Are Test Prep Classes Helpful?

Kendall Streba, Staff Writer

Happy test season, Tigers! This spring, about 530 students at North and according to, around two million high school students overall, study to take the ACT, SAT and AP Exams. It’s becoming increasingly common to enroll in test prep classes to prepare for them.
But, are these classes really helping students? Should teens even bother to take the classes?
Studies show they do pay off. According to a 2012 Oxford University study, teens who enrolled in SAT/ACT prep classes scored on average 56 points higher on the test than the students who did not take the class.
Companies, such as C2 education, Sylvan Learning, Huntington Learning Center and Kumon offer ACT/SAT prep classes for high schoolers, and it can be hard to decide which one to go with if wishing to take a class.
In a study, done by Huntington Learning Center, before taking an SAT prep class, students scored, on average, around a 1035. However, after the class, they scored a 1264, a 229-point increase from before.
Sylvan Learning also offers both advanced test prep and personalized tutoring for the SAT and the ACT. The advanced test prep starts at $50 per hour, while the customized tutoring starts at $47 per hour.
According to their website,, “Through a personalized lesson path, we can help your teen master test-taking strategies, conquer challenging skills, lower stress levels and bring confidence up.”
However, if test prep classes aren’t in the budget, there are some low-cost or even free options. offers quick test prep lessons that cost as low as $25 for a math, science, and English class. offers ACT Academy, a free online program that provides study guides, live as well as recorded webinars and practices tests for no cost at all.
Many people question why the ACT and the SAT are so pivotal to obtaining a good college education, and the purpose they serve in the education system.
“ACT scores are a big indicator of student-readiness for college,” said Mary Kay Leatherman, who runs an Omaha-based ACT prep firm, via the Omaha World-Herald. “They’re testing how you do with a clock on you and can you buckle down with the pressure.”
Also via the Omaha World-Herald, John Baylor, who owns a Lincoln, Nebraska based test prep company says the ACT score is so vital to students because it can affect the amount of scholarship money offered. The best scores often get the highest amount of scholarships out there.
“The higher my score, the more money I got on top on my athletic [scholarship],” senior Aja Bradshaw said.
Additionally, getting higher ACT/SAT scores can help increase the chances of being accepted into colleges and universities, and possibly a dream school. Every school has its own range of acceptable test scores. State schools typically are more lenient and have a bigger range of scores they will accept.
For example, Illinois State University’s SAT score range is 1140-1600, and ACT score is around a 23. The University of Illinois accepts SAT scores between 1300-1500, ACT between around a 28, and Elmhurst College accepts SAT scores among 993-1190 and ACT between 20-26.
However, more prestigious and even some private schools are stricter and more restrictive when it comes to ACT and SAT scores. Schools like Cornell and Northwestern University have much higher SAT score range- both around 1370-1540, and ACT of about 32-34, which is significantly higher than state schools.
While most teenagers opt to take the classes, there are a select few who do not. Though it may not show in the scores, it can affect the student’s mental wellbeing, leaving them stressed and anxious. Test prep classes have shown to not only improve the scores, but the mental state of the test-taker.
“I would recommend taking a prep course,” junior Kaylee Hill said. “It’s really reassuring and helps a lot.”
ACT and SAT tests put so much stress on students all over the world, because it’s a big deal- they can make or break a college’s decision to accept someone. In-person classes and online tools are great ways to easily feel more confident going into test day, calmer, more collected and more prepared.