E.L. of Jericho, NY writes:

Are these expensive SAT prep courses worth the money?

The College Whisperer responds:

Funny you should ask.

An article just came over the wires from Associated Press in which it is reported that Princeton Review, one of the big boys in SAT/ACT prepdom, is "voluntarily" removing language in their advertising that offers a "guarantee" of a score increase if you take their review course.

Take a look at SAT prep company stops claiming 255-point boost.

Pay Princeton Review only $1199 (Kaplan charges a similar fee), and your score will magically rise by some 255 points. If only...

Truth is (not that the truth matters much to these folks), taking the course will not serve to increase test scores. And when College Board, the mad scientists who created the test prep Frankensteins in the first place, poo poos the claims of the likes of Princeton Review, you know there must be something to it.

Fact: Whether or not you take a test prep course, your scores on the second-taking of standardized exams such as the SAT and ACT are likely to go up.

First, students mature, if only by several months (which means much at a high school student's age). Maturation accounts for the greatest score increase.

Second, the student has become more familiar with the test, its format and with testing conditions.

Third (as in practice, practice, practice), if the student is taking the test for the second time, chances are he or she didn't get perfect scores the first go round, and has since regrouped, reorganized, and refocused, geared now to strive higher and achieve more.

Can a tutor help (typically at less than half the cost of Princeton Review or Kaplan)? Yes, if the issues include formulating good study habits, testing techniques, time management, and a focus on the critical elements versus "tricks" and shortcuts. No, if the student is not going to put in the time and effort, or the parent is getting a tutor for Johnny simply because every other kid in the school has one.

There are no tricks or shortcuts, either to test preparation or to college admissions. Organization, focus, developing and implementing a strategic plan, and, yes, a little bit of luck, make for a winning combination.

The SAT, ACT and other standardized tests are, and likely will remain, a rite of passage, like it or not.

Be prepared, to be sure. Get help, when you need it. Just don't get taken by the big names in the industry, or taken in by their outrageous, and patently false, claims.

The views and opinions expressed in this blog are solely those of The College Whisperer.

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