Can Test Prep Classes Really Help?
November 15, 2005
As I was entering school two weeks before we were to take the PSATs, a friend of mine asked me if I would like to take a class with her before we take the test. I thought to myself, "How can you take a class to prepare yourself for a standardized test? Isn't taking the test supposed to prove where you stand academically compared to students my age around the country?" It seems a little unfair that a class can help me improve my test-taking abilities. The situation seems contradictory in that if a student can take a class to learn how to crack the standardized test code, then the test is not accurately representing how much knowledge the student has accumulated over the course of his or her studies. If a 10-hour class can improve a students test scores to the point where almost every school across the country offers these classes, then it seems like all students should be required to take it. Classes in my town ranged from $20 a class to $62.50. Some students cannot necessarily afford to spend an extra $80 on classes to help them learn to take a standardized test.
I have never been the greatest test taker and I feel like it may be hindering my chances of getting into the colleges I want to go to. I am not saying that I completely bomb the tests; it is just that I usually do not live up to my own standards. As I sat in my PSAT class, along with three of my close friends, I wondered if the class could actually help me with my problem.
We did several practice problems ranging from critical reading to geometry and algebra. As we reviewed the problems, it occurred to me how careless I can be while taking the test. I always feel like I am crunched for time, and I start to lose track of what I am doing. I find myself constantly staring at the clock, calculating how much time I have left. The thought of reading a bunch of stories and then answering 30 questions in only 20 minutes really makes me anxious. I have never thought of myself as a fast reader, so usually I just skim the article and try to answer the questions by going back and basically re-reading it for each question.
By going to the class, the teacher taught me to read the articles carefully the first time, underline important parts so I can find them easily, and after each paragraph write a one sentence summary of that paragraph. These tips helped keep me organized and made me more confident that I knew what I was doing and could finally conquer the critical reading section. Math is my stronger point; however I never really excel at it on standardized tests. I found out that it is usually because I am overconfident with my abilities and tend to try and go too fast for my own good. If I just slow down, read the question more carefully, and stay organized with my work, I do much better. I am not sure yet if these tips really can improve my scores for the PSAT, but I guess I will find out soon enough.