Should You Pay for TEST PREP for Your Kids?

By GALTime's College Coach Suzanne Shaffer
If you have a college-bound teen, you know the drill. Those dreaded SAT tests cause stress and angst with your teenager this time of year. The distressing and often disconcerting fact is that colleges use these tests as a way to sift through the thousands of applications they receive. Knowing this puts more pressure on your teenager to do well on the tests.

But many teens don't take preparation seriously. They stumble in to the test center exhausted and tired, with no idea of what to expect. When they don't do well, they use the standard excuse, "I just don't test well". But is that really the case? According to Akil Bello, co-founder of Bell Curves, a test preparation and tutoring services company in New York:

Test prep involves 2 things: learning to use the nuances of the test to your advantage and ensuring you have the information tested. If the student has one but not the other they will probably "not test well"; but too many people see the test format as the problem.

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If your college-bound teen is struggling with SAT stress, encourage them to take the FREE practice tests available online. I recommend they take those tests early-sophomore year. Once they take the practice tests and there is indication they need some help, consider paying for test prep. But before you go out and invest your money, Mr. Bello has a word of caution, "Use a test prep organization for the same reason you hire a plumber and with the same caution."

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Here's a list of questions to ask when choosing a test prep company:

  • Do they teach strategy?-test-taking tricks (guessing, pacing).
  • Do they focus on content?-teaching vocabulary and math rules.
  • Is the duration of the program sufficient?-courses range from 18-40 hours.
  • Do they employ good teachers?-some smart people are horrible teachers; do see them in action.
  • What are the classes like?-avoid really large classes, really small classes and classes taught be teachers with no testing experience.
  • Do they promise you the world?-they can't guarantee a perfect score; there are too many variables.

If you do choose to pay for test prep, your college-bound teen should be invested in the process. They must want to study and improve their scores. If they are just doing it to please you, it's a waste of their time and your money.

We want to know what you think. Would you pay for test prep? Should you have to? Leave us a comment!

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