On March 22, I sent a question to three places:

These three groups of college admission professionals have been invaluable sources of advice, experience, perspective and good humor since I started in this profession thirteen years ago (I’ve only joined the Facebook group this school year, and it’s been a consistently good source of wisdom).

Here was my question:

Dear colleagues:

At Northwood School, we are considering changing how we help students prepare for the SAT and ACT. I’m curious about how other secondary schools handle test prep. I’ve created a short survey, and hope that you will take a moment out of your day to respond:
If you’d like to see the results, provide your email at the bottom of the survey and I’ll send you a summary in early April. Finally, I suspect that a similar survey has been done in the past, but I haven’t been able to find one. If you have done a similar survey recently, I would love to see the results.

(I’ll send this request to a few lists: my apologies to those of you who receive it more than once)

Best regards,

John Spear
Northwood School
Lake Placid, NY

At Northwood School, we have traditionally provided an 8-week, 4-days-per-week classroom-based evening SAT/ACT prep program mandatory for all seniors in the fall. We have done very little during the junior year.

This year, we did the same 8-week program for seniors and provided juniors with guided Khan Academy prep before the October PSAT and again before the SAT in May. We have also provided juniors with access to the TutorMe.com online ACT prep course for students interested in doing ACT prep on their own.

With the new SAT coming out this spring, my colleagues and I thought we’d ask what other schools do to prepare their students for the two main college admission tests, the SAT and the ACT. Since I asked ACCIS members, these survey results are skewed toward independent schools (only 16% of respondents are from public schools). Still, I hope the results will be valuable to other schools asking similar questions.

183 secondary school counselors responded to the survey in two weeks. Here are the results (click on the charts for larger views):


Please use this space to share anything else about your test prep program. If you have a provider that you would like to recommend, please do so here. (96 responses)

Here is are summary of which providers were mentioned:

Khan Academy: 15 times
Unnamed local provider: 12
Method Test Prep: 11
Compass Education Group: 7
Kaplan: 5
Naviance: 4
Revolution Prep: 4
Applerouth Tutoring Company: 3
Princeton Review: 3
Mindspire: 2
Summit Educational Group: 2
Advantage Testing: 1
Atlas Test Prep: 1
Cambridge: 1
ePrep: 1
High-End Test Prep: 1
Manhattan Prep: 1
More Than a Teacher: 1
Number2.com: 1
Satellite Test Prep: 1
Sycamore Learning: 1
Testive: 2
Tutor Test Prep: 1
Tutoring Connection: 1

Verbatim responses are below. I have omitted email addresses, counselor names and school names.

