Evaluating Standardized Test Prep Courses… And Their Costs

Millions of students each year vie for admissions into the college of their dreams. As a result, they spend high school finding every possible way to pad their applications; and one important factor lies in standardized test scores. From general experience, Hanover High holds a reputation that one must succeed. It shows in Hanover High’s average SAT scores from 2017; the mean critical reading and math scores (which are 632 and 609 respectively) both sit well above the averages in both New Hampshire (527 in critical reading and 531 in math) and the United States as a whole (494 in critical reading and 508 in math). So, some students opt for SAT/ACT prep courses to boost their admissions chances. But are these prep courses worth the cost, effort, and time? Do these intensive question-drilling sessions ultimately pay off?

There is no certain answer to how valuable a prep course is. Every student weighs factors differently based on their academic, social, and financial situations. From a survey of the upperclassmen at our school, most students responded that they spent around $500 to $1000 on a course, and a large number were unaware of the cost. This survey also looked at student’s social perception of prep courses. Almost all students cited that such prep courses were too costly and “provided an unfair advantage for wealthy families.” Also, most people said they were unregretful for not taking a prep course. It often poses too time-consuming to fit in, since it is like another “extracurricular.” And many students found it uninteresting or unnecessary, which also explained the lack of awareness of cost. Others noted that they were already confident in their own abilities.

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I gained some preliminary information in a prep course run by Stattip Tutoring. Students who went through it saw an average gain of 120 points on the Old SAT. Many parents have praised this course and sent on younger children in later ones. The course comes with 39 “contact hours” and a large heap of handouts. Other benefits of the course include receiving detailed feedback on the essay, and the student gains knowledge of the College Application process. The student learns strategies and tactics for the test that are hard to piece together otherwise. Indeed, this prep course comes with many things in one package. Moreover, one could expect reliable results given that the tutor has over 25 years of teaching experience.

Although given the benefits of a course, a student has to make sacrifices of time, trust, and finances. And so, a prep course is not for everyone. Any ambitious or disciplined student can still gain insight into the test and find their own great ways to prep. All students may utilize Khan Academy’s free SAT practice. Those thinking of a prep course should consider its balance in their lives. Test scores are only a single factor, and a student should put them into perspective with the rest of the application.

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