There are probably as many “test prep” options available as there are opinions on the subject. Some are free; others can cost into the hundreds of dollars. Some are geared toward familiarizing the student with the format and content of the test, while others “guarantee” that the student will get a minimum score. The best test preparation is not necessarily the most expensive one available. So how does a student, or the parents, decide how much is too much when it comes to preparing for the ACT and SAT tests? No matter how much money you are willing to spend, your first stop should be the school’s Guidance Counselor’s office to pick up the test prep materials available for free.
In most instances, the best test preparation information comes directly from the company that produces the tests. Go to http://www.actstudent.org/testprep/index.html for the ACT test, and to http://www.collegeboard.com/student/testing/sat/prep_one/prep_one.html for the SAT test. The ACT website charges $19.95 for the online test prep program, and $25 for their book, The Real ACT Prep Guide, which can be purchased for about a third of the price from Amazon. The SAT website offers completely free online test prep. They will allow you to download a full-length test and answer sheet. You then take the test at home, enter your answers on their website, and they provide you with a score report and answer explanations. They also offer a book with eight practice tests for $19.95. For most students who already do well in school and are good test-takers, these resources should be sufficient.
Other options are available at additional expense for those students who have already taken the test and need a higher score to qualify for college admission or a scholarship, and for those who are not good test-takers or need additional help in a particular subject that appears on the test. Both Kaplan and Sylvan Learning provide test preparation, either private in-home sessions or group classroom-style sessions, for a high fee. They do not generally disclose their fees on their respective websites, but they do run discounts from time-to-time for up to $200 off the total. Kaplan also guarantees that you will get a higher score on the test the second time you take it if you go through their program prior to taking the second test.
With the various software, books, and private tutoring available for test preparation, there is no excuse for a student not to prepare. The only question is how much to spend in the process. Great test preparation can be done by a dedicated student without spending a dime.