For decades, the College Board (the group that creates the PSAT and SAT) contended that students couldn't "study" for the PSAT or SAT. The College Board argued that these tests were "reasoning" tests and that preparation really didn't work much. "A student could go up a few points here or there", the thinking went, but not much more than that. This has been a pernicious (having a harmful effect, especially in a gradual or subtle way), stubborn myth among parents, students, and educators which I believe has hurt the way our entire society has viewed the PSAT and SAT for generations.
It doesn't seem to matter how many success stories there are.
We just got the PSAT scores back from one of the schools at which we teach live, web-based ACT, PSAT, and SAT classes. For the kids at the school who didn't take the class, their scores went up an average of 4 points. For the kids at the school who did take the class, their scores went up an average of 14 points. A 14 point increase on the PSAT is equivalent to a 140 point increase on the SAT; 14 points is a significant increase in the eyes of most colleges.
But I think improving this much on the PSAT has an even more important benefit. It makes kids realize they actually can have an impact on their scores. It reminds them that hard work and practice actually does and will pay off. It changes their mindsets and it shifts their ultimate goal scores and expectations.
We need to get past the debate about whether students can really do better on a reasoning test. We need to get past the debate about whether "test prep" really helps or not. The answer, of course, is that it depends on the quality of the test prep and whether the format of the test was a good fit for a particular student.
We need to get past this debate because it keeps us from talking about equally important questions: is a student willing to put in the work? Does a student believe in him or herself?
When a motivated student has access to high-quality tools and an engaging, inspiring instructor, the evidence is clear: students can raise their PSAT, ACT, and SAT scores significantly.
This will revolutionize education.
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