How much test-specific preparation do students typically do for standardized tests these days?

<p>How much test-specific preparation do students typically do for standardized tests these days?</p>

<p>This means not counting normal class and study time for classes associated with content knowledge that they would spend anyway in the absence of the standardized tests.</p>

<p>Back when I was in high school, standardized test preparation was typically:</p>

<li>PSAT, SAT: try the sample questions in the small booklet describing the test.</li>
<li>Achievement (now SAT subject) tests: none, just don't forget what you learned in the associated high school class(es).</li>
<li>AP: none, just don't forget what you learned in the associated high school AP class.</li>

<p>In other words, taking the standardized tests was of minimal cost time-wise (just the time taking the test itself).</p>

<p>But now, based on posts here, it seems that it is normal for students to spend many hours and weekends doing test-specific preparation for these tests. This also means that the time cost of taking a standardized test is much higher than it used to be.</p>



<p>On the other hand, test preparation can be seen as having a “wage” as well. Higher SAT/ACT scores can qualify a student for automatic scholarships, and high PSAT scores can yield National Merit scholarships. (Less tangibly, high AP scores may give students college credit, allowing them to graduate early and spend less.)</p>

<p>I posted this a while back on the thread “How many students actually prepare for the PSAT?”</p>



<p>While the amount of prep has increased, most students still do the above. It’s only a subset that buy a study guide (and even smaller subset that use it!) or take the prep classes. In 2012, 1,666,017 students took the ACT, while 1,664,479 took the SAT. Over 2 million students took AP test in 2012 (for a total of 3.7 million exams).</p>

<p><a href=“More Students Are Taking Both the ACT and SAT - The New York Times”>More Students Are Taking Both the ACT and SAT - The New York Times;

<p><a href=“”>;/a&gt;&lt;/p&gt;

<p>I made sure to eat a banana before I took the FCAT. </p>

<p>@ucbalumnus Back in my day, as far as I knew nobody did ANY prep for the SAT’s and achievement tests. Some, but not many, repeated the SAT. This was among my cohort attending a suburban high school in the Los Angeles area. PSAT? Never heard of it (somehow didn’t get the message), which meant I missed a chance for National Merit. </p>

<p>By 10-15 years years ago (perhaps a bit before that), a small percentage of students in my children’s cohort were hyper-studying, taking test prep courses, etc. But I think most still were not, even among their friends, unless they had aspirations to get into the most selective schools. Around here, almost all took the ACT, less than half took the SAT. In my kids’ case, they first took the SAT in middle school for the Midwest Talent Search. But they didn’t prep for it, other than reading the test booklet. That was all the preparation they ever did for the SAT’s (and SAT II’s) and ACT’s in high school. There just wasn’t a lot of competitive test prep around here (even though we live in a Midwest college town). Most of the best students would head off to the flagship state U. Many others were happy to attend in-colleges that were a step down or point-of-compass, or private schools, most of which are not highly selective in this state.</p>

<p>My son got outstanding scores on all of these tests. My daughter got “good” ones, certainly adequate for her intended study at an art school. However, more recently, when she decided to apply to MBA programs, she studied hard using a Princeton Review self-study program, and she took a refresher math course at a local college. Her GMAT score was significantly stronger than her SAT/ACT’s had been. In this case, she was highly incentivized to show that despite holding a “just” a BFA she could handle the quantitative and writing demands for an MBA program. And it worked!</p>

<p>They may have looked at the SAT test practice book in the bathroom.
I must say oldest did study for the GREs though. Since it had been a few years since graduation she especially brushed up on her math, which she ended up scoring the highest in.</p>

<p>Typically, the high school student does nothing to prepare for the SAT or ACT. </p>

<p>(However, the majority of students represented on College Confidential expend many hours preparing for the standardized tests.) Best of luck to you and yours.</p>

<p>Nothing. </p>



<p>One should never, ever generalize anything from CC. </p>

<p>I went to high school in the 1970s. I did study for the SAT. I did not study for the PSAT (had no idea what it was – I don’t think I even looked at the booklet) and did poorly. I learned from that mistake. I took the SAT twice. I self-studied over the summer and got a much higher score in the fall. I also studied for the SAT IIs – definitely for the biology one. </p>

