On the 1% advantage in college admissions

On the 1% advantage in college admissions

In my previous post, I discussed the recently published paper by superstar Harvard economist Raj Chetty, along with colleagues from Brown, confirming what I suspect most people involved in selective college admissions could intuitively report—namely, that the top 1%, and really the top .1%, enjoy a massive advantage in the college admissions process, largely as a result of a non-academic factors.

I’ve read the full paper, and although the statistical formulas used to calculate the effects are well over my head, the conclusions Chetty et al. draw are quite clear. (A detailed summary is also available.) Some of the main takeaways are as follows. (more…)

The real winners in test-optional admissions

The real winners in test-optional admissions

Now that the Supreme Court has issued its expected ruling dismantling Affirmative Action, it is reasonable to assume that widescale test-optional admissions are here to stay. While applicants are still free to discuss their ethnic backgrounds in their essays, and colleges may consider that information as part of the holistic review process, the ruling issues a clear warning to schools not to attempt to use such information in an attempt to circumvent either the letter or the spirit of the ruling.

Although the new landscape is murky, and colleges are understandably hesitant to undertake an action that might result in additional court cases, it is also clear that they will take any legally permissible steps necessary to enroll URM applicants. As Bates professor Tyler Harper pointed out in a New York Times piece responding to the ruling, this is likely to result in an admissions process that is even more subjective, opaque, and open to “racial gaming” than it is at present—in the absence of test scores, accusations of unfairly (dis)advantaging certain categories of applicants become much that more difficult to prove in court, and, there will undoubtedly continue to be much wailing and gnashing of teeth about How the Woke Mob Is Destroying the Great American University.

However, there is rhetoric and virtue-signaling, and then there is a more complex reality. In fact, the test-optional movement cuts both ways. On a small scale, it will undoubtedly result in the admission of some underrepresented minority students who would not have gained acceptance to particular institutions otherwise. On a very broad scale, in contrast, those effects are likely to be more muted. From universities’ standpoint, there are benefits to dropping standardized testing requirements that are entirely unrelated to promoting equity, and that are likely to benefit the most advantaged applicants.


Update on dSAT book releases, 4/28/23: “The Critical Reader, 5th Ed.” is now available; release of “The Ultimate Guide to SAT Grammar, 6th Ed.” is pending

I am happy to announce that the final version of The Critical Reader, 5th Edition, for the digital SAT, is now available on Amazon.

Approval for The Ultimate Guide to SAT Grammar is still pending and, based on recent experience, may take an additional few weeks to be granted.

Although it is impossible to know for sure, this is likely due to formatting issues in the grammar book that causes the file to require manual inspection from Amazon in order to be approved. In the past, this has not caused significant problems; however, Amazon has made major staffing cuts in recent months, and it seems reasonable to assume that the increased turnaround times are among the results.

If you would like to pre-order the book through The Critical Reader, please contact us, and we will have you sent a copy as soon as the book is available.

We apologize for the delay.

Important shipping information for purchasers of the new SAT books

We are very happy that the SAT Reading and Writing guides for the new digital SAT have received such an enthusiastic response, and we understand that the March exam is coming up very soon; however, if you have ordered the books, or if you plan to order them, we ask you to keep a few things in mind regarding shipping and tracking.

  • As these are preliminary versions that were just released, we do not yet have a stock at our US-based warehouse or at our Korean distributor.
  • All books are currently being printed and shipped via Amazon/KDP. It can take up to 10 days for the books to print, and shipping times will vary based on location and shipping service. Unfortunately, Amazon printing times can vary dramatically, and there was no way to predict this delay in advance.
  • We are unable to ship the books faster at this time.
  • We will send you any tracking information we receive from Amazon as soon as it is updated.
  • If you live in certain countries, including India, you will be required to send a photo of your ID as per customs regulations. If we do not receive your ID within 48 hours of it being requested, we unfortunately will not be able to process your order (it will be canceled and refunded to original form of payment).


Update on revised SAT books for the digital test, 12/31/22

I apologize for the delay and appreciate everyone’s patience. This is the fastest I have ever had to revise such a huge quantity of material (there was no way for me to begin serious work on the updates until the College Board released the first full digital practice test at the beginning of October). And because I am an actual person who sometimes has to deal with life beyond test preparation, I needed to take a break for a couple of weeks during the holidays.

Happy New Year, congratulations to everyone who got done with testing or into college, and wishing you a good 2023.


Update 12/1: As of the beginning of December 2022, I have completed drafts of new editions of The Ultimate Guide to SAT Grammar (6th edition) and The Critical Reader (5th edition).

While the books retain many key elements, they have been substantially overhauled and are now fully aligned with the digital exam—based on the four practice tests released by the College Board—and will be available for purchase for international test-takers  in some capacity by late December or January 2023.

Both books will be in something very close to their final form; the only major difference will be in the number of exercises (particularly in certain chapters of the Reading book) and the presence of detailed explanations for every question in the end-of-chapter exercises, which are likely to be too time-consuming to produce in full for both books by the end of the year.

Also, full disclosure: there will only be time for the books to undergo one round of proofing, so there may be a few lingering typos (this is the unfortunate price for getting them out so quickly).

Otherwise, as in previous editions, each guide contains a full chapter devoted to each question type; numerous worked, in-chapter examples with step-by-step explanations; and numerous strategies for simplifying questions and zeroing in on key information.

I’ve worked incredibly hard on the revisions over the last couple of months, and I feel confident that they will provide thorough preparation for students taking the digital test in March.

I expect finalized versions that have detailed explanations for the end-of-chapter exercises and that have undergone multiple rounds of proofing to be available sometime in the spring of 2023. Current sophomores who are preparing for the digital PSAT next fall should have plenty of time to work with them over the summer.

I appreciate everyone’s patience and will be posting previews of both books as soon as possible.

Important: update on new Critical Reader book editions for the digital SAT

Important: update on new Critical Reader book editions for the digital SAT

I apologize for not having posted an update sooner, but I’v had an unusual number of projects to juggle over the last several months and have only been able to begin serious work on the updated SAT books in the last few weeks. I understand, however, that everyone is very anxious for information regarding the new exam as well as eager to work out a prep plan, and that the earlier international rollout of the digital test has made things challenging for current eleventh graders living outside the U.S. So I’ll do my best here to outline my own timeline regarding book releases here and to provide some interim options for prep materials.

First, the basics. Yes, I will revising my SAT reading and grammar books to reflect the content and structure of the digital test. They updated versions will be completely new editions: 5th edition of The Critical Reader, 6th edition of The Ultimate Guide to SAT Grammar.

The essential content and structure of the books will not change, although they will likely be somewhat slimmed down to reflect the shorter, more focused digital reading and writing sections (two sections, 27 questions each, with performance on the first section determining the difficulty of the questions seen on the second). (more…)