This is a great question that I get ALL of the time. As all students are not of the same level and needs, I base my overall recommendations on year in high school.
I see many students who have come to me as juniors after having worked with another company for test prep for as long as two years! Are their test-taking skills stronger, their knowledge of techique,strategy, and pacing better? Did they have clarity about which would be their better exam: SAT or ACT? Sad to say no. Not that they gained nothing, as I believe that one gains from ALL educational experiences, but would their time have been better spent honing in on their critical reading, thinking and problem solving skills as opposed to actual test prep? Absolutely! To summarize, preparing for these exams during freshmen and sophomore year is typically a crap shoot in terms of return on investment – both in time and money!
That said, here is my Ideal Game Plan to prepare for the SAT and/or ACT . . .
For parents of freshmen or sophomores:
- Make sure your student keeps his/her grades up. It’s still the most important piece! Remember what I said earlier, test prep for these exams during freshmen and sophomore year is not worth the time and money. NOTE: Juniors who prepare for the PSAT + SAT or ACT with Breakthrough Test Prep, typically come over a 2-4 month period, maximum.
- 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 at least 50 points in each section!
- 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. This program is sometimes recommended during the school year, depending on the student level and need. Call me for more information.
- 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 me 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 take in a complete sentence.
For parents of juniors:
- We recommend students begin test prep the summer before junior year. This is the ideal time to begin, as they have the time and maturity to be more committed to the program. They learn the techniques and hone their skill set for the PSAT in the summer/fall at which point we make the recommendation as to when to take the SAT or ACT.
- 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. 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 applicable. Your student will then complete the Student Profile Questionnaire and 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 student’s 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!