Every year, dozens of scholarships are offered to recent high school graduates based on either their Scholastic Aptitude Test (SAT) or American College Testing (ACT) score. While these tests were originally formed to help lower-income students become eligible for scholarships and programs previously only accessible to students at private and expensive academies, these tests have now once again alienated the students they aimed to serve.
Recent studies have suggested that students who participate in a SAT or ACT prep class have a significant increase in their score on either test. This is because the tests are designed in a way that does not only test knowledge, but requires an understanding on how the test works. Most students will not gain this understanding unless they participate in some sort of prep class, which have recently become popular in wealthier school districts. By understanding how the test includes trick questions and other information, students are able to score much higher simply by knowing how to take the test.
The problem with this system is that most schools only offer these prep classes for an expensive fee, if they offer them at all. This excludes lower-income children from the higher advantage given to students whose families can afford such a class. It creates an uneven playing field, putting the wealthier children ahead of the less fortunate students. This is so important because many scholarships are significantly if not solely based on these test scores, meaning that lower-income students are now even more limited in their scholarship options.
While these tests were created to allow students not attending a private high school the opportunity for scholarships towards a college degree, these same tests are now limiting these opportunities. Some teachers have advocated for the construction of these classes in every school free of charge, but this is extremely difficult as most school districts are already lacking funds. Whether the tests need to be completely reconstructed, or whether all schools should now offer these prep classes free of charge is not clear, but something in the system must change.