With so many required school classes and extracurriculars, the idea of taking on test prep classes might feel overwhelming. You might think spending so much time and doing so much work just to prepare for one test isn’t worth it.
However, test prep classes have so much to offer. Here are five important things they can help you do:
1. Become familiar with possibly the most important test you'll ever take
One good thing about a standardized test is, well, it’s standardized. As a result, only so many types of questions can be on an SAT or ACT before the test isn’t standard (or fair) anymore. Furthermore, every student in the world has to be able to unequivocally arrive at the same correct answers. This means that you have control over your score: the more you become familiar with the test, the more your score will increase. In a test prep class, instructors can point out how questions are worded, what topics are covered, and how to identify the correct answer choices. Once you get insight into the construction of the test, you will be able to increase accuracy and speed. Being expeditious is, of course, an important part of scoring well on a timed test. Learning pacing strategies and becoming aware of your test-taking strengths and weaknesses will help you maximize your score, which will ultimately open up more college opportunities for you.
2. Improve academic skills
Besides reviewing the specific knowledge needed to perform well on the SAT or ACT, test prep classes can also help fill in foundational knowledge gaps and strengthen reading, writing, and math skills. You will always be reading (the latest novels, work documents, Yelp reviews...) and you will always be writing (college papers, work emails, social media posts…), so you don’t want to be without solid reading comprehension and grammatically-correct writing skills. These classes will also help you improve time management, teamwork, and study habits that will serve you for the rest of your life.
3. Stay motivated
While it is possible to self-study for the SAT or ACT, without instructor-led classes, you’d be giving up quite a few benefits. Plus, the main question is, will you actually study as regularly, as long, and as intensely as you would as part of a class? The answer is, almost always, no. When an outside entity imposes standards and consequences for not meeting them, it’s much easier to stay motivated. And when you work with other students and ask instructors questions, you usually enjoy yourself more and perform at your highest level.
4. Boost confidence
No matter how well you know the material, your score won’t fully reflect your hard work if you aren’t a savvy test-taker. Test anxiety, pacing, and concentration can all detract from a score. Classes, by providing full-length tests in a simulated testing environment, will help you become more comfortable and confident. When you sit down for the real test, you will know just what to expect and just how to navigate it. If you tend to get test anxiety, or feel unsure of yourself, you can remind yourself that having been part of a class offered by experts in test prep and education, you studied in a way that has a proven track record for being successful. You can rest assured that you prepared sufficiently. Simply knowing that you are ready and that you do know what you’re doing will help you stay self-possessed during the real test.
5. Get scholarships
How about some money? In addition to the National Merit Scholarship, awarded for high PSAT scores, many colleges and universities offer scholarships based on SAT or ACT scores. Some scholarships are awarded partly based on test scores, and some are completely based on test scores. (Try a Google search for “guaranteed scholarships based on SAT/ACT scores.”) Usually, the higher your score, the more money you will get, so it goes without saying that you’ll want to prepare as much as you can.
Whether you take test prep classes or attempt to study on your own, I hope you realize how successful you can be and invest everything you have in yourself. You, and the world, will be all the better for it.
Kiley A. teaches SAT/ACT Writing and leads College Application Workshops at Elite Prep Rowland Heights. As the Elite Community Scholars Coordinator, he also works to spread this college preparation guidance to low-income, first-generation students who may not otherwise have access to such support. Above all, he wants his students to know the far-reaching power of their own self-assurance.