skip to main content skip to footer

Coaching for Tests and Examinations

Powers, Donald E.
Publication Year:
Report Number:
ETS Research Memorandum
Document Type:
Page Count:
Subject/Key Words:
Coaching, Test Preparation, Test Takers


This article discusses the effects of various kinds of test preparation, the impact of test preparation on the fairness of the tests, and the appropriateness of different types of preparation. For the purposes of this paper the terms "coaching," "test preparation," and "special preparation for tests" are used interchangeably. The effects, equity, and ethics of test preparation are each considered here, primarily in relation to the SAT. The effect issue concerns the improvement in test performance that results from various kinds and amounts of test preparation and the implications of these improvements for decisions based on test performances. Equity concerns examinees' access to special preparation, presuming that it is effective in improving test performance. The ethical concern centers around the claims made by test preparers and also the particular kind of preparation that is provided. Conclusions include: 1) test takers should have a realistic assessment of the effects of various sorts of test preparation; 2) assessments of the effects of preparation on test performance are inconclusive and often exaggerated; and 3) the ethics of test preparation depends to a large extent on the method of preparation. A table lists the ethicality of various kinds of test preparation.

Read More