Image from Pexels.

Image from Pexels.

The College Board is a 501(c)3 non-profit organization; however it has been criticized in recent years by test-takers, parents, and industry professionals alike as not really being non-profit. Reasons for that include the fact that it is a giant organization that overcharges for everything—really, do you need to charge me that much money to put my answer sheet in a machine, take the results, and send it to a college?—and the fact that its executives and employees receive compensation and benefits that rival and sometimes exceed leaders of for-profit corporations. According to this NY Times article, at one point, the president of the College Board had an annual salary of $1,300,000.

Whether they meant to or not, the College Board also created entire industries surrounding their tests, one of the largest being test prep tutoring. Countless juniors, seniors, and even some overzealous freshmen and sophomores spend thousands of dollars to hire a tutor to teach them how to take the SAT. But is it really worth it?

Often times, it comes down to your individual preference. Do you want to be taught, or would you like to teach yourself? My personal opinion is that SAT prep courses aren’t really worth it. I’m a fan of the good ol’ review book that tells you the exact same thing a tutor would. There’s really not much someone can teach you about the SAT. It’s a test with three categories that have several subcategories. You will get asked questions, for which you will have to study for. Learn vocabulary words. Learn how to write a boring, standard, four-paragraph essay. Learn how to use the Pythagorean Theorem. Learn the process of elimination. And learn to do these things within a time limit. I’ve just condensed SAT prep into five things you should learn.

But that’s just me. So I decided to ask around a little.

My homeboy and roommate, Evan Delgado, thinks that, at least from personal experience, it’s a rip-off. He thinks that you’re basically paying somebody to keep you focused. He also thinks the College Board is a “scam artist.” So take his advice however you want.

Evan and I agreed for the most part. So I decided ask around a little farther away from my room. Unfortunately, I wasn’t able to find anyone who disagreed with me. But there are some pros to taking an SAT prep course. Some tutors may have taken the SAT several times and received phenomenal scores. Some tutors may know things that we do not. So you could get some valuable insight that only comes with experience. Furthermore, if you don’t understand something, you can just ask your tutor to explain it in laymen’s terms rather than trying to interpret some academic jargon.

In the end, you just need to tailor how you study for the SAT to your personal preferences. If you’re willing to spend money to hire a tutor, I’m sure it couldn’t hurt. But I’m also pretty sure that all of who’s reading this is perfectly capable of preparing for the SAT(an) by themselves.

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  1. Christian on October 5, 2013

    SAT Prep can definitely be worth it, as long as you find the right prep.

    As a New Yorker, I know there are a plethora of SAT preps in the city. The spectrum ranges from terrible to amazing, and I luckily was able to find that one amazing prep school. I feel the problem that many people have with prep schools is that they often find themselves in a terrible environment where the teachers are only paid to give out packets and supervise. However, the environment I was trained in was excellent, and indeed, my score rose from a mediocre 1600 to a stunning 2200. Not only that, my teacher was quite simply outstanding at teaching and made sure to engage the class and tried to make the course as painless as possible. As crazy as it sounds, I actually enjoyed going to prep every week, because even though the SAT is tedious and boring, it was a lot more fun when you had other people who had to suffer with you and -more importantly – compare yourself too.

    As sad as it may seem, competition is one thing that ultimately drives most people to do better. I know that without a standard of comparison, I wouldn’t have striven for the scores I could achieve. Sure there are national standards. But there is a stark difference between meeting a national bar and beating that one person in class who is greatly superior to you intelligent-wise. SAT prep – the good ones at least- also provide plenty of practice and do their best to make you practice, which ultimately help you improve your score.

    Of course, this article is definitely correct: you can learn the SAT all by yourself. You technically don’t need to pay thousands of dollars to learn to take the test. However, prepping for the SAT is like anything else that requires hard work: you need to right mentality, or else you’ll never get it done. Many people are determined to lose weight, but most will never try by themselves unless they pay a private trainer to help them. Learning to program can be done for free, but people still pay money for courses. Quite simply, the average person can not focus long enough to sufficiently train themselves for the SAT. Preps are ubiquitous not because they are necessarily helpful, but rather because people do not have the proper mentality to effectively study on their own.

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