Chris Hamilton, CEO and founder of Hamilton College Consulting. Photo via HCC.
Chris Hamilton, CEO and founder of Hamilton College Consulting. Photo via HCC.

A Sorrento Valley consulting service is claiming credit for 40 students getting perfect scores on the ACT or SAT in the past three years.

Hamilton College Consulting, founded by CEO Chris Hamilton, says it has helped tutor 110 students to the top scores of the college-admission tests in the past two decades.

Since fall 2015, a spokeswoman said, 27 students have recorded perfect 36 scores on the ACT, while 13 had perfect 2400s on the SAT.

The College Board — which owns the standardized test formerly called the Scholastic Aptitude Test (or Scholastic Assessment Test) — did not respond to requests for comment.

But the ACT’s senior director for media and public relations threw cold water on the usefulness of test-prep services.

Ed Colby, the spokesman, said: “Our research suggests that short-term test prep activities tend to have a relatively small positive impact on ACT composite scores, particularly when compared to long-term learning in school.”

He said that because the ACT is a curriculum-based test, “we believe the best type of test prep program for students is one that focuses on reviewing and mastering course content and core academic skills.”

Colby concedes that it may be beneficial to become familiar with the test format and timing — so they know what to expect on test day — but ACT offers free study guides, practice tests, detailed test descriptions and tips.

Hamilton says its “odds-defying concentration of perfect scores” is largely due to the way HCC has tackled the redesigned SAT (with three sections worth 800 points each in English, math and writing).

“The SAT and ACT are now remarkably similar — a fact Hamilton has taken into account in designing its innovative H3 classes, which prepare students for the ACT, SAT and PSAT, giving its students two chances at a perfect score from a single course of study,” the service said.

The ACT’s Colby told Times of San Diego: “The best way for students to prepare for the ACT is to take challenging courses in school, work hard and learn the material.

“The more a student has learned, the better they are likely to do on the ACT. There are no shortcuts to earning a high ACT score.”

Three weeks ago, Steve Chapple on Huffington Post noted that 20 of the 80 perfect SAT scores in 2016 by California high school students — out of some 241,553 — were Hamilton products.

“Hamilton charges about $20 an hour, or as much as $2,700 for its four-month ‘2300 plus’ course,” Chapple reported. “The company’s revenue has grown 45 percent a year.”

Hamilton, 45, a former Ph.D. instructor in 18th- and 19th-century English literature at UCLA, was quoted as saying: “Most SAT prep in the United States is not skills-based. It’s based on short cuts, strategies and tricks. You can impart these to students in a short period of time without actually teaching skills at all.

“But the kinds of students who walk through my door don’t want to leave questions unanswered. They’re getting A’s in school, or A’s and B’s. They’re motivated.”

The CEO added: “San Diego looks a little puzzling to a lot of East Coast colleges — all these amazing kids coming from San Diego. A lot of it has to do with technology, the life sciences, the reasons that parents have come from other countries to make a life in San Diego.”

But he was critical of San Diego education as well for being unfairly “parsed out.”

“Poway Unified and San Dieguito Unified and one or two San Diego Unified schools are some of the best schools anywhere, by any standards,” he said. “In other parts of San Diego, the kids don’t have the same quality of teachers, they don’t have the same experience, they don’t have the same resources, they don’t have the parents forming foundations to pay for things that kids and schools need.

“It’s really strikingly desperate. It’s literally not fair,” he said.