31 December 2009

Is ACT or SAT Test Prep Worth It?


Do you want to score well on the SAT or ACT?


Who doesn't, but the question often comes down to whether or not to take test prep classes. If this is a question that you must ask yourself, then please keep reading.


Many High School teens, at one time or another, ask themselves (their parents also ask) if test prep is worth the time and money. The answer to this question really depends on the student, but in most cases, the classes are worth the expense.There are also SAT II classes, AP review classes, and a few others in addition to SAT and ACT classes, but prep for the SAT is the most useful.


First I will start with the classes that I think are useless: Subject prep classes. Kaplan, Princeton Review, and other companies try to make a killing on subject review classes. These are flat out useless. All that these classes really do is re-teach most of the material already covered in school. That is not to say that students should not study for AP tests and SAT IIs, but paying for classes is not worth it. The best solution is to just buy a review book for $20 or so dollars. Better yet, buy the review book at the beginning of the year and use it to help study for regular tests in class. These books do a great job of summarizing entire chapters into more manageable pieces, especially for History. All that students really need to study for subject tests is a review book. Save the money that classes would have cost and put it towards SAT prep.


SAT classes are amazing. It is that short and simple. The only downsides to SAT classes are that they cost a good chunk of change and eat up students' weekends for about 2 months. Good classes will also give homework, but it’s only about one hour's worth and students have the entire week to do it. Regarding the cost, SAT prep classes usually range from $500 to $1000 depending on the type and quality of the class. There are some classes that only cost around $300, but you get what you pay for. Next there is the time involved, and I am not going to lie, it is a very large time commitment. Students can expect 2 to 3 hours on Saturday and Sunday mornings along with practice tests that take 4 to 5 hours every other week. With all the time that you put into preparing, students will feel prepared when the actual test comes around. The homework is not a big deal, it is simply more practice on SAT type problems.


Now for the positives of SAT classes, and there are many. The most obvious is the score increase that students will see by the time they are finished with the class. Students can easily improve their SAT scores by as much as 400 points by the end of the class! All of the time that goes into the class allows students to practice SAT problems over and over. Especially considering that there are only so many types of problems that the test maker puts on the test, this repetition really helps. These SAT prep classes teach what kinds of questions are on the test and how to tackle them. They basically teach students how to take the test, which is very important because the SAT tests how well students take tests. 


As for ACT classes, I have mixed feelings about them. The ACT tests on knowledge already learned in school, but it also covers only certain material. Although the test maker states this, it helps to know how to take the test as well (just like the SAT). Classes for the ACT are not necessary like they are for the SAT but they help. However, taking SAT classes have the same effect as ACT classes, so there is no need to take both. It is just important that students pay attention in school for the ACT.


Overall, test prep is necessary for the SAT only. There are many high school students who have inflated egos and think that they do not need prep, but that is their choice. It takes a truly smart person to realize when to ask for help, and in this day and age, students need all of the help they can get.

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