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Sunday, March 9, 2014

College Crash Course Part 12: Test Prep Points


In a recent survey, I asked homeschoolers and test prep teachers what the typical point increase was for students who took an actual SAT or ACT test prep course and for students who did not. The results were what I expected but not what is generally reported in the media. 

Students who did not take a prep course, but rather prepared on their own using SAT/ACT prep books and online practice questions did not see an increase in their scores. 

It is usually reported that SAT prep increases a student’s score only by an average of 30 points. However it appears that for homeschoolers, at least, investing in an actual test preparation course is exceedingly helpful and has been reported to regularly increase scores by 200 or more points on the SAT and by four points on the ACT. 

That kind of increase has extreme value. Most college scholarships are based directly on the student’s SAT/ACT score. It is often an automatically awarded scholarship. But how much is the increase in the SAT score actually worth? That’s an important question. 

The University of Rochester publicly released how they award scholarships, a typically well hidden secret in college admissions offices. They reported that for each 10 point increase on the SAT, they award $115. Thus, if you can increase your score by a little over 200 points using a test prep program (which can be very expensive), you will save around $10,000 in tuition over four years. 

Further, many states have programs that pay the tuition of students who score well on the SAT reading and math combined. So in the end, what you spend on the test prep course may actually pay back tenfold or more. 

My daughter completed a DVD SAT math prep program from Chalk Dust that was very helpful. She also took a classroom prep course that spanned several weeks.  Her test prep courses increased her score over 200 points, qualifying her for our state tuition scholarship and saving us over $40,000 in tuition. The courses paid us back fiftyfold.

James Stobaugh provides test preparation curriculum, college admissions counseling, and college prep courses for Christian homeschoolers. He explains test preparation for these two exams this way: 

“The SAT is an IQ type test. It is not based upon epistemology; it is based upon critical thinking. In other words, the SAT measures students’ ability to problem solve. The ACT measures students’ knowledge acquisition. Therefore, the SAT preparation ideally needs a commitment of one to three years.

Students cannot raise their IQ scores nor improve critical thinking skills overnight, or even in two months. But students can raise ACT scores in 50 days.”

Although test prep courses are pricey, I believe they are an investment that will often end up saving you money. I’m sure many of you will have questions about which course to choose, however I only have our experience from which to share. But please feel free to ask your questions in the comments section below and perhaps another poster can give recommendations. If you have a particular recommendation, please share it with us. 

In 2016, the College Board rolled out a new SAT. Follow the link below to read James Stobaugh’s detailed description and analysis of this new exam: 
www.forsuchatimeasthis.com/blog/the-new-sat/

As we’ve learned from previous posts in my College Crash Course series, preparing for college is a unique experience for each family and for each child. There is no “one size fits all” when it comes to preparing for the college admissions process. The Lord has uniquely gifted your child and has a special course of action already prepared. Support him in this process, undergirding each decision with prayer. In the end, God will lead and your child will land right where he’s supposed to be! 

*Some have reported a high increase while others a low increase after test preparation. Keep in mind that the score depends on the student. The 200 point increase was simply an average based on the survey.


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