The College Board on Monday released an analysis of the impact of free SAT tutoring offered by the Khan Academy as part of a College Board initiative to provide low-income test takers with test prep. A long-standing criticism of the SAT is that wealthy students can afford expensive test prep but others cannot. The study found that studying for the SAT for 20 hours through Khan Academy is associated with an average score gain of 115 points, nearly double the gain for students who don't use the Khan Academy.
“On the new SAT, it’s easier than ever for students to show their best work. Official SAT Practice on Khan Academy is free and personalized, and we see students achieving substantial score gains,” said a statement from College Board President David Coleman.
At the same time, the College Board acknowledged that it did not have comparisons between those who use Khan and those who use paid services, and that some who use Khan also use paid services.
Test-prep companies had a variety of responses, with some noting that they regularly see much larger gains than those reported by the College Board. Others questioned the College Board for releasing data on average gains.
Lee Weiss, vice president of college admissions and K-12 programs at Kaplan Test Prep, said via email, “We support the idea of making test-prep resources accessible for all, but we know from experience that making score claims is misleading to students. First, it signals that there’s a ‘magic bullet’ to score improvement and lulls students into believing that signing up for a program will lead to a certain score gain, when score improvement relies heavily on students’ individual effort, motivation and aptitude. Second, experience tells us organizations that promote average score gains are incentivized to cherry-pick their data and select subsets that represent the greatest gains.”
Weiss added, “As far as Khan Academy, we believe it provides good supplementary SAT prep, as we know a strong percentage of the million or so students who have used Kaplan resources say they’ve also used Khan resources. That means it’s likely that many of the most motivated Khan users were also prolific users of other resources, such as our free live online SAT Prepathon, which also garnered tens of thousands of attendees. So it’s unclear how much of the gain is attributable specifically to Khan versus additional resources -- we know that students today use a variety of resources. So while we support the notion of practice as an effective part of a comprehensive prep program, if you compare test prep to a workout regimen, Khan Academy is the free workout app that supports the comprehensive training you’ll get with a coach. It can certainly be helpful for the most motivated students, but is likely not enough for most students who want to get a competitive edge.”