Selecting a test prep method can be a daunting task. Every student is different, so there isn’t one option out there that works for everyone. You know yourself better than others, so ask yourself the questions below, and make sure you do your research!
- When will I have time to prepare? Consider your academic course load and extra-curricular activities. If you have a busy schedule, have a job, or are involved in many different activities, it will be difficult for you to use a method of prep that requires being present at specific times – whether it is on the weekend or after school. If you’re too busy for a classroom test prep course, such as Tesmasters, you need to select a method that is more flexible, so that it can be accessed at your convenience or in small doses. Online courses, private tutoring, and self-directed learning from study guide books are all options for students without the time for a formal class with set schedule. Parents should know if their teenagers are going to follow through with the materials or not.
Test prep courses, private tutoring, and even independent online courses usually take 6-8 weeks. If you have less than two months before your next test, a study guide book or online videos/lessons might be a quicker path. Don’t expect to increase your score with this quick method if you don’t put in the time though!
If your test is more than two or three months away, chances are that you have more options available to you. However keep in mind that you should continue preparing all the way until your test date. So if you are looking in to a schedule-based option, you need the sessions to extend as close to your test date as possible.
- How much preparation do I need? How much score improvement do I need?
If you haven’t taken the PSAT, attempt a full-length test at home to get an idea of where your scores stand as of now. Then, think about what your target score is. Not sure about what your target score should be? Read this article about average tests scores at University of Texas and Texas A&M.
If you are looking for a high score improvement, you will need a customized plan and personalized attention. If you are just looking to boost your score by a few points and your scores are generally average, you can get by with less personalization. If you are a very high achiever and already have very high scores, you will need to drill down on the few areas of improvement and really target your preparation. This requires analysis of your strengths and weaknesses.
- Which test prep options are available in my area?
If you live in a remote location and don’t have easy access to transportation, then group classes and private tutors might not work for you logistically. If you live in a big city, all options are available, but scheduling can be tough because demand is high. Select your method of preparation early! If you rely on a parent or sibling to drive you to and from sessions, make sure you communicate with them prior to signing up for test prep so that they can make it a priority to help you.
Many test prep companies employ college students as tutors because they simply scored high on the SAT or ACT. Scoring high is great, but that doesn’t mean they know HOW to teach the tests, or how to relate to teenagers. Ask the company or have your student ask around. Good instructors will be referred by students who have already taken the course and was engaged.
- How many times am I going to take the SAT/ACT?
Most students take the SAT or ACT two times during junior and senior year. High-achievers should plan to take it twice in the spring of junior year so that the fall of senior year can be used to focus on college applications, essays and scholarships. Read more about the suggested timeline in this article.
These tests are offered only 6 – 7 times a year, so you will need to plan for a test preparation method that can be a resource to you throughout the process, overall two or three attempts. Check out our blog about picking the right SAT/ACT test dates.
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