The Californian

SAT prep proves very costly

Wynne Zhang, Staff Writer

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The official College Board SAT Study Guide costs $31.99. There is a required $51 fee to register for the SAT, and the test itself takes three hours and 45 minutes.

Most students don’t see this as too big of a sacrifice to get into their dream college. But nowadays, $83 and four hours aren’t the only things students invest in for the SATs.

Thousands of dollars can be spent on SAT prep courses and boot camps, such as Elite, Ivymax and Princeton Review.

Linda Wang, a UC Berkeley certified college admission counselor employed by Ivymax, said students that participate in SAT preparation boot camps spend $1,000 on average.

Wang said basic SAT readiness classes may cost from $1,000 to 1,500.  “Intensive” boot camp classes, such as Elite’s “SAT 2100 Plus Program,” feature many hours of work and preparation and sometimes cost upwards of $3,000.

Junior Dawn Ye said she spent about $1,000 to attend Elite with the hope of improving her score. She’s not alone.

“My dad said it was pretty expensive,” said junior Kara Guse, who also attended Elite’s SAT boot camp.

This money might be quite a chunk out of the pockets of parents, who already need to worry about college tuition.

Although some parents are able to afford the tuition for these classes, many less fortunate families will not be able to pay for the SAT courses.

“There is still a disadvantage for low-income students,” said Wang.  “Their families may not have the money to put into SAT classes.”

How much benefit actually comes from these courses?

“I’ll be signing up for it [Elite] during Christmas break,” said junior Jaida Stewart. “I think it will get me to 2,000-2,300 points.”

Many students and college counselors believe that such prep programs have an incredibly positive influence on test scores.

“Students’ scores substantially increase after being coached,” said Wang. “There is usually a 200 to 300 point increase.”

But studies show that such an increase is not always the case.

Contrary to the claims of increases of 100 points or more made by many test preparation providers, the data suggests that average gains are more in the neighborhood of 30 points, according to research conducted in 2009 by Derek C. Briggs, a Ph. D. from the National Association for College Admission Counseling .

If there is not much of a  significant increase in the SAT score, than are students from low-income families really at that big of a disadvantage?

Although students can take costly classes, their scores will only increase significantly if they put in the effort to study and work to achieve a higher score.

“No matter how wealthy you are, there’s no way you’ll get a perfect 800 [on one of the three sections] if you’re nowhere close,” said English and AVID teacher Gilita Thomas.

Concerned students can keep in mind that expensive SAT classes are not the only way to effectively study for the SAT.

“If you are dedicated and focused in studying, you can definitely improve as much [as taking SAT classes],” said Thomas. “There are prep books, CD-Roms, and websites to go on and practice.”

The College Board, Princeton Review, Barron’s, Kaplan, and many other companies also offer SAT preparation books that include practice tests and tips.

“I downloaded the SAT app on my phone,” said senior Sam Haqiq. “I didn’t buy any books or go to any classes and I got a good score.”

Students can download apps on their phones and tablets that provide SAT problems and vocabulary.

Such methods for studying for the SAT are much less costly than the classes, and also much easier to do.

 

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SAT prep proves very costly