The public school schedules are now punctuated by the annual "high-stakes" standardized
tests mandated by the No Child Left Behind Law.† These tests have focused alot
attention on children's real progress.† The smart long-term strategy for parents†is
to focus on building fundamental academic skills using a variety of schooling
and supplementary tools such as online learning
.† Additionally, parents should be "clever" and provide their children with every
advantage including some "test prep">
Be Clever - Test Prep Does Help
Test-taking is a skill which can be taught which will help, to some degree, improve
scores. While learning test-taking skills are not a substitute for a solid education,
it†is now an important part of education.†Test prep should†give students a structured
environment in which to practice and grow familiar with the tests. The more familiar†a
child is with† with the tests †and the styles of questions, the lesson time† will
be wasted understanding the questions and† the more confident†the student†will
feel. Even the companies that administer the tests admit that practice and familiarity
can lead to higher scores so test prep isn't going to hurt.† Some of the simple
advice (eg†"Before you do the reading on a reading comprehension question, read the questions
that you are required to answer so that you know what you are looking for"†) will significantly simplify some parts of the test.
Of course, a test prep course, whether online or in a classroom, will not be able to teach
you any of the fundamental skills and knowledge that you should have acquired
over the course of your education.
Standardized test preparation comes in many forms and price ranges. Some say
you can improve your scores only slightly, others claim test prep can substantially
raise your results.†† There are many options when it comes to test preparation.
The option that's best for you depends on the child's preferred learning style,
the budget available, and the child's needs.
Several companies offer test preparation services online. Taking a tutorial online
allows you to do the work at your own pace anytime of the day and from the convenience
of home, which requires discipline and good study habits. Qualified teachers teach
the courses much like real classes with "lectures," sample questions, overviews
and feedback. You will have the opportunity to take numerous practice tests and
will be able to check your answers. The fees for these courses can run anywhere
from $200-$400, but they often include such extras as study guides and software
that you can continue to use after the course has ended.
There are a number of companies (Kaplan, Princeton Review, Sylvan, The College
Board and ACT) that offer "live" courses in addition to print and electronic test
preparation aids. Courses range from one-day seminars to weekly classes over a
three-month period. Your instructor will walk you through the entire test giving
tips and explanations. You will also take many practice tests that will help you
observe your strengths and weaknesses. The costs of these classes can be expensive,
anywhere from hundreds to thousands of dollars. Course providers pride themselves
on delivering results, so if you have the time and money classroom test prep may
be for you.
Coaches and Tutors
Sometimes students do better in a one-on-one situation. If you are easily distracted
by a classroom environment or can't seem to find the time for an online course,
a private tutor or coach may be the answer. The goal is the same as with an online
or classroom course, but a private tutor or coach will be able to tailor the sessions
to your individual learning needs. As you might expect, this type of test preparation
is not cheap. Private tutors and coaches can cost thousands of dollars. While
this might not be practical for everyone, it's what some students need to do well
on the tests.
Books and Software
At every bookstore you will find test preparation books that offer test-taking
strategies and tips, as well as sample tests with answers. These guides are great
for students who have limited computer access or who are more comfortable with
printed materials. Most cost under $50. In addition to books, there are computer
programs that will give you most of the same information as the books but will
offer more practice tests. These items offer a good source of prep material. Both
the College Board and the ACT offer their own books and software.
Compass Learning Odyssey [tm] for home use, elementary & middle school programs.¬† Fun, useful, practical
online learning thru Time4Learning.