Tutoring News Post

Why you Can—and Can’t—Trust Reddit for Advice on the Digital SAT, PSAT, ACT, LSAT, GRE, & GMAT

December 31, 2023: To state the obvious: the internet is full of information.  In the age of disinformation, however, it’s just hard to know exactly which sources to trust.

In the old days, we would simply turn to Googling—and that would be the end of it.  Like magic, Google searches used to provide a sea of diverse, helpful websites and blog posts.


Today, on the other hand, Google results have grown increasingly similar and corporate.

So how are we to find the real news on the topics of our choice, at least in some cases (more on this later)?  Well, Reddit.  Yes, that’s right: the controversial social-media website known for its flouting of free speech protections, and its very seedy corners.

Let me explain.  Many of today's savvy web users are still using Google, of course...but they are also adding “Reddit” to the end of their searches, to see what real people are saying about standardized test preparation.

This is a great approach, and an excellent way to connect with real people, real information, and real opinions—in theory.  The problem is that Reddit’s oldest, most popular test-prep subreddits, like all subreddits, have a fundamental flaw: the mostly anonymous moderators, who often have no real-world qualifications other than getting there first, have unchecked power.  They often abuse this power by engaging in relentless gatekeeping in the name of self-promotion: moderators will ban, mute, and/or “shadowban” any users they don't like, while removing any links, posts, and/or comments with which they do not agree, or simply do not want the public to see—often without the user's knowledge.

This self-serving, self-promotional mindset leads to a variety of ignorant, uninformed, and envious moderator behaviors, thus preventing the public from learning from many experts and other knowledgeable individuals (anonymous and otherwise) who could have made significant contributions to the discussion.


Totalitarian moderator behavior also prevents us from hearing the anonymous perspectives of well-meaning users who are new, and would like to share their experiences and advice, but are blocked from posting for a variety of petty reasons: not enough post or comment karma, Reddit account not old enough, the mods just don't like you or are having a bad day, they have banned you out of personal and/or professional envy, et cetera.


Even those who do remain active on the subreddit must "kiss the ring" and parrot the moderators' talking points, or else risk the same fate—so there is little to no diversity of opinions expressed.

The two very worst offenders in this regard are r/SAT and r/LSAT.


r/SAT is run by a highly biased moderation team, including an employee of UWorld.  Most of the r/SAT moderators ("mods") also have no clue about the new digital SAT aka DSAT, and haven't bothered to educate themselves on the issue, instead throwing out incorrect and off-the-cuff advice to impressionable high schoolers, who tend to assume—incorrectly—that the moderators know what they are talking about.

Below are just a few of the many issues on which the r/SAT moderation team has dispensed blatantly incorrect and/or harmful advice to high schoolers during the past few months:

-Whether paper SAT scores and digital SAT scores can be “superscored” at all colleges (no, they can’t)

-Whether (optional) PSAT scores can be voluntarily sent to all colleges for admissions purposes (yes, they can)

-The amount of question overlap between the Bluebook adaptive digital SATs and the linear, nonadaptive PDFs (about 70%, much lower than they had previously claimed).


In the end, the real, painstaking research to identify each and every unique question on the linear, nonadaptive digital SAT PDFs was done by me and other true SAT professionals across the world who actually teach the digital SAT for a living—not by the lazy r/SAT mods, who would rather take a guess and wait for someone else to do the research.  (See the examples above, and consider that Reddit moderators are unpaid.)


Ultimately, when it comes to r/SAT, please don't trust any of the moderators or "power users" to give you truly informed and updated information about the digital SAT and/or PSAT.


Despite what Graeme Blake would like you to believe, there is no r/LSAT moderation "team" — it is in fact run by one self-promoting, competition-banning LSAT tutor who utilizes a group of alternative usernames, aka "alts," in order to appear as if there were an actual group of individuals in charge of his subreddit.


In reality, of course, there isn't: it's just law school dropout Blake, standing behind the curtain with his trusty "remove" button.

