Price Pressure: Opinion on the Expanding Test Prep Industry

The SAT, ACT, AP Exams and SAT Subject Tests are all tests that are looming in the corner of every high schooler’s eye. Over 2.1 million American students took the SAT and ACT in 2018. Students spend hours preparing for the aforementioned tests in hopes of getting the score needed for their dream college or to qualify for merit-based financial aid.

Test preparation companies like Barrons, The Princeton Review and Kaplan appear as a saving grace to high school students taking these standardized tests. As admissions cycles pass, many universities are starting to require higher and higher test scores pushing students to scramble for the near-perfect score to fit into the college admissions puzzle.

For some students, turning to test prep companies is their best option for obtaining the highest score. According to the market research firm Technavio, by 2021 the test-prep industry itself will have an estimated value of 32.13 billion dollars; this is a 7.56 billion increase from 2016’s value of 24.57 billion. The rise of private, often expensive, tutoring programs is a huge factor in the rapid growth of the test prep industry and the capitalization of the higher education process.

One reason that these companies are becoming so desirable to students is their high-end promises that their services can increase scores dramatically. For example, The Princeton Review guarantees an in-person tutoring experience that will result in an increase of 150 points. The cost? 150 dollars an hour.

Many of these courses or programs cost hundreds or even thousands of dollars, money that many students don’t have. Students who can’t afford these high price tags are at a disadvantage. Many students who can’t afford those programs still need support. Moreover, there are many affordable options like free practice tests online and test prep books under 40 dollars. Spending as little as you can is the ideal situation for every student.

Spending thousands of dollars on an industry that won’t guarantee you a spot in college (unless you’re Olivia Jade) is not ideal. Practicing with test-prep books and online sites is the best way to go and will take you far. At the end of the day, high-end programs or tutors are not the only factors that will get you a higher score, your the best resource you will ever have.