Updated: Sep 15, 2020
Test prep is big business! Because taking tests is big business. According to the news, American's spent more than 2.5 billion dollars on test prep last year. Companies like Kumon, Sylvan, KD Prep, Princeton Review, and College Board make a fortune off of students hoping to be one of the 1 percenters that earn a National Merit title. But are test prep worth the time, stress, and money? Which programs actual raise scores and which ones simply take your money and your time? With the industry growing at 4% each year, pressure on parents to pony up big bucks for test prep will only increase. The best prep for your student . . .IT DEPENDS.
1st Get A Baseline - Before you know if test prep is going to be of value, you need to get a baseline for your student. The best baseline is a PSAT in 9th grade since it is so well normed. The new CLT10 will replace the PSAT as a baseline as soon as it is taken enough to be validated but for now we will stick to PSAT NMSQT or 8/9 without prep as a way to know where a student naturally fits in the national testing pecking order. Taken in 8th or 9th grade, the right baseline can tell you three important things.
Do you have a shot at National Merit? With a PSAT in had, we can tell you with near certainly what your odds are of being in the running for NMS. If you don't have a statistical shot at NMS, then why spend money & energy of onerous prep? Prep does not change the odds, its just burns out the student --- and cost money!
Do you have a learning difference or gap? With a good baseline, we can spot a problem. Fixing that problem before graduating high school is so much more important than increasing your ACT from a 21 to a 23.
Will you have a shot at Merit Aid? Merit is the biggest non-loan dollars you can get for college and it is based entirely upon your GPA + SAT or ACT. PSAT (or any other good baseline) can predict your SAT and ACT with good accuracy. Then we know which tests to take moving forward and how much money/energy to spend prepping.