Has Teen Unlocked the Secret to a Better SAT Score?

Student says longer essays score better.

ByABC News via GMA logo
January 26, 2010, 7:56 PM

Nov. 5, 2010 — -- Millions of high school students across the country will take the SATs tomorrow.

Ever since 2005, the SAT has included an essay section to measure writing skills.

But what if we told you that it may be possible to game the system and score higher on the SAT by taking one simple step?

A new study contends that if you write a longer SAT essay, you will get a higher SAT score, regardless of the content of your essay.

But that's not the most surprising thing about the study. No, the most unusual thing is that this study was conducted by a 14-year-old high school student who is in the process of taking the test himself.

Milo Beckman, 14, has taken the SAT twice. The second time, he improved his score on the essay. Most students would be thrilled, but Milo was annoyed because he thought his second essay was inferior.

"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 told ABC News.

Milo said his second essay did have one thing going for it: it was longer.

"My hypothesis is that longer essays on the SAT essay component score higher," he said.

So he asked his fellow students at New York City's Stuyvesant High School to count how many lines they had written on their essays and to provide their scores.

"I thought, 'This ought to be interesting.' I've always wondered about this, too," said David Sugarman, a classmate.

"This was something directly related to the SAT itself and the means by which, you know, we were being graded," another classmate, Yana Azova, said.

Milo says out of 115 samples, longer essays almost always garnered higher scores.

"The probability that such a strong correlation would happen by chance is 10 to the negative 18th. So 00000 …18 zeros and then (an) 18. Which is zero," he said.

It turns out there is some very grown-up support for Milo's conclusion.

"The more you write, the higher the score. The more words on the page, the higher the score," Les Perelman, the director of writing across curriculum at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology, said.