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Are test prep classes as good as private lessons?

Posted by Neal Schwartz on April 25, 2019

                             

This question comes up every year, along with the dandelions and daffodils.

The end of every school year tends to bring a barrage of academic review and prep classes held at local organizations such as religious institutions and colleges.  There is often a buzz about whether the class will close out, since everyone your child knows seems to already be registered.   So, it begs the question:  Is a Regents/Finals class the best thing? 

On the surface, the cost per hour seems to be a no-brainer. But there is a bigger picture to view.  In fact, some teachers will hold review classes after school, which may be even more cost effective. But let’s look at the pros and cons of the class approach.  You can extrapolate this approach to SAT and ACT test prep as well:

Pros for test prep classes

  • Lots of hours; so, price per hour seems attractive
  • Lots of content
  • Unmotivated students will go on their own if other classmates are going

Cons for test prep classes

  1. Not geared for your son or daughter’s specific questions or needs
  2. Class schedule may not fit their schedule
  3. If classes are missed there are typically no make-up opportunities, and some content will be lost
  4. Depending on what content your child needs to master, the time allocated for certain subjects could be either excessive or inadequate
  5. Some children may not feel comfortable asking questions in a classroom setting
  6. Most students are not able to focus on one subject for hours at a time, especially for all day cram sessions
  7. Due to the volume of students, practice tests and oversight for individual students are limited
  8. Students, historically, don’t feel compelled to do their “homework” in a class held outside their school
  9. Wide range in success rates

 

When students have multiple exams to focus on, the class approach may not be the best thing for them.  Certainly, for the student who is already starting with a 95 average, a class may work to maintain or improve their score. The top students are the ones who may drive the class conversations. But for the struggling or mid-range student, they are not likely to get the specific attention needed to improve their score.

How can I be so bold with my statements?   When I first started with my test prep business 15 years ago, I set up classes for test prep.  I quickly found that I wasn’t doing the best thing for our students from a results perspective, since each student had a different set of topics they needed to master.  But more significant was the scheduling, which was so difficult to manage when students missed a class.  Once I moved from classes to individual/private sessions, student scores improved substantially.  Additionally, we have helped countless students AFTER they got lost with the larger classes that they had taken elsewhere.

Class Premise:

100% of the content is covered:  Since you don’t really know what each student knows and doesn’t, a classroom teacher’s approach has to be to teach everything quickly and make a value judgment about what “most” students need to know. 

Private Session Premise:

Cover just what that student needs to know. Have the student take a baseline test to get a specific idea of what they know and don’t know.  Let’s assume that they know 80% of the material.  Now you can focus only on the 20% they don’t know. 

The private approach is much more efficient.  At the end of the school year, and particularly during  junior year of high school, time is precious.  Getting students the review that fits their abilities and desires, while at the same time giving them more time to do other things, can be a life-saver.

The test prep scenarios that I describe above become that much more significant for SAT/ACT prep.  Whereas, a couple of points may not matter for one subject area in school, the impact of an SAT or ACT score can be a huge difference on the range of colleges to which they can apply.   

 

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Topics: college prep, SAT/ACT, NY State Regents, SAT prep, ACT prep, High School Finals, test prep classes, one-on-one tutoring, private tutoring