The standardized test industry (Princeton Review, Kaplan, etc) has taken off and the main reason is that courses tend to increase test scores. Do these courses make you smarter? Assuming that test scores are a judge of intelligence, sure. But the courses don't teach you more math or truly increase your verbal skills. Rather, they teach you how to "crack" tests. So someone who can afford to pay for a course will likely get a higher score, yet are not "smarter" than someone who did not. It frustrates me as a business school applicant that I can't afford to spend $1000 on a course, so my GMAT score will be lower than those who are more "financially privileged", yet with the same "test knowledge".

However, while I think test scores are not a good judge of intelligence, someone who is unintelligent will not get a 1400 on the SAT, no matter how many courses they take.

What does a test score mean anyway? It could help you get scholarships and get into a better school, which would give you an advantage in life. But it doesn't prepare you for life, and doesn't teach you common sense (which in life I find to be more important than intelligence). I went to a high school where the AVERAGE (out of an 800 student graduating class) SAT score was 1300. Yet many of my friends from that school are less successful right now than my friends from a local high school who got 300-400 points lower.

So, in other words, does it really matter?

(Enough opinion and a little history).

Amazingly enough, I did get a 1400 on my SAT (on the nose), but not at first. You see, my original score was actually a 1390 (split down 670V, 720M). However, this was the second time I took the SATs, for a better score (for scholarships and the like). I was good at taking these tests, and I figured, "Heck, why not."

So after I received my first score in the low 1300s, I took it again, and got my 1390; I was quite happy and satisfied with my score. Then on the news about a week after my scores had arrived, In the spring of 1997, was watching the national news when I saw a historic event: There was a mistake on the SATs, and it affected about 30% of the tests taken.

As it turns out, someone taking the same test I had found the error in the math problems that could make it resolve to a different answer, if you read it a certain way. (I belive the SAT book says that you should immediately make a challenge to the problem, after the test is over.) His name escapes me, but he must be pretty sharp to find a mistake, no one else had on that test. To all of the people whom it affected, a letter arrived in the mail a few weeks after they got their scores. It informed me, and the many other people who took it, that there was a mistake, and their test was among those that potentially contained the error. Thus, ten points was freely awarded to my score, regardless of whether I got the problem right or wrong.

This was a blessing beyond many others my senior year. I could then apply for many of the higher scholarships, for which 1400 SATs was the cutoff. All I have to thank is some anonymous person who is really good at high school math, and a sharp reader. I hope he did better than I; he deserved it.

(02-10-03): As an update, the person was Colin Rizzio, as reported by a Mr. Josh Huber, who went to high school with him

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