Boards are profiting by selling endorsement rights to publishers, who then produce books which are so closely geared to test preparation that they are little more than crib sheets, it is claimed.
And the rise of "all you need to know" endorsed books is killing young people's enthusiasm for learning.
The warnings come from the Society of Authors, which has 750 educational writers as members.
Philip Pullman, author of the acclaimed His Dark Materials trilogy and a former chair of the society, said: "If you are teaching just to get your kids through the test, you are going to narrow, make shallow, make superficial all the things you teach them."
Links between exam boards and publishers have grown in recent years. In 2003 Pearson, the world's biggest educational publisher, bought the Edexcel board. And last December, AQA did a deal with Nelson Thornes.
The Joint Council for Qualifications operates a code of practice which says reading lists in exam syllabuses should include non-endorsed texts.
Elizabeth Tribe, director of schools publishing at Hodder Murray, admitted exam-specific textbooks now dominated. But she said this was in response to teacher demand.
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