In December 2019, USA Today published an article on the real costs of test prep in America. The amount is a whopping $500 million a year, spent on independent educational consultants.
Considering the ferocious competition that students are up against, you cannot blame the parents for investing so much in their children’s future. In fact, in some affluent societies, how much you spend and whom you hire has become a status symbol.
That brings us to the next question. Is test prep actually worth the cost?
The test prep landscape
Standardized tests come in all shapes and sizes. Right from college admission, graduate school to professional licenses, you can find a wide array of tests to clear before you become eligible to pursue your passion.
At Princeton Review, an SAT prep program of mere 18 hours of instruction with mock tests, and access to other resources will cost you $900. A private tutoring session is charged at $150 per hour. Some packages even include 24/7 tutor on-demand.
Considering how universities have been retreating from using SAT scores for the admission process, it might be challenging to determine whether the investment would be worth it for the future.
However, for advanced tests such as LSAT and GMAT, the charges and demand are much higher. Platforms such as TestMax, Kaptest, Barbri and others have been prominent in the field with high test scores and a money-back guarantee if you are not convinced with the quality of programs. With promises and assurances like this, it is nearly impossible to let go of opportunities that might ensure a place for you in your dream college.
On the positive side, it seems like there is substance to these guarantees.
How much will your scores improve?
P&Q Readers recently conducted a survey among test-prep users to understand the effectiveness of a few GMAT programs. Surprisingly, across all vendors, test takers displayed promising improvement in their performances.
On average, students who took a group class or hired a tutor helped raise the scores by at least 90 points. Those who combined both classes and tutors increased their scores by an average of 100 points.
Those who choose to refer to the test-prep platforms but learned on their own managed to get an average improvement of 76.8 points. Considering the difference even one point could make in admissions, It is considerably less than the results from using the classes, or a tutor.
Regardless, the data suggest that investing in test-prep, in whatever means, can help you boost your scores. That said, it would depend on many hours you are willing to put in as well. The more you spend studying, the more likely you are to get better results.
A majority of these programs come with homework assignments, practice tests, and personalized mock tests. Even if students are doing a self-paced study, test-prep platforms offer invaluable resources that could help you tremendously. Alongside this, you will also be able to learn shortcuts and exclusive means of quickly achieving results, and manage your time well.
In essence, as long as you are willing to work hard, test-prep will work in your favor. It certainly gives you a competitive edge. At the same time, it signals another disparity in our system, one against those who cannot afford such exponentially excessive programs to access exclusive test-prep.
Anna is HR consultant for rehabilitation & healthcare facilities. Her primary duties include employee training/development, legal compliance, recruiting and oversight of payroll producers. She believes in the power of giving back to the industry and my profession.