Saturday, November 10, 2012

Do You Need Help Preparing for the SAT/ACT?


Do You Need Help Preparing for the SAT/ACT?

As you begin the testing/college search/college application process, you may be wondering whether or not you need help preparing for the major college entrance exams. Advertisements online and book covers in the test prep section of your local bookstore seem to imply that anyone who doesn’t take their course, buy their book, or follow their advice will be at a serious disadvantage in the college admissions process. Some courses and private tutors can cost thousands of dollars. Do you really need help?

  1.      Where are you in the applications process? Are you just beginning? Do you have more than 6 months before you have to take the exam? If so, you may have time to study on your own.  As I tell my students:  I am not selling snake oil. I don’t have any special secrets. Everything I tell them has been published somewhere, and if you read enough, you will probably come across it eventually. A tutor or a course can streamline that process. Because the tutor has done all the research, you don’t have to. A good tutor can take what may have been a 50 hour process and condense it down to under 10 hours. This can really help you out if you are trying to juggle school, a part-time job and extra-curricular activities. It can be necessary if the test is only a week away and you just realized that the scores on your last attempt aren’t good enough for the college of your choice. If you don’t have plenty of time, move on to the next question.
  2.       Have you taken an entrance exam, yet? Before you make the decision to spend a lot of money on test prep, you should at least take a practice exam. You can get a practice exam for free from your high school counselor. Once you have at least an estimated score, consider: Would you be happy with it? If so, great! If not, move on to the next question.
  3.       You have taken a practice exam and you were less than thrilled with the results. Well, how bad were they? If the scores for each section were less than 20 points away (for the SAT) or 1 point away (for the ACT) from a score that would satisfy you, you may be able to just purchase a practice book for under $30 and spend a few hours answering practice questions. If not, move on to the next question.
  4.       If your score is much lower than the one you want, reading about a few test-taking tips won’t cut it. You need some serious review of the material. In addition, most people can’t learn or review math by reading about it. If you were one of those who could, you wouldn’t have a low math score in the first place. In these cases you need a human to help you through it. Shop around. Don’t forget to check with your local high school or community college to see if they have free or low-cost options.

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