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SAT Studies Are Test of Dedication


IRVINE — While his friends were out playing ball Saturday afternoon, Doug Allan was at home poring over the basics he'll need for a high score on the SAT.

The 17-year-old Woodbridge High School junior has goals in mind, and soccer is only one of them.

"I play varsity soccer and track, and I'm being recruited by different colleges," Doug said, "but I want to go to an Ivy League school. I'll probably need a high score on the SAT. I'm trying to get a 1,450--somewhere around there."

"I'm a little bit nervous," he said. "I starting thinking about it when I was a sophomore."

He and four classmates are spending three hours a week--two on Saturdays--learning the algebra, geometry, language, reading and writing concepts and skills that are featured on the SAT, administered half a dozen times during the school year.

Similar scenarios are playing out at private and public schools across Orange County as juniors prepare to take the test of tests later this year. (Most seniors already have taken the standardized exam, which many colleges and universities use to determine who gets in.)

The cost to prepare for the test can run to hundreds of dollars. UC Irvine offers a program to underprivileged youths, who pay a $35 deposit that is refundable at the end of the six-week course. College Foundation Planners, a private tutorial company, charges about $700 to prepare high school students for the SAT.

Demand for such services is growing as students and parents realize that a high score means more opportunities, said Lance Lockwood, a communications professor at Chapman University who teaches the College Foundation SAT preparatory course. "The higher the better," he said. "It opens the doors to any school."

High scores also mean eligibility for scholarships to help pay tuition costs that are hefty and rising at colleges and universities nationwide.

Even without tutors or special programs, Lockwood said, there are steps students can take to improve their test scores:

* Read the editorial pages of newspapers.

* Review all basic math, algebra and geometry formulas.

* Check out SAT preparation books at the library.

* Build vocabulary by continually writing down new words in a notebook and learning what they mean.

Nicole Shown, 17, said she keeps a long list of words that she studies daily. A junior at Capistrano Valley Christian High School, she has not decided which college she wants to attend but knows the SAT will be an important factor in gaining admission.

"My goal is to get 1,300," she said as she wrestled with word association exercises. "A lot of juniors are freaking out over this test because it's our future."

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