Does Test Prep Work?

Not Everyone Is Good at Test-Taking

As most college-bound high school students know, one of the necessary evils of the college admissions world includes the dreaded standardized college entrance exams.  For some students, it is not the most fun thing they have ever done, but they jump through the hoop with relative ease and move on to the next college admission step.  For other students, the standardized college entrance exams (SAT or ACT alike) present a quest similar to running a marathon, while having a nightmare, in the pouring rain, uphill, without shoes on.

Those few students who are naturally gifted at taking standardized tests may never consider test preparation, much less need it to score well on a test.  For students who are desperate to score well on the standardized tests but not naturally inclined toward this success, however, test preparation courses often represent a glimmer of hope to cling to as THE salvation for their college dreams and aspirations.

But Can Test Prep Help?

Are the test-prep courses really effective?  Do the countless hours and dollars dedicated to SAT and ACT prep courses pay off?

The conventional answer is, “Of course test-prep courses are helpful; otherwise how would that industry still be around?”  Still the question persists, likely because of the disparate results from taking the test-prep courses.  One student might see a 200-300 point composite score jump after a test-prep course; another student in the same class may see only a 10-20 point improvement or none at all.

A Student Can Make It Work

In fact, whether the test-prep course is effective or not has less to do with the course itself than with the student’s approach to the course.  When students know how they learn and can effectively pursue a standardized test-prep course in the manner that works best for them, then the results will show when the student happily gets their score report back with the improvement they are hoping for.  The key is that the student must proactively learn to take the test in the same way that they proactively learn in their chemistry or history class.  Simply showing up for class once a week does not in itself guarantee a score boost.  Just like in any other education environment, you will take from the course what you put into it.

Are standardized test-prep courses really worth it?  They can be, if you invest your effort in the course to make it worthwhile.

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