When I took the SAT many (many) years ago, I knew someone who took a test prep class. Yes, I knew exactly one person in my high school class of 377 who actually prepared for the SAT. Today, the decision for many students and their parents is not whether to prepare for the exams but rather how to wade through the crowded field of test prep options.
The notion of preparing for college admissions tests is now so common that even the owners of the two exams — College Board and ACT, Inc. — provide study materials and courses. These free or inexpensive resources are a good place to start. But if you are also exploring commercial alternatives, it’s helpful to be armed with questions to help you determine the best fit.
Begin by asking yourself what matters most to you. Then ask friends and your college counselor for trusted recommendations. Finally, think about what to ask a prospective test prep provider as you shop around and compare. Here are some suggested questions to put tutoring companies to the test:
- Is testing their true area of expertise? Do they publish research and resources demonstrating this competency?
- Is the firm equipped to handle all of your test prep needs (SAT/ACT, APs, Subject Tests) with subject-matter experts?
- Do they have strong curricula, practice tests, and tools?
- What is their history with college admission testing and preparation? Who provides leadership?
- Do they provide individualized advice that pertains to your specific needs and goals? Do they take time to ask thoughtful questions and listen to you?
- Who are the instructors? How are they hired, trained, supervised, supported, evaluated, and professionally developed?
- How does the student-instructor match process work to ensure a good fit?
- Who is ultimately accountable for a satisfying experience and outcome? Who is in charge of resolving issues along the way?
- What exactly will test preparation involve on a daily, weekly, and monthly basis?
- How are goals set, pursued, and measured? What happens if goals are not reached?
- What are the costs and contractual terms of the program? Are the terms client-friendly? Are they student-centric? Are they easy to understand?
- What are the firm’s expectations for the student? For the parents?
When a prospective client first contacts us to schedule a call with a director, we are prepared to discuss topics like these. They are the sort of straightforward questions we encourage because they get everyone on the same page from the start. Over the years, we have seen that our very best client experiences in the long run start with a thorough and candid initial call where both sides can ask and answer important questions to better understand one another.
The start of summer marks a major transition for rising juniors and seniors and is therefore an ideal time to schedule a strategic planning call. Our directors look forward to answering your questions and are sure to have some of their own for you. And if you’d like to tune in to a director- and tutor-led webinar that will delve into the 1-on-1 test prep experience with Compass by tackling some of these questions, you can watch the recording here.