Are SAT prep classes worth taking?

Millions of students preparing for standardized tests face the decision of whether or not to enroll in test preparation courses.

Photo by Niki Mallik

Millions of students preparing for standardized tests face the decision of whether or not to enroll in test preparation courses.

It’s testing season. WJ juniors are nose-deep in test prep books. It isn’t uncommon for parents to invest thousands of dollars into increasing their child’s chances of college education, all to prepare for the culminating exam: the SAT. But this raises a pressing question: are SAT classes worth it?

Junior Andee Strong took a virtual prep course with Capital Educators this winter. The class taught testing skills, pacing and tricks and offered extra one-on-one help sessions.

“I think I took four practice tests while I was doing that class, and by the end of the course, I did see a significant increase in my score,” Strong said.

Junior Julia Beato attends weekly virtual tutoring sessions through Private Prep. Her tutor assigns homework and helps her with concepts based on what she has trouble with. Although she was able to test in April, Beato continues to prepare for her exam in May.

“I would say [tutoring] significantly helped my score and my understanding of everything that I need to know for the SAT, especially in the math section. So it has worked pretty well for me,” Beato said.

But not every student found courses to be helpful. Senior Hannah Marken took an SAT course with Capital Educators in 2020. Marken expressed frustration with the testing process.

“I thought that the courses would help me better understand, but I really didn’t have much improvement in my scores. They fluctuated a lot, and that was kind of upsetting because I was expecting to get higher scores than I was actually getting,” Marken said.

Marken took the SAT in March of 2020 on the day before the COVID-19 lockdown went into effect. By the time she realized the ACT was better tailored to her strengths, it was too late for her test again. She registered for later exams, but all were cancelled due to COVID-19.

“I know people who have self-taught for the exam who have done really well, but for me, I’m not the best standardized test-taker, so the whole process entirely wasn’t the best way for me,” Marken said.

All three students agreed that the value of SAT courses hinges on a student’s study habits and test-taking abilities, and that the courses provided may not be suited for everyone.

“I think it really depends on the person. Some people are more self-driven and can probably use websites like Khan Academy to guide themselves through the whole study process, but I do think [SAT classes] are helpful for people who need more help and do better listening to teachers instead of being self-driven,” Strong said.