We have an in-house test prep tutor
We also recommend Khan Academy (see q. 3). So far the kids like it, but I am not sure it is enough, and not all kids are disciplined enough to make it work for them.
We work a company called Mindspire based in our area of NC. We are only offering ACT prep on campus this year (1 time, spring) because the of the access to Khan.
We have used Compass Education Group and they’ve been great for our school.
I wouldn’t say we have a program. We have a mishmash. We encourage students to use the free resources like Khan and the ACT course we purchase. We arrange for an outside provider to offer courses. We have not tracked who does what. We do know that some families make their own arrangements with outside providers and tutors
We consider PSAT and Pre-ACT test prep. Here is our schedule: 9th – CWRA+ 10th – PSAT10 and Pre-ACT 11th – PSAT
We partner with a local test prep company to provide 6 hours of free test prep, which is optional for all juniors. The course runs leading up to the PSAT. Students choose whether to attend the Friday or Sunday class (same material) that meets three times for two hours each time. The class covers the PSAT and SAT as well as the ACT. A little content is discussed but mostly strategy. A family made a donation to the college counseling office several years ago and we use this donation to offset the cost of this course for all students. Typically 80% of the juniors participate.
We offer an on-line option through ePrep for any interested student; the cost is covered by the school. We also host Princeton Review for SAT and ACT prep classes; the students pay for this directly to TPR. Some students choose to use private tutors; we provide a list of names and students contract with tutors directly.
We have thrown in the towel and next year will go to recommending outside vendors only. For the past 8 years we contracted with various vendors to run on-campus classes, offered practice tests through a vendor, offered online through a vendor. In 8 years, the SAT/ACT averages have barely moved an inch. So, we decided too much work for us and not enough results. As for the vendor list we’ll share, it is comprised of vendors our students have used and told us they had a good experience, whether or not they improved their scores.
Just a comment…do students really use Khan Academy? It’s a great resource, but the reality is that I have very few, if any students invest time into Khan. They would rather have a hard copy book!
We have our teachers trained with Princeton Review and they offer this program in the evenings during the school year and during the summer. We find that our students appreciate learning from people they know. We also feel that some students do better one-on-one with test prep so we have kept a long list of tutors who do that sort of work and we share it with families when they are looking for that sort of support. We also have been promoting Khan, but find (like all educational services online) that it takes a particularly motivated student to make this helpful. I would also be most interested in learning how other schools provide practicing testing for ACT/SAT. If you get that information, I would also be intrigued to learn when, or if, schools are providing the ASPIRE and PSAT to their students.
We are a day and boarding school. Many students prep earlier than they used do – we recommend the summer between 10th and 11th grades. Our in-house course was outsourced for the first time this year (our faculty instructors did not want to deal with the new SAT) and results are mixed. The company is Tutor Test Prep. This company agreed to let students on full financial aid (or close) attend for free – that was our requirement. They have offered a variety of test prep options: short courses and one day “cram” experiences. The courses have been under-enrolled and have received mixed reviews.
For online we recommend Testive, Kaplan and Kahn. Students can sign up for additional Testive and Kaplan services. A local test prep company offers on-campus courses on weekends.
We try to keep the cost low to help those who may not be able to afford many of the external test prep options. We do list out several of those more expensive and extensive options for those families that have the means and the interest.
We charge a reduced fee for students on significant aid. Usually the full cost of the class can off-set this reduced rate if enough students register.
We are a charter school and currently only have 9th/10th graders. We are in the process of looking at test prep options now.
We did offer a class on campus for a year or so, but found that students preferred to work with individual tutors or on-line classes, so our classes were not well attended.
We have enjoyed using Cambridge materials in the past and have a 26 hour ACT Prep course taught by our teachers (2.5 hours one night a week and 1 hour during 2 mornings each week. Totaling 4.5 hours each week). I find it challenging to find teachers who are willing to teach this course. I think other districts in our area use the Cambridge curriculum for their courses that are offered during the school day. We do not currently offer a prep option during the school day. I am piloting a new hybrid sort of online/video/in person ACT prep with John Baylor Test Prep. I have Math and English teachers help show the videos and go over any questions with students. There are online practice tests and homework also incorporated. For me this is more of a “plug and play” and it does not require a lot of training and money. We will wrap up our first round of this pilot program prior to the test on 4/9/16. Please feel free to follow up with me and I can provide you with data.
Method Test Prep for ACT
We offer practice SAT, PSAT and ACT a couple of times through the year. We offer this on a Saturday morning and we use Kaplan to facilitate the mock exams
