This is a great question, though all students are not of the same level and need, I base my overall recommendation on year in high school.
One of the first questions I ask parents during our initial conversation is if their teen is a reader. If the answer is yes, I know that their student will generally require fewer tutorial hours, merely tweaking.* But what about the majority of students who are NOT readers? Do they not have the potential to score high? The short answer is “yes”, but they need a solid game plan to maximize that potential.
Allow me to present a game plan based on year in high school. I have been using it successfully for over 3 decades, so I know it works . . . !
*Readers tend to do better in the math as well.
FOR PARENTS OF FRESHMEN OR SOPHOMORES
Make sure your student keeps his/her grades up. It’s still the most important piece! Preparing for these exams during freshmen or sophomore year is typically a crap shoot in terms of return on investment – both in time and money!
NOTE: Juniors who prepare for the PSAT + SAT or ACT with Breakthrough Test PrepTM, typically come over a 2-4 month period, maximum. (The time frame depends on level and student schedule.)
For those students who will be taking the PSAT in (8th, 9th or) 10th grade, we recommend our Quick Start PSAT Prep Workshop – not a lengthy course. (See above.) The workshop highlights the core strategies of our more protracted program. It is the perfect overview to allow students to experience our proven techniques. Many boost from a prior PSAT as much as 50-70 points in each section from this single afternoon! (Workshop date, 10/11/15 at Washington Waldorf School in Bethesda. Call for more information, 301.299.4380.)
The summer before sophomore or junior year is the ideal time to take our Efficient Reading Training course. This is where students hone in on improving their reading speed, comprehension and focus. Types of reading addressed run the gamut: newspaper, short non-fiction passages as well fiction and non-fiction books. Test prep is NOT typically part of this training. This program is sometimes recommended during the school year, depending on the student. Call for more information. 301.299.4380.
If your student’s math skills are rusty or weak, we offer a 6-week program: Math Fundamentals for the SAT or ACT. For some students, this a good option during the school year, for others, during the summer is the optimal time. Call to discuss.
Read, read, read! If your teen is not a ‘reader’ have him read movie or concert reviews. Then have your student write the author’s thesis in a complete sentence. RECOMMENDED READING: Jane Eyre, by Charlotte Brote, Pride and Prejudice, Jane Austin, The Alchemist, Paul Coehlo, Sophie’s Choice, William Styron. A Brief History of Time, Stephen Hawking. (Feel free to call the office for a more complete reading list.)
FOR PARENTS OF JUNIORS
The ideal time to begin test prep is the summer before junior year. During the summer, students typically have the time, focus, and maturity to be more committed to the program. This enables them to more easily internalize the skills and techniques, hence be successful. Ultimately, because they have honed their skill set for the PSAT, we know them well enough to recommend their optimum time to take the SAT and/or ACT.
- Students who begin one-on-one preparation the summer before junior year ultimately tend to score higher on the SAT or ACT. Why? They have the time and focus to REALLY learn and internalize the skills and thereby develop a comfort level with them. This is because they don’t have the ‘interference’ from schoolwork and extracurriculars. When school begins and students’ priorities obviously must change, they only need to come to their lessons every other week, just to maintain.
- If a student begins test prep in the summer, the mindset for preparing for the SAT or ACT is much different – in a very positive way. The pressure is off, as the student has already developed a confidence level with the skills and strategies– remember one doesn’t forget ‘skills’. That said, there is so much less pressure coming back for SAT or ACT prep as it’s merely review and practice testing.
- In working with the student in the summer/fall, we will know the student well enough to recommend which exam the student should take, as well as the optimum time to take the test(s). Is this student ready to take the ACT in November or December or should he wait until March to take the redesigned SAT or April to take the ACT?
- Many juniors are strong students and would benefit from test prep for the PSAT as they could score high enough to be a National Merit Scholar. Please note that this year there are $180MM in merit scholarships being offered which is three times more than last year. There are tons of scholarship providers, i.e., The Hispanic Scholarship Fund, United Negro College and many more.
Do your research and find out what program is best for your teen. Recommendations from friends are a good place to start, but make sure the program will satisfy YOUR teen’s needs, level and schedule. ALL PREP COURSES ARE NOT CREATED ALIKE! (See previous blog: 10 Truths You Must Know BEFORE Selecting a Test Prep Program for Your Teen.)
If BreakThrough is your choice – and we hope it is – your teen will take the first step with our 60 Second Better Test Assessment: ACT or SAT? as well as identify which of the 6 types of learners is most applicable. Your student will then complete the Student Profile Questionnaire. Parents will complete the Parent Profile Questionnaire. Then in the scheduled BreakThrough Test Prep Strategy session, a personalized game plan will be formulated based on the information gleaned from the assessment and profiles. This game plan will ultimately determine the better exam, when it should be taken and how many hours of test prep will be required based on students’ needs and level. I will also share more about BreakThrough’s innovative approach to test preparation and why it has been successful for over 30 years!