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Feb 052013
 February 5, 2013  Posted by  College, Family, Hot Deals

College admission pressure is getting more intense, and both students and parents are feeling the heat. Many, seeing SAT or ACT scores as an area for improvement, are shelling out big bucks for prep courses. An SAT course can cost $1,000. An SAT tutor can cost (hold onto your hat) as much as $6,600. But students can improve their scores without taking such extreme measures.

(Almost) free test prep

eKnowledge offers several test prep software products, including Standard SAT/ACT PowerPrep, a product that includes more than 10 hours of instructor-led video and more than 40 hours of classwork. It also includes more than 120 lessons, electronically graded quizzes and hundreds of practice tests.

This product costs $200. But NFL and MLB players, as well as many community organizations, have been donating to a program that allows students to order this program free. All the student has to pay is the cost of materials and shipping, around $17. There are separate programs for SAT and ACT preparation. About 200,000 of these donated programs are in use. Readers of Living on the Cheap can order at

eKnowledge also offers upgraded products that include additional features and these are deeply discounted. For example, Premium SAT PowerPrep, priced at $300, is only $50 as part of the donation program.

Other tools

Don’t forget about your local library. Many libraries offer free ongoing test prep courses. For students who benefit from interaction with a teacher, this can be a great option.

College Board, the company that publishes the SAT, offers several free tools. Students can receive an SAT Question of the Day through email. They can also test their skills with practice questions and even a full practice test. All are free.

And of course, “there’s an app for that.” There are many SAT and ACT apps for smart phones. One highly rated free app for math practice is Ace the SAT by Emrecan Dogan. It adds new questions with every update and allows students to track their progress. IntelliVocab from faqden Labs offers practice with vocabulary, but with a twist. Developed by students at MIT, it uses a learning algorithm to figure out which kind of words a student needs practice with, making practice time more efficient. There’s a free version and a deluxe version for 99 cents. It’s available on iPhone, iPad and Android.

Whatever option you choose, think twice before shelling out big bucks for an SAT class. Spending that much money may just be bad math.

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Jody Mace

Jody Mace is a freelance writer who has written for publications like O Magazine, Washington Post, and Parents. She lives in Charlotte, North Carolina with her husband and two teenaged kids. Her colleagues are dogs named Harlow and Shaggy. She publishes Charlotte on the Cheap and takes the “cheap” seriously. For fun she plays mandolin and browses at her local Goodwill Store, where she is “Foursquare Mayor,” as long as that Russell G. doesn’t steal it from her again. You can see her celebration of thrift store finds at Thrift Wrecks.

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