Choosing the Right ACT/SAT Test Prep

By Greer Milam, SPARC Test Prep

One extra point on an ACT score can mean the difference between a student attending his or her first or second choice college. Even a single question on the test can tip a score forward or backward potentially affecting a family’s budget thousands of dollars each year. Performance on standardized tests for college admissions is increasingly competitive, and families are feeling the pressure. Here are a few suggestions for properly selecting the best-fit test preparation for your son or daughter.

Favor in-person instruction over online. Your test prep provider should offer in-person, individualized instruction. Academic development occurs on a personal level, and young minds require structure and accountability. A seasoned instructor in the room will be more effective than a Stanford grad student on a screen. Go local.

Do research beyond the website. Make phone calls. Visit the location. Shake hands with an instructor. These extra steps will give you a more accurate impression of the quality of a company’s test prep services. Websites and pop-up ads are built on marketing research wrapped in happy-student stock photos. Internet searches should only be the first of many steps. Beware of pretty packaging.

Talk with the instructor who will be directly working with your student. When you call, do not be content merely talking with the person who answers the phone. Interns are trained to give the answers you want to hear. Also, do not be satisfied talking to the company owner only to have them assign your student to one of their new recruits. Test prep can be a significant financial investment. Talk to the person who will be earning your money.

Ask the right questions. Here’s an example. The ACT is offered several times each year. Wrong question: How many years have you been an ACT tutor? Right question: How many ACT test dates have you successfully coached students? Tutors A and B could both answer five years to the first question. To the second question, Tutor A might also answer five while Tutor B answers twenty. Big difference.

Make your prep decision a family decision. Motivations for selecting the right college are different for the parents than for the student, and these motivations typically peak several months apart. Test preparation has a higher success rate if both parents and the student are ready to make the required commitment. A student will typically give their best energy for two ACT test dates. Getting the timing right can be worth the wait.

Be fully committed to your path. Once the test prep choice has been made, the family should be committed to one voice of instruction until the day of the test. Standardized tests are a mind sport. The game-day focus required to achieve a highest score can be like walking a mental tightrope. “Doubting the instructor or experimenting with conflicting advice will guarantee a slip in your student’s score.”

SPARC Test Prep is a leading provider of test preparation in the state of Alabama since 2002 offering a full range of tutoring and college admission services specializing in preparation for the ACT, SAT, PSAT and AP exams. SPARC, LLC is exclusive to the Huntsville/Madison area of North Alabama.

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