There's more.  The r/ACT subreddit has a moderation team that essentially ignores the site: they do not bother to post test-day discussion threads, or make even the most simple of updates.  And the r/GMAT subreddit (or "sub," if you're a Reddit user) is flooded with spam and bots from Target Test Prep, a company that has seemingly shifted the majority of its marketing budget to producing daily, reductive Reddit posts with obvious "pro tips" that ignore the weaknesses of their self-paced, online GMAT program, and that barely make an effort to disguise their blatant, aggressive, and deceptive advertising.


Strangely, these painfully amateur posts and comments by TTP employees (Really?  I should create a GMAT preparation schedule?  Sleep and exercise are a good idea?  There are five fingers on a hand?  Wow, I never would have thought of that!) always seem to get about 10 to 20 “upvotes"... probably because everyone at that company has been instructed to create multiple accounts in order to inflate and manipulate Reddit's vote count—which is unfortunately much easier than you would think.

Finally, we have r/GRE, which is partially moderated by a friend and former colleague. In addition, the head moderator (who also moderates r/GMAT) is mostly fair and balanced—and gives less leeway to Target Test Prep than she does on r/GRE.  Thus, it’s actually a solid place to find free GRE advice, other than the fact that it’s a large subreddit (96,000 members).

Why is size a problem? Paradoxically, smaller subreddits are actually better than the larger ones.  In my opinion, the very best subs have somewhere between 1,000 - 20,000 members.  Why?  Once the subreddit grows past 20,000 subscribers, the mandatory “home feed” structure of all subreddits starts to break, and it becomes more like a stock ticker of endlessly flowing information.  Every post gets about 1 or 2 comments before the next one takes over, and the discussion never goes anywhere deep.  The sub gets flooded with useless spam, including the notorious  “How do I go from (score X) to (score Y) in 30 days???” posts that no one cares about.  Even the r/SAT moderators have gone on record admitting that these posts are a persistent problem.

Paradoxially, some large subreddits such as r/GRE actually see very little daily activity, in part because most "members" subscribed many years ago and simply never thought to leave after taking the test.  (Also, GRE test-takers are generally very laid-back, especially when compared to the type-A personalities who are preparing for the GMAT and LSAT.)


If the subreddit's moderators choose to care, and to pay attention—which is a big "if"—then they might post some useful, updated information in the sub's "sidebar" ... or they might not.  Even on the rare occasions when the mods do make an effort, it's often for the purpose of self-promotion and/or profit, not true public service (see: r/LSAT's tutor "directory," which conveniently lists the mod as the #1 tutoring option, and requires moderator approval to be listed).


Remember, the term "power-tripping mods" exists for a reason.

So yes: please keep adding “Reddit” to the end of your Google searches, and see what you can find.  After all, there are some good, unbiased moderators out there—usually the ones who don't take themselves too seriously, aren't in it for the wrong reason$, and understand that they are unpaid, highly replaceable volunteers who just so happened to be in the right place at the right time. 

However, try to check out the newer, smaller subreddits, such as r/digitalSATs and r/GREpreparation, too: that’s where the real, uncensored information lies.

In sum:

r/SAT = 14 years old, 376,601 members: the worst moderator team (employed by test-prep companies), incorrect and harmful advice, ignorant about the content changes and rules regarding the new digital SAT aka DSAT, self-promotion and corporate conflicts of interest, heavily censored

r/ACT = 13 years old, 205,543 members: a moderately useful subreddit that is essentially ignored by the moderators, no test-day threads

r/LSAT = 14 years old, 187,053 members: run by one LSAT tutor masquerading as an actual team of moderators, a one-man marketing opportunity disguised as a true LSAT community, heavily censored

r/GMAT = 13 years old, 52,656 members: pretty good if not for all the TTP spam that is curiously allowed, moderately censored.  Also check out GMAT Club, which is superior to r/GMAT in many ways. 

r/GRE = 14 years old, 96,134 members: solid and useful, yet surprisingly inactive for its size, lightly censored

r/GREpreparation =  5 years old, 5,753 members: founded by me, includes links to many free GRE resources, including every official GRE question, uncensored (except for posts that violate the Reddit content policy)

r/digitalSATs = 1 year old, 1,611 members: the newer, superior SAT subreddit, updated specifically for the digital SAT aka DSAT, new questions posted daily, uncensored (except for posts that violate Reddit rules)


Happy New Year,

-Brian

 

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