The Effect of Admissions Test Preparation: Evidence from NELS:88

D.C. Briggs:

For students planning to apply to a four year college, scores on standardized admissions tests–the SAT I or ACT–take on a great deal of importance. It may be the quality and quantity of an applicant’s high school coursework that receives the closest scrutiny at the more prestigious institutions, but these are cumulative indicators of performance. Standardized admissions tests, by contrast, are more of a one shot deal. Such tests are blind to a student’s high school record–instead, they are intended as an independent, objective measure of college “readiness”. For students with a strong high school record, admissions tests provide a way to confirm their standing. For students with a weaker high school record, admissions tests provide a way to raise their standing. A principal justification for the use of the SAT I and ACT in the admissions process is that such tests are designed to be insensitive to the high school curriculum and to short- term test preparation. If short term preparatory activities prior to taking the SAT I or ACT can have the effect of significantly boosting the scores of students above those they would have received without the preparation, both the validity and reliability of the tests as indicators of college readiness might be called into question.