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.
Free (or almost free) test prep
One place to start is College Raptor, which offers a list of six freebies that include the obvious (ACT and SAT home sites, and sessions offered by a student’s school) and also links to sites including Number2.com (loads of study aids) and SparkNotes (info on books that come up on tests, plus insight into the test itself).
College research site Cappex recommends EriktheRed, which includes math facts and formulas, and The Critical Reader, which offers reasonably priced books for in-depth prep on reading, vocabulary and grammar.
Find actual free tests on the ACT home site and, for the SAT, on Khan Academy‘s site. By the way, the Daily Practice for the New SAT is no longer supported by the College Board, the company that publishes the SAT. It is partnering with Khan Academy to create free personalized SAT practice programs.
eKnowledge offers several test prep software products, including one that, among other features, has a study plan, flashcards, more than 3,000 questions, live chats with a teacher and 150 instructional hours. Readers of Living on the Cheap can order the standard package, listed at $350, for $19.99 at www.eKnowledge.com/OnTheCheap.
Photo: Deposit photos
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.
And of course, “there’s an app for that.” There are many SAT and ACT apps for smart phones. Khan Academy’s practice apps are highly rated, and are available for free on both Google Play and the App Store. The Ready4SAT app also customizes its lessons and offers videos and flashcards; it’s a free download on Google Play and the App Store, but a premium account costs $19.99.
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 the 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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