Preparing for the ACT and, or the SAT can cause confusion and anxiety. Quite often the most difficult task is determining how and how much to study. The good news is that there are a multitude of options available to aid students in the preparation process. Test prep services range in format and of course price.
What follows is an overview of some of the options available as well as a review of the pertinent questions to consider when making the choice.
Online, in person, or both?
Before deciding on a study protocol it is important to figure out which format best fits your student. The technological tools and options available to students abound. Some students however, do best approaching the task of studying in more traditional ways. If your student thrives in a highly structured setting such as a physical classroom, online options may not be the most optimal choice. Maybe your student gets easily bored or overwhelmed, a program that offers a combination of online and in person services may be best. If your student is often pressed for time due to an investment in outside interests then online options may make the most appropriate match.
Test prep classes
College entrance exam classes offer students a structured setting. They tend to follow a step-wise process, covering specific content and information in each pre-set session. In between class sessions, students are expected to complete homework assignments that are usually reviewed at the beginning of the next class session. Classes range in size and mode of delivery. Online larger classes are usually the least expensive in this category option. These classes may include up to 30 students logging in to participate at a time. Smaller in-person or online classes usually include 2-6 students and tend to cost more.
Options for the self-starter or independent student
Some students work best when left to design their own schedule at their own pace. For these students there are certainly a multitude of ways to prepare for the SAT or ACT many of which are low cost or even free. Test prep books either online or in print provide good practice and clear and concise explanations of how to approach test material. Similarly, software programs can be a helpful tool for students who enjoy planning their own study schedule. Students who want to work on their own but crave just a little more structure may be best served taking a class that is video streamed. Although some of these classes are conducted live, there are also several that can be viewed at the student’s own pace.
One other interesting option is online programs that accommodate to the test taker’s needs. Many of these resources can be found for little or no cost to the user. Specifically these programs use algorithms that are able to analyze the areas in which an individual student requires the most work. They then build a study program that focuses on these areas.
Many students turn to individual tutors for assistance. This can indeed be a costly consideration. The most important thing to think about when choosing a tutor is how well the tutor is able to accommodate to an individual’s learning style. The most competent tutor offers little help if the student cannot connect with how and what he/she is trying to teach. Technological innovation now allows parents and students to choose a tutor from a much larger pool. Face-to-face sessions can be conducted in person or online through video chat. One benefit of an online tutor is often meeting time flexibility. This can be particularly helpful for students with rigorous after school schedules. It is also important to assess the tutor’s approach. Tutor’s who follow a coaching model tend to check in more regularly to ensure that the student is following the personalized study schedule that has been established. This may mean shorter face-to face sessions that mainly serve to answer specific questions and/or work on content areas of concern. A more traditional tutor may take a stepwise approach to reviewing test material, covering several content areas each meeting. It is important to ask a potential tutor how they approach meeting sessions.
Now that you have chosen your option, who should you turn to?
With so many companies around offering test-prep services it can feel overwhelming to identify the best choice for your student. An extensive review of feedback and ratings reveals that two testing services consistently stand above the rest in experience, accessibility and available test prep options, Kaplan Test Prep and Princeton Review. Both companies offer test preparation courses either on-site or in a virtual classroom. They also offer individualized tutoring and coaching. They have comprehensive books and online study guides along with mobile apps to ensure that wherever and whenever a student chooses to study, the necessary tools will always be available. Each test prep option offers a minimum of four full-length proctored practice tests so that students are exposed to the test material in a closely simulated testing situation. Both services also stand behind their promises of test success by offering a money back guarantee or test course retake to any student who does not achieve a higher test score after completing one of their test prep courses.
Kaplan Test Prep has been helping students prepare for college entrance exams for over 75 years, while Princeton Review boasts a 30 year history, suffice it to say, they both know their stuff. According to Michael Boothroyd, executive director of college admissions programs for Kaplan Test Prep, “the best test prep relies not just on having great practice materials, but also on having a strategy and a coach to guide, mentor and support students.” Rob Franek, Senior VP-Publisher, Princeton Review offers that “students succeed in high school and beyond by giving them resources for better grades, better test stores and stronger college applications.” Both companies have convenient locations all over the country. Both companies represent the gold standard in test prep services. Regardless of which service an individual student goes with, they can rest assured that they will be afforded a comprehensive test prep experience.
A relatively new player on the test prep field is the online software and coaching service Testive. In it’s simplest form Testive offers students a tailor made approach to studying for college entrance exams. The platform was designed by several MIT graduates. Their goal was to provide a premier test prep program that is accessible to all students. Students build their study program by first taking an online diagnostic test that evaluates individual areas of test content strengths and weaknesses. From there an online study program is generated. The online program is best suited for the disciplined, self-guided student. Individual coaching is also available for a fee. Coaches are carefully matched with specific students to ensure the most dynamic study team. Coaches ‘meet’ online with students weekly. During this time they go over any student questions and address the content areas in which the student requires reinforcement. During the week students can expect their coaches to check on their progress. Because the work is done on line, coaches can carefully monitor student work. If a coach notices that the student is having difficulty completing the assigned homework, for example, the issue can be addressed immediately. The individual study program and support and guidance of the coach seem to make for a winning study strategy. Another advantage of this study approach is flexible scheduling. According to Haley, a high school athlete, the program worked particularly well for her. Her Testive coach was able to accommodate her busy schedule. She relates that the check-ins by her coach encouraged her to stay on track with her studies. She saw a significant increase in her test scores.
Regardless of the approach any student takes to studying, it is important to realize that the key to success is hard work and due diligence. Students who complete assigned homework and approach the study process seriously increase their chances of test taking success.