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Students Helping Students Ace the SAT

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Students Helping Students Ace the SAT

Two Berkeley Groups Work to Level the Playing Field for Disadvantaged Students

By Tamara Keith, Public Affairs
Posted April 21, 1999

Lian Rameson helps a Berkeley High student

Lian Rameson, a volunteer with People's Test Preparation Service, helps a Berkeley High student with verbal skills in preparation for the SAT.

Few tests make high school students wince more than the SAT. The dreaded test, which many high school juniors will take May 1, is required for admission to most universities in the country.

Several commercial services offer classes that prepare students for the test. But many can't afford the $700 to $1,000 fees.

Two Berkeley student groups are helping to level the SAT playing field for economically and educationally disadvantaged high school students by providing SAT preparation programs for teenagers from the Bay Area and beyond.

Growing from the inspiration of a few students in the mid 1990s, each group has galvanized hundreds of Berkeley student volunteers.

Cal Students for Educational Outreach (CSEO) started out in 1996 with two volunteer tutors and two students. It now boasts a legion of 200 volunteers and serves about 4,000 high school students a year with its Saturday SAT I workshops in Berkeley, Modesto, Oakdale, San Jose, Salinas, Oakland and San Francisco.

The outreach program also offers several workshops to help students with the PSAT and the SAT II. On Saturday, April 24, CSEO will hold its largest one-day workshop ever on the Berkeley campus, with 1,000 students already registered to attend.

"Our program is made specifically for students from low-income areas who frequently have little or no exposure to the SAT," said Chris Bing, CSEO executive director and co-founder. "We tell them very, very simple things they can do to raise their score."

Students who participate in the program's Saturday workshops don't get the in-depth SAT training that longer courses can provide. Instead, they are armed for the test with a few quick strategies, knowledge of what to expect, and confidence, something simple that often makes a big difference in a student's performance.

"Understanding how the test works is half the battle," said Mary Lai, CSEO's co-founder and one of its curriculum directors. "At least they're not going into the test blind, and that builds confidence."

On average, students who participate in CSEO's SAT I workshops raise their score by 68 points -- not bad for a day's work.

On May 8, CSEO will take a huge new step, holding its first workshop at UCLA under the new name University of California Students for Educational Outreach.

Another student-run SAT program, the People's Test Preparation Service (PTPS), provides two-month long after-school SAT preparation courses at school sites in Berkeley, Oakland and El Cerrito. The service was one of 18 organizations nationwide to win the 1998 President's Service Award, the nation's highest honor for volunteer groups.

Recruiting volunteers through a DE-Cal class, the service assigns four tutors to each of the seven sites it serves -- two to help with the verbal portion of the test; the other two with math. High school students get a total of four hours of training each week and are able to raise their SAT scores, on average, 100 points. One student set off bells at the Educational Testing Service, which administers the SAT, when he added 270 points to his previous score after taking PTPS' course.

"We want to get as many students as possible involved and to get them all thinking about the college process," said Kaori Yamamoto, executive director of People's Testing. "A lot of the students we see don't think college is an option because they can't afford it, so part of every class time is set aside for asking questions like what's it like to be at college and how much does it cost."

In addition to these eight-week SAT prep classes, PTPS provides training to other campus recruitment and retention centers -- teaching them how to run their own SAT preparation classes and providing teaching materials. The People's Test Preparation Service also holds an annual Practice SAT Day on the Berkeley campus, which gives Bay Area students a chance to take a practice SAT under authentic test-like conditions.



April 21 - 27, 1999 (Volume 27, Number 31)
Copyright 1999, The Regents of the University of California.
Produced and maintained by the
Office of Public Affairs at UC Berkeley.
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