Chinese SAT Prep Schools

<p>Interesting article about SAT Prep Schools in China that enables students to "game" the SAT despite not having proficincy in English. Excerpt below and a link to the full article. I wonder if admissions people know about this.</p>

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<p>....the language barrier didn't stop him from scoring 680 out of 800 in writing and 590 out of 800 in critical reading on the SAT, which is given in English, in addition to 770 on the math portion. Like thousands of other students in China, Meng learned to game the test, earning a score that belies how modest his language skills actually are. By taking an intensive two-month, six-days-a-week course offered by New Oriental Education & Technology Group—sponsor of the college fair—he raised his overall score on the SAT from 1670 to 2040 out of 2400, making him an attractive candidate for a whole new league of American colleges....</p>

<p>China's</a> Test Prep Juggernaut - BusinessWeek</p>

<p>Very interesting article. Thanks for sharing it.</p>

<p>It will only be a matter of time before the same methods to game the SAT taught at New Oriental Education make their way to US test coaching schools.</p>

<p>I think that a student in that situation would have to take TOEFL also. I wonder how easy that is to game...</p>

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His score on the Test of English as a Foreign Language (TOEFL), which measures proficiency in reading, writing, speaking, and listening and is one of two tests international students may take to demonstrate their grasp of English, soared from 65 to 90 out of 120. Many universities, including Illinois, require a minimum TOEFL score of 79. </p>

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It appears that it was pretty easy to game, too.;)</p>

<p>ucbalumnus, I was thinking that as well but did you see the hours they have to put in? Wow!</p>

<p>I wonder why the SAT is not offered on mainland China?</p>

<p>I know this is the reason why a high GRE score is pretty much ignored for many foreign students in graduate school. If they have a low one, it's a good sign their English skills aren't very strong. If they have a high one it's a toss up if they're good at English or just good at studying.</p>

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<p>While American students might not go for the stuff that requires a large time commitment (e.g. memorizing a much larger number of vocabulary words), the ideas about pre-canned essays about American historical or current figures, which words in multiple choice answers are more likely to indicate correct or incorrect answers, etc. can be applied easily in test coaching courses in the US.</p>

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<p>I don't know if the College Board has ever publicly said why the SAT isn't offered in China, but from what I know (from people in the know :)) it's a twofold reason: 1-there is a big, big, big concern over the ability to proctor the exam and ensure test-taker identity authenticity (also huge concerns over cheating, especially exam security, etc.), and 2-(and I think most people would be surprised by this one!) the Chinese government until very recently has had a very hostile relationship with the College Board and, in the past, refused the College Board entry into the country. I believe the CB is still prohibited from offering the test in mainland China even if they wanted to, but things have thawed a little bit in the sense that the CB now has an Chinese language (for AP Chinese language teachers/administrators) "delegation" that goes to China each year, sponsored by a diplomatic organization of the Chinese government. </p>

<p>The unofficial explanation of China's formal rejection of CB has to do with concerns, more in the 1980s, 90s, and early 00s, that CB's presence would encourage talented young Chinese to take the SAT in lieu of taking entrance exams to Chinese universities (or in addition) and top Chinese young people would leave China for US colleges and universities instead of enrolling at the top Chinese (state-sponsored) universities. I know of at least one college admissions person recruiting in China who was "interviewed" by Chinese govt. officials about any connection s/he had to the College Board in any way. </p>

<p>Clearly the number of Chinese students going to the US has really flourished, however the difficulty and cost involved with getting to Hong Kong or another country which offers the SAT provides some barriers and/or detractions that mean it's not "easy" to contemplate studying in the U.S.</p>

<p>This has created big problems for Hong Kong residents hoping to take the SAT. There was some discussion about this among college counselors and college admissions folks - a few years ago ALL of the available seats for test sites in Hong Kong were filling up within something like 5-10 minutes of their release for each test date. You had Hong Kong residents who were completely shut out of taking SATs, etc., even when they tried to register far in advance and were having to fly to other countries to take the exams. Since then they've open up additional test sites to accommodate the #s but it is still an issue sometimes.</p>

<p>RacinRiver, so so true, at least in our experience. VERY hard to make fair predictions with these tests for a variety of reasons. Not only about English ability but also the cognitive skills necessary for graduate level work. We have been burned too many times. </p>

<p>We now fly all of our potential students in for several days of interviewing. It is a tiny investment to reduce our risk, especially in light of the very high cost of training students (in our field, stipends alone can go as high as $40k a year and that doesn't include tuition waivers etc. and we don't require 'TA work' for those funds), as well as the huge outlay of resources that get directed at those that struggle for a year or two before failing out, or to those who survive but are so weak they are a drain on us and hurt our reputation. This due diligence not only protects us but also the students because it is quite a horrible and painful experience to try out graduate school for a few years without the requisite abilities. No one wants to face several years of intense anxiety and struggle, exist with basically no life trying to survive the load, feel they are burdening their classmates and professors, and ultimately experiencing failure despite all of this.</p>

