, that’s a plus.
But there has been extensive propaganda to the contrary:
American academic culture has taught students that the SAT is a reflection of their own innate abilities, despite all evidence to the contrary. They’re given unrealistic expectations about its difficulty, about the steps necessary to master it, and about the timelines they’ll need in which to do so. And they’re given the stark impression that any efforts they take to understand it are futile and misguided.
Because we’ve taught them that they can’t study for the test, they don’t — and if they do, they do so in the most cursory, ineffective manner possible. When they take the SAT, they get the poor scores reflective of non-study and inattention, yet they feel that their results are a reflection of their own inherent inability to take the exam in the first place, reinforcing the initial fear and inertia that prevents them and their peers from studying for the next round. And around and around we go….
Few understand that the SAT requires specific, school-independent training. Instead, they assume that if their children do well in school and poorly on the SAT, they are bad testers.
I was a ‘very good tester’ (perhaps an excellent one). While I never took any prep courses–my prep consisted of the old Barron’s practice exam books, which I usually partially completed–I did enough self-prep to learn how to maximize my effectiveness. At the time, it was realizing they give you the answers and working quickly so you have time to check your work (the math was, at most, trigonometry).
I suppose I could receive credit for cleverness by going ‘meta’ unassisted and figuring out the exam on my own, as well as reading a lot, especially newspapers* (which provided me with a good vocabulary and ability to comprehend the reading sections).
But anyone who says students can’t be ‘taught to take tests’ is being absurd.
As an extra, bonus exercise, I will leave it to the reader to determine if this has any consequences on IQ tests, as well as heritability estimates of IQ.
*I’m not an idiot; obviously, poor students wouldn’t have this opportunity (or their own Barron’s guides).