Guide to Awesome Test Prep: How to Choose the Best Test Prep Solution for You

There are lots of ways you can study for big tests: group classes, private tutoring, self-study books, or online courses. These pros and cons of each type will help you decide which method is best for you.
Crystal Nikish's avatar by Crystal Nikish, PrepMe Student Advisor. She graduated from Penn State with a degree in English and a minor in Education Theory and Policy. Her favorite food is chocolate.

After you decide which test you should take, ACT or SAT, the next step to awesome test prep is to decide what type of prep will work best for you. There are lots of ways you can study for these big tests: group classes, private tutoring, self-study books, or online courses. Which method you should choose depends on how you learn, the cost of the program, availability in your geographic location, and the quality of materials. Let's check out each option and find out which type of test prep will work best for you.

Group Classes

This is probably the most popular test prep method, and the one that everyone thinks of first. Many high schools host test prep classes in their buildings on the weekends, or there may be corporate centers nearby for different national test prep companies. Expect to pay between $600 and $2,000 for a full course, depending on length and class size.

Pro: Having a designated class meeting time may help procrastinators stay on the ball.
Con: Since lessons are not tailored to you, you waste time learning things you already know.


Private Tutoring

Private tutoring offers a more individualized approach to test preparation, with the most hand-holding and accountability for completing assignments, but you'll definitely pay for it. Tutor availability and quality greatly varies by region, and can cost up to $10,000 for an in-demand instructor.

Pro: Premier 1-on-1 tutoring courses often result in impressive score improvements.
Con: Very expensive, plus choosing an experienced, quality tutor can be a challenging task.


Self-Study Books

Everyone is familiar with test prep books and how to use them. Most of them include practice tests and test-taking strategies, but they don't usually teach the actual skills needed to ace the exam. Books cost less than $20 at most book stores and online retailers, or may even be available for free at your local library.

Pro: If you already know most of the content, books are cheap and will teach you about the test.
Con: There's no accountability besides yourself, and no one to help you when you get stuck.


Online Courses

The content and structure of online courses vary considerably, but most are self-paced and give you in-depth reports of your skills and improvement. Programs are available wherever you have internet access and the cost can range from $300 to $1,000, depending on the length of the course and extra resources available.

Pro: If you have a busy schedule, you can study in short blocks or off hours - whatever works.
Con: Online courses are only as good as their content. Make sure you try it before you buy it.


Before you choose your method of test preparation, make sure you do your research: check into official score improvements, learn about the quality of the content and materials you'll be getting access to, and make sure that the company you choose is trustworthy. PrepMe, for example, offers a 100% money-back guarantee if your scores don't increase. You can even take a 5-day full trial of the whole PrepMe online test prep course for just $5. Once you decide which type of test preparation will be best for you, you'll be ready to move on to Step 3: Study Based on Your Strengths and Weaknesses.

filed under Test Prep, Guide to Awesome Test Prep
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