Here’s the first thing you need to know. Everyone is doing it. Preparing for the tests. On their own, outside of what the school may be doing. Whether they are self-tutoring or group tutoring or private tutoring, not many students sally forth into the ACT or the SAT with zero prep.
Like it or not, that’s the playing field. You may not have chosen it, but your children will be competing in it. Or applying in it, if you don’t like to think of the College Application Industrial Complex as a competition.
Tutoring works; to this I can personally attest. Once your child takes the PSAT, you will know what his or her strengths and weaknesses are in standardized testing, which may or may not be the same weaknesses in school subjects. We knew our son would need some help with math, and would do well with Reading & Writing. We went ahead and tutored for the SAT in all three areas, and he did well in math and did very well in Reading & Writing.
However, I am a preparation freak; you might want to try the first go round early with no tutoring, depending on how far along the curriculum your child is in math & science. Just to give you a sense of your window, here are the remaining test dates for the school year.
December 10, 2016; registration deadline November 4, 2016 / late registration November 5-18, 2016
February 11, 2017; registration deadline January 13, 2017 / late registration January 14-20, 2017
April 8, 2017; registration deadline March 3, 2017 / late registration March 4-17, 2017
June 10, 2017; registration deadline May 5, 2017 / late registration May 6-19, 2017
And here are a few good things to think while you plan your preparation:
Wake Me Up When September Ends. Get the testing (and the essay and the Common App) finished by summer before Senior year. You will not be sorry. Most Early Action is 10/15 – 11/1. Early Action is your friend. And if you can swing the tuition and your child has a firm first-place pick, then Early Decision is your BFF. What’s the diff? You can & should check each specific college’s website but here’s a solid explanation.
April is Not the Cruelest Month. April JR year was the best ACT test month for most of our friends’ kids, with March & May for SAT. Taking any test in June right after / during exams is a total drag, and the spring dates mean your child has learned as much in the subjects as possible. The only exception might be taking the Subject Test(s) in June of Junior year, after the AP in that subject(s), but again, early May could be the less stressful option.
Practice Really Does Makes Perfect. Everyone we know took at least one of the two tests twice. Once as a prep and then at least once more for a better score. Some students take them over and over, but the research we did said there were diminishing returns to that level of stress. Many colleges only require one of the two tests, many super-score = picking the best scores in each section to form the best possible composite, a few require that the student submit ALL test scores = not just their best, and some (private colleges) require either both the SAT & the ACT or….either the SAT or the ACT and 2 Subject Tests. It takes some planning.
You Can Teach A Young Dog New Tricks. Test taking can be a learned skill. There are tricks and tips a tutor can teach your child. And practice really does make a difference. Let’s face it, if your child scored a 36 the first test out, you aren’t even reading this post, (unless it is to gloat, which you should stop).
Which gets us to the point of this article. Here’s the scoop on test preparation in Charlotte:
Practice books can be ordered on Amazon. Try to make sure you are getting as many sample tests as possible. Good test prep books are available from The College Board (maker of the SAT), ACT, Barron’s, Kaplan, and Princeton Review.
There are Free online prep resources for both full course and practice questions
- www.khanacademy.org (partnered with the College Board to provide free test prep for the SAT)
- www.majortests.com/satOn-Line Courses
There are also several paid online options:
- Academic Approach, $299 per course
- Princeton Review, SAT $299 or $169/section; ACT: $299,
- Kaplan, $299 per course or $599 Live Online
- Revolution Prep, $299 or $599 per course, $99 per hour private online option
While these may look pricey, they are more affordable than the private tutoring. If you have an engaged, diligent and responsible teen, you can have lots of success without paying for private or group tutoring. No matter what, you can count on your child have at least an hour of test prep homework each week in addition to the hour+ weekly tutoring sessions.
Charlotte TEST Taking Classes:
- Benthall Test Prep Classes capped at seven students, six 2.5 hour weekly sessions plus 2-3 hours of homework each week. Priced at $895. Online SAT course also available for $295.
- Collegiate Test Prep at CPCC, $299
- Future Prep Educational Services, 704-307-8975, , SAT and ACT classes are $199 each and include 15 hours of classroom instruction, a full-length proctored practice test, and the course text.
- Princeton Review $849+ each ($100-$150 discount on basic course through UNCC Here)
- Kaplan, $799 each
- UNC-Charlotte, 704-687-4451, 15-hour program costs $245, <= 25/class
Here are some of the well thought of private tutors in Charlotte. Costs are about $125 per hour, so you can get over $1,000 quickly.
- Your Steps to College, 704-502-7989, Headed by Robin Pool, includes specialists in different subsections.
- Academic Consulting & Education Services (ACES), 704-614-0380, Directed by Pat Throneburg, includes specialists in different subsections
- Al Benthall, Benthall Test Prep
Your high school will have other recommendations for you, as will your friends and pretty much strangers on the street. The only other time I remember so much advice and counsel was when we were expecting, I guess it’s fitting that everyone thinks it takes a village to both birth a child and to get them off to college.