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Why are SAT scores rising at the high end?
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January 29, 2012, 03:44 AM
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In recent years, the number of kids scoring 700 or higher on SAT tests has been increasing. For example, the number of students with 700-800 scores on Math has gone up from 75,000 in 2001 to 112,000 in 2011. There are no doubt a lot of reasons for this, such as ambitious students who would have only taken the ACT in the past because it`s the default in their region now taking both the ACT and the SAT, and more foreign elite students taking a shot at the SAT.

But here`s another one that probably has an effect but I can`t say how big: Back in the 1970s, students used to take drugs the night before the SAT. Now, with the spread of prescriptions for Ritalin and Adderall, they are more likely to take drugs the morning of the SAT. 
Here`s an opinion piece in the NYT that`s skeptical about the rise of concentration drugs:
TO date, no study has found any long-term benefit of attention-deficit medication on academic performance, peer relationships or behavior problems, the very things we would most want to improve. Until recently, most studies of these drugs had not been properly randomized, and some of them had other methodological flaws. 
But in 2009, findings were published from a well-controlled study that had been going on for more than a decade, and the results were very clear. The study randomly assigned almost 600 children with attention problems to four treatment conditions. Some received medication alone, some cognitive-behavior therapy alone, some medication plus therapy, and some were in a community-care control group that received no systematic treatment. At first this study suggested that medication, or medication plus therapy, produced the best results. However, after three years, these effects had faded, and by eight years there was no evidence that medication produced any academic or behavioral benefits.

 

I sometimes wonder what percentage of my competitors in the punditry field are on prescription stimulants. 
There was a movie last year, Limitless, with Bradley Cooper as a would-be novelist with writer`s block who gets a supply of a black market superdrug that makes him vastly smarter. One of the first things this writer does after his IQ doubles is to stop being a writer. I suspect there may be a lesson in there for me somewhere. I should drink four or five Diet Cokes and try to figure it out.