Test Prep Company Issues $10,000 Challenge

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Andover College Prep challenges competition to “Put Up or Shut Up” over SAT score improvement claims.

Andover College Prep LLC, a Connecticut-based test preparation and college admissions consulting company, has challenged competitors to prove which company has the highest SAT score improvements. “We’re tired of the hype and false claims,” says Andover President Greg Merle. “The false claims and marketing confusion leaves customers with a lot of bad information. It’s time for these companies to put up or shut up.”

In order to sort out the “marketing confusion,” Merle has proposed a contest amongst the local companies to “objectively prove” whose results match the claims. The contest that Andover proposes would involve each test prep company running a standard class with a standard teacher. All participants will be able to monitor all classes. The winner is the program with the highest average score improvement as measured from a prior actual score (PSAT or SAT) to the score on the real SAT taken directly after completing the course. If Andover loses, Merle said he will donate $10,000 to the charity of the winner’s choice. If Andover wins, Merle said, “we’ll be satisfied just telling everyone.”

The competitors that Merle has specifically challenged are Princeton Review, Kaplan, Revolution Prep and Carnegie/Pollak. Letters were mailed to the offices of each. According to Merle, some of these companies publish score improvement claims “with no corroboration” and some refuse to publish any score improvement data, because “they don’t know or don’t want you to know” their average SAT score improvement.

And yet the problem isn’t simply score improvement claims, which many companies have dropped in recent years. The problem is also what Merle says is “muddying the marketing waters.” Since some companies won’t publish score improvement data, they aggressively market other features of their courses. But Andover contests that “there is no benefit to a test prep course if you don’t raise your score.” Much test prep is merely marketing hype, and hype isn’t worth hundreds or thousands of dollars.

Andover was started in 2003 by local Brunswick School graduates and a Princeton Review executive who wanted to create a prep course that was “more results oriented.” Merle, a Brunswick School and Columbia University graduate, said that while Andover students have fun, they are focused on producing great results. Andover currently claims an average score improvement of 340 points and a minimum guaranteed improvement of 320 points, both industry highs.

Merle acknowledges that he is risking Andover’s reputation, but he says that Andover’s market research conclusively shows that Andover’s score improvements have been the industry’s highest since 2004. “We’re not stupid,” Merle concludes. “We know we’ll win.”

Andover gave no deadline for the other test prep companies to respond, but he says he hopes to have the challenge in place by the end of March so that classes preparing for the May or June SAT can be used.

Andover College Prep has offices in Greenwich, New Canaan, Ridgefield and Westport, Connecticut.


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