Why Test Prep?
College entrance examinations like the SAT and ACT have long been an integral part of the college admissions process in the United States. And, although the future of these tests has been thrown into uncertainty by the recent momentum of the test-optional admissions movement, solid test scores still provide a tangible benefit to many college-bound students. Some data shows that students who submit SAT and ACT scores have a 10% better chance of being admitted to college than students who do not submit scores, even at test-optional schools. In addition, many schools still require or consider test scores for merit-based financial aid scholarships, course placement, and acceptance into specific programs (honors programs, etc.) or majors.
There is plentiful evidence that SAT and ACT scores are affected by students’ race / ethnic backgrounds and socio-economic status. On average, African American students score almost 200 points lower than their white counterparts on the SAT and nearly 300 points lower than Asian students1 . About half of students who earn perfect scores on the ACT come from families whose household income exceed $150,000 per year; conversely, half of students with the lowest possible ACT score are from families living below the federal poverty line2. And, as SAT and ACT scores are one of the gateways to college in the US, disparate test scores results is marked differences in college enrollment among affected groups. Black high school graduates enroll in college at a 11% lower rate than white students, and at a rate almost 30% lower than Asian students.
Contrary to widespread myths, the SAT and ACT are not intelligence tests or measures of students’ innate ability. They are tests that assess a set of learnable and coachable skills and students can systematically improve their scores by preparing in the right way. And, when students’ scores increase, access to college improves accordingly. The challenge is that good test prep is expensive and is generally only available to economically and socially advantaged students.