Standardized Test Preparation for College Admission
This is huge area of concern for parents and students. The majority of people who decide on test preparation do receive some benefits. There are many questions and concerns that form when considering taking this step.
- Should you get test preparation for the ACT or SAT or both?
- Does it work?
- Is it worth the cost?
- How much does it cost?
- How long does it typically take to improves scores?
- How much score improvement should I expect?
- How much time is expected?
These are some of the questions you might have about this process. So let’s begin by opening the dialogue about this process. From 20 years of experience I have found that the ideal time to start talking about this process is the spring of sophomore year. Many 504 students will need to truly start 4 months before the beginning of junior year. Why? The typical plan really calls for around 22-25 weeks of preparation. For optimum score improvement, the plan should include two test administration dates. Let us help you!
Is the ACT better than the SAT or vice versa? I honestly believe neither test has a significant advantage in admissions. Most colleges do not really care which test you take; there are also almost 1000 schools that are now test optional. Test optional can be the best option for many 504 students and test anxious students. Test Optional does not put the candidate at a disadvantage, but many schools require an additional essay or some other supporting document when selecting test optional status. For some students the idea of writing another application essay is worse than submitting scores. This is something that need not be thought about until actual application time.
Students that choose to take a test preparation course and participate as well as do the homework and sit for every practice test, typically do show score improvement. How much score improvement should I expect? There is no straightforward answer to this question because the type of test preparation has a huge impact on the level of score improvements possible. Let’s divert for a moment and explore some things about test preparation. Don’t have time to research, just contact us or schedule a session to learn more!
Classes-there are huge classes of more than 60 students and small classes of 12-15 students. Clearly the size of the class is important to potential score improvements. If the class is large, the more likely it will be for distractions by other students, and less opportunities for question and answer. Smaller classes allow for the instructor to pick up on individual students and work to make the material not just communicated but understood as well. Classes are the least costly of live instruction. Many are prepared by large companies that have created a methodology for test taking. You are buying that methodology.
Online Courses and Digital Apps-Many parents love the idea of this type of learning because it is so accessible, and they believe their children are so technologically adept that anything on a tablet or computer would be embraced better. Unfortunately, I have never found this to be true. Teens do not really learn best by digital. They do not keep up; they often never do practice. Live instruction from an actual person who holds them accountable is a better choice. I have often suggested apps, games, tools and so forth online or through social media. Rarely do the students keep up after two or three weeks.
Now let’s discuss the idea of Tutoring. I would like to define this, as I believe the term Tutor is rather a misnomer for the work. In this country, many urban and suburban areas have huge learning/tutoring centers to help keep kids on track.
Apparently, many students need support to just keep up in courses and do homework. Also many high school teachers are allowed to sell their services as tutors in many school districts. This has become the bread and butter for many teachers. They are not paid enough to live in the urban areas by the school systems, so they tutor on the side. Many make double their teacher’s salaries in tutoring. This is a huge avenue of cost for many parents.
But test preparation stands alone as it is not at all like tutoring the students have come to rely on for help. Tutors who help with school work are assisting learning in a subject the student is exposed to almost on a daily basis. Test Preparation Instructors are actually teaching something not taught in school at all. It is similar to taking an independent learning course on the side. There are classes, homework and tests. The difference is that it is self-study with the classes taught by an experienced test prep instructor.
So the more the student understands that the level of work required is similar to taking any class in school, the less stress all will feel about it up front. Too much to take in? Schedule a session with all your questions with you, and let us help!
**Some school districts offer an SAT or ACT prep class in the junior year as an elective. Many students can have this course as part of their regular school curriculum. It typically meets during a school period, three times a week, for at least a semester. The actual practice tests are truncated to fit sections in a time period. The students get some instruction but more practice problems than anything else. Is this effective? Sadly I wish it were, but for many, it usually results a slight improvement of scores. I do believe extra help is available for those who ask for it, but most of the time the instructor is an actual teacher who does problems not an actual test preparation instructor.
Skype Tutoring-This method has proven to be very effective. The student connects to an actual person. The student is accountable for homework and note taking. The time is used very efficiently as well. I have found 45-50 minute sessions, twice or three times a week, are the best for keeping a student on track and improving scores consistently. This is slightly more expensive that taking a premium course. Most offer discounts for the volume of sessions purchased. Many offer packages.
Private Tutoring at a location-This method is very effective as well. The traveling to and from can be an issue for students with a lot of AP courses and extracurricular activities. Traveling to the site to take the practice tests, and then go for help to understand the test performance, then another session to learn something new is a huge investment of time. It also is difficult to achieve the higher score demands from paying for such a premium service unless it is started about six months prior to the first test date. This process also focuses strongly on a methodology but with an individualized focus.
