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Are Test Prep Courses Worth the Money?

According to the nonprofit organization which administers the college entrance examination SAT, taking the test twice does not significantly improve the student scores. This information will come as a surprise to the families who have been convinced by various college exam prep companies that their child should, besides complete their expensive testing preparatory course, take the SAT or ACT twice.

High school juniors and seniors receive a dizzying number of advertisements touting the benefits of taking special college exam preparation courses. Many of these courses can cost between one and two thousand dollars and consume a significant amount of the student’s free time. Critics point out that the claims of the test prep industry exaggerate the benefits of their coursework and engage in misleading advertising. Rather than the advertised improvement range of 100 to 250 SAT points, research shows that students who take test preparation courses only see an increase in the range of 10 to 25 SAT points.

High school students are just as likely to do well on the SAT by studying the information contained in any college exam prep book available at major bookstores across the nation. A book or course is not going to be able to take a C student and elevate him or her to an A student. Students can get a relatively accurate prediction of their SAT or ACT performance by taking a diagnostic sample test. These are available online and turn out to be rather good predictors of SAT and ACT outcomes.


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