Test Prep

Three Factors to Consider When Choosing a Test Prep Course

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Not all test prep courses are the same, just as no two students are the same. Your strengths in one subject may be another’s weakness; the strategies and pacing that work for you may not work for someone else. Know what you expect to get out of a course and find the environment that will most help you to maximize your score. For example, in addition to one-on-one tutoring, The Princeton Review offers self-guided courses and small classes. Here are three factors to consider when choosing a test prep course that’s right for you.

Scoring Level


Knowing roughly how well you are scoring on a test is important. (That’s why I recommend you take a practice test if you haven’t already!) If you are already scoring well above the median you will probably not enjoy a course that is targeted for lower-scoring students. You’ll get bored and frustrated that you aren’t getting what you need to improve.

On the other hand, if you are scoring at or below the median, a course that moves quickly, glosses over the basics, and focuses only on harder concepts is likely to make you feel as if you are wasting your time. Find out whether students are pre-tested and put into classes that are grouped by ability so that other students in your class are scoring at about the same level you are.

General Philosophy and Atmosphere

A good fit is important when it comes to effective test prep. If you’re a serious student, you may not respond well to a course that takes a more casual approach to preparation. Or you may find that a particular course’s general approach to the test is too rigid to give you what you need.

If you can, get a taste of what a course is like. Contact a test prep provider and ask whether you can observe a course. Many companies provide a free teaser or orientation session especially designed to introduce newcomers to their services. This can give you an idea of the structure of the courses as well as the types of instructors you will be learning from.

Quality of Instruction 

As with the courses you take in school, the instructor can make a big impact on how well you learn the material. If you’re concerned about your teacher’s ability or content knowledge, you can ask for a more experienced tutor (although you’ll likely have to pay more). That said, a test-prep company wants you to succeed, and any teacher they put in front of you is likely to help. The key is whether you think they’re going to be best able to help you. Ask for what you want because if you don’t speak up about what you want from a course, there’s a chance you won’t get it.

Don’t settle when it comes to getting the score you need to get into your dream school. With plenty of options for both SAT and ACT prep, we at The Princeton Review strive to offer you the experience that will work best for you to reach your target scores.