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ACT Test: Are Prep Classes Worth Your Money?

Time's up! Put your pencils down.

Not to put pressure on high school students or anything, but the ACT and SAT are, perhaps, one of the most important tests you can take. If you want to go to college, that is.

Although, increasingly, many parents, including Babble’s own Meredith Carroll, say the tests are not an accurate measure of a student’s ability.

For most students, the first step to planning for college is by taking the ACT or SAT standardized test. Scores on this test determine the colleges to which students should apply. Lot of pressure, right? With the test playing that big a role in college admission many parents choose to shell out hundreds of dollars for ACT prep classes to help their children prepare.

But is it worth it?

As Madeleine Behr reports over on Centraltimes.org, while the prep classes can be boring and seem pointless, you can get a lot out of the class you can’t get from a test prep book and they are absolutely worth parents’ money – if students stay awake – which Behr admits half her class did not.

My teacher taught strategies and constantly drilled us with English grammar exercises and math from Algebra 1 and Geometry. Every week, we would get the same assignments, but with different words and numbers, so we really learned how to do the problems. After so much repetition, it’s easy to know what to do. And, more importantly, during the test, you can do those questions quickly instead of stressing out over those, when there are much harder questions on the way.

Did you know some colleges award money when students earn a specific score? I didn’t know this, but then, my ACT taking days are long over. Indiana Universityawards $4,000 per year to students who have an ACT score of a 27 to a 29. Hey! I would have fit into that bracket! They also award $9,000 per year to students who achieve a 30 or higher on the ACT.  I would not have fit into that bracket.

Here’s the thing:  I didn’t study for the ACT. I didn’t even really plan to take it. A friend – whose parents shelled out big money for her prep classes – made me sign up with her. I forgot about the test until the night before.  She spent hours studying.  I scored a 27. She got a 21. She took another prep class and brought her score up a little higher but didn’t come close to tying my score.

The experience made me think that kids are going to know what they’re going to know and while a prep class may help a little bit, if your kid isn’t interested in the class or the test, why pay? If the kid wants to take a prep class and you can afford it, by all means. But in my experience, the prep class didn’t account for much. Jonathan Leong, over at Centraltimes.org would agree. He says the ACT wasn’t meant to be studied for, it’s just a way for schools to measure how much a student knows. “The ACT examines practically all the English, math, reading, science and writing skills that a student may learn over their entire high school career. So with that said, it’s not realistic to try and study everything you’ve learned in that time period. ACT prep classes are a waste of time for students and a waste of money for parents.”

Leong advises parents to save their hard-earned cash for the expensive college tuition and books they will soon be purchasing. Still, Madeline Behr says the classes helped get her score where she wanted it to be.  “Five hundred dollars seems like a lot now, but wait until those $9,000 per year scholarships start rolling in, that’s when you know that an ACT/SAT class was the right thing to do.

What’s been your experience? Are the classes worth the money or a waste of time? Do you think the ACT/SAT were meant to be studied for?

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