secrets of the sat
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a history of the sat prep business
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SAT prep was born in a Brooklyn basement in 1938, when Stanley H. Kaplan began tutoring students on how to prepare for standardized tests. Word spread, and soon students began arriving from all over the country to learn techniques for passing standardized tests. In the early 1970s, Kaplan expanded his business outside of New York, opening 70 centers by 1975. The Washington Post Company - owners of The Washington Post - bought the company from Kaplan in 1985.

SAT prep was big business, and Kaplan's company, Kaplan Educational Centers, would become the largest such operation in the nation. Another company, The Princeton Review, was growing as well. Like Kaplan had in 1938, John Katzman began his company by tutoring a handful of New York students after he graduated college in 1981. Whereas Kaplan takes a textbook approach to the studying SAT - viewing it as a better-than-nothing gage of college applicants - Katzman and the Princeton Review thumb their nose at the test. They try to teach kids how to "beat" or outsmart the test, using clever strategies and techniques.

While Kaplan Educational Centers and the Princeton Review are the two largest SAT prep companies in the country, they're not the only ones. Millions of students have spent millions of dollars preparing for the SAT, and the growing variety of programs and price tags show no sign of letting up. Programs range from night courses in high school gymnasiums to high-priced individual tutors - some charging as much as $500 an hour.

Students may soon have something else to cope with. Educational Testing Services, developer of the SAT, is considering introducing socioeconomic factors into the SAT scoring system. Since some groups such as whites consistently score higher on the SAT than other ethnic groups, the program would give a handicap of sorts to minority students students. A series of 'expected' scores would be developed for students based on their background. Apart from race, the factors taken into account include low family income, limited education of parents, speaking English as a second language and going to a school where most students are poor. If students score 200 points or more higher than their expected score, they are labeled a "Striver."

As ETS presents it, colleges would have the option of using the new scoring system or keeping the old. While some praise the Striver system as a needed change to an ethnically unfair test, others deem it a sneaky way of instituting affirmative action, which several states have already voted to be unconstitutional.

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