Benefits of Test Prep
The ultimate objective of any SAT or ACT program is improved test scores, but in order to score better, students need more than a review of test content. Some students know all the content needed to earn a perfect score, yet they still struggle due to problems with pacing, test anxiety, test format, and lack of familiarity with question types and test structure.
Any quality test prep method should address these areas:
- Subject matter; content specific to that exam
- Anxiety, focus, and stress management
- Test taking strategies
One-on-one or small group tutoring allows for personalized instruction and often the best results when it comes to score improvement. In an individual setting, students are most accountable for completing assignments and all the time is dedicated to making sure that student improves.
The drawbacks to private tutoring are cost and quality. Cost is obvious; you are paying for the instructor’s time and experience. A complete test prep program delivered one-on-one can cost between $1,200 and $10,000. Quality can be an issue in private tutoring. Anyone with an SAT book can call himself or herself a tutor. You want an experienced instructor who specializes in SAT or ACT prep.
Group classes are one of the most popular methods of test prep, because they are more affordable than private tutoring. Students receive the same information, but in a group setting. For some, a group is better because they learn from the questions of others and feel less pressured than in a one-on-one setting.
Group programs offer a more consistent quality of information, but there are still huge variations. The big name test prep companies have consistent materials, but college students trained on the workbook often teach those classes. You can get some good teachers. But you can also get the instructor with no classroom management skills or the one who spends half the class on break.
Classes usually range in cost between $500 and $1400. While you may be able to find some bargains, ask around for recommendations because cheaper is not always better.
For those of us who grew up before email, internet, and smart phones, it can be difficult to imagine taking classes online. But online education is the way of the future and some universities offer entire degree programs online.
Online test prep can take many forms. Some require students to “attend” class at specific times each week to watch the lessons live; others allow students to access lessons at any time. Online classes can offer all the same benefits of a traditional class with added flexibility. The drawback to online education is accountability. Some students need the structure of a traditional class.
The cost of online programs varies considerably, often based on the quality and quantity of information. Some programs cost less than $100 while others are as much as $3000. Again, do your research and get recommendations.
Finally, the least expensive method to prepare for the SAT or ACT is to study on your own. Some students are dedicated enough to review without guidance and these diligent scholars can teach themselves for the cost of materials alone.
Self-study works best for bright students who are already good test takers. They already know most of the test content and don’t have problems with nerves, so these students just need to study the format of the questions and exam to develop test-taking strategies.
Keep in mind that the primary factor in score improvement is effort. The best tutor can’t help the student who refuses to study. But everyone learns differently, so you need to find the right balance of information, motivation, and accountability. If you begin early, you can experiment with different test prep methods until you find the one that works for you.