Private in Home Tutoring-This is the most expensive and often most effective method for improving scores. The attention is 100% given to the student. The time is uninterrupted, focused and typically specialized for the individual. This is the least method based form of instruction. There is a huge range in costs for this service depending on the location, the instructor’s skill level and experience, and the student’s learning style. 504 students benefit greatly from this service. This service also tends to show higher score improvements than any of the others.
***There are highly motivated, bright, hard-working students who get those high score improvements on their own or from a class, but these students are not the average.
Are all instructors alike? ABSOLUTELY NOT! There are different levels of instructors, and the costs will vary greatly due to the differences. I strongly urge any parent to be very clear about what level of instruction is necessary and when comparing options, be sure that each option has the level necessary. 504 Students require specialized programs and individualized needs acknowledged and understood. The 504 Student’s learning style must be understood for any instruction to be effective.
This is not the time for a parent to be very sensitive about a 504 student; this is a time when clear, detailed descriptions of any disability, learning or emotional challenge or testing issue should be revealed. Any medications or accommodations or learning assistance should also be revealed in order to get the best idea as to what service would be worth the time and cost. Parents of 504 students have often spent years carefully protecting their children from having to discuss their issues. This is the time to acknowledge and empower. Do not be shy, inform any person or company that you require specialized skills by an instructor.
Basic Tutoring-A basic test preparation tutor has been trained in a methodology for test prep. Typically, most have between 0-5 years if experience. This level of instruction is fine for a student who is self-reliant and a good student. A good student knows how to study, takes notes, does homework, and will learn from his/her test mistakes. The rates for such tutors are typically around $80-$120 an hour in urban areas. Obviously the cities with higher costs of living will see rates double this; NYC is one such city.
Teacher Tutoring-As mentioned previously, many actual school teachers tutor on the side. I caution against this as test preparation. These tutors tend to teach subject matter as subject matter. They are not great at strategies, techniques and tricks to optimize time and score improvement. Many are great at particular subject. So if you need to simply learn some grammar or math, this might be an easy and less costly solution and not so time consuming. Private School teachers tend to charge more for an hour than public school teachers, and once again, location has a lot to do with charges. Most charge slightly higher than basic test prep tutors. $100-$250 an hour is not usual.
Advanced Tutoring-An advanced tutor typically works with students who have higher scores initially. Many are trained to bring a good student to the highest scores possible. Many call themselves “Ivy” level tutors because they want to be working with students seeking Ivy League School admission. These tutors have at least 5 years of experience and typical score improvements of 300 points on the current SAT and 7 points on the current ACT. The cost of these tutors is a bit higher than teacher tutoring and more costly because the time involved is usually greater than basic tutoring. Almost 150% more time is spent doing this tutoring but the results are impressive. Charges of $175-$475 an hour are often considered reasonable for this service; the idea is that the level of instruction matches the goal. Some 504 students fit this category and if desiring an Ivy League option, I highly recommend that you ask for this level of service. But remember this can backfire for the student if the time and intensity are so rigorous that the tutor demands the student quit all extracurricular activities and do almost weekly practice tests for more than 20 weeks of time.
Premier Tutoring-This is the most adaptive, specialized and supportive instruction you can buy. The premier tutor has over 12 years’ experience, average score improvements starting from the average score in the Nation (1600 for SAT and 21 for ACT) of 450-550 points on the current SAT and 10 or more points on the current ACT. The premier tutor has the most skills in adaptive learning and instruction. The premier tutor has vast knowledge of the tests, questions and materials published about the test. These tutors have seen the tests change and know how the questions have changed over the years and the different formats. This level of tutor can extemporaneously come up with examples to help teach techniques or easier methods than the prep books or classes offer. This level tutoring is very helpful to students who have great challenges learning traditionally. All 504 students benefit from this level of instructor. This is the most expensive service you can purchase. Costs can be outrageously high in urban and suburban areas. There are people in metro NYC who charge over $1000 an hour. The range of cost is as low as $350 an hour to as high as $1200 an hour. Average is around $540 an hour. People who can afford this have always found benefit from this level of instruction. Most of these tutors always bring in the results, even with the most recalcitrant or rebellious teen. So ask us, premier tutors to improve your scores!
So when purchasing a service, know what you are buying. Be sure to ask for the credentials. What are the company or instructor’s average score improvements? If this question can’t be answered, then think carefully about spending money for it! Be prepared for 4 ½ months of time. Expect to pay a few thousand dollars for full cost. Know that your student will have to have classes, homework and practice tests. The tests are 3 ½ to 4 hours in duration. Know in advance that your social life will change and your options will have to be curtailed to complete this program. If you are buying test prep help that is less than $80 an hour, then I would be highly suspicious of its credibility in the US. Parents often suggest people. I find that parents are the best evaluators of effectiveness. Students often make recommendations. I believe the students really give a great idea of how a person works and how it feels to work with someone. Trust those you know!
Is it worth it? Well, 300 to 500 points on the current SAT is a huge difference in the range of schools that can be on your list. We can help!