Do SAT Prep Courses Really Help?

Tons of students and families spend thousands of dollars on SAT prep courses in order to help boost SAT scores.

However, according to the National Association for College Admission Counseling, these SAT prep courses may not be as helpful as everyone is led to believe.

This information is a result of numerous studies from past years that closely examined the impact of test prep on SAT scores.

Is It Worth It?

In general, most students reported only seeing small differences in their overall score after taking a prep test.  More specifically, students found that SAT prep courses only increased their overall score by 30 points, on average, out of a possible 1600 points.  In addition, students found that their ACT scores increased by less than 1 point out of a possible 36 points.

College Board, the non-profit company that oversees the SAT test, also believes that there is limited benefit from test prep courses.  Instead, the company recommends using the free and inexpensive material offered by the College Board, including a study guide that only costs $20.

“It breaks my heart to see families who can’t afford it spending money they desperately need on test prep when no evidence would indicate that this money is well-spent.” – William Fitzsimmons, Harvard University’s Dean of Undergraduate Admissions.

How Much Do Test Prep Courses Cost?

Most SAT test prep companies charge around $1,100 per class and $100-$200 an hour for individual tutoring.  According to research, 2 million students spend approximately $2.5 billion a year on test preparation and tutoring.

What Are SAT Prep Companies Saying?

Kaplan – “If for any reason you don’t raise your overall score, you can study with us again for free or get your money back”

Princeton Review – “If, after taking our program, your score doesn’t improve, you may receive a tuition refund”

Sylvan Learning – “Three out of four Sylvan students increase their SAT score by 160 points or ACT score by 5 points”

Elite Educational Institute – “Average score improvement is 240 points”

Ivy West – “We guarantee that your child will achieve a score increase of 200 points or more on the SAT or 4 points on the ACT or we will offer two free refresher lessons” (certain limitations apply)

Revolution Prep – “Any graduate may repeat the entire course free of charge (using original class materials) if his or her practice test scores do not increase by at least 200 points on the SAT or a satisfactory amount on the ACT”

Summit Educational Group – “Our proven score increases on the SAT are 180 to 400 points”

Are They Telling The Truth?

Most of the companies listed above admit that there is really nothing to hold them accountable for SAT score increases because the industry itself is not regulated.

Kaplan and Princeton (the two top test prep companies) do not guarantee any specific average point increases, because it is “difficult to collect accurate data.”

Revolution Prep and Elite Educational Institute use their own diagnostic test results to determine if a student’s score increased, not the results of a student’s actual SAT test scores.   If students don’t increase their scores on these practice tests, then they can repeat the course again for free.

Summit Educational Group says their figures are based on survey results, to which less than half of students actually respond to.

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Lauren Anderson is a certified school counselor who's passionate about helping students all over the world successfully transition from high school to college! After spending 6 years as a business professional, she obtained her Master’s degree in School Counseling and now spends her spare time helping students.

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