Meg Glass & Associates, LLC

College Entrance Tests…how to start, what to do


Test Preparation


What options are there for test preparation?  Someone told me to do all the Khan Academy videos and then take the test.  If I need help, look on YouTube.  Others have chosen to take standardized course with well-established companies with long histories, such as Kaplan or Princeton Review….both offer online, in class, and private tutoring options.  Some have local teachers, mostly subject matter teachers, who offer private tutoring or small groups.  Even still some public schools have a class as part of the curriculum, for which juniors can sign up for a semester.

How do you choose?  It is good question.  There are such wide varieties in cost.  In Urban areas there are very high priced tutors, who are usually worth the cost, in terms of score improvements….10 points on the ACT or 400 points on the SAT.   These tutors are usually very experienced and have versatility to teach the individual student, not simply a methodology.

Kaplan and Princeton Review teach methods.  They both have tricks and techniques to master the test questions and pacing for students of all levels.  The classes offered by these companies tend to be the least expensive across the Nation.  Further, these companies offer discounts, coupons, and deals from time to time.  Typically, you should start looking to sign up about 2 months prior to starting the classes. You cannot wait until 4 weeks before the test date.  Ideally, the minimum of a class that meets twice a week, you need at least six to eight weeks before the test to start the class.  You should sign up for the class about two months before it starts.

I have a word of caution for all programs.  It has to do with online studies.  Teens are typically not as diligent with online work as other age groups.  Many teens miss a class or do not do the practice tests, always thinking they will catch up, etc.  The class videos are archived for the students to have a make-up on their own, but few even do these.  In 23 years of my teaching, from the advent of online for high school students, no statistics show great score improvements at all.  Khan Academy offers a lot of support, not just for test taking.  Many embrace Khan Academy and do slightly better, but truly the best score improvements tend to come from live person-to-person teaching.

Some students do better in a classroom, and some students do far better with private tutoring.  In costly urban areas, the cost of private tutoring that gets great score improvements is typically the cost of 20% of the average first year college’s tuition.  For many paying 1/5 the cost of a year of college to bring scores to the place where the college choices is far better than without, is worth the cost for sure.  Further, depending on the state and school system, you can deduct on your taxes the cost of specialized support for your student, this is true for 504 ADA Class students. 

Many parents pay for something, but then feel they threw away the money because their child’s score doesn’t go up very much.  Big Companies do not promise serious score improvements.  Should you pay? Well, you know your child well.  If your student is overloaded with activities and social life, chances are adding something rather intense to the plate will be too much.  The tests now have summer test dates as well.  Perhaps your student cannot do school work, get good grades, and add this intense study as well.  So wait until end of the school year.  If your child is immature and will not work over the summer leading to junior year, wait until after he or she has taken the test in junior year, and spend the time and money during the summer leading to senior fall.

Regardless of what method you choose, it takes judicious planning to ensure you are taking the best test date for your student to maximize his or her time to prepare.  These tests, for the majority of students, are not mastered simply or easily.  Most take the test for two administrations, and should you purchase tutoring think about that….be sure to schedule for both test administrations.  Some people try a less expensive class first, and then pay for tutoring for the second test to try and work on what was more challenging.

I am big proponent for good students with good grades to take a test class first and learn the mechanics of the test, the design, the scoring, etc.  Then either during the class right before the first test administration or immediately after the scores come out to hire a premier tutor, with lots of knowledge and experience (not just a methodology) to help advance scores higher the second time.  Some test anxious or weak testers do take the test several times.  It is not unheard of to have a student take the test four or five times.  This is not the majority, but there are some who do, and those who do, often see improvements, but incrementally smaller each test.  Scores can also go down.

For students who are challenged with 504 Class ADA issues or IEP’s, and for those who suffer from anxiety during testing, the most humane method to prepare is private tutoring.  I strongly urge the tutor be someone able to teach the individual rather than depend on a method.  So usually these people are not affiliated with companies but are individuals who specialize.

So it is testing season now.  If you are a junior or are a parent of junior, NOW is the time to get this going.  Some have already started.  Know that you can add, supplement, or change as you go along. If you need support and just want a discussion on what your plan should be, contact us!