There are many options available in New York City for standardized test preparation for the SAT exam , including classroom prep and private tutoring. The intrepid student can also choose to go it alone.
Deciphering which option is best and figuring out how your child should prepare for the SAT can be challenging. We'll help you make that tough decision by running through some of the advantages and disadvantages of each preparation alternative.
SAT Test Prep Options for NYC Students | Self Study
Self study is the most inexpensive option. A student who chooses self-guided study can set his own pace and timeline, focusing on the areas where he has the most challenges. The self-study route also means having the choice to study where it is most convenient, whether at home, the coffee shop or the library. And self-study can be very rewarding if a student is exceptionally driven and disciplined.
However, for a child who is extremely busy or tends to procrastinate, going it alone is probably not the best choice. It can be hard for even the most motivated student to make studying for college entrance exams a priority when school, homework and extra-curricular activities are competing for attention.
Another challenge for anyone considering self-paced work can be figuring out the types of questions he or she needs to focus on. Without an instructor to guide the process, a student can find it an uphill struggle to decipher difficult concepts and improve in challenging areas. A student who enjoys working with others or who is extrinsically motivated could also find a self-study process particularly problematic. The College Board, which manages the testing process, publishes a good test preparation book.
SAT Test Prep Options for NYC Students | Classroom Test Prep
Classroom prep is certainly less expensive than private tutoring. Group classes can cost anywhere from $500 to $2500. One-on-one test prep tutoring in NYC generally costs between $115 and $425 per hour, but can be more; for example, it can cost up to $795/hour at Advantage Testing.
Classroom test prep is also reasonably convenient, since you can probably find a test prep provider offering courses in most NYC neighborhoods. Classes scheduled at set times, like private tutoring sessions, provide a built-in structure for students.
Taking test prep with a group of peers can work well for students who excel when working alongside others.
Some students will thrive in a small class setting and benefit from the opportunity to compete with others. Most courses will balance a solid grounding in the core English, Mathematics, Reading Comprehension, and Critical Reasoning material with specific test taking strategies and techniques.
Some classroom test prep providers offer a guaranteed score increase or will allow students to re-take courses at no additional cost.
The downside is that courses are generic, as they are aimed at the average student. A class environment also means that your child receives little or no personalized attention. The social aspect can be fun and motivating for some kids, but for others it can be very distracting.
This test prep option is less flexible than private tutoring or self-study as classes are on a set schedule and have a set number of hours, which can be more or less than a student needs (the average test prep program--excluding proctored practice exams--for the college entrance exams lasts 20 hours).
Some test prep companies, such as Princeton Review and Kaplan, develop their own materials, which means a student might end up having little practice with official SAT questions. Students also tend not trust the results of practice SAT tests that aren't made by the College Board.
It's also important to be wary of marketing gimmicks such as promises of specific score improvement, as increases often depend on your child's learning style and efforts.
Test prep at some of the big test prep companies comes with a high price tag. Another disadvantage of some of the well-known large companies is the inconsistent quality of instructors, both the teachers in test prep classes and private tutors.
Instructors in these companies (and sometimes in smaller ones) are often poorly paid, and there is often high turn-over of test prep teachers. Your child may be lucky enough to get an outstanding, experienced instructor or a talented and charismatic new recruit, but she also may face an unproven newbie.
Because of these pitfalls, it is not necessary to immediately gravitate towards the big-name brands. Smaller, or local NYC companies can provide a similar quality of classroom test preparation often at a lower cost.
SAT Test Prep Options for NYC Students | SAT Private Tutoring
Private tutoring provides personalized and customized attention for your child.
Accountability is built into the process, and a good tutor will keep a student engaged and motivated.
A private tutor can spend time on teaching the material and strategies that your child needs the most help with and can also provide explanations for particularly difficult concepts.
Sometimes students need more help with learning (or re-learning) actual material, whereas others need more training in the techniques of test-taking. A private tutor can assess your child and help create an individualized study plan that addresses his or her needs.
Knowledge of the material tested and an ability to use various strategies at appropriate times during the exam are key elements in helping a student achieve a good score. However, a third factor has a strong but unpredictable influence on test prep performance - self-confidence.
The right tutor, like a good teacher, can help with this aspect. Great tutors help children reduce stress and believe in themselves. Private tutoring is also convenientand flexible, as you can schedule tutoring sessions to fit with the family's calendar.
Private tutoring is likely the best path for students who feel more at ease in a one-on-one situation and who may not want to interrupt classroom instruction to ask a critical learning question.
The downside is that hiring a private tutor in New York City is less cost effective than group or classroom prep. Many NYC tutors will come to your own home, but many of the best tutors in New York City require that students travel to them.
Some of the larger private tutoring companies will insist that their tutors work with proprietary materials and curricula, a method of teaching the test that does not allow tutors the flexibility to adjust to the needs of each individual. And even with a helpful and knowledgeable guide, a student needs to commit to doing homework and practice on her own in order to reach her highest potential.
If you are considering hiring a private SAT tutor in NYC, you have a variety of choices. Many NYC test prep tutors advertise on sites like Wyzant. These tutoring companies say they screen applicants, but it is hard for a parent to determine the quality of the thousands of tutors available on these websites, which serve as kinds of centralized databases.
Another alternative is to work with a tutor from a big box firm like Princeton Review and Kaplan or from a smaller national brand such as Varsity Tutors.
If you prefer a more personalized experience, you may want to choose a tutor from a local NYC boutique tutoring and test prep company.
SAT Test Prep Options for NYC Students | Referrals for NYC SAT Tutors
Finding a high-quality tutor in NYC is not easy. Many of the best NYC tutors are independent and can be found only through referrals from other parents, teachers, and school officials.
Some of the most successful independent tutors in NYC founded boutique businesses in order to manage the high level of requests and referrals they receive. Approaching a boutique tutoring and test prep company in NYC can be one way to connect with one of these tutors.
Ultimately, the choice of test preparation will depend on a student's particular learning style, schedule and budget. No matter how many classes and tutoring services a student uses, a student should also take practice tests, particularly in an environment that simulates a real-life testing situation.
For example, Bespoke Education provides mock testing in NYC. It is widely agreed that taking practice tests is one of the most effective means of preparation for all students and an important path to success on standardized tests.