Standardized Test Prep: When to Start and Whom to Hire? | Thinking About College | John Raftrey And Lori McCormick | Mountain View Online |

Local Blogs

By John Raftrey And Lori McCormick

Standardized Test Prep: When to Start and Whom to Hire?

Uploaded: Oct 30, 2014

(written by Lori McCormick)

As an independent college admissions advisor, I am often asked when is the right time to prepare for standardized testing. My area of expertise lies in the logistics behind the college application: planning a successful and enriching four-year high school career, generating a realistic list of colleges, personal statement/essay development, guiding the student through the intricacies of the application, and all that ensues. When it comes to test prep, I offer the following suggestions.

I will start with the most affordable options. Most high schools will offer test preparation courses on campus. Check with your school to see if such a course is offered. Or, you can self-study online or purchase SAT or ACT Official Study Guides found at most bookstores. The College Board even has an app available on the iPhone and Android that sends students a daily Official SAT Question of the Day.

Otherwise, there are private tutors who work with students in small group settings. And, several to choose from. For this article, I spoke with two reputable test prep companies and found out their thoughts on when students should begin preparing for their standardized tests.
Here is what they had to say:

AJ Tutoring, who has multiple locations throughout the Bay Area, primarily offers one-on-one academic and test prep tutoring. They also offer small group SAT classes.
At AJ Tutoring, we believe that there is no one right testing schedule. There are some schedules that make sense and some that don't.

As a general rule, students should take the PSAT in October of the junior year and complete a full round of testing by the end of their junior year. A full round of testing would include: the SAT, two to three SAT subject tests (if necessary for the schools to which the student is applying), and possibly the ACT exam. Students can retake any test in October, November, or December of the senior year.

We encourage most of our students to take the SAT and ACT, both of which are accepted at all colleges and universities throughout the country. Though similar in many respects, there are key differences between the tests that enable some students to perform better on one or the other. For an AJ student taking the March SAT, the April ACT would be an excellent choice, as there is a five week gap between the tests during which a student can master the differences between the tests without losing any of the information that both tests have in common.

Our customized one on one tutoring allows students to prepare for these tests effectively and efficiently, affording them enough time to focus on academic success and enjoy other aspects of their lives. For more information, please contact us at (650) 331-3251, or visit us at

MR Test Prep , run by Michael Romano uses his "Real Time, Real Test" method to successfully prepare students for their SAT and ACT exams.

As Michael says,
Testing schedules should be tailored to the student. The more precocious the student, the sooner he or she should begin sitting for the test. However, this is not a one size fits all scenario. It is possible to take the SAT too soon, and a disappointing score can be emotionally devastating, leaving the student further from achieving the desired results.

In the NFL, not all first year quarterbacks are ready to succeed. Often coaches keep their young stars out of the action because failure on the biggest of stages can seriously undermine confidence, and confidence is key. Hall of Fame Quarterback and Bay Area legend Joe Montana was initially kept out of the lineup for just this reason, and things worked out great. On the other hand, Michelle We, a young golfer who tried playing on the men's tour at age 15, has not fared well and many experts believe that the damage to her confidence may be irreversible.

Some kids can hit it out of the park right away. Some can fail and it's no big deal. Others fail and it can wreak havoc. When to take the test is a very important decision, and it needs to be treated as such.

Michael offers students an initial complimentary two-hour trial session ? part diagnostic, part one-on-one tutoring to determine the student's test preparation needs. He can be reached at [email protected] .

Regardless of which type of test prep option you pursue, do your research and interview tutors to find the best fit for your personality and learning style. And, remember that test scores is only one part of the college application equation. Continue to maintain your academics and gain learning and leadership skills in your extracurricular activities.