Cracking the Code: Has Teen Found Secret to High SAT Score?

Filed under: In The News

Brevity may indeed be the soul of wit, but it won't get you into an Ivy League college.

That's the conclusion reached by Milo Beckman, a 14-year-old student at New York City's Stuyvesant High School. He says his independent research shows that students who write longer SAT essays consistently score higher than those who get to the point quickly.

"Good Morning America" reports that Beckman stumbled upon this secret to SAT success while taking the college entrance exam himself. He took the test twice, and the second time he improved his score. Most kids would be thrilled, but Beckman says he was, in fact, annoyed.

"I looked up one of the facts I had used in the essay which I wasn't completely sure of and it turns out I had basically blatantly lied in the essay," he tells "GMA."

However, this inferior essay had one thing going for it: It was long.

Beckman decided to test his theory, and asked his peers to count the lines in their essays and give him their scores. He collected 115 data samples and says longer essays almost always had a higher score. His research is in line with that of Les Perelman, the director of writing across curriculum at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology, who tells "GMA" he supports Beckman's theory.

"The more you write, the higher the score. The more words on the page, the higher the score," Perelman says.

His own research shows that he can predict the same results 90 percent of the time just by looking at the length of a student's essay.

"Milo's findings are exciting to me for the reason that any researcher is excited when somebody else takes their research and applies it in an innovative way and replicates it. Because it confirms my research," he tells "GMA."

Could it be that smarter kids just write longer essays? No, says Beckman. He compared the scores of kids who took the test twice, and every time they scored higher when they were more wordy.

"Every single one of them got a higher or equal score on their longer essay," he tells ABC. "Not a single one got a worse score on their longer essay."

The College Board, which administers the SAT, is less enamored of Beckman's research. In a statement to "GMA," it responds: "It's very common for longer writing samples to more effectively convey nuanced, persuasive arguments."

While the College Board may not agree, Beckman's findings have a fan in MIT's Perelman, who has been critical in the past of the SAT essay and how it is evaluated.

His take? Beckman's research gets a perfect score.

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AdviceMama Says:
Start by teaching him that it is safe to do so.