It’s easy to get carried away with SAT test preparation, and it’s not unusual for a typical family to spend over $1000 per child on SAT review. So, is it worth it? In other words, do costly tutors, review books, and review classes result in better test scores and, thus, admission into elite colleges? This question is difficult to answer.
The best research indicates that “test preparation efforts yield a positive but small effect on standardized admission test scores,” according to a report released in 2009 by the National Association for College Admission Counseling. In fact, although many of the best-known test prep companies (e.g., Kaplan, Princeton Review, and Sylvan Learning) claim to increase test scores by over 100 points, the “average gains are more in the neighborhood of 30 points.”
The College Board, which creates the SAT exams, has conducted its own research, which shows that test preparation courses offer limited benefit. In fact, Laurence Bunin, senior vice president for the College Board, “recommends free and low-cost College Board Materials, including a $22 study guide,” according to the Wall Street Journal.
Moreover, SAT prep companies like Kaplan and Princetown Review reap billions of dollars in profits annually, while charging students thousands of dollars to enroll in their comprehensive review courses. This may put students from lower-income families at a disadvantage. According to a Washington Post survey, students who come from families earning over $200,000 a year have an average SAT score of 1714, while students whose families make less than $20,000 a year have an average score of 1326.
Unfortunately, these figures sometimes force families to spend beyond their means in hope of sending their kids to better colleges, and the results can be disheartening. According to long-time SAT tutor Allison Kade, expensive SAT tutoring and review courses aren’t for everyone. She says, “you may not need to fork over tons of cash for test prep if: 1) Your kid is extremely self-motivated, already understands all the core concepts and has been successful with self-study for other standardized tests like AP exams or the PSAT; 2) Your kid doesn’t care, won’t put in the work and will potentially be a distraction to the rest of the kids taking the test.” On the other hand, she writes, you may want to spend a few bucks if “your kid cares about her score, but may not be self-motivated enough to do the studying on her own; your teen is a nervous test-taker…; or your child is struggling with core concepts and would benefit from extra help.”
But there is an alternative to the expensive tutors and review courses. Long Island Regents Prep, a teacher-owned and -operated company, offers one-day SAT Crash Courses the weekend before each SAT Reasoning Test. These courses, held at Farmingdale State College, offer students confidence, skills, knowledge, and strategies they need to excel on their SATs, all at a fraction of the cost of tutors and other courses. For more information and to register for upcoming classes, visit liregentsprep.com.