MINNEAPOLIS (WCCO) – Taking the ACT and SAT are rites of passage for many high school juniors and seniors.
But there are so many options to help students score higher on tests that it might be difficult to determine which is right for you.
"It's not just about knowing what's going to be on the test, it's knowing how to approach it with confidence," said Mary Ann Dorsher of ACT Ready.
Dorsher and Mary Langfeldt own ACT Ready, a company that tutors students for two hours a week for six weeks.
"It's really so they feel in control of the exam," Langfeld said.
The cost of ACT Ready is $495. The result, Dorsher and Langfeldt say, is a three- to four-point increase in a student's ACT score.
Test prep companies offer a variety of different packages at different prices:
-- Sylvan Learning Center offers six four-hour sessions - plus online access - for $995. They also do one-on-one tutoring for $60 an hour.
-- Kaplan Test Prep offers six three-hour sessions - online or in class - for $599. There's also an online program you can do on your own time for $299, as well as private tutoring.
-- At Princeton Review, there are classes ranging from $599 to $1,499. A private tutor is provided as well.
-- Huntington Learning Center offers one-on-one learning at their center for $76 an hour. They have 11 franchise locations across the cities.
-- College Nannies and Tutors offers one-on-one sessions at any one of their locations that range between $65 - $75 an hour. They also say they'll work within a student's budget.
-- At Studypoint, they will send a tutor to your home for $115 an hour.
Another place to look is at local schools. Minnetonka High School, for instance, offers a free ACT class before school starts the week of the test. Other schools offer more intensive classes over several weeks, which can run anywhere from $25 to $250.
Phil Trout, a college adviser at Minnetonka High School, recommends that students study the shape of the test, the content, and the questions - much of which you can do online for free.
Most high schools in Minnesota offer Naviance - a program that can be accessed from school or home. It has free practice ACT tests online.
Moreover, a program introduced by the U.S. Army to prepare potential recruits is also online and free. March 2 Success is open to anyone - no strings attached.
Moreover, the ACT and SAT websites offer free tests online to give students a benchmark of where they stand.
And for students who are educationally at-risk, University of Minnesota education professor Ernest Davenport teaches a free 10-week college prep course at the university each spring. It's open to anyone who applies and generally has more than 200 students every year.
"We find quite a few of them want to go to college, some of them just haven't had a real good idea about how to go about doing that," Davenport said.
Many of the larger for-profit programs claim big average-point increases, but the National Association for College Admission Counseling says that isn't always the case.
But most counselors and students will tell you that, at the very least, some kind of prep helps.
"Students come in all shapes and sizes. Consequently there is no one approach that will work for everyone," Trout said.
He recommends taking the ACT or SAT in the spring of your junior year and then again once, maybe twice, after that.
About 70 percent of Minnesota students take the ACT rather than the SAT. Many of the larger study programs offer "point guarantees" that let you take the course over if you don't do as well as you like.
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