When it comes to entrance exams, the stakes are high. Your score can make the difference between attending Harvard or Jed Clampett U in the Ozark backwoods. It can determine how much financial aid you receive and even what salary you get after school. Although this may not be completely fair, these tests remain a crucial part of the admissions process. Whether you want to be a doctor or a lawyer, a professor or a dentist, you must first pass through a punishing test to prove your worthiness for grad school.

Therefore, knowing how much is riding on your performance, test preparation courses are highly recommended. If you Google test prep, however, you get slammed with a slew of choices from actual accredited programs to Bill's Test Prep Pow Wow. They offer courses online and courses in classrooms. You can buy books or CD-ROMs to guide yourself through the process. These choices can cost you anywhere from $20 to $1,000. By the end of your search, you may feel like you are playing Test Prep Pin-The-Tail-On-The-Donkey.

How do you know which one is the best for you? Following are a few points you may want to consider when making your choice. Test prep classes can give you a huge boost in these formidable tests if you pick the right one:

1. Test format Some exams, like the GMAT, are administered on computers at specialized testing centers. Other exams, like the LSAT, are administered in written packets with a proctor standing by with a stopwatch. Obviously, these are two very different testing experiences that require different kinds of practice and preparation. If you are not accustomed to the format of the test, you may experience some difficulty getting acclimated to the setting on the day of the test.

Here is a general rule of thumb: the closer your test prep mirrors the format of the test, the less disorientation you will experience when you take the test. This means that, if you are preparing for an exam administered on paper, do not take a computer-based course. Similarly, if your test is computer-based, do not take a book-based course. The best prep courses for the LSAT, for instance, are those administered in classrooms by a live instructor. The best GMAT courses are taught on CD-ROM or online or at least give you a lot of practice on a computer.

2. Success rate – Every test prep course will claim that they are God's gift to the world's future grad students, that they provide this feature or that feature that will have you in the ninety-ninth percentile and have grad schools begging you to attend their school. The best way to find out how they really perform is to do some research beforehand. Websites like eOpinions.com can give you ratings for different courses. Most of these, however, are marketing sites for the test prep companies and therefore are less than objective. A better route is to solicit advice from friends who have been through the process.

3. Personal preferences – People learn in different ways. Those who thrive on social engagement might want to choose the classroom over the online course. Those who learn best alone with a book may want to choose an online course or a manual. What you are comfortable with matters when you are trying to get ready for some of the hardest tests known to man. You must, however, balance this with the format of the actual test. If you are uncomfortable working or studying in a classroom but you are getting ready for the LSAT, you may want to force yourself to study in a classroom, just to overcome that discomfort. Better now than on the day of the test when every minute matters.

Test prep can make all the difference. Make sure you pick the prep course that will have you ready and composed on test day.

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3 comments on “Test-Prep Classes: Which is Best For You?

  • As College Admissions Becomes Increasingly Competitive, So Do Test-Prep Companies
    As the importance of SAT scores in the college admissions process continues to grow, so does the demand for private tutoring and test-prep services.
    Boutique companies are doing their best to compete with test-prep giants like Kaplan and Princeton Review that can afford luxuries like real ScanTron tests to grade students immediately after practice exams.
    Parliament Tutors, a private tutoring company based in New York City, recently invested in state-of-the-art software to better diagnose students SAT strengths and weaknesses. “We want to be ahead of the curve,” explains Parliament Tutors President, David Greenberg. “We consider ourselves the most forward-thinking private-tutoring service in the nation. Our software engineers have developed a grading program to assess students’ strengths and weaknesses based on their correct and incorrect answers immediately upon submission. Our tutors are trained to respond to these evaluations.”
    Last year over 1.5 million students took the SAT. College admissions officials are reacting to these SAT advantages by giving increased attention to secondary tests, including Advanced Placement (AP) Exam results and SAT II Subject Test scores.

  • Great materials help a lot when it comes to preparing for those standardized tests, but what is even more important is finding a great tutor to assist you in this process.

    Tutor Bungalow is a new kind of website that allows students to find and contact directly tutors in their area. There is no middle man or company to go through and the service is completely free for both students and tutors.

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