Princeton Review Drops Testing Claims

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Test score boosting claims made by the Princeton Review have come under scrutiny lately, following a challenge made by its rival, Kaplan, Inc. Kaplan had asked the National Advertising Division of the Council of Better Business Bureaus to look into the matter, claiming that certain advertising claims made by the Princeton Review were wrong.

The NAD investigated which led to the Princeton Review voluntarily discontinuing using ads such as, “Our SAT Ultimate Classroom students average a score improvement of 255 points,” and, “In fact, our students improve their GMAT scores by an average of 90 points.”

Kaplan Challenge

“The ruling by the NAD is important one as SATs and other college entrance exams remain a strong criteria to help determine whether students should gain admittance into top-tier schools.”

According to the NAD, Kaplan “…asserted that The Princeton Review’s score improvement claims are not based on improvement from one actual exam to another actual exam but, rather, on the difference between results on an initial “diagnostic” test created and scored by The Princeton Review, and students’ self-reported scores on the actual exam after taking a Princeton Review course.” Kaplan complained that using such comparisons “…did not provide a sound basis for the advertiser’s average score improvement claims.”

The ruling by the NAD is important one as SATs and other college entrance exams remain a strong criteria to help determine whether students should gain admittance into top-tier schools. Families pay hundreds, sometimes thousands of dollars to help their students prepare for these tests, expecting that test preparation materials and tutors will raise their student’s scores appreciably.

Marketing Changes

The Princeton Review has agreed to discontinue marketing practices claiming an improvement in SAT, LSAT, GMAT and MCAT scores and is in the process of changing related marketing materials. The NAD pointed out that the Princeton Review cooperated in the self-reported process, and that the company had responded in writing to the NAD that it would change its marketing accordingly.

The Kaplan challenge came after the National Association for College Admission Counseling released a report in May 2009 that the “…average gains as a result of commercial test preparation are in the neighborhood of 30 points on the SAT and less than one point on the ACT, substantially lower than gains marketed by test preparation companies.” That information fueled Kaplan’s contention that the Princeton Review’s claims were without merit.

Decision Time

Should families abandon test preparation classes for their students? Maybe not, but in light of this news they may want to consider whether the costs justify the means. A possible 30 point SAT gain should not be dismissed, but paying a princely sum to achieve a slightly higher score should give families and students pause.

Adv. – Do you have younger students? Our K-8 Education Guide can help keep your children on track.

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