Starting Test Prep Process - Any Recommendations? Guidance? Do's/Don'ts?

My oldest (daughter) is sophomore and just starting the test prep process. Way, way back in my day, test prep was simple, you took Kaplan or Princeton Review (or both) and then took the test.

Now days there’s a ton of options and I’m finding it difficult determining the best strategy. My daughter’s school is subtly recommending the private tutor route for everyone, and of course, they happen to have a suggested provider. But I’m the type that prefers to do my research before clicking that “buy” button. But there are SO many options available: Independent private tutors, private tutoring companies, online courses, Kahn Academy, self-directed study from books, etc.

My daughter has taken 1 practice test and scored a 28, so there’s definitely room for improvement. I understand that “every kid is unique” and “different kids have different needs and learning styles”, but seriously, with millions of kids going through this process, there has got to be some general consensus regarding which test prep options provide a better product, “best practices” or “lessons learned”, be it an online course, or a private tutoring company, or whatever. People with multiple kids may have tried different options and been happier with some options over others. Or maybe the parents in your book club or softball team tried various options with greater or lesser success. Or better yet, maybe there’s some sort of objective evaluation somewhere…

We’re even open to a combination of options, starting with A and finishing with B, if that might work best.

Lastly, I’m also not sure if this type of question is allowed on these boards, or if they don’t want us discussing personal experiences with test prep companies because of advertising or spam issues/considerations. If that’s true, then where might be an objective evaluation of the available options? Which courses yield better results (on average), which tutoring companies have a more rigorous/defined program or approach, etc?

Apologies for the lengthy post. Any help or advice, either posted here or via PM, would be greatly appreciated. Thank you so much, and hope you have a great day!!

As a practising tutor, I highly recommend your daughter to really start the preparation now in order to have an opportunity to fully but calmly prepare for the tests.
I would advise looking into Kaplan, it is still a good resource with a reasonable variety of materials.
A few of my students use Chegg and this Benchprep Ascend for their preparation.
Most of my colleges work on Tutor.comand provide all the needed courses or private lessons.
Being a writer and editor, I also recommend taking seriously the writing part of the tests, it has a decent impact, bigger than some people may think, for bettering essay skill I recommend looking through already pre written essays base and taking into account all the details, structure, words and phrases used for your daughter future writings.

Hoping any of the above will be useful, wish you strength and luck to your daughter in these challenging part of her life!

Thank you for your reply. I’ll check out Kaplan.

I’m actually surprised I didn’t get more replies and suggestions either here or via PM, given I’m sure people have both positive and negative experiences with various test prep providers.

Or maybe my post was too long, and given attention spans in this digital age…
My fault for not keeping it short and succinct.

Another tutor here, just wanted to point out that both the ACT and SAT recently cancelled the essay section, so there’s actually no need to prepare for that – yay for shorter tests!

I’d tailor your approach to your daughter’s learning style. Does she have the discipline & persistence to get the basics by working her way through a test-prep book on her own? Or will she need the structure of a class, or the encouragement of a private tutor? Honestly, the prep books+Khan Academy are pretty good. If she’s a motivated visual/verbal learner, she can probably learn half of what she needs to know, or more, from reading and working through a book for about 12-15 hours – long enough to get exposure, but not so long she gets discouraged or overwhelmed. Then, she could work with a tutor to learn & practice the remaining half over about 5 months with ~1.5 hrs tutoring + 1hr homework per week.

But if she’d benefit from having external structure & direction from the get-go, I’d recommend starting with a tutor right away. With her relatively high baseline, I just don’t think a basic group prep class will add as much value because it won’t be tailored to her specific needs.

This summer is a great window to dedicate some study time before junior year ramps up, and to hone her overall reading/skimming skills – the ACT Reading & Science require speed-reading. On the other hand, her math knowledge will improve significantly as junior year goes on, so she will want to either make an effort to learn the handful of advanced concepts ‘early’, or wait for a spring test date. My 2 cents – interested to hear what others think too!

I have prepared a video on how to the ace the ACT, and maybe it can help you out.

@RossyJo and @curiocity915 – Jumping in to ask how does one find a quality local tutor? I know my kid (rising junior) needs the structure so I’m not bothering with the self-directed route.

I know no parents locally that used a tutor. My kid goes to boarding school and is home for the summer.

Is there a site that y’all recommend for finding in-person tutoring help? We are in northeastern PA.

I hired a private tutor to work one-on-one with D20. She came highly recommended from another family in town who hired her to work with her kids. She reviewed the results of D’s 10th grade PSAT and had her do a practice SAT. They worked together to find a schedule and strategy. They met for an hour a week for just about a year, spring 10th grade through SAT of 11th. Overall score improvement was 110 points between 10th grade and 11th grade PSAT and another 110 points by the time she finished her attempts at the SAT.

If you don’t have a recommendation for someone local, you can try reaching out to the math department at a nearby college. They may have students who tutor to make extra money. It may not work for the summer, though.

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Thanks, appreciate the insight!

Your best bet is to post locally on a parents’ social media page. That’s how I get most of my work. They ask on Facebook or similar and people give recommendations for who their child worked with.

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