On Test Prep...
As we begin the New Year, it is important to examine the concept of “test prep” and what we counselors mean when we encourage students to do it. To be clear, every student should engage in test preparation, whether it is for an SAT, ACT, SAT Subject Test, or IB exams. However, for far too many students and parents, when these nefarious words are uttered, an image of paying a “consultant” heaps of money at an hourly rate for tutoring, hagwon, bushi ban, or cram school-like sessions come to mind. This is not what we mean… In fact, if paying money for test prep is even to be considered, there are a host of options that must be thoroughly explored first. Join us on a little run through the options…
Here are the steps that every student should take in “preparing” for a standardized test (specifically the SAT or ACT):
Do your best in your classes! The best preparation for standardized testing is to make sure that you are doing your best in your coursework. There is a high correlation between GPA and test scores. Work hard!
Read! Though this may not seem obvious, reading for pleasure outside of schoolwork leads to increased vocabulary, reading speed, and comprehension. Students who read independently tend to score higher on tests.
Visit the official test websites! Both the CollegeBoard and the ACT provide practice questions, past tests, and some prep materials. Also, look for each of their “question of the day” programs where they will email you a question every day!
Review old test materials! Look at the results from your previous tests. See where you did not do well. See where you did. Plan your preparation accordingly.
Access Khan Academy’s services through your PSAT! This is really a sub-point for the previous item, but CollegeBoard has partnered with Khan Academy to provide free, customized, online test prep based on your PSAT results. There is also test prep available for virtually every other test under the sun... all free! Take advantage!
Borrow a prep guide from the library! We have a host of test prep materials for SAT, ACT, AP, IB, SAT subject test, and TOEFL. Stop by and check out a book!
Buy a prep guide! There are hundreds if not thousands of resources out there to assist with test prep. Realize that this is the only item on this list that requires you to spend any money!
Then, once these options and resources are fully exhausted, you can consider enrolling in a class or soliciting the services of a tutor. (Please discuss this with your counselor so that we can do our best to guide you through this process!) Ultimately, the only thing that paying for a service can provide that the previously mentioned seven steps cannot is accountability in that they will set regular times that will force a student to put in the time into prep. One last word of advice: consider the timing of any test prep! It is not wise to put yourself into a situation where you are cramming for an upcoming test, particularly late in the application process. We recommend that students take advantage of the summers to do any form of test prep and to begin preparations as far in advance as possible. As always, please be in touch with your college counselor with any questions! We are here to help!