SAT and ACT Prep – How to choose the right tutors
By Claudine Vainrub, EduPlan College Counselor and Principal
Most colleges in the U.S. require standardize testing as part of their admissions process. The question is, when choosing SAT/ACT tutoring programs, how do we know which courses will help us accrue the best results?
In an ideal scenario, a good test prep service should be affordable and personalized in their approach to preparing students. If provided the choice, many students would opt for face-to-face tutoring, as online education remains an alternative not favored by most people. However, online education is certainly a great alternative to students who have time constraints and work well independently. Courses tend to be less expensive and often times, students can complete them at their leisure. This kind of freedom, though, is not for the student that requires direct and close supervision. For this type of student, a local tutoring service is most surely a better option than an online SAT/ACT prep program.
As we look for local tutoring options, there are some things we can ask these services providers in order to better understand their fit with our needs.
It is of paramount importance that they should be able to show a track record of raising student scores as well as having satisfied students and parents. Below are a few major points to take into consideration when looking for an SAT/ACT Test Prep company:
Expert instructors: There are plenty of test prep companies that provide a whole range of test prep programs. In this scenario, you need to concentrate on one that specializes in SAT or ACT Prep. It is your responsibility to ensure that the instructors are trained in providing the type of instruction specifically needed for SAT/ACT. Don’t be afraid to ask for information on their years of experience, where they got their training, how long was their training and what they do in order to keep informed on the latest industry trends. You can also request a resume accounting their achievements. A resume might be useful when hiring their services to see the tutor’s career progression and also, to enable you to check out if the information provided on the resume is accurate (you want to make sure you are dealing with honest professionals, so conducting a simple background check will help you confirm this and feel safer about giving your business to the entity/person in question). Also, ask what grades they were able to achieve when taking the SAT and the ACT themselves. If their grades were high, there is a better chance that they will be able to guide you in learning what you need in order for you to achieve great results.
Use of proven strategies: “It is quite pivotal that test taking and score-raising routines have been developed from actual SATs which make the training the most accurate that is available,” said Bradley Stewart of Cosmo Test Prep Services. It is worthwhile pointing that the best companies offering SAT test prep use tried, tested, and proven formulas that work and succeed in raising student’s scores by hundreds of points on average. Be leery if there is no guarantee of raising your student’s score.
It is widely known that you can train yourself or receive training in order to enhance SAT results. This is not as true as with the ACT, which tests direct knowledge of high school material. However, whether receiving test prep for the SAT or ACT, make sure to request information on what happens if your improvement is not what is expected, how does the tutoring service respond in this type of situation, for example, if they offer for the student to retake the course free of charge, and which other support options they would provide if this happens.
Evaluate one-on-one vs. group tutoring: Private, personalized, one-on-one tutoring can work the best for many students. “The distractions of larger classrooms or student settings are eliminated with one-on-one private tutoring and offer the most individualized student learning environment possible,” said Alla Colins of Test Prep Services. Other students perform really well in a group environment, where peer-pressure is part of the equation. It might be cost prohibitive to most SAT takers to pay the fees of a private tutor. So, if you will be taking a group course, ask about individual one-on-one time you could have with tutors to answer particular questions that might arise. Ask also about opportunities to bundle a group program with a few individual sessions to help you get closer to your personal score goal.
Practice tests: A good SAT/ACT prep service will provide many opportunities (one per week of course at least) to take full exams. You will benefit from taking the entire exam several times, in order to gain test resilience and understand test timing in full. Sitting for a full exam several times throughout your preparation will familiarize you with the test process, helping you become less nervous when sitting for the official exam. It is a lot about time management, mental strength and keeping attentive throughout the entire process. If you are tired by the middle of your exam process, your final grade will suffer. Taking many tests in full will prepare you to better manage the entire process and achieve your maximum test potential.
Low prices: A price range somewhere between $500 and $800, depending on the hours specifically chosen or needed for your tutoring, is a reasonably priced program. Point to be noted here is that some are much higher simply because you are paying for the test prep company brand rather than their expertise in SAT Test Prep. In the end, look for the program that offers the most personalized instruction at a reasonable cost to you.
Last Minute Test taking Tips
- Bring your admission ticket & two Photo ID’s showing your name exactly as it appears in your test registration (you will receive a ticket in the mail when you sign up for the test – make sure to register using the exact specifications of the testing agency, students have not been allowed to take the test when College Board and ETS have found discrepancies between their names on their ID’s and the names they entered when registering for the test).
- Have a checklist for what to bring to the exam (pencils, calculator, watch, etc.)
- Don’t stay up all night studying before the test.
- Set a back-up alarm clock on the night before the big test.
- Budget your time, don’t get hung up on a question you don’t know. Just move on, and come back to those questions once you finish the rest of the test.
- Eat a healthy breakfast consisting of protein and few carbohydrates
- Keep your nerves under control! At this point in time, you cannot do anything else to enhance your scores, except to stay focused in responding to all questions as best as you can. I know that it is hard to not be nervous. So remember, in the end, this is only an exam, if you do not do as well as you expect, your life will NOT be in ruins! You will still have a chance to go to college, and achieve amazing goals throughout your life.