Happy 2020! We hope everyone has successfully re-engaged with the real world now that the holiday season has passed.
As you begin the New Year, many of you may have just started or be thinking about starting test preparation for your junior. And some may be wondering, with more schools going test-optional, is test preparation worth the financial and time commitment? Granted, we are biased, but we certainly think it is worth it. Here are three major reasons that you should consider making test preparation a priority in 2020.
1.) With comparatively little time, test scores are an outcome you can control
So many factors play into the college application – grades, test scores, extracurriculars, essays, recommendations, “demonstrated interest” … Without proper counseling, parents can have a hard time figuring out where to devote their resources.
In a survey of college admissions officers, grades remain the most important factor, but they are four-year project. The second most important factor is the rigor of one’s HS courses, another four–year project. But third on the list was test scores, which 83% of respondents said had “considerable” or moderate” importance in the application process. Raising one’s test scores significantly can often be achieved with 12-20 weeks of focused preparation, meeting with a tutor as little as one hour a week and completing 2-3 hours of weekly homework.
With a good tutor, a program such as that could yield ACT score improvements of 4-6 points or SAT score improvements of 100-180 points. These improvements would likely open up a whole new range of colleges to a student. Changing one’s grades to move the needle a similar amount would likely take years.
2.) Improved scores can lead to significant merit money or athletic opportunities
Many schools today are going test-optional, meaning you do no have to submit scores at all with your application. But there are caveats. Certain types of merit money are only available to students with good enough test scores. Admission to certain honors programs or other desirable programs within a college may require test scores even if the college as a whole does not. And prospective college athletes may need to submit test scores even if a college as a whole does not “require” them, as well.
The merit money is probably the broadest draw. As one of our clients said, “the tutoring is not cheap, but we more than made the cost back by (my son’s) improved score making him eligible for merit scholarship amounts many times the tutoring fee.” In this case and others, test preparation can become a lucrative investment.
3.) Test preparation builds crucial habits for school and for life
Think of the qualities associated with a successful test preparation program: regular meetings, consistent homework completion, identifying weaknesses and studying them to remediate them, learning techniques to narrow down a very broad swath of content, disciplined and mindful practice.
While the actual material on the test may not all be particularly useful to students post high-school – who cares what the equation of an ellipse is, anyway – the habits and processes that characterize successful test preparation are applicable to most other large, academic projects as well.
As students get to college, they are required to complete more projects that cannot just be done in one day or one long night. Students need to be able to break up the project, make a schedule to complete the pieces, and stick to the schedule. SAT/ACT preparation provides an assisted experience in managing just such a project. By learning how to study for a standardized test over the long-term, students learn how to plan for the long-term projects they will increasingly encounter in their upcoming academic endeavors, and likely in their work life beyond.
For these reasons, we recommend that many juniors consider making test preparation a priority in 2020. It can pay off big!
Please contact us if you have any questions about how to get started or what type of tutoring may be best for your student.