What Private Test Preparation Institutes don’t want you to know

Does your city have strip malls? If so, do you spend much time walking the sidewalks of these wonderful little communities of capitalism? If you do, you may have had the same experience that I have had. Here’s what happened:

I parked my scooter, propped it up and headed to Jamba Juice. My Caribbean Passion in hand, I walked the sidewalks, looking into the stores. Then I saw it: a Kaplan test preparation center. I took the time to find out what their business was, and it was exactly what it looked like. They prepared students for all of the higher level standardized tests available. They had SAT and ACT courses, along with courses to prepare prospective graduate students for the GRE, LSAT and more.

I walked away shaking my head. I briefly pondered setting up a sign saying, “Don’t bother!” in front of the test preparation center. The thing is that Kaplan and other test preparation institutes are counting on potential customers’ ignorance. There are a few things they don’t want you to know.

1. Specific knowledge won’t help.
It’s true. The SAT, ACT and the graduate school tests don’t actually test specific knowledge. So any courses that you take that are reviews of a specific subject are pretty much useless to you. These tests are designed to measure your ability in certain areas, such as verbal, analytical and others. So avoid any institute that offers refresher courses in specific content subjects.

2. Principles and strategies will help.
The courses these institutes spend far too much time with the specifics mentioned above, without taking the time to explicitly inform you that you need to learn principles and strategies. That’s right, you need to learn the principles of math and the formulae, not the name of the guy who invented them. You also need to learn strategies specific to each test. These strategies include zipping through a section answering everything you know as fast as you can and then going back to work on stuff you need to figure out.

So don’t waste time; learn the principles and strategies that will give you a leg up.

3. Individual customization is the key.
The course you can take at these test preparation centers are designed for a general audience. You waste your time and money spending half your time in a course in which you know half of the material you are covering.

Instead you are better off getting a test preparation software from a reputable place like ETS or even Kaplan. These good softwares help you quickly identify your weak areas and then you learn and drill what you need to in order to strengthen these weak spots. Again, you are wasting your time in the classroom. You can use a software at any time and anywhere you can take your laptop.

On a personal note, I am glad I knew these things when I was applying for graduate school and was preparing for the GRE. I got a great software application and used it to find out that my math was sadly lacking. The software helped me get the principles understood and drilled enough that I did well enough on the test to surprise myself. So good luck and close the door on that test preparation center. Now go and find a software application and knock yourself out.