We partner with a local company to provide free PSAT prep after school/on weekends leading up to the PSAT. We refer a lot of our students to that company, and in return, if we have students in search of pro-bono test prep, they will work with those students directly. We don’t provide any SAT or ACT test prep and simply refer families to outside organizations (typically local companies, not Kaplan/Princeton Review, etc.).
This is our first year offering an in-school test prep course for juniors during the spring semester. We hired the Princeton Review after getting several bids. Much to our dismay, many of our juniors are still choosing to supplement this course with additional outside one-on-one tutoring…something we were trying to minimize so that students would have more time outside of the classroom to focus on extra-curriculars and/or much needed down time. We will offer the course again next year but we will closely monitor the value vs. time/money spent.
We run an after school test prep class during the school year. Teachers are trained during summer PD by an outside test prep company we’ve contracted with for that purpose
We provide access to Method Test Prep for all students at no charge to them. There is a local outside provider (Upper Valley Tutoring) that we refer families to for individual tutoring. The families pay that provider directly. We have also in the recent past used a different outside provider (High-End Test Prep) to come to campus and do small group sessions. Again, families paid this outside provider directly. This spring we have been piloting a program with Testive to see how their delivery model works.
To clarify the question above, the fee is removed for students on financial aid.
We provide test-prep as part of the junior curriculum. It is a mandatory course 3-days per week. They may opt out if they choose to use (and pay) for an outside prep tutor/company but must do 40 hours during their junior year OR must have a 730 or higher to opt out of a section. Most do not opt out. For seniors, we offer test prep 5-day/week up to the October SAT test date at which time the period becomes a Study Hall.
We use Method Test Prep. For a reasonable fee, we are able to provide a test prep service to all students. Usage is relatively low, but it’s worth it to us to be able to offer it to all students. We also maintain a list of test prep providers in the area that we provide to families. We also have a PSAT skills development course offered by three faculty members to rising juniors – a little under half the class takes the course. There is a fee (and fin aid available) and the course is offered on Saturdays for about 9 weeks.
We have a separate organization in our school called the ‘Tutoring Connection’ – for extra charge students are able to take a course (outside the school day) or get one-on-one prep tutoring (in their free periods during the school day or outside of the school day). At this time only a small percentage of our students are using this service. The rest of our student that pay for prep go to outside test prep organizations for classes or one-on-one tutoring. We encourage all students to use Khan Academy.
We are fortunate to have established an excellent relationship with an SAT/ACT tutor who teaches up to eight workshops per year (4 SAT, 4 ACT). We also have several programs for parents regarding testing – timeline, recent changes, test optional school info, etc. We do see most of our students participating in some form of test prep between sophomore and senior year.
Our school offers several options for test prep. We encourage students to use online resources such as Khan Academy and Method Test Prep. Khan Academy is free obviously, but the school has contracted with Method Test Prep so it is free to our students. We also host prep courses on campus a couple of times a year. It is an outside prep company, and our families pay a fee directly to the company for their student to participate in the class.
Students complete tutoring/one-on-one sessions via Skype with representatives from a test prep company during their free class block. It is a service provided to our 11th grade students. All students are to complete test prep in this manner as a graduation expectation. Through pretesting and practice ACT/PSAT the test prep company helps us determine which test students will sit for. They are welcome to sit for both ACT and SAT, but formal test prep is only provided for one.
We work with test prep companies to offer free practice tests for students and have an alum who works with Manhattan Prep that does a “Standardized Test Night” to share about growth mindset and answer questions about the exams.
We partner with Summit Educational Group and they are great because they take a learning skills approach. We just vetted a bunch of organizations last year. So far, things are great. We offer a discount to students on financial. Happy to chat further about our process if you’d like.
We have a short list of test prep tutors and companies in the area that we have made through recommendations from families. We will gladly send it to families when they ask for suggestions. A bulk of our students use private tutors.
Again, our test prep is offered only to students in need, at least as determined by their receiving financial aid from our school. Full pay students typically hire individual tutors and work with them at home.
I wish we had more numerous options!
SATELLITE Test Prep, Revolution Prep
We do allow an outside company to offer a one week class during the summer for interested students. We do this primarily as a public relations service (we are not sure about how effective the class is given its timing).
We have had great results with Compass this year.
