By PATRICK MCNAMARA
Many students begin with an SAT/ACT prep book to jump start their studying for upcoming exams. However, even strong students can struggle with this. Many students find it difficult to set aside the time to study or simply don’t want to sit down and study. Just having high marks in high school doesn’t prepare students for the SAT/ACT. There is also no guarantee that great high school grades will translate into great SAT/ACT test scores. The SAT/ACT tests are very different than high school tests, and not every student achieves the scores they expect or deserve.
SAT/ACT test prep helps in so many facets of a student’s overall learning. It’s not just beneficial for those tests. Many students become more well-rounded in other areas related to test taking and studying. They may also leave a prep course with better study skills, organizational skills and the ability to manage test anxiety.
College test prep is an investment, however, and many families wonder if these classes will have a big enough impact to warrant the price tag.
“I think students need to have as much practice as possible before the test,” says Antoinetta Riley, founder of Riley College Advising. “Think about it, the first time you drive a car, you are the worst driver you’ll ever be. Each time you practice, you improve, and you learn what to do when you encounter different circumstances. A test prep class is the same as a driver’s education class.”
So what should parents look for when selecting a program?
- Realistic expectations.
“The class should provide a diagnostic test at the onset so they can assess the student’s initial score and provide parents a range of what it could increase,” says Riley.
- Options that meet your teen’s needs.
The program should offer a personalized lesson plan. Some prep programs can offer a specialized curriculum to help improve the areas where a student needs the most help. So, if math is the weak spot, the individualized program can be focused just on that. Some students benefit most from one-on-one time. If that’s what your child needs, make sure the program offers that option.
3. A mix of resources.
Your child should be able to do prep at home as well as in the class setting. Look for a program with many facets, including instructor-led sessions, online activities and supplemental materials.
- Multiple practice tests.
Select a program where your child can take several practice tests and receive an in-depth analysis of their score. This way the student knows where to focus studying efforts. For many students, succeeding on the SAT and ACT comes down to confidence. Multiple practice tests will help them attain that.
Most teenagers have hectic schedules. Look for a class that has a variety of days and times available, so it does not become another stress point for your student — or you. This is another area where the at home or online components are helpful.