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July 13, 2010 > SAT preparation courses - how valid?

SAT preparation courses - how valid?

Find out loopholes that you can use to earn a 2400 rather than taking a course

By Rajeswari Ramanathan
Photos By Rajeswari Ramanathan

Summer can mean hitting those new SAT books and signing up for the ultimate SAT Test prep course guaranteed to make students receive a perfect score of 2400. The SAT (Scholastic Assessment Test) is conducted by the College Board that many colleges, universities, and scholarships use a selection tool. However, do you really need to spend hundreds of dollars for promises that may not produce the mystical perfect score?

Several test prep centers cost as much as $700 per month. While some students know it is the only outlet to closing the gap toward perfection, others depend upon self-study. Irvington High School 2010 graduate Dion Wu received a 2250 on his SAT after taking a course at Ivymax. While he agreed that the class gave him confidence, he practiced a lot by himself as well.

"Definitely, a person can self-study and get a 2400." said Wu. "It basically comes down to practice. Through practice, students are able to get used to the different tips and tricks necessary to obtain a good score."

SAT classes have proven to be successful for several students, yet the admission fee is what prevents many from attending. Stephanie Lloyd, Irvington High School senior, said, "There should be some free courses provided after school so everyone can have an equal chance to succeed."

Many parents blindly put their child in a costly class which might not be the best choice. An SAT course may be a gratifying experience but can also simply provide a social outlet. The assumption that the course will also tutor students for Mathematics and English classes may be incorrect.

A vital component of these specialized classes is the instructor. Parents may rate the course by cost yet accredited teachers who specialize in SAT are a better indicator of success. A discussion with students who have participated in a contemplated course of study will help to make an informed decision. After research and comparison of SAT schools, parents can decide whether they want their child to use self-study or take a course.

Margaret Nguyen, a senior at John F. Kennedy High School said that test preparation centers are often just another way to grow a business rather than promote honest education. "The idea is to create a fear in students, especially in those who care about getting into a good college. Tests centers and test makers understand that if students know that the SAT and ACT are extremely difficult, then the amount of students enrolled in taking test prep courses will be higher."

Before entering any type of study for these tests, students should take a diagnostic or practice exam at home. This way, the student can decide whether he or she should consider a course or just practice at home. If parents keep track of their child's work, they may save hundreds of dollars and provide an opportunity for a high score as well.

Students could make use of online resources such as creating an account on the College Board website to receive an SAT question every day through e-mail. Students can even take free practice exams provided by the College Board. If Internet access is an issue, books are available with a plethora of vital information about the SAT. Wu said he mainly used the Kaplan and Barron's brand for practice. Nonetheless, there are a variety of guides that a student can use to succeed.

Wu commented on the commercialization of SAT preparation courses saying, "I definitely think the SAT still has some gauge in educational usage for colleges, but there has been a rise in commercial usefulness as well." He noted however that, "... commercial usage does not hinder its educational efficacy."

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