Finding the Right College Test Prep Program

by Anne Vaccaro Brady

There’s a program to fit every child and every budget.

When it comes to college test prep, this is the time to follow the crowd, because the truth is everyone is doing it. SAT and ACT test prep serve as a way to level the playing field in the college admissions process. Though both tests now assess what students have learned in high school, your teen still needs to become familiar with the format and the timing of each section, and gain some tips on how to analyze the test questions.

There isn’t a one-size-fits-all for high school students when it comes to test prep. You’ll need to decide which of the options below best suits your student and fits your budget.  Note that the names and links here are just some of what’s available. You can find others by putting phrases like “college test prep” “sat test prep” and “act test prep” into your search engine.

Test prep courses An advantage of a classroom course is that you take several practice tests in an environment similar to where you’ll be taking the exam. In addition, the instructors teach students ways to approach each section, like how to understand what the questions are really asking and how to pair down answer choices.

Courses are available from national test prep companies, like Kaplan and Princeton Review, or by local individuals who teach and set up classes at a school in your area. Some high schools now arrange for one of the big test prep corporations to offer classes at their school at a reduced rate and others make prep classes, taught by teachers on staff, available as an elective for juniors for free. Find out if your school provides either of these options.

file131249337484The disadvantages of test prep courses are that there is little to no individualized attention and the classroom setting may not be well-suited for kids who don’t want to be in school on the weekend or give up their study hall.

Tutoring A private tutor allows your student to focus on the areas where he needs to improve, like specific types of math problems. Also, tutors might be a better fit for the kid who can’t make time for a class every Saturday morning. Keep in mind, a personal tutor tends to be more expensive than a course.

To find a tutor, start by asking parents with children in their first or second year of college who they used. Search on websites like Craigslist. Check with your guidance department. Ask if teachers in your high school or in a neighboring school district work as tutors. Services like StudyPoint send a tutor to your home. Don’t discount high school or college students who can be a good and less expensive option if your teen only needs some help with geometry or grammar.

The disadvantages of private tutoring are cost and no time in a testing environment.

Freebies Khan Academy is known for its free online instruction in a variety of subjects. Now it has partnered with the College Board, the folks who administer the SAT, to offer free prep materials for the redesigned test that begins in March 2016. When searching online for a test program, pay attention to whether it addresses the new SAT. If it doesn’t, move on because it’s not up-to-date and instruction materials won’t be either.

Other options Tutoring and small test prep classes are available at national learning centers like Huntington and Sylvan. College Board has free and fee-based prep materials on their site. The ACT also has an online, fee-based personalized prep program that, like the SAT, uses examples from actual tests. Some kids also review on their own using SAT or ACT practice test books and score well.

The bottom line: Find a test prep program that suits your teen’s way of learning and your family’s lifestyle and budget.

Learn more about score improvement, why scores matter and when to start test prep in my next post.

Share your thoughts on prepping for the SAT and ACT in the comments section below. 

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One Response to Finding the Right College Test Prep Program

  1. Pingback: More Thoughts on SAT Test Prep | Parents' Guide to the College Puzzle

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