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7 Questions Parents Must Ask Every Test Prep Company

SAT Prep StudentTest prep is a competitive industry because profit-margins are high and barriers to entry are low. Just about anyone can call themselves a “test prep tutor.” Sometimes it’s hard to tell the difference between high-quality and low-quality test prep. Here are seven questions you must ask any test prep company before deciding who to take a class with.

(1) Who created your test prep materials?
Creating test preparation materials is not easy. You must have mastered the test yourself in order to teach others how to do well on an exam. If the test prep company you are considering did not create their own test prep strategies, then a big red flag should go up in your mind.

(2) How many hours of test preparation do you offer?
Score improvements are directly related to the number of hours a student dedicates studying for an exam. However, I have seen some test prep companies offer “classes” that have as little as 10 hours of in-class time. A dozen hours is typically not going to get your child the score improvements he or she desires. You should also calculate the price per hour to objectively compare the value offered. For example, a company might be half the total price but offer only one-quarter the number of hours.

(3) Do you have a money-back guarantee?
Most test prep companies do not offer a money-back guarantee. Instead, their guarantees will say that students can take additional classes. Make sure to read the fine print of “guarantees” that many test prep companies offer since many will not return your money if your child doesn’t improve his or her score.

(4) Who are your instructors?
Many test prep companies hire instructors that have not scored all that high on the actual exam. In addition, some test prep companies will hire college students who have no previous teaching experience. Be sure you know who is teaching your child before you sign up for a class!

(5) What are your results?
The best indicator of a good test prep company is how well their previous students have done. Find out what the company’s average score improvement is, what colleges their students have been admitted to, and any scholarships their students have won.

(6) Do you proctor full-length examinations?
In order to improve your child’s test score, taking full-length proctored examinations is absolutely essential. However, most test prep companies do not proctor exams for their students. If the company you choose doesn’t offer this service, then your student will not have the chance to take the exam in a simulated test-day environment.

(7) What kinds of questions do you use?
Using questions from the test creator is the best way to improve your score. No other company has the statistics and data to replicate accurate standardized questions. For SAT prep, this means using questions produced by the College Board. For ACT prep, this means using questions produced by ACT Inc. If the test prep company you select has students practice exclusively with questions that are not produced by the test creator, then you are in big trouble.



Shaan Patel

Shaan Patel is the founder of Prep Expert Test Preparation (formerly 2400 Expert), a #1 bestselling SAT prep author, an MD/MBA student at Yale and USC, and winner of an investment deal with billionaire Mark Cuban on ABC's Shark Tank. He raised his own SAT score from average to perfect and teaches students his methods in an online SAT prep class.