Standardized Tests: Breaking Down the Cost

What's Behind the Cost of Standardized Tests

By Zack Newman

The standardized testing industry has reached deep into the pockets of college applicants.  Many customers don't even know where all their money is going.

Regional Communications Director Leslie Sepuka explained that the money students pay to send scores goes to the costs of developing, administrating, and scoring the exams.

In a written statement she said, "We understand that keeping the costs of our programs and services as low as possible is very important and have always done so. Standardized tests are extremely expensive to create, administer and score. For example, exam fees fund test development, which is a multi-year, complex process".

Sepuka went on to say the cost of the exam covers shipping cost of sending millions of boxes of exam materials to the various test locations. The fee also helps provide equal access to the test, which includes fee waivers.

"More than 370,000 students in the graduating class of 2012 benefitted from SAT fee waivers. That amounts to roughly $44 million in sat services to fee-waiver recipients during the 2011-12 academic year," she said.

Sepuka explained that it is up to each institution to decide if they want their scores delivered on paper, or electronically, such as on CD's.

The ACT declined to our request for information on their pricing principles.

So what can applicants do about the cost? There are more than 815 four year universities that do not require the SAT or ACT for admission according to, but the majority of competitive colleges want to see how applicants do on a test that is taken by all.

"When I had to shell out almost a hundred dollars to send to my first picks, I uh, knew how that worked, and there was nothing I could do, but it was a little frustrating," said 17-year-old high school senior Daniel Kannen.

"Not everyone has the means to send countless SAT score fees every time they want to apply to a school," he said. "That's taking advantage of your customer because it's the only way you can do it, and that's not entirely fair."

According to the College Board website, the SAT has become a staple in the college application process.  "Nearly three million students take the SAT each academic year at nearly 7,000 test centers in more than 170 countries," the website stated. "More than 1.66 million students in the high school class of 2012 took the SAT at least once during high school. [It] is consistently shown to be a fair and valid predictor of first-year college success for all students, regardless of gender, race or socioeconomic status."

This leaves many students trapped. The cost to just walk in the door and take the ACT or SAT is $50. Students are then required to pay an additional $11 price to send the score to a single college. Even though students are given four waivers during the registration period to eliminate the cost to send scores, the National Association for College Admission Counseling reported that the average student will apply to more than nine colleges.

Thus, the average student will pay $105 every time they take either the ACT or SAT if they order the reports within the registration period. If they do not, the four waivers are nullified and students have to pay the full $11 for each college. This brings the average student's cost up a whopping $44. 

Many applicants take the SAT multiple times.

The College Board website stated that the "vast majority of students take the SAT once or twice, and the College Board does not recommend that students take the SAT more than twice."

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