As you begin the track towards taking college entrance exams, you may be starting to experience some anxiety about the prep work itself. There are countless options available to you--internet practice, apps, prep classes run by organizations like The Princeton Review. With so many paths for preparation available to you, it may hard to decide what the best method of bettering your score is.
Here’s what research tells us.
Look at your areas of weakness.
Studies have shown that coaching (from prep classes or a private tutor) is more effective on math sections than on critical reading sections. Are you consistently getting lower scores in your math sections? Or do your scores have a large variation in each practice test you take? Depending on the answer, you may do just as well spending time studying and practicing on your own (or with the help of your Math teacher) than you would paying for additional lessons--it may be a matter of lack of focus, or perhaps in timing, if your scores are inconsistent.
If you are consistently scoring lower than you’d like in Math, however, maybe tutoring is an option.
Check the standards for you institution of choice.
Depending on your practice scores, you can determine where you fall on your college or university’s testing demographic. Prep classes have been shown to increase sectional scores by as many as 20 SAT points, which, depending on your school and current score, may make a difference to your school of choice. Do your research here.
Consider more immediate and personal methods to increase your score.
Sometimes large prep classes can feel impersonal, and are easy to get distracted in. Personal review and responsibility can play a major factor here. You can’t control the way a class is taught, but you can control how you study, and how you pace yourself. The internet is a great tool for review. There are many great apps available, from vocabulary flashcards, to full on sample questions, many of which are free. Carving out time every day to help review may be just as effective in increasing your score. Taking your education into your own hands can help boost self-efficacy, which has been shown to improve test scores. In other words, the more comfortable and confident you feel in your academic abilities, the better you’ll do.
Test accessories like the Top Score Test Watch are another great way to stay in control; by knowing exactly how much time you have in each test, you can pace yourself in a way that keeps you on track and ensures you get to as many questions as possible. The Watch also takes away any test-day anxiety regarding having the appropriate materials, as it is completely approved for the exam room.
There are plenty of different ways to prep for your upcoming exams, and the important thing is to tailor your review to your personal educational style and goals. Do your research, take practice exams, and decide what course of review is best for you. Give yourself plenty of time.