SAT prep has gone too far

October 28, 2010 — by Olivia Chock

Every weekday over the summer for eight weeks, I was stuck in a dreadful building from 8:30-1 taking an SAT class. Like so many other students, I put it as my top priority to strive to get that perfect 2,400 score, and I thought that, magically, taking these painstaking classes would get me there. Obviously, the SAT is one of the most important and stressful tests for a high school student. But unluckily for us, the SAT was not always one of the top priorities of a high school student.

When states first required students to take the SAT, it was to test a student’s natural intelligence. But now, many students take SAT classes to boost their scores, lifting the competitive nature of the test to unnatural heights.

“In the late 1960s, when I took the SAT, there were no preparation courses or written materials that I knew of,” said Saratoga alumnus John Waite, parent of senior Jordan Waite. “We considered the test a true measure of your test taking abilities and knowledge at the time. The score was important for college admissions but, in those days things were much less competitive.”

Today, parents pay hundreds of dollars and enroll their children to take torturous SAT classes.

Although parents think paying the money is worth it, many students beg to differ. After taking the 8 week SAT “boot camp”, I realized classes did not help me any more than what I could have done on my own.

The view of the SAT has changed drastically the past decade or two, but not for the benefit of the students. Its raw, fair nature has evolved into a life-changing examination used by college admission officers. During junior year, when ambitious students take AP classes such as U.S. history and difficult science classes, students shouldn’t have to worry about a test that can ruin the chances of getting into the college of their choice.

The SATs are not the only problem in educational stress. On top of the extra time spent taking SAT classes, the cost of these classes in addition to purchasing numerous SAT prep books is overdoing what is necessary for this standardized test. For instance, a SAT program, Ivy West, is approximately $900 for three classes, a collegeboard prep book is around $20, and the cost to take the SAT is $47. Depending on how many classes taken from Ivy West, it is still clear that parents spend a lot of extra money on their children for this test.

The SAT in recent years sounds more like a multi-million dollar business instead of the motives that were place when the test was first distributed. It seems asinine that the test is such a big deal. The test is in a direct relationship with money; the more money you pay, the better results you gain. Instead of testing natural knowledge, it is testing how well tutors have taught their students.
However, students will be students, and especially at a school like ours, competition is fierce and students will be inclined to taking SAT classes and private tutoring for difficult subjects. It something that just cannot be changed.

Although we would all like the SAT to have its original purpose of being an intelligence test, it is very clear we will not revert back to the relaxed SAT days. One piece of advice for students to be free of unnecessary extra stress is they should not take SAT classes to boost their score. Instead, students should take practice tests on their own and learn the patterns that show up on the SAT. In a sense, this is all SAT classes provide for their students: practice tests and past patterns on the test. This is a more effective way to get that 2,400 than taking endless classes and spending your summer indoors.

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