Most students applying to college will need to take one of the two major standardized tests: the SAT and the ACT.
These tests are a key factor schools use to make admissions decisions, so you’ll want to do your best. That means dedicating time to preparation, but how do you know what style of test prep is right for you?
First, it’s important to know the options. There are three routes when it comes to test preparation:
- Group classes
- One-on-one tutoring
Let’s take a closer look at each.
This means tackling standardized test prep without the structure imposed by a tutor or class. Self-study helps you learn how to tackle big projects and builds your skills for preparing for high stakes events. This can be an exciting challenge—for the right student. While self-study gives you the flexibility to set your own study schedule, it can also be a trap for students who are prone to procrastination. Self-study is not an excuse to slack off! If you do choose to tackle SAT/ACT prep on your own, you’ll need to create some structure for yourself: our Guide to SAT/ACT Preparation can help you do exactly that. And keep in mind that self-study doesn’t mean you have to go it completely alone! Enlist a parent to help keep you on track, or join up with a few friends for some group study time.
We’ll come right out and say it: group classes are Signet’s least favorite option for test prep. We find that they are often not worth the investment. Group classes do have some benefits: they force students to commit to regular study time over a period of several weeks or months, and there is a teacher or facilitator on hand to answer questions. But the curriculum is predetermined rather than being tailored to an individual student’s needs. Students who are struggling in a particular area may find that the course has moved on without them, and students who score above average on the diagnostic exam may find the pace of the course too slow. The quality of facilitation and the classroom environment also vary widely.
Private tutoring is the most intensive and most individualized test prep support out there. A good tutor will work with a student to structure a study plan, identify and improve specific areas of weakness, and provide accountability to make sure the student follows through. Tutors usually have tons of experience in test prep, so they can help students avoid common mistakes. They can also offer support beyond teaching the content of the SAT or ACT, like helping students get in the right frame of mind and develop strategies for navigating the test-taking experience. Tutoring does require the highest investment, but students are likely to see much more significant improvement in their scores and test-taking abilities than with the other two methods.
Now that you understand the options, let’s take a look at which choice may be right for you. Keep in mind that you will have to do some amount of test prep on your own, even if it’s guided by a group facilitator or private tutor. There’s just no way around putting in the work!
Self-study is right for the student who:
- Has scored well on a diagnostic exam.
- Has plenty of time to prepare (at least a couple of months).
- Has a good command of the test content, without any major areas of weakness.
- Is able to set and stick to a study plan on their own.
Group classes may be right for the student who:
- Is an average scorer and wants systematic exposure to all test content.
- Is looking for a modest rather than a huge improvement in scores.
- Has general proficiency with test content but needs help in one or two areas.
- Needs the structure of a weekly class in order to make sure they study consistently.
- Enjoys and works well in a group setting.
Private tutoring may be right for the student who:
- Did not score well on a diagnostic exam.
- Wants to make significant score gains.
- Has limited time and wants to target the specific areas they need to improve.
- Wants both accountability and support throughout the test prep process.
- Could benefit from the knowledge and experience of a test prep professional.
If you have questions about Signet’s one-on-one tutoring, or if you are still wondering which approach may be right for you, please contact us for assistance!