Many reports and commissions, including a commission of the National Association for College Admission Counseling, have already concluded college admission exams are not the best nor sole indicators of success in college. There have been calls to develop tests that relate more to high school achievement, and colleges are slowly including test optional alternatives. But, that doesn’t mean there still isn’t emphasis put on admissions tests.
Parents and students have now learned one way to beat the test frenzy is to enroll in test prep courses. Such courses vary in both format and cost. They start with free SAT Prep courses, mostly online. Check out www.testU.com and www.comexsystem.com for verbal and math section tips and practice. There are also many books and software for test preparation. The two most trusted names in this area are the Princeton Review and Kaplan. The costs involved here will be in the fifty dollar range. There is, of course, tutoring, both group and private, which ranges from $200 to $2,000 in cost. All of these options will boast 150-200 point improvement, but none of them will guarantee those results.
The most important thing to remember is not that you have to have college entrance exam preparation, but that you need the determination to work hard to do better on these tests. That determination might include being willing to get extra help in math content (or other content areas for SAT IIs), to learn to read with purpose (not to skim—but to read for main idea and have a way of noting detail without trying to keep it all in your head), and to take practice tests over and over for familiarity.
One area of the test that is the most coachable, certainly, is the writing section. Students do score about 3 points higher on the 12 point writing section, and skills learned for that section, such as developing an essay topic and presenting organized and clear arguments, are valuable even beyond the test. CPS 101 has been very successful in SAT coaching in this area and others. Also, College Basics has a good section on admissions testing that will help guide you in choosing the right admissions test and offer tips on how to do well.