It’s a problem and no one in the field of test prep likes to talk about it – test prep doesn’t always work. The biggest key to a student’s score improvement is the effort he or she is willing to put in.
I’ve worked in the field of test prep since the early 90’s and I currently have my own program which I teach in-person and online. I wish it was as easy as a student picking up my workbook or hearing the sound of my voice . . . “Poof” . . . automatic improvement. But it doesn’t work that way.
So all the guarantees you read about from different test prep companies are worthless. They can’t guarantee improvement until they can find a way to guarantee every teenager who takes the class will pay attention during the lessons, apply the information, do the practice necessary to improve, and not have a sudden attack of nerves on test day.
My best analogy is that test prep is like going to the gym. My trainers provide expertise, motivation, and tips for overall improvement, but I have to do the work. There are many days when I might have skipped the gym entirely if I didn’t have an actual appointment, so having a set schedule and accountability helps. In SAT prep class, I can make sure students are present and I can check for homework completion, but I haven’t found a certain way to measure effort. We’ve all seen those people at the gym. They are present, but not really working. They may even spend time on the equipment, but they aren’t pushing themselves. Even Bob and Jillian from “The Biggest Loser” can’t help the contestant who won’t put in the effort to help himself.
So if you want to get the best results out of any test prep program or tutoring, you need to be willing to sweat! Be ready to pay full attention in class and put 100% effort toward applying these lessons in the homework and practice tests.
Yes, there is some component of natural ability in test taking just as there is in physical activities. No matter how great my trainers are, I will never have the figure of a supermodel. I’m just not built that way. (Doesn’t help that I’m 5’2” with my shoes on!) I keep going back to the gym because I know I am better off than I was before. I can’t promise that my students will leave SAT prep class and get perfect scores, but I do know they are better prepared and more comfortable with the material.
Knowing that effort is the key factor may disappoint those parents and students who think taking a prep class is the same as buying a higher score. Taking a prep class is like taking a college course: you have the opportunity to learn and improve, but no guarantee on the grade you will earn.
Megan Dorsey, founder of College Prep LLC, teaches SAT preparation classes in Sugar Land, Texas and online at SATSuccessCoach.com.