Wednesday, February 6, 2013

To Test Prep or not to Test Prep. . .

That is the question. . . . 

Lily started an SAT test prep class call “Revolution Prep” at the end of January.  We debated about whether or not she should take a prep class and finally decided that given her absolutely chock-a-block schedule, it was actually better for her to have a scheduled time to study for the exam rather than try to carve out extra time on her own, constantly having to choose among homework, piano and swim practice and test prep.   

Now we’ve paid the tuition (around $600; luckily, there are scholarships available) and so the time is committed. Every Tuesday evening from 6-9 and Saturday morning from 9 to 1 for six weeks. 

I think there are actually three good options for preparing for the SAT:

1) Take a prep class offered by Revolution Prep or similar company such as Princeton Review or Sylvan Learning Center.  Some places also offer online classes.  Revolution Prep is offered on many area high school campuses, which makes it convenient, but not necessarily any better or any cheaper than others.

One less expensive option is through the San Mateo Community College District’s Community Education Classes.  It offers an SAT prep course for four Saturday afternoons beginning on March 23 from 1:15-5:15 pm.  Cost is $189 plus $30 for materials:

2) Study on your own using test prep books published by College Board, Princeton Review or others.  These are available for purchase and at libraries.  I also have a considerable stash at my house, donated by a former advisee.  You are welcome to come peruse my collection and take what you’d like.

3) Hire a private tutor. Some academic tutors also offer test prep or you can contact tutoring centers like Sylvan.  An up and coming and very popular tutoring company in Palo Alto/Menlo Park is AJ Tutoring.  It also offers free practice tests for current and “prospective” clients:

As well as deciding how to prepare for the exams, you need to decide when and which to take. College counselors now often advise students to take both the SAT and ACT, but I’m not sure it’s necessary.  One good way to decide between the two is to take a practice test in both and see which one yields the higher score.  Local public high schools offer practice tests; sometimes libraries schedule dates, and also see AJ Tutoring above. 

Most students take the SAT and/or ACT sometime during spring of junior year and again possibly senior fall if they want to improve their score.  Be sure to check the College Board and ACT testing schedules and sign up well in advance:

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