There are so many rites of passage for young people to prepare to face the college and outside world. The SAT is one of those for which I felt very ill-equipped and unprepared when I went to high school in 1978-1980. There were books in those days (of which I was unaware) but no computer software and no Internet. I had very little guidance of what I might need to do well on the SAT. Outside of a few slipshod, erratically-scheduled after-school workshops, there was nothing to prepare me to take the exam. I had no idea of any outside learning centers such as Sylvan or Huntington, if they even existed back then.
The SAT is intended to level the playing field so that every college-bound student in the United States has attained the same academic skills. But not every high school department has the best-trained teachers, and every student has his or her strengths and weaknesses. Academic competition and the need for a high average often leads students to avoid courses that might pose a struggle.
In addition, most classroom teachers are bound to a curriculum which does not necessarily teach toward the SAT. English courses teach grammar, Shakespeare and John Steinbeck, not reading comprehension of paragraphs to answer questions in two minutes flat. Very little time remains for SAT vocabulary drills. Algebra, geometry and trigonometry either scare students away or teach only to their own exams. Other teachers require memorizing of items (such as dates in history) for immediate feedback on exams, and these items are forgotten soon after the tests are done. The SAT requires speed and accuracy on difficult questions. Not every teacher in the US is trained to prepare students for such stress. As seen on aptitude tests I had taken, I and many other students understand basic concepts but miss something in the application of these concepts. Without this application, a good score on the SAT is beyond reach.
Every secondary school that boasts college-bound students is duty-bound to give every one of these students a fighting chance. Homerooms, or core requirements should be equipped with workshops to inform students of every available resource in and out of school. Every student is entitled to be made aware of the consequences of lack of preparation.
Those who cannot afford outside coaching have to be equipped with alternative means of study. Only then can the SAT be a common goal for all.