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Study looks at other factors in SAT scores

July 27, 2004|by JUSTIN POPE

Carbs or protein? Bright colors or earth tones? Hard rock or classical?

Test-prep company Peterson's says it plans to go beyond drilling students in the three Rs, starting what it's calling a testing laboratory to see whether students gain any edge on the SAT from the little things - the choice of pre-exam meal, the hue of their clothes, the music they hear on the drive to the test.

What the Princeton, N.J.-based company envisions is less of a physical lab - no guinea pig students taking tests while white-coated scientists make notes behind one-way glass - than a kind of research-commissioning think tank. It has already retained fashion color expert Pat Tunsky and perfume-industry scent sage Joachim Mensing for the project, to be announced today.

In the end, Peterson's says, it's mainly aiming to inject some fun into the stressful standardized test process - and if scores creep up a few points, so much the better.

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"We don't want people to think they really will raise their scores 100 points if they wear the right color," said Jessica Rohm, vice president of communications for Thomson Learning, Peterson's parent company. But "just taking the edge off by bringing in some fun things associated with testing I think will raise their scores a little."

Critics of standardized testing seem more likely to view the project as this week's sign of the apocalypse. Bob Schaeffer, public education director of the group FairTest, says the effort "does show how out of control the testing craze is in this country." But he acknowledges other research has, indeed, shown that things like a good breakfast can affect test scores.

"Though it'll do nothing to limit the testing craze, it'll be good to have some hard evidence about what really works," he said.

The College Board, the organization that owns the SAT, did not respond to a request for comment.

Rohm said that, as the research results start to come in, Peterson's will distribute much of the information freely to students on printed cards, and it will also be available on Peterson's Web site.

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