Admission Test’s Scoring Quirk Throws Balance Into Question

Mr. Feinman had stumbled on a little-known facet of the test: because of the complex way it is graded, a student scoring extremely high on one part of the exam has a sharp advantage over a student with high but more balanced scores in each subject.

“As taxpayers and parents, we should know how the test is graded — not necessarily with an eye to changing it — but certainly as a matter of public knowledge,” said Mr. Feinman, who lives on the Upper East Side. “It shouldn’t be hidden or disclosed only to the select few who have the advantage of test prep.”

Even some veteran test-prep tutors were surprised.
Barry Feldman, an owner of GRF Test Preparation, which tutored Mr. Feinman’s daughter, said that in 24 years in the business, he has never focused on the scoring method.

“I just really never thought about it before,” said Mr. Feldman, a retired junior high school math teacher and a 1964 graduate of Stuyvesant. “What are the reasons? Why do they do it how they do it? I don’t know. I really don’t know, and I never really thought about questioning it.”

Officials of American Guidance Service, a private company in Minnesota, said the test had been designed to the city’s specifications. Principals of the six specialized schools are not involved in developing or grading the test, much as colleges are not involved in administering the SAT.

In essence, the scoring system rewards students with more points per question as they get closer to a perfect score on either math or verbal.