<p>Most of my friends in my honors classes studied for the SAT. One friend took a test prep class and took the SAT at least 3 times, never improving her score. </p>

<p>I realize my high school must be an anomaly, since most parents on CC boast about their lack of SAT prep. But we definitely studied, and were stressed about those tests.</p>

<p>The main difference is that we did not study to improve a 2250. Most of us who studied scored in the 500s to low 600s (this is before recentering) and hoped for a score above 650. (I don’t recall all my scores, but I know my PSATs were in the high 50s, low 60s, and my final math and verbal SAT were both above 700 – so my studying paid off.)</p>

<p>I don’t think there is a “typical” study amount now. There is a spectrum. There are kids who start studying in middle school. There are middle schools which gear their curriculum to SAT-like tests. There are kids who didn’t study and do well, and kids who don’t study and get 300s. </p>

<p>If you reword your question to: “How much test-specific preparation do students who apply to very selective schools typically do for standardized tests these days?” – then I think the answer is that many of these kids self-study and take courses (many offered through their high schools). The percentage increases even more if we include the modifier “affluent” students.</p>

<p>Well, my children go to a HS that is 70% URM. The school offers some test prep classes after hours, but we didn’t take advantage of it. I don’t think his friends studied at all for the tests, or just used the study books. I asked some friends about what they did (and these were rich people living in rich enclaves) and they were all discouraging - they had sent their children to review courses and were dissatisfied with the results and thought they were expensive and unhelpful. So I bought the Barrons test books for each SAT my son was going to take, and hired a private tutor via Wyzant. He met the tutor for 1-2 hrs once a week for maybe a month and a half. We hired a tutor for pretty much every test, though for less time. I would have sent him to a review course but his sport that wouldn’t let him make every class, and the cost was actually less for the private tutor. He took the SAT twice, bringing his score up from 2100 to 2190 (we just wanted him to get his CR up into the 700 zone.) I think the tutor was very helpful, as he could concentrate on where my son needed to improve. I’m not sure if we would have gone to the trouble of hiring the tutor if my son didn’t have the aspiration and a hook to possibly get into a top 20 college. </p>

<p>Perhaps a little off-base but still related because it’s a standardized test: I admit to having taken a grand total of 3 practice GRE tests, still managed to score 90th percentile on verbal, 95th percentile on quantitative (can’t blame me for that 4.0 in AW but my first language is French, even though, as a physics major I just was expected to score high on Q) which really isn’t much. And no practice whatsoever for the TOEFL; then again, it’s a threshold credential for where I want to go at the PhD level.</p>

<p>The real kicker was that I spent a lot more hours preparing for the physics GRE test than for the general GRE; when I first began studying for it, I used the only book available on campus which was, to be honest, a mediocre book. Then I sought actual previous tests so I could get a better feel for the real test. Must have studied 50-70 hours, including the four practice tests.</p>

<p>My experience in the 70s was more like fireanddrains. I did well enough on the PSAT to be commended, but not nearly as well as I did on the SAT. I don’t remember studying much for the SAT on my own, but we did lots of vocabulary exercises in English that were clearly aimed at the various vocab sections of the SATs. Remember the analogies? Our prep school also insisted we take the SAT twice - once spring Junior year then again fall senior year. We spent most of senior parsing our scores and worrying about where we would get in. Our class did phenonemally well. The male schools had all gone co-ed the year before. Out of a class of 80 - six went to Harvard (still Radcliffe), four to Yale, two to Princeton, some to other Ivies, and lots to the other Seven Sister schools - especially Vassar.</p>

<p>Our school offered a heavily discounted Kaplan course. My older son went to some sessions and practice tests to try to improve his essay score. I became thoroughly convinced they were pretty much a scam. Didn’t waste my money on S2. Both kids looked at some of the Blue Book real tests. But both did phenomenally well in CR just by dint of the huge amount of pleasure reading they have done. Older son did very well in math despite alway making at least a couple of really careless mistakes. Younger son is good at math, but can’t remember formulas so has always been slow. He had a good math score, but not a phenomenal one. Each kid took the SAT twice. Older son got all 800s on all three subject tests in one sitting, so obviously he stopped there. Younger son had a low math score on Math 2 (don’t know why he took it), and retook some while he was taking a different subject on a second round. Both kids looked at the SAT real subject test book, but not more than a few weeks before the test at best.</p>



