Egads! We Have To Make A Quick Decision On SAT Prep Course! Help!

cupofkindnessFebruary 7, 2006

This college application process is so overwhelming! Can anyone advise about a SAT prep course? Are they available online? Is it best to sign up for the ones that are stick and brick storefront sort of classes, like Kaplin? Or should we simply buy a book and go through the material at home? I think were are several months behind on this issue. My daughter's junior year of high school is beyond demanding and I want to give her all the help and support she needs for the SAT.

My daughter took the PSAT in October and got an 80 on the written, a 70 on the verbal, and a 60 on the math, so the math score is the one that shows that math is her weakness. She is in AP Algerbra II, but we hope to move that score up.

I would appreciate any recommendations you have such as which place to go or book to buy. And about how much do these courses cost? I'm leaning towards a course that I could take her to on Saturdays and Sundays since life is so busy around my house. This way, DD could focus on the test prep and leave all distractions at home. Thanks in advance for your replies.


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Cup, what would probably help the most would be private tutoring combined with her going through the book. I'd ask among fellow parents for leads on really good tutors--although sometimes you can get a good one who's new and not connected yet through SK or PR. I used to teach and tutor SAT/GRE/SSAT/Eng. Achievement and if your daughter really uses the time and does the work assigned (and more), the private tutoring is WAY more useful because she doesn't have to waste time learning about topics/strategies she already is good at. The tutoring (I hope, if you find a good one) will respond to her specific areas of need.

In my experience, I'll say that PR was (may not be now, but I suspect it may still be the same) *way* ahead of SK in their canniness about the test construction. SK would be a good book to buy for backup, but in my time, PR focused on figuring out the test as well as just practicing the questions. I picked up a recent SK book with the new SAT in it, just to see what it looked like--the SK "tips" were hardly tips, IMO...

So ask around to parents for a private tutor, get the PR and SK books, and if you can't get a recommendation for a private tutor from friends, call PR and set up *one* session with a tutor who's been there a long time. One caveat: I can't promise they'll let you set up one session without signing up for an entire class. If you have to sign up for a class, sign up for it at PR, and try to get someone who's been there a long time or who is highly recommended for working with girls on math.

I wish I were closer to you--I used to work with girls especially and it was *so* much a matter of confidence. Really amazing. Quite often when I would ask girls to vocalize their thought process going through a question, they'd initially chose the right answer but then say, literally, "that can't be right, so I'll go with this." We could gain tens to hundreds of points just by convincing them to go with their first instinct. That may not be the case with your daughter, but I just thought I'd throw that possibility into the pot...

Good luck :)

    Bookmark   February 7, 2006 at 11:57AM
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I agree with everything flyleft says but I'd still leave a possibility for group instruction.

Some kids take very well to group instruction --so it depends on your kid whether private tutor is essential. What about her school? Do they have anything to say/add/recommend? Tutors can be so pricey you could put a new kitchen in for what it takes to raise scores 100 points. (I jest but you get the point.)

Or look for schools that don't use or value SATS?

    Bookmark   February 7, 2006 at 12:38PM
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After having two children in college, this was our experience. They took a course taught by a women who has owned a tutoring business for years. The class was 10-12 weeks long and given two times a year. The most students in a class were 10. The cost was about $1K. If they wanted a refresher course they were allowed to sit in for free. She was really good at bringing in instructors that the kids needed for particular areas of weakness. I would ask around and also speak to the guidance counselor at your DD school. I know how important SAT scores are in this competitive college application process. Good Luck

    Bookmark   February 7, 2006 at 1:37PM
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cup, if your daughter is self-motivated, the Kaplan course available on CD might be a good and less expensive way to go. Some math tutoring in the specific areas of weakness would be very helpful.

The SAT has changed completely since DivaD1 and DS took it, so this may be stale advice.

    Bookmark   February 7, 2006 at 2:00PM
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I'd just like to recommend a book published by Princeton Review called SAT for Girls. It was written by women explaining the challenges girls sometimes face on the test and gives a good strategy for finding out where your DD needs the help and how to improve in that area. They probably have a copy at your library.

Don't get all caught up with the big moneymaking Prep course industry. More and more schools are relying on HS transcripts and less on these scores. You can really make your kid resent you for demanding test after test. There's a funny book on this called "WhatsamattaU" or something like that that will have you laughing out loud at one mother's efforts to mold her DS into Ivy league material. Gives some valuable perspective.

