Why Students Should Take Test Prep Courses

When test day arrives, students will line up by the masses, clutching sharpened #2 pencils and bottles of water, stomachs filled with butterflies. Every student that enters the testing area will be experiencing some form of anxiety, some small mental roadblock that they will need to overcome in order to be successful. They will need to be brave, to draw on inner courage to overcome their nerves.

The great writer and school teacher Ralph Waldo Emerson, who died forty years prior to the SAT’s inception, once stated that “a great part of courage is…having done the thing before”. Students preparing to take a major test, be it the SAT or ACT, would do well to remember these words.

The only way to “[do] the thing before,” in respect to a college admission exam, is to either take a practice test such as the PSAT, which all students are advised to do as it makes them eligible for the National Merit Scholarship Competition, or take a test prep class.

During test prep courses, professional tutors go over strategies and test questions. They help prepare students both mentally and academically going into the exam. Here are just a few reasons why a test prep class is a good idea:

A student holding a textbook open.

Improved Scores

According to a 2012 Oxford University study, students who are enrolled in preparatory SAT classes score, on average, 56 points higher on their exams than their peers who did not take the course. Simply by statistics, the extra points may be the difference between a student’s top choice and a range school. Prep classes clearly provide an upper hand; after all, SAT prep classes are astonishingly efficient.


It’s often said that learning how to take the SAT or ACT is almost more valuable than studying the sections themselves. These are not garden-variety tests; college admission exams weed out a student’s strengths and weaknesses.

Prep classes and tutoring offer the student a safe, comfortable environment in which to practice anything. That includes bubbling in the right letters to outlining an essay in a readable format, all with experts coaching them every step of the way.

Calculator, Calculator

In addition to practicing answering questions, students will also learn how to use one of the great tools of mankind to its fullest extent: the calculator. While it is technically possible to take the exam without one, most high school classes require expensive graphing calculators with a variety of features. Unfortunately, most go unused by students.

In prep classes, the instructor helps students uncover the many ways their calculator can help them with the math section of the exam.

During the test, some students will be staring at the wall with a blank look on their face. Their peers, however, will hammer away at their calculators, putting into practice the functions learned in class to draw parabolas, solve algebra equations and make graphs, helping them efficiently answer tough questions.

Root Of The Problem

Many students often overlook the verbal portion of the SAT and ACT. Most spend more time independently preparing for the mathematics section. However, in test prep classes, both portions are given equal time and respect.

Instructors will often test their students by writing an “SAT word” on a chalkboard. The go around the room, challenging each student to guess what it means. If the students are unsuccessful, the instructor will break the word down, diagramming it to reveal its meaning. For instance, take the word “abrade,” uncommon in modern use. The tutor will reveal its meaning through Latin roots: ab, meaning “away;” rad: “to scrape or shave.” The students will quickly discern the word’s meaning: To scrape or shave away.

In modern curriculums, Latin roots of words are not emphasized. But, in a test prep class, instructors go through the words one by one. They break words down by their roots to define them for the students.

After taking a verbal class, students will gain more confidence going into the test. They’re prepared to take on the world through their newfound knowledge of Latin roots. If a word appears on the test that they’re not prepared for, they can take the knowledge learned in preparatory classes. They can apply it forward, breaking down the word slowly until they find the best definition.