7 On Your Side: How beneficial are SAT prep classes?

For the very first time, the new SAT will be taken tomorrow by high school students nationwide. It's part of a major overhaul of the college admission test.

Many students get ready by taking test preparation classes and paying for individualized tutoring. This past year, Americans families spent $860 million for such classes.

High school student Kai Benothma calls this the most stressful period of his high school years.

The junior at San Francisco's Balboa High School plans to apply to UC Berkeley and the University of Santa Clara.

To prepare, he's been attending tutoring sessions at C2 Education Center in San Francisco.

"It definitely helped me a lot. It made me more comfortable," said Benothma.

At C2, rates are as high as $5,000 for nine months of tutoring.

"It's not just the test prep that a student receives. It's really being able to receive the college counseling and the college admissions help," explained David Kim is the center's CEO.

At St. Ignatius in San Francisco, more than 99 percent of the students go on to college.

The director of the guidance office says whether students benefit from tutoring varies.

"Some students need to actually work with an individual, whether it's a one-on-one situation or someone in a classroom setting," said Kevin Asbra with St. Ignatius guidance office.

Others may do well studying on their own using a test preparation book or free online tutoring.

Anyone who takes the pre-SAT preparation test will be offered free classes from the Khan Academy designed to boost their scores.

The goal of the new SAT is to measure a student's current knowledge versus the old test which was a predictor of how well a student will do in college.

It also marks the return of the 1600 as the perfect score.

"The test is becoming harder from a content perspective," said Kim.

The best preparation for the new test might just be school itself.

"Rely on the coursework their doing and all the day-to-day work that they're doing in the courses," said Asbra.

Stephanie Tan is a freshman at Lowell High with her heart set on Harvard or Stanford.

She's already prepping for the new SAT.

"I'm kind of assessing the different questions that will be on this SAT and how different it is from the old SAT," she said.

Kai has already taken the old SAT, and based on his scores from the pre-SAT for the new test, he's decided to stick with his old scores instead.

"I did better on the old one, so I was like I should stick with it," said Benothma.

Students have a choice of taking their either the SAT or the alternative ACT test. If they take both, they can submit their higher score with their college applications.

Consumer Reports is published by Consumers Union. Both Consumer Reports and Consumers Union are not-for-profit organizations that accept no advertising. Neither has any commercial relationship with any advertiser or sponsor on this site.

(All Consumer Reports Material Copyright 2014. Consumers Union of U.S. Inc. ALL RIGHTS RESERVED.)
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education7 On Your Sidestudentsstudyschool testingcollegeu.s. & worldschool resourcesschoolschool budgetSan Francisco
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