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New Ways to Save on SAT, ACT College Tests

Some states and school districts are paying for exams. You can also save on test prep.

Applying to college is time-consuming and expensive. But a growing number of states and even some individual school districts are picking up the tab for high school students to take either the SAT or ACT college entrance exam during class time, at their school.

Students who attend public high schools in one of nine states that pay for the SAT, including Colorado and Connecticut, or one of 18 that pay for the ACT, including Ohio, usually take one free exam during their junior year. It typically costs $45 to take the SAT ($57 with the writing portion) and $42.50 for the ACT ($58.50 with writing).

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In-person test prep may boost a student's SAT scores by 15 to 30 points overall, says Derek Briggs, a University of Colorado professor who studies the effects of test preparation. But you don't have to spend a boatload on private tutors, who can charge $100 an hour or more, or prep classes, which can run in the thousands. The College Board, which oversees the SAT, offers free test prep through KhanAcademy.com, where students can customize practice based on their PSAT scores, take quizzes to pinpoint weak spots and take six full-length official practice tests. You may also find low-cost SAT or ACT prep options at your child's high school, a nearby community college or the local library.

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