Question #6: How will practice tests be used?
Practice tests are an essential part of SAT prep. No matter how well a student learns the concepts tested on the SAT, he will not be truly prepared until he practices taking timed SAT exams to get used to the format and timing of the test, as well as the to actual questions that show up on the SAT.
The timing of these exams is very important. Some classes give practice tests every week or even more often. And most students in these classes get the same score on test after test, showing that this approach is not benefitting them at all. It is a far better use of time to really learn the concepts tested on the SAT before starting to take a lot of practice tests.
An extra note of caution:
I have found that in some cases offering too many practice tests too quickly can actually hurt students. They go through all of the available College Board tests without getting any real benefit out of them. Then they are left to try to improve their score with alternate tests from other sources that simply don’t provide the score increases that real College Board tests do. So this may very well be the most important question you ask.
Question #7: How many practice tests will be offered?
Once a student has a solid understanding of most of the concepts, I would advise that he take at least 3 practice tests. And I advise taking even more if he is shooting for a large score increase (greater than 500 points) or a very high score (over 2000).
Question #8: Will the class go over each test thoroughly?
One of the most important parts of test prep (and the one that students like the least) is extensively reviewing each test right after they take it. Students need to go through each question that they answered incorrectly to determine why it was wrong and to figure out why the correct answer was a better choice. This isn’t easy to do in a class setting, so ask about how they will be able to do this.
When left to review tests on their own, even the best students will simply go through the test and read the correct answers. It is very hard for them to figure out why they missed questions, so they get frustrated and move on to the next question. At the beginning of this process students simply don’t believe that there is any way to understand what seems to be truly mysterious reasoning behind the correct answers.
It is a tough process to figure out the logic behind the SAT, particularly on the critical reading section. And the only way to really develop an understanding of this logic is to work through numerous practice tests and to really understand why the correct answer is correct. I have never met a student who couldn’t figure out this logic if they put enough effort into it. However, it always takes a lot of guidance and hard work. And it can only be achieved by really understanding what went wrong on practice tests.
No class will be able to provide completely individualized test review. So I highly recommend that students aiming for large score increases and/or very high scores follow up the class with a program that provides College Board practice tests and one-on-one tutoring.
In the next post in the series I will discuss questions that you should ask about homework and class size.Amy Martin Rodriguez, PhD Academic Coach and Owner Click here to email me your questions! Click Here to read “Finding the Best SAT Class for Your Child – Part I”…