Freshmen parents at our high school found out earlier this week that students could take the PSAT for free this weekend, courtesy Kaplan. I thought our teen should take it -- why not -- but was voted down. It was probably a good decision on several levels.
Clearly Kaplan knows how to do marketing -- the shock of low scores can translate into business. But do these courses, offered by a number of companies, really improve scores? I remembered something from The Wall Street Journal last year. The article focused on a study by the National Association for College Admission Counseling that found "SAT coaching resulted in about 30 points in score improvement on the SAT, out of a possible 1600 (research done before the addition of the writing portion), and less than one point out of a possible 36 on the ACT..."
The other finding: fake SATs such as those given by the testing companies are perhaps tougher than the real thing, therefore allowing the appearance of greater score gains when the official SAT is taken.
Finally, there will be plenty enough time to worry about scores -- and work on improving them once our teen takes the PSAT in October.
As for the test companies, they may have their place. But carefully weigh the cost vs. actual results before signing up.