Test Prep: Classroom Course vs. 1:1 Tutoring

[Carrie is the SAT/ACT Program Manager at Pacific Learning Academy]

With college admissions becoming increasingly competitive, particularly for the top colleges, more and more students are spending considerable time preparing for the SAT and ACT, the standardized tests to get into college. Gone are the days when students simply show up, take the test, and call it a day. For today’s students, a few more questions right can mean the difference between rejection and acceptance, or between college loans and scholarships.

Test prep answer sheet

In addition to the PSAT and PLAN (official practice tests for the SAT and ACT, respectively), college-bound students and their families must now decide among several avenues for test preparation. If self-studying isn’t going to cut it, the next question becomes whether to take a test prep class or to do private tutoring.

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So how should you decide?

Efficiency – With sports, clubs, volunteer activities, and of course homework, few high school students have hundreds of hours that they can devote to test prep, so it’s important to consider which option will deliver better results quicker. Because a classroom course usually has between 10 and 25 students, teachers must generally follow a pre-set curriculum that gives equal weight to each of the test subjects. 1:1 tutoring is exactly the opposite—tutors can focus on areas that will yield the greatest gains for the student, and can cover other topics much more quickly. For students struggling not with test content but with test anxiety or careless errors, 1:1 tutoring is even more effective.

Accountability – Let’s face it. When forced to choose between doing SAT homework and watching a movie with friends, few high school students will choose the former. Nevertheless, much of the success of test preparation comes from independent practice using the strategies and methods learned during class or tutoring. Because there is no official class grade and so many students for teachers to keep track of, students in test prep classes tend to have much lower homework completion rates—assuming that homework is assigned at all. In tutoring, homework can be thoroughly reviewed. And for those days when the movie with friends was just too tempting, negligent students must then look into their tutor’s eyes and admit the error of their ways.

Satisfaction – From what we’ve heard from students over the years, classroom courses tend to have wildly varying student satisfaction rates, largely based on who happens to be teaching the class. Some instructors are wonderful, but even then they might not be the best match for your student’s particular learning style. With 1:1 tutoring, the tutor is carefully chosen just for you. In fact, Pacific Learning Academy has a 100% guarantee that your tutor will be the perfect match.

All in all, the choice is clear. If your student just needs general familiarity with the test and is doing well enough on their own to not need much guidance, a classroom course may be just fine. But in terms of efficiency, accountability, and satisfaction, 1:1 tutoring will always out-perform the classroom course.

Pacific Learning Academy is a one-on-one high school offering single courses and dual enrollment, as well as full-time high school. We also offer tutoring in all subjects from 6th to 12th grade, including SAT/ACT diagnostic testing and prep, either in homes or local libraries across the Eastside (Issaquah, Sammamish, etc…). See more at www.PacificLearningAcademy.com.


January 21, 2013

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