For many high school juniors and seniors, taking the SAT is a high-pressure rite of passage. A good score can mean entry into the college of one’s dreams, while a poor score could mean the opposite.
To that end, a veritable industry of test preparation companies has sprung up to help students get ready for the test, particularly for those who can afford to take them. However, none of those have been endorsed by The College Board itself. In June 2015, the organization, which also administers AP tests around the country, partnered with The Khan Academy to provide free online test practice for anyone who wants it. This year, the Board is promoting it.
The online campaign from agency The Butler Bros. is aimed at students and tells the stories of several students from Oak Ridge High School in Orlando, Fla., which was one of the first to integrate the Official SAT Practice testing into college prep curriculum. Using a documentary style, the campaign shows the students practicing hard for their extracurricular activities such as football, cheerleading, yearbook and marching band. Just as they prepare for those activities, they practice for their SAT tests, noting they’re developing a sense of “muscle memory” and confidence. The message: “Better takes practice.”
“[The extracurricular activities] coalesce on a Friday night in the same way that the academic practice courses coalesce on test day,” Adam Butler, founder and strategic chief at The Butler Bros, tells Marketing Daily. “The content’s job is to show the notion that the test can be practiced for.”
The SAT was originally conceived as an “objective” measure for students to show off their knowledge, Butler says. But as test preparation courses are more the norm than the exception these days, the College Board is asserting that simply practicing for the tests (using Khan Academy resources, which employ PSAT scores to highlight areas of weakness, and thus further study) can help boost one’s score. According to The College Board, taking 20 hours of free online practice studying led to an average 115-point score increase. Rather than over-promise on score increases, however, the campaign takes a more personal approach.
“Proving practice works is a risky message to put out there,”, Butler says. “We wanted to focus on a universal truth, which is that practice makes you better.”
The campaign is being run on digital channels such as YouTube, Twitter and Spotify, Butler says. The College Board is also engaging in separate outreach to parents and school counseling offices, Butler says.