Kaplan, Sylvan, Peterson, and Princeton Review are just a few of the companies offering test prep courses for the SAT Reasoning Test or the ACT Assessment. As students aspire to get into the college or university of their choice, many resort to such courses in the hope of gaining a competitive edge by raising their scores. Although the SAT and the ACT differ in format, most test prep courses focus on test-taking strategies and skills related to writing and grammar, critical reading, and advanced algebra. Taking such courses has become a high school ritual, but do they really improve scores? Research by the College Board, the developers of the SAT, finds that they generally boost scores only about 26 points, much less than what many companies advertise. In addition, these courses are costly. Students should be aware that many test prep materials are available at low cost or for free at public libraries and some online sites. What is the College Board’s advice on preparing for the SAT? Read a lot and take rigorous academic courses!
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Duke TIP’s Research staff seeks to (1) expand the awareness of empirically based knowledge related to academically talented students, and (2) inform and empower parents, educators, administrators, and policy makers to take effective action.