Posted by Julia Wasson

Aug 5, 2014 6:00:00 AM

Test prep for college entrance exams is fundamental to increasing your child’s chances of being accepted to the college or university of his or her choice. Getting familiar with the tests will help him score higher, and higher scores can unlock opportunities that he would otherwise miss out on. Yet, familiarity alone isn’t enough to help students earn a better score. Strategy plays a huge part in how well students do on the tests, and most need the guidance of an experienced test specialist to learn how to handle these unique exams.

Here are the top three reasons why test prep is an essential part of your child’s college application process:

1. The Competitive Edge: College Admissions

Competition for college acceptance is stiff, as more students than ever before are applying to college. According to the U.S. Department of Education, the average number of applications per college increased by a startling 60 percent between 2002 and 2011. And of those who apply to top colleges like the Ivies and Stanford, the acceptance rate is sometimes as low as 5 percent.

Test prep can help your son or daughter develop the test-taking skills and strategies to earn his or her personal-best score and get an edge over the competition: every other high school junior who is applying to the same college(s). This is especially important if your child’s other qualities — grades, volunteer experiences, afterschool activities, references, etc. — are about equal to the majority of applicants’.

It’s also important to note that some colleges and universities have varying “cut” scores for different majors, particularly in math and science. Knowing what score your child’s program requires before beginning the college application process will help your student make wise choices about which colleges to apply to. If the cut score for a particular major is a bit of a stretch for your child, but not bordering on the impossible, the right kind of test prep could well make the difference. If your child is scoring lower than necessary in math, for example, taking an online class (often called a “webinar”) or signing up with a test specialist for tutoring might just be enough to boost her over the cut score hurdle.

2. The Financial Benefit: College Scholarships

Many college scholarships awarded for academic excellence are simply not available to a student unless he or she reaches a specific PSAT, SAT or ACT score. This is certainly true of the National Merit Scholarship, which is awarded based on a student’s PSAT score. The National Collegiate Athletic Association (NCAA) has a minimum score for student athletes to qualify for collegiate athletic scholarships. And both private colleges and public schools frequently have endowments —gifts from generous donors — that provide scholarships for students who achieve a particular score; other factors may also be considered, but a target ACT or SAT test score may be a prerequisite.

Many colleges and universities consider SAT and ACT test scores when deciding on the amount of the college scholarships they offer a student. It’s a good rule of thumb that the higher the score, the more college scholarships are available to the student, and the greater the dollar amount a student can earn. Some states, such as Missouri and Florida (at the time of this writing) even have automatic tuition awards for students who achieve a certain score or higher.

3. The Equalizer: A Common Standard

All high schools do not offer the same academic programs, learning environments or expectations. A person in the top 10 percent at one school might not even score in the top 25 percent at a more rigorous school. Colleges evaluate SAT and ACT test scores because doing so applies a common standard to every student, regardless of their high school opportunities.

If your child’s grades, class rank, and activities are not exceptional, a higher score may carry enough weight to get him or her into a college or university that might otherwise say no.

Providing an opportunity to take a focused test prep strategy class before the big day is a great way to boost both your child’s scores and confidence. ACT and SAT test prep, along with challenging high school courses and good study habits, will help ensure that your child will earn his or her best-possible score on these important college entrance exams.

Effective test prep for the ACT, PSAT, and SAT has been proven to boost students’ scores, and might just help your child reach the goals he or she has been striving for. But not all test prep is alike. Make sure the prep you choose has independent results to back up claims of its effectiveness. And, remember, quality test prep does not have to cost you thousands of dollars or take weeks of your child’s time. A focused program that emphasizes strategies may well be all your child needs to get that competitive edge. Our best advice is, look for a proven test prep program that fits both your budget and your child’s schedule.

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