For years, parents and teachers have debated whether SAT prep classes are actually effective enough to justify the price tag. One study last year from the National Association of College Admissions found that, on average, students who took SAT prep classes increased their scores by 30 points. Sure, that could end up being an increase that inches you into an Ivy League school, but that’s probably not the major boost that parents hope for when they open up their wallets for the course.
Still, even if these prep courses don’t exactly help students ace the exam, it’s unlikely that they hurt their scores either. And from a parent’s perspective, it may seem even more dicey not to enroll your child in some kind of course just to ensure that they don’t procrastinate studying until the last minute. On the bright side, many SAT prep classes are starting to take advantage of the Internet to offer cheaper or even complimentary SAT services online. So, with that in mind, here is a breakdown of SAT courses by price so you can get a sense of which ones are the best for the money.
The Princeton Review is the gold standard of SAT prep courses, and it charges a pretty penny for the service. The Ultimate Classroom course can cost as much as $1,199, depending on where you’re taking the course. For that money, you’ll get 30 hours of classroom instruction that includes a thorough dissection of what you’ll see on the test and lots of personalized test taking strategies.
But again, it’s important to remember that there are limits to how much this course will boost your score, even if it’s more than $1,000. Last month, the Better Business Bureau forced the Princeton Review to stop advertising that its courses could lead to a 255-point increase in scores. That said, Princeton Review does offer a free online practice test and provides a search engine to find free SAT study events near you.
Like Princeton Review, Kaplan can be pretty pricey. Private and small tutoring groups can cost anywhere from $1,299 to $4,699. Sure, you’ll get a lot of personal attention and will take a practice SAT nearly two dozen times in total, but you’ll probably also wipe away all the money you’d spend on food your first year in college. Kaplan does have two cheaper options though that may be a bit more reasonable. Students can sign up for a $500 classroom course, or a $99 online prep course, both of which give you multiple practice tests and SAT instruction.
This new SAT prep program may not be as well known as Kaplan and Princeton but it does provide a good deal for the money. For $490 students get a year’s worth of instruction from qualified teachers online. Knewton promises that its online prep course will boost your child’s score by at least 150 points, or they’ll give you your money back. Though the course is online, it functions much like a real classroom. There are weekly “office hours” when students can consult with teachers online and the site tracks your performance and personalizes the course syllabus based on your needs.
Grockit is another newer SAT prep site that bill itself as a social network for learning. That may sound contradictory to some parents out there, but essentially the site allows students to study alone online and compete in groups against friends and other users. Grockit seems to abide by the impossible maxim of making studying fun, except, astoundingly, it may be succeeding at that. The site offers a free introductory writing course online but the more popular option is an $80 prep course for all three sections of the SAT that gives you unlimited practice questions, reviews and frequent “challenges” designed to “measure your progress.” Grockit even offers a free iPhone app of SAT flashcards.
College Board is the group that administers the SATs, but it also provides some useful and affordable tools for students. The site offers free sample questions and one free practice test, as well as study guides that range from $20 to $70.
Like Grockit, ePrep.com is entirely online and offers 24/7 instruction for students through online instructional videos. For $399, students can get an “annual pass” that gives them four practice tests and video lessons in each of three subjects. If you don’t get the perfect score the first time you take the test, you’ll still have access to the service to work on improving your score the second time around.
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