Exam Prep: Is it really worth it?

The short answer is yes.

When I took the ACT many years ago, the culture of college admission was completely different. I took the ACT once, and that was the score I submitted to the colleges of my choice. And I got in. The same was true for me with the GRE when I’d finished my college experience and was preparing for graduate school. I walked in, took the test, and began to apply.

Increase in Competition

Today, as college has become an expectation for more and more students (according to the U.S. Department of Labor, nearly 70% of graduating seniors head to higher ed), the competition has become more and more intense. As a result, many students turn to exam preparation courses and individualized programs. In 2018 alone, Forbes reported recently, students and their parents spent a record $1 billion on test prep. Author John Byrne posed the question, “Was it all worth it?”

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Spoiler Alert: Exam Prep is Worth It

In a survey conducted by Byrne’s PoetsandQuants.com website, test prep users were asked about the effectiveness of their prep, specifically for the GMAT exam. Unsurprisingly, the survey found that test prep made a vast difference in students’ scores, helping them gain an average of 100 points on the GMAT.

Perhaps more interesting, though no more surprising, was that students who reported spending more time on test prep ended up with the best resulting increases. Specifically, test takers that prepped for more than 40 hours achieved the best results. Byrne speculates that even a 30-50 point increase on the GMAT could mean a difference of $1 million in lifetime earnings. Exam prep was worth both the time and money investments.

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While the GMAT is only one specific standardized test, an increase in an ACT or SAT score can be just as important to a student’s academic and career path. As you and your student plan to begin the process of test preparation for either the SAT or ACT, it is helpful to keep in mind that quantity is nearly as important as quality. In short, skill building takes time.

Our goal at Huntington is to help your student build a mastery of the test. And while we provide strategies and skills from Day One, it takes time and effort for the student to “own” those techniques. The goal from the beginning should be to learn the test well enough to build that sort of mastery by the time the student takes the official exam.

As Byrne concludes in his analysis, “The big takeaway: Like it or not, test prep works as long as you are willing to put in the time.” And with the March, April, and May tests approaching quickly, now is the time to begin making that investment.

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