Exam Prep – Other: Exam Prep Growth and Leadership

With the growing number of students going to college and graduate schools to improve their career opportunities and future income, there is an increased competition to get into the best university programs. This, in turn, has led to the continued growth of the exam prep field, especially in preparing high school students for the SAT and ACT tests, as well as helping college seniors succeed in their advanced graduate school admissions exams.

According to www.AnythingResearch.com, the exam prep industry will see positive long-term growth through 2022. www.IBISWorld.com concurs, reporting that over the next five years the exam prep industry is expected to expand further as the economy continues to improve. IBISWorld says that this trend will follow the one of the last five years, when the exam prep industry had a 3.8% annual growth. It reports that the industry now has 38,879 employees working for 3,533 businesses in this field.

In its SWOT (Strengths, Weaknesses, Opportunities, Threats) analysis, IBISWorld reports that the major threat facing the major exam prep companies that focus on in-person tutoring is the escalating competition from online tutoring and test preparation services. In addition, there is the threat from open source test preparation services. On the flip side, these companies now have an opportunity to further grow their own online tutoring operations. Another opportunity for these companies is that parents are enrolling their children in tutoring programs at younger ages.

With graduate school becoming increasingly necessary to succeed in most high-skill fields, college students must now do well on standardized tests that give them a better chance to enter the graduate school program of their choice. www.Testprepreview.com lists the most often taken graduate program tests where exam prep is key to better scores. This includes the GMAT (Graduate Management Admissions Test) which is the most popular test used to screen applicants for MBA programs, LSAT (Law School Admission Test), MCAT (Medical College Admission Test), and GRE (Graduate Record Examination).

Best Practices in the Exam Prep Field

As the field grows, competing exam prep companies increasingly must find a niche area to make their service superior to the competition. Many of the leading companies in this field focus on different strategies for effective test taking, but the basic best practices of what works best for most students remains the same.

Among the best practices in the field are:

  • Exposing students to standards-based practice assessments in the academic area they are studying for the test
  • Keeping students at all levels engaged and motivated using interactive content
  • Issuing practice tests, and then reviewing how the student can further improve his/her score by honing their test taking skills and being increasingly aware of the most common questions that need to be reviewed
  • Encouraging peer tutoring and small group instruction to enhance web-based learning
  • Reinforcing the need for strong parent involvement in making sure their child does the exam prep homework given to them by tutors

Leaders of the Exam Prep Field

Exam prep’s initial growth emerged alongside the extensive standardization of the education sector in the United States. For years, the SAT created by the College Board was the most widely used test for college admissions. Now many universities accept, or even prefer, the ACT test. The exam prep for both tests remains at the cornerstone for the leading exam prep companies.

According to www.reviews.com/act-sattestprep-courses, the top four organizations are the field’s leaders when it comes to helping students acclimate to the test.

Kaplan Test Prep offers an online self-paced program that offers eight practice tests and 50 hours of tutoring for $299. You get two books – Kaplan SAT Course Book (or ACT) and The Kaplan Big Book of SAT Practical Tests. At the $599 level, you get live review sessions;

Khan Academy is a non-profit organization that has partnered with the College Board for its “official” SAT prep course. The Academy offers its resources for free. It offers seven practice tests, review and practice materials, interactive quizzes, video lessons, and reference articles on test taking strategies, time management, test formats, and how to interpret tricky questions. There is no way to connect with a live teacher via the Academy.

Princeton Review offers four subject modules – Getting Started, Discover (featuring a video), Explore (practice questions and answers explained), and Stepping Back (rating your confidence in your abilities with the topic you just reviewed). Its $299 course includes three hours of chat time with a teacher.

ACT Online Prep offers many games and leader boards that help making the learning fun. It is affiliated with the agency that creates the ACT test. A student can choose his/her learning plan. Six months of access costs $50. An upgrade to $134 gives students access to live online classes sponsored by Kaplan.

According to www.thoughtco.com, Sylvan Learning rates high for its “comprehensive” ACT test prep courses. Each student is paired with a Sylvan ACT tutor, who uses initial diagnostic testing to craft a study plan for every client. Sylvan focuses on skill-building rather than “teaching for the test.” This website also touted Kaplan’s ACT test prep program, as well as www.prepscholar’sact.com program, which offers practice questions “written by some of the best instructors in the field.” This group’s ACT prep program costs $397.

For students on a tight budget, the internet has become a vital resource in providing test study guides and practice tests, which are key to any exam prep regimen. In their book, “The Power of Testing Memory: Basic Research and Implications for Educational Practice, Henry L. Roediger III and Jeffrey D. Karpicke wrote, “Tests enhance later retention more than additional study of the material, even when tests are given without feedback. This surprising phenomenon is called the testing effect.”

With this in mind, all students at every level of test preparation should emphasize taking practice tests, and carefully reviewing the areas where they need the most help.

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