On “Gaming the System”

Cap ThrowingBy 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 if her/his work is called “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 dis-proven long ago*.  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 provide.

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**.

*That the SAT is a coachable test is a fact; the days of the SAT being perceived as a test of innate intelligence are also long over.

**  The rewards are also 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.   In this current “recession”, employment for those with 4-year college degrees age 25 and over exceeds 96%.   Parents of college grads age 25 and older who are NOT productively employed, please email me; aside from my art history alum who has chosen to “just paint” for the next two years, I know no Ivy Bound alums not in grad school or the full-time work force.  I’d like to be alerted, but also like to help. (I have a start-up staffing company dedicated to helping resourceful young adults.)
By Mark Greenstein, Founder of Ivy Bound Test Prep.
Ivy Bound / Rising Stars
Test Prep Coaches for School Success
www.ivybound.net   860-666-5550 x 0

Related Links:

Is Old Fashioned Reading Really Important Anymore?

It’s All About Preparation


This entry was posted in College Admissions, College Applications, Test Prep, Uncategorized and tagged , , , , , , , . Bookmark the permalink.

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