Dear Miss School Manners:Seems like every other junior at my son’s school is taking an SAT prep course. But the classes cost so much and take up so much time – we were horrified! Will my son be at a disadvantage if he doesn’t do it?
Signed, Worried in Walnut Creek
Dear Worried in WC: It does, they do and, well, possibly. The multi-billion dollar test prep industry banks on exactly that fear – and out here in the college-crazed ‘burbs, it is very, very common for families to spend $1,000 or more on SAT tutors or classes. But do the classes help? Depends on the kid…
(Read more after the jump. Or write to Miss School Manners now.)
Some teens are adept at the art of test taking, but others get really rattled. Or they’re not savvy about trick questions. Or they try to figure out *all* the different ways *every* answer could be the right one, while the clock ticks down. A good prep class teaches not just SAT vocab, but test strategy. For a bright kid who knows his math and vocab, reads critically, thinks imaginatively and freaks out at test time, that can translate into 50 to 300 extra points.
Has your son taken the PSAT? It’s a shorter, practice version of the SAT offered on high school campuses each fall – this year, Oct. 20. Sophomores generally take it to gauge where they might land in SAT Land; junior year it’s also the qualifying exam for National Merit consideration. Take your son’s PSAT score, multiply it by 10, then compare it to the average SAT scores for the incoming freshman class at colleges that interest him. (It’s usually listed as the “freshman profile” on college web sites or check the College Quick Finder feature on CollegeBoard.com.) If his score’s in the ballpark and he’s not interested in taking a prep class, that’s probably just fine. But if his score is low and his grades are high, it may be well worth signing him up for a prep course that leads directly into his SAT test date, i.e., two months or so before the exam.
More ideas: Pleasanton’s Towne Center Books is hosting a “Getting Into College” workshop at 11 a.m. Sept. 15 with Jua Park, exec director of Princeton Review Berkeley, a test prep company. She’ll talk about choosing a school, surviving the application process and preparing for the SAT. Also, Kaplan and other organizations run occasional free SAT coaching sessions throughout the East Bay. And Peoples’ Test Preparation Service, a UC Berkeley student-run test prep service, offers free SAT, SAT II and essay-writing classes to high school students at various sites in Albany, Berkeley and Oakland. Good luck!
– Miss School Manners