    Bookmark   February 7, 2006 at 7:08PM
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I'm a trained Kaplan instructor for the GRE. Their training is very thorough and their standards for hiring trainers are very high. I went through training with a group of people whose intelligence and problem-solving skills totally blew me away...and most of them were half my age!

The downside of classroom training is that while all Kaplan instructors are good in each of the subjects most aren't equally good in all subjects. In other words, each instructor is likely to have one area where they're weaker than the others. If your child is weakest in math, let's say, then you'll want to ask Kaplan for an instructor whose strength is in math.

One option you might consider is doing the Kaplan SAT prep course and then following that up with tutoring by a Kaplan instructor in whichever area your child seems to need the most help. Tutoring is pricy however.

    Bookmark   February 7, 2006 at 10:35PM
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My DD is also a junior! We've(she) has been using the Princeton Review workbooks and the Sparknotes
workbook with comes with a CD and all sorts of study aids.

    Bookmark   February 8, 2006 at 12:10AM
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Check out the link below for a forum on all matters pertaining to the college admission process:

I used it extensively when my son was applying to college a couple of years ago. There are a lot of people there - parents as well as students - who are genuinely helpful.

It is informative and also acts as a support group.

Here is a link that might be useful: All that you wanted to know about college applications but were afraid to ask

    Bookmark   February 8, 2006 at 12:37AM
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anovaguy ~

Thank you so much for the terrific link! My DS is also a junior and we are also overwhelmed with the college admission process. Looks like there is lots of helpful info there!

    Bookmark   February 8, 2006 at 11:41AM
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starpooh, you are more than welcome.

The link I provided, IMO, is the most comprehensive site that deals with the various aspects of the college application process.

I know what you must be going through since your son is a junior. It really can be a very stressful period both for the child as well as the parents.

I have been through this process three times over the past 18 years or so. Things have changed so much especially in terms of the competitiveness of the schools in this period of time.

    Bookmark   February 8, 2006 at 2:41PM
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I should add that I was trained/certified/highly in demand tutor (was asked for a lot by both NY cos. who were sponsoring schools and schools themselves, also had brisk private tutoring business) for both PR and SK at different times, but that ended about 15 years 1) I have an inside view of both organizations and materials and 2) it was a long time ago :). IMO the PR materials were always more insightful and canny than the SK materials; no offense to SK, because the organization was much more comfortable to work for than PR, but I do have to hand it to PR for better researchers/writers, some of whom I used to know and hang with a bit back in the day (including the founders...those were crazy times)...

And Elizabeth, you'll note that I *did* leave a possibility for group instruction, in my second-to-last paragraph. It just seems to me to be a more diluted, general approach and more costly, even though when you sign up for a group you get a certain number of hours of private tutoring at a reduced price, or at least you used to...with private tutoring, you don't need to spend as much, IME, and if you do, you know that the time is totally devoted to your child's needs, not the needs of other children that are not relevant to yours...

Of course I'm hoping that by the time my DD is at that bridge, the whole test culture will have imploded and disappeared :) -- I agree w/mary 228 that more and more good schools are willing to look at other factors besides standardized tests, which shows great perspicacity on their parts, IMO :)

    Bookmark   February 8, 2006 at 5:53PM
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I agree about the private tutor if you can swing it, because it will give her the prep that her regular classes aren't able to.

My son is in the 5th grade and they started SAT prep this year - unbelievable, huh?

I remember as a teenager going to a lady's house once a week and sitting around her dining room table being tutored and taking practice tests. I remember it helping me a lot. Had I taken a group course I probably would have spaced out in class. Being in a small group didn't give me the chance to do that. I hope to find a similar situation for my son.

    Bookmark   February 9, 2006 at 12:40AM
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I have a freshman in college and a high school junior. We do not really love the idea of SAT prep, but this year the high school guidance counselors actually announced that the kids must have it if they want top schools as all the other kids do formalized prep. This is what they are competing with. It is unfortunate but true. From your daughter's scores it sounds like she would be applying to top schools. Since her math is below the other scores I think private tutoring is the way to go. It costs a small fortune. I paid between $80/hour and $160 hour for my daughter for private tutors. My son gets private tutoring through a formal SAT prep/ tutoring office and I pay $150/hour. A small fortune! I am hoping his scores will be good enough that he will take the test only once and that will be the end of it. I do think that if a kid is incredibly motivated to study on their own they can prep with the books.

    Bookmark   February 9, 2006 at 1:16PM
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