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Figuring Out if Test Prep is the Right Choice

For students looking to get the best possible score on the SAT exam, test prep organizations make great claims about how they can help boost test scores for all students. Yet for many years, the College Board said that these programs did not do much to help students as they prepared for the test. Now, new data shows this is not the case. Here’s a closer look at what the research says about the helpfulness of test prep programs.

What the Statistics Say

According to the College Board, statistics show that SAT test prep and coaching can help students perform better. Specifically, when following one program, students saw an average 115-point increase on their scores on the SAT after 20 hours of practice and coaching. Shorter periods of test prep also led to increased points, but at a lower number of points.

Why the Change?

This official statement from the College Board is in opposition to its stance in past years, which said that college test prep did not help students achieve better. One reason that this may have changed is the newly redesigned SAT. The 2016 redesign aimed to align the test more closely with what students should be learning in school, allowing them to show their best abilities based on what they are actually learning and doing. This, combined with coaching that understands the new test, allows many students to find tools to improve their grades.

In the past, many test prep programs focused not on improving students abilities, but rather on teaching them how to “beat the test.” While they may have helped some students, the gains were not indicative of student abilities, which is why the College Board did not stand behind these programs. The newly redesigned test is more in line with efforts to improve abilities and knowledge, and as a result the College Board has changed its stance.

Is Test Prep Helpful? The Answer Is Yes

While the study and report from the College Board only focused on one particular coaching program, other research shows that coaching and test prep does help students improve their scores. For students who are applying to highly competitive programs, this can give them the competitive edge. Each student needs to consider their goals and their weaknesses or strengths before deciding about testing programs. If a student does need a better score and is willing to do the work, test prep can help. With the right program and dedicated work from a student, improved SAT scores are possible.

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