<p>If the SAT scores achieved through these extreme preparation are not a reflection of student's abilities or preparation for college level work due to the "gaming" of the test, shouldn't this be something ETS and/or colleges be concerned with? It sounds like the SAT Prep course in the article is very different than Kaplan or other Prep courses that many students take here in the U.S.. Again, I think this is a fairness issue about well deserving kids losing out in the admissions process to an international student w/ dubious qualifications. But again, perhaps some of the schools don't care as long as they get a full paying student and can cite "global diversity" of their student body.</p>

<p>A lot of people seem to be framing the issue of internationals gaming the SAT as one of 'fairness' where US schools and students are the victims. Personally, I think that what this phenomenon really exposes is the uselessness of the SAT as it is now. It really is formulaic, and it really doesn't test what people want it to test.</p>

<p>Change the test or stop using it in admissions instead of moaning about the Chinese meanies spotting the repetitive patterns in it. If your product has significant shortcomings that make it easy to hack, people will hack it. It's your job to improve it.</p>

<p>in the last couple pages of this article:
regarding "phone interview" with one of the applicant.....well, now HOW would the admin verify that this person who talk on the phone IS the actual applicant? There is no way to verify the identity of the person on the other end of the phone line....since they can pay for an 'agent' service to fill out common apps/ all forms/ essays/ teachers rec/ track deadline etc etc ( according to the article), they can surely have someone who speak English well to take care of any possible phone interview....there is just no way to go around this issue.</p>

<p>this New Oriental test prep service has been around for so long that they will always find a way to hack the system or adjust quickly to counter any new changes CB / SAT will have in the future...they may even be able to 'figure out' a way so that each test taker will be able to write out from memory a canned essay no matter how random the topic it is on the test taking day.</p>

<p>They also seem to encourage cheating by flipping back to earlier sections and even training their students to "flip" five minutes after a section starts so they are less likely to be caught.</p>

<p>justmytwocents, Thank you for that explanation. It's very interesting.</p>

<p>With the exception of the flipping, which is cheating, I don't see it as an issue of American's being victimized at all. I agree that it exposes the extreme weakness of the SAT. I mean, I'm glad my kid did well and it helped him get a great scholarship but the SAT is clearly not doing what it claims to be doing when it can be "cracked."</p>

<p>Fascinating article. The College Board could easily defeat the flipper cheating by handing out the test sections individually and collecting the answer sheets after each section.</p>

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I wonder why the SAT is not offered on mainland China?

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<p>China has very strict laws for Chinese citizens to travel. I have a feeling it's b/c China doesn't want its citizens to leave the country and attend universities outside China. </p>

<p>I know that Chinese citizens have to apply to even vacation in the US and I also know many get rejected. Also, there is a limit to how many times they are allowed to visit Hong Kong and Macau per month (5 times?).</p>

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I have a feeling it's b/c China doesn't want its citizens to leave the country and attend universities outside China.

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<p>How do you reconcile this with the rather large number of Chinese internationals in the U.S. who are pursuing bachelor's degrees, to say nothing of the number who pursue Master's or doctoral degrees?</p>

<p>^ It is very possible to leave China for schooling but for families to do this they must be very, very wealthy (which also comes with a level of power). For the "everyday" Chinese family, going to school in the US is impossible. I don't know the exact # of Chinese internationals in the US but I'm sure that # is very small compared to the total population of Chinese students.</p>

<p>It's also important to consider how many of those Chinese internationals are from Hong Kong or Macau versus students from the Mainland.</p>

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It is very possible to leave China for schooling but for families to do this they must be very, very wealthy (which also comes with a level of power). For the "everyday" Chinese family, going to school in the US is impossible. I don't know the exact # of Chinese internationals in the US but I'm sure that # is very small compared to the total population of Chinese students.

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<p>But this seems to contradict your earlier position that "China doesn't want its citizens to leave the country and attend universities outside China." Now you seem to be saying that they can, and the Chinese Communist Party doesn't care, as long as they have the means for pay for it.</p>

<p>In the 2009-2010 academic year, there were 127,628[/url</a>] Chinese internationals, which may be even less than [url=<a href="http://www.acenet.edu/AM/Template.cfm?Section=Home&CONTENTID=11822&TEMPLATE=/CM/ContentDisplay.cfm%5Done">http://www.acenet.edu/AM/Template.cfm?Section=Home&CONTENTID=11822&TEMPLATE=/CM/ContentDisplay.cfm]one</a> percent of the total population of Chinese university students. So yes, you're right that it is very small relative to the total population of Chinese students. But relative to the total population of international students in the U.S., it is the largest.</p>

<p>I don't know why the SAT isn't offered in mainland China. The CCP may have something to do with it, but I don't think it's because they don't want Chinese to leave the country and attend universities elsewhere. At Georgia Tech, for example, I even met Chinese who were international students from...Singapore...and who came here for a semester of study abroad. If they were the scions of high-ranking Party officials, man, they knew how to hide it!</p>