The Ivy Coach Daily

April 5, 2011

ACT and SAT Prep

Learn about what companies like Kaplan and Princeton Review don’t tell you should you choose to go to them for ACT and SAT prep (bad idea).

There is an article in “Smart Money” today that discusses ten things SAT prep companies such as Kaplan and Princeton Review don’t tell you. While we at Ivy Coach agree with some points raised in the article and disagree with others, it is important to note that Kaplan and Princeton Review are not the only SAT and ACT test prep in town. In fact, they offer mediocre services that often don’t allow students to reach their SAT and ACT goals. But there are a number of private tutoring companies that offer personal instruction and tested, proven techniques that absolutely improve students’ SAT and ACT scores exponentially. We at Ivy Coach happen to offer such services.

Let’s dissect some of the complaints aimed at test prep companies such as Kaplan and Princeton Review in the “Smart Money” article:

1. “Big Improvements? We’re exaggerating.” Kaplan and Princeton Review advertise that they will boost scores exponentially and, as it turns out, many of the students who complete these courses only boost their scores a bit…or not at all. According to the “Smart Money” article, “A 2009 report by the National Association for College Admission Counseling (NACAC) found that while many test-prep providers advertise average score increases of 100 points or more on the SAT, average gains were closer to 30 points, out of a possible total score of 1,600 (the research predated the addition of the writing section of the SAT in 2005). For the ACT, the average gain was less than one point out of a possible 36.”

2. “The test may be over, but we’re sticking around.” Kaplan and Princeton Review are criticized for continuing to mail brochures and ads to its previous clients well after they’re done with the SAT or ACT. It’s often difficult to get off their mailing lists even if you directly ask them to remove you from the mailings.

3. “Well, we think this works.” According to the article, “There have also been relatively few studies on the effectiveness of test coaching services – and the ones that have been are not exactly conclusive. For example, most of the research conducted on SAT prep programs since the 1950s involved studies of small groups of students and not ’necessarily representative of the national population,’ according to the 2009 report by the National Association for College Admission Counseling. Even less research has been done on prep courses for the ACT and other admissions tests. Kaplan, Princeton Review, PrepMe and other companies all say they conduct regular surveys and studies to monitor what’s working (and what’s not) when it comes to their classes and products.” We at Ivy Coach agree and disagree. Our students don’t use Princeton Review. They don’t use Kaplan. And they don’t use these services for a reason. But the SAT, ACT and Subject Test tutoring that we offer absolutely do improve scores. We see it firsthand every time our students tell us their score results on these exams.

4. “You can prep yourself.” Studying vocabulary and practicing math problems absolutely will help your SAT or ACT scores. No doubt about it. But studying alone without test prep is ill-advised. You’re putting yourself at a disadvantage when so many other high school students are working with tutors. Studying and tutoring should instead complement each other.

5. “What guaranteed refund?” Kaplan and Princeton Review often offer refunds but clients have been known to have trouble actually securing refunds when their scores don’t go up as advertised.

6. “This is going to be stressful.” No kidding! No matter how you prepare for the SAT or ACT, it’s going to be a stressful process. There is no getting around that. How is that a just criticism of any test prep service – even for an ineffectual one such as Kaplan or Princeton Review?

7. “Test scores aren’t really that important anyway.” Please! SAT or ACT scores are a major component of one’s chances for gaining admission to the colleges of one’s choice. Test scores are absolutely important!

Check out the “Smart Money” article here.

And check out our related posts on the SAT or ACT: SAT Prep and College Admissions Flaws.

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