The invisible unfair advantage of the SAT, ACT and super-scoring

Palm Springs Any student regardless of age, gender, or cultural background has heard of the Scholastic Aptitude Test, or more commonly refereed to as the SAT.

greedily The SAT is a standardized test that can theoretically make or break an admission to a student’s dream school and although colleges have gotten better at analyzing a student’s potential through other means like supplemental essays, there is still pressure to do well on these tests. According to college board, the 2016 redefined SAT tests what is required for “all┬ástudents to be ready for and to succeed in college and workforce training programs.” But if they’re so important, and included in the admission process for colleges, shouldn’t this test be on fair grounds?

Smart parents know to start their kids early on the SAT and ACT test prep courses no later than the summer after Freshman year, but the average Princeton Review 18-hour course costs $600 and if a child would want a more in-depth 30-hour review course, it’s offered at a whopping $1000 USD. For students that want to get ahead with the guaranteed “400 point increase” on their SAT scores, they and/or their parents must invest copious amounts of money.

However, the costs don’t stop there, and even more so, they continue to rack up quite quickly. Especially with private and public colleges alike getting on the bandwagon of “super-scores.” Although there is merit in a student super-scoring, there is a distinct socioeconomic advantage to those who can afford it because of the option to super score.

For those not aware of what super-scoring is, it allows a student to take multiple scores from different testing days and combine them into a bigger cumulative score for both the SAT and ACT scores. So a student might get a 25 and a 22 on the ACT, but if they combine the best individual sub-scores from both tests, their cumulative score might calculate to a 27. Colleges are aware that a score in one sitting and one test can not possibly show the student’s intellectual levels, and therefore they allow super-scoring to give more of a fair chance for students.

This means that theoretically, a student could take the test four times (one time for each sub-score of either the SAT or ACT) and only focus on that one subject, thus ensuring the highest possible score for each subject. Once they have taken the test four times, they can simply super-score all four tests and get a very high score.

Sounds easy enough if the student is willing to take the same test four times, however here comes the catch. In order to take the test four times, one must pay the fee to take the test four times. The price to take the SAT once is $52.50, with a total of $210 for a chance to have a high super score, and for the ACT is just ten dollars less, with a total of $170.

Keep in mind, these numbers are the pricing without the writing section, where the student must set a side an additional hour and a half to write an essay. With the writing, the SAT cost $64.50 and the ACT cost $58.50, a total of almost a quarter thousand dollars each. (This is all on the assumption that the student is happy with their super score after four test sittings. The student is allowed a maximum of 12 times for the ACT and 6 times for the SAT). If that isn’t enough to shock you, just remember there’s the extra costs of sending your scores to schools.

To super-score, students must send in all the scores from all their tests from the official ACT or SAT website as proof of their scores. The cost to send one test score to one school is about $13, so to send in a super score to one school would be a minimum of $52. However, if one follows the advice given by Prep Scholar, to aim to apply to 6-8 schools, to send in super scores for all 8 schools, they would be looking at a cost of $416.

To calculate everything together that is needed for a good SAT and ACT, let’s add up the prep course costs, the cost to take the test minimum four times for a super score, (we’ll assume it’s without writing, as not all colleges require a writing score), sending the super-scores to the colleges and for the student to apply to 8 schools. That is a total bill of $1,226 for the SAT and $1,186 for the ACT. If the student does this for both tests, their final cost is $2,412.

That’s a lot of money, but let’s look at how much it would cost for a student to take the SAT and ACT once, not do the super score, nor enroll into any prep courses. For the SAT it’s $156.5 and the ACT is $146.50. It is a no brainier that a family that is not as economically well off as other families would not want to pay that amount of money to super-score. However, with these super scores, it makes the child look better, at least in the opinion of the colleges their applying to.

One should note, though, that by super scoring and paying all this money does not guarantee a spot at their dream school, nor does this assume colleges are only looking at scores for admissions. In fact, many universities are now taking the “holistic” approach in their admissions and look at other aspects aside from scores when deciding if they should admit a student. However, despite these put in place, there is an obvious disadvantage for students in a lower economic bracket (or families that simply don’t want to pay that much money) that take standardized tests, and therefore they are not able to show their potential as an intellectual, which is ironically, the precise reason as to why the super-score was enacted. It seems that the cost of college starts far before the first down payment.

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