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Suniti's Advice Corner

Free Test Prep Services Are Costly To Students

Posted by Suniti Mathur on Tue, Oct 13, 2015

Free test prep is costly

Improving ACT and SAT scores even slightly can make a major difference when it comes to meeting admissions requirements and qualifying for scholarships. Not surprisingly, then, high school students often take steps to study specifically for such tests. Some simply take advantage of ACT and SAT test prep sessions offered at their high schools. Outside of school, free test prep services
--typically offered online--are among the most popular ways to go. Are they "worth it" though? They may not cost money, but they cost time. Unfortunately, many students come away feeling like they wasted theirs and wish they'd invested money in other test prep services.

 It Always Pays to Prepare for the ACT and SAT

Whether a student is naturally gifted at taking tests or tends to struggle with them, it's always a good idea to prepare for the ACT and SAT. Merely being a good test taker isn't enough; students need to have a strong grasp of the material. The most successful test takers have familiarized themselves with the content and format of these tests through extensive practice, which reduces their anxiety and allows them to focus on the task at hand. Here's the thing though: Just any test prep service won't do, and free ones rarely deliver the results students deserve.

Free Test Prep Services: Popular but Less Effective

Everyone likes to save money, so it makes sense that students and their parents often start out by exploring free test prep options online. It's safe to say that such services' popularity is almost exclusively due to the fact that they don't cost a dime. Just because something is popular doesn't mean it's high in quality. Considering how much is on the line with SAT and ACT testing, it's well worth it to invest actual money into preparing for it.

Learn First, Practice Second

Even bright students can perform poorly on standardized tests because they have fundamental gaps in their understanding of the content. Taking free tests online repeatedly without any feedback about how or why questions are being answered incorrectly doesn't tend to work. Students merely learn how to answer those specific questions correctly.

On TestRocker there are over 3000 videos focused on teaching content alone. Even the practice questions come with video explanations from a top private tutor so that students can understand why they are getting questions wrong and quickly recall tough concepts on test day.

A Human Touch Still Matters

Many would argue that free online test prep services are every bit as good as ones that cost money. The main thing they lack, however, is perhaps the most valuable thing of all: customer service. What if a student gets stuck on a question? Is there any tutor support available? What about the technical aspect of the program? Can the student receive technical support 24x7 to ensure there is no interruption in their test prep? Needless to say, free test prep services very often don't include any kind of service, and it's their biggest flaw.

Get Actual Feedback with TestRocker

It's understandable for parents to be wary about investing large amounts of money in test prep services. However, the price of test prep services tends to be more affordable than most people assume. For example, TestRocker, offers a free trial and then charges a one time fee of $699 for unlimited access. Students can prepare for multiple test attempts after paying this one time charge. Compared to group classes, which can be $1000+ or private tutors who charge $40+/hour, TestRocker is quite affordable. Considering what it brings to the table--technical support, customer support and two hand-graded essays returned within 48 hours--it's well worth it too. With this service, students get that last, crucial puzzle piece that's needed to earn higher scores on these important tests.

There's No Such Thing as Free

At the end of the day, so-called free online test prep services aren't free at all. They still require substantial time commitments, and the return on that investment of time is disappointing.

With paid-for test prep services like TestRocker, students receive guidance and feedback, which lets them study more effectively and efficiently. They get far more out of their sessions in shorter periods of time, and they tend to enjoy better test scores too. Considering how much money they can save later in the form of scholarships, there's no doubt about it: Free test prep services are costly to students.

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Tags: test prep

Guessing on the SAT and ACT…Is it worth the risk?

Posted by Suniti Mathur on Sun, Sep 28, 2014

best_guessWhen it comes to test prep students often spend hours studying to ensure that they are not surprised by any of the content on the test. Even with all the time dedicated to studying, it is impossible to predict which questions you will encounter. It is highly likely that there will be a few questions that you just do not know the answer to…that’s where guessing comes into play.

The risk associated with guessing differs depending on whether you are taking the SAT or ACT. The ACT has no guessing penalty, so here students may feel less apprehension about guessing. The SAT does have a guessing penalty. While students who guess correctly will only reap the benefits, those who guess incorrectly will lose 1/4th of a point. On the ACT, we advise our students to guess when they cannot figure out how to solve the problem or when time is running out. On the SAT, students should only guess when they are able to eliminate a few answers. Below are our tips for guessing smart on test day.

Tips for Guessing Smart

Extreme Attraction

Take note of the highest and lowest value listed amongst your math answer choices. Do the same when it comes to sentence completion questions. For each of these questions the CollegeBoard often includes extreme answers to throw you off. If you haven’t been able to eliminate any responses and plan to guess, be sure to go with the answer that is the median between the two extremes.

Units of Measurement

On math questions units of measurement will often be used. Before you guess, double check that the provided answer choices have the unit of measurement that is being requested in the question. Eliminate any choices that are not in the correct unit of measurement.

Question Context

You should depend on question direction and question tone to help you guess more effectively. The questions themselves often contain hints that you can use to find the answer. Look for these if you are ever stuck on a question. 

On the english sections, you will be required to put your vocabulary to use. If you’re being asked to find the opposite of a negative word, it makes sense to eliminate any words that have a negative connotation.

On the math section, skim the question to figure out whether your final answer should be a bigger or smaller value than the values provided in the question. Should your final answer be negative or positive? Will it be an exponent? Polynomial function? Or an integer? The answers to these questions should guide you throughout your process of elimination.

Ultimately with the right amount of preparation you should be able to make educated guesses on the test. 

If you're having trouble deciding on which test date to prepare for, read our blog on picking the right test date!

Tags: For Students, For Parents, sat, test prep, act, guessing

About Suniti

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Suniti is the creator of TestRocker, an online learning platform that helps you unlock your dream PSAT, SAT and ACT scores. TestRocker is based on Suniti’s highly successful and proven method of teaching thousands of students how to maximize their PSAT, SAT and ACT scores for over a decade.

TestRocker is an award-winning PSAT/SAT/ACT program that empowers students to take control of their test preparation. After taking a diagnostic test, students receive a customized study plan, individualized to their strengths/weaknesses. Students practice and learn concepts through videos. Each of the 2000+ questions on TestRocker is accompanied by a video explanation from Suniti. TestRocker has the largest video library in the world for PSAT/SAT/ACT preparation. 

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