There are three things families need for effective prep. Two are obvious. The third, not so much.
1. Picking the cheapest provider. Instead, pick a prep company that has a record of providing quality prep, an enjoyable experience, and great results. At some point, we have probably all been there: choosing the cheapest provider because we think they can get the job done just as well as others. Sometimes they do. But, we have all probably had the same experience of wishing that we had chosen a provider with a higher price and higher quality. Instead, we might have had to redo the job again, whether it is a roof, siding, etc. In the end, we ended up paying more than if we had chosen a quality provider from the beginning. Except, with test prep and grades, there might not be a redo, especially if a student is close to admission deadlines for college. A student’s grades, scores, and future are too important to risk.
2. Not taking full advantage of quality prep. In other words, if need be, help make sure students do the assigned homework. Again, this is obvious, but even the best tutor is more effective if students are doing homework and parents help keep students on task. Doing homework allows us to use the session time most efficiently: targeting weaknesses found on the homework.
3. Taking breaks. This mistake is all too-common: students are doing well on practice tests, have increased in score, and think they did incredibly well on the last official test they took. Maybe they did (hopefully they did). However, if students are hoping for an extravagant increase from one test to the next, their optimism is likely to be misplaced. Score increases of three or more points on the ACT from one test to the next do happen, but they are uncommon. If a tutor thinks a student will need to take more tests, then it is overwhelmingly to the student’s advantage to continue prep without taking a break. Otherwise, all too often, students yo-yo: they improve and take a test, then take a break and decline, then resume prep and improve. But, without more prep to get them back up to and beyond where they were, sometimes they only improve back to the same score. This leads to feeling dejected and apathetic because it looks like their work is not paying off, but it is and was: they just took a break and then improved back to where they were. Breaks are such a large factor influencing eventual score goals that a few years ago we started tracking the difference in score increases between students who do and do not take breaks. The result: our average student who does take breaks increases 4 points on the ACT (still a very good increase). However, our average student who does not take breaks increases a stellar average of 6 points on the ACT. A 50% higher increase in score! Which is also not surprising given that, of those students who take breaks, the average break between tests was three weeks. If they take the test three times, for instance, then that is over two months less of prep. This loss of prep time, combined with starting to forget the material when they take a break, has a very significant impact on a student’s overall score increase. To address this issue (we know that families do not want to spend more on prep and later find out a student had reached his or her goal on the last test), we refund any money spent on prep between taking a test and scores coming back if we advised a student to continue prep and they reached their score goal on the last test. In this way, families have the assurance that they are not wasting money and that they are providing the necessary consistency of prep to ensure their children achieve their potential.
Avoiding the above mistakes requires time and resources. But, so does everything worth doing. And providing for your child’s future has greater worth than almost anything else.