The SAT and ACT are often part of the college admissions application process, and a significant piece of data given the variability in course offerings, grading criteria, and rigor in the wide range of high schools producing candidates. As one measure that potentially equalizes candidates, the value of preparing in advance often comes into question.
After years of claiming that test prep study courses didn't significantly increase scores, the College Board has reversed its position on the benefits of test prep, Can Coaching Truly Boost SAT Scores? For Years the College Board Said No. Now It Says Yes. Their website now includes a statement from Zachary Goldberg, senior director of media relations, acknowledging that students who practice show gains, and in particular, those who use the free resources available through Khan Academy gain 115 points on average.
Preparing for the SAT and ACT can help students have a more comfortable experience, allowing them to demonstrate their skill level instead of just measuring their anxiety. Even completing a full-length practice test or using a prep booklet to become familiar with the test can raise the student's confidence as well as provide them with feedback on concepts that need further instruction and practice. Understanding the format of the test can boost student confidence and help them focus on what the question is asking rather than wasting time trying to interpret directions. It can also help students recognize how much time is allotted for each subtest so that they pace themselves accordingly.
High quality instruction and direct feedback from a teacher is always more beneficial than just the printed material or online resource alone. However, free resources are better than nothing, and still recommended for anyone who can't afford test prep programs. The Washington Post posed the question directly in the article, Can a Free SAT Prep Class Ever Be As Good As Pricey In-Person Ones?, concluding that the expense of in-person instruction IS worth it.
There is a full range of instruction available at many differing price points, so please encourage all high school students to take the time to become familiar with the test and prepare before the actual test day.
Gross, Natalie. Can a Free SAT Prep Class Ever Be As Good As Pricey In-Person Ones? Washington Post. November 10, 2016
Strauss, Valerie. Can Coaching Truly Boost SAT Scores? For Years the College Board Said No. Now It Says Yes. Washington Post. May 9, 2017
Zaino, Jennifer. SAT And ACT Test Prep: Get Your Students Ready for College Admissions Exams. Hey Teach, Western Governors' University, 2017.
SAT is a registered trademark of the College Board. ACT is a registered trademark of ACT, Inc.