<p>True – if you think that you are close to a major scholarship threshold, the potential gains from test-specific preparation can be quite large.</p>

<p>However, finding which aspects of your test performance are the ones where you have the most potential gains will help you use your test preparation time efficiently.</p>

<p>I didn’t study for any of those tests, not even to work problems in the booklet that came with the test. I do think there were study guides available for purchase. When I took the LSAT, Kaplan courses were coming into vogue, but I didn’t take one of those either. Many of my peers did. I am a good test taker and so it didn’t matter. </p>

<p>Older son didn’t do any prep. He is good at test taking, though, so no loss. Younger son is not as good at test taking, so he has taken a school district sponsored course and has a blue book. </p>

<p>Where I live, parents with means do put their kids in a prep course. </p>

<p>The idea of studying for standardized test was completely foreign to me until D came along. S was not a very motivated student in the best of times and was actually awarded accommodations because of his IEP. He never even looked at the book we bought him because his learning-resources teacher suggested it. He took the ACT without accommodations for “practice”, got an acceptable score, and never looked back. D self-studied a little bit (maybe three or four hours total) before taking the ACT in 7th grade for CTY and was pleasantly surprised by a double-qualifying score. She also studied some but not much before she took the test this February, assuming (like her brother) that the first go-round would be a real-life “practice.” Like him, she was fine with her first score and is only taking the test again because the state-mandated seating is a graduation requirement at her school. </p>

<p>I do think that feeling comfortable with the format and developing strategies for time management may be key. But studying content seems like overkill. </p>

<p>D will be studying for her AP exams, but she sees it as part of prepping for finals in the class rather than studying to get a particular score on the actual AP test. </p>

<p>DD1 took the skinny book practice for the SAT. I made DD2 do one full practice test for that for potential NMF. Neither did practice tests for APs. Neither took SAT2. Both made NMF. Both got mostly 4/5 on A P</p>

<p>New to this site so I’m not sure if students are supposed to stay out of the parents’ forum, but here goes:</p>

<p>I went to a fairly “high achiever” school and studying for the PSATs/SATs was the norm for decent students, not the exception. Most of it was involved taking practice tests and some people took rather pricey private tutoring from Kaplan or Princeton Review. Personally I took a number of practice tests and also ended up taking exactly two expensive private lessons and I can say it definitely helped bring my score up from good to near-perfect. IMO if your kid is already scoring at least 2100+ on practice tests, dropping $500 on some private coaching could help a lot. edit: lol, this sounds like an advert for Kaplan. Pretty sketchy from a new user, I imagine. To balance this, let me also say that the “group sessions” that these SAT prep companies offer are totally useless unless your kid is a frothing-at-the-mouth idiot. Just take practice tests. </p>

<p>However, my roommates went to “normal” high schools and the students there did exactly zero studying for the SATs, if they even took them. So I guess if you don’t study for them, that’s fine, but know that some of your competition is studying pretty hard for them.</p>



<p>At 2100+, there is not a lot of upside room in the SAT score range, although there may be a few scholarship thresholds at higher scores that the student may want to hit. But how do you tell if the student has upside potential that private coaching can help, and how do you tell if a given private coach will be effective at helping the given student?</p>



<p>In this case, there is effectively no additional studying for the AP test over studying for the class, right?</p>

<p>Student (HS junior) point of view here. I think that the kids on cc are not representative of American high schoolers as a whole.</p>

<p>My strategy: I have never bought or borrowed a review guide. I did take the SAT prep class offered by my school. I took the SAT once, and while not 2400, I am happy enough with the results that I’m not taking again.</p>

<p>SAT II’s I took in June after I took the AP class. Having studied for finals, I saw no value in doing additional prepping.</p>

<p>AP tests were similar in strategy, although I did review past tests along the way to discern themes for the questions. </p>

<p>Whether this strategy pays off for college admissions, we will see in December/March. On a related subject, the posts that appear in April with the headline “How can I self-study for the AP XYZ test” really send me over the edge.</p>