We encourage students to utilize Khan. We do not have a formal program because we can’t fit it into the school day at a time that works for everyone. We don’t “recommend” any organization, however we have arrangements with RevPrep, Kaplan, and Method to match the financial aid a family receives from the school.
We’ve used Method Test Prep for just over two years now. I don’t know that I will continue to use it moving forward as it takes a very motivated, self-directed student to utilize the software and be able to clearly understand why he/she answered the question incorrectly.
Not happy with Naviance. Now using Testive.
Compass is the best in my experience!
This will start in the 2016-2017 school year
We pay for access to Method test Prep, students pay for additional webinar
The outside test prep company has agreed that our financial aid students pay only the same percentage as they do for tuition. So, a student who receives 60% financial aid for our school will pay 60% of the test prep fee. Compass Prep does our test prep. We are interested in knowing how other schools handle test prep for FA students, as these kids increasingly want one-on-one test prep, which our school cannot pay for. And we are not comfortable calling in favors with test prep companies based on the frequency of favors we would need!
We provide students with information about local test prep services but do not recommend one over the other. We do use one local service that provides free test prep to students on financial aid in exchange for limited advertising.
We are starting to work with Compass. One of the major reasons we are putting this in place is to ensure that our neediest students who come from the farthest away have options.
We use a local provider.
Test studying: students are on their own. We encourage online options (Khan, Number2, etc) and refer them to local test prep agencies for in-person tutoring. Test Practice: the College Counselor Proctors a mock ACT and mock SAT during spring semester for juniors
We used to provide both ACT/SAT prep via Naviance (PrepMe) which was a great tool that no one used (literally four students over the course of a year logged on to PrepMe), so the District stopped funding it this year. Our public school is located in an affluent suburb where families have “teams” of consultants working with their students. We do not refer students to any provider, but we do keep flyers in the CCC from the major players ie: Compass, Princeton Review, Kaplan
I am not thrilled with our model either. We currently offer a kaplan SAT prep class but no ACT equivalent. We may switch to referring students to Revolution online courses instead.
The fee is about $15 for the online tool we use.
We not only run a test prep company on our campus but we offer a list of outside companies, whom our families have had success with, if they choose to go elsewhere.
Prep for juniors leading up to PSAT (SAT bonus) only. We also offer Method test prep but with no formal instruction and therefore I feel it is a waste of money. We may discontinue.
I continue to wonder about adding some test prep during the year but issues of scheduling and space keep clouding my vision! I’d love to get your results (will leave my email below) to see what others schools (outside of our neighboring ACCIS schools) are doing.
We offer a SAT prep course – pass/fail grading earning .5 credits during the fall semester. We allow Applerouth Tutoring Company to use our facilities for tutoring courses (Saturday mornings, reduced tuition for our students), Jed Applerouth spoke to our parents on changes in testing one evening in the fall. We have other private test prep resources (pamphlets, business cards) in the college counseling office. We encourage all students to do some kind of test prep – Khan, workbooks, tutoring – depending on their resources.
Applerouth Tutoring
Naviance is a good option for schools that do not have test prep within the classroom. However, students need to be motivated to use it.
Our prep is minimal (four 2 hour sessions) but we are also in a geographically challenged area for test prep. The school absorbs some of the cost and we charge students $100 each with reductions for the free/reduced set. Timing is right after school in a seminar room on a shorter school day. We offer this course twice each spring to avoid specific sport season conflicts and prepare for the March and May SATs. Approx. 45% of our college-bound juniors participate. Although only four sessions, the course helps satisfy families’ desire for SAT prep. Students get some solid test taking strategies and exposure without having to make a huge commitment of time or money.
One of the most useful services provided is a free, mock SAT and ACT. This gives students exposure to the ACT (we administer the PSAT, not ASPIRE) and helps students identify which test to focus on and where to prep.
We have not done this yet, so not quite sure what it will look like next year. Or even if it will be continued after that. The majority of our families have engaged private tutors or test prep companies in the past.
I recommend Atlas Test Prep; II encourage preparation – book, online, course, tutoring…whatever they can afford/schedule
We use local private tutors for our test prep, rather than a larger prep company (eg. Kaplan). Many of our students also secure the services of these tutors for additional prep outside of their in-school prep.
it is optional
Compass Education Group
We offer help in electives and also have an outside company to provide mocks and individual online courses
Patrick mannihan from sycamore learning was great and reasonably priced!
We use Mindspire Test Prep out of the Durham/Chapel Hill area, and Sylvan Learning Centers.
We survey seniors and ask them to recommend providers, and we share that list with families the next year. We also recommend Khan Academy; couldn’t check both options and “we don’t offer it at school” seemed more important.
We pay for Method Test Prep (it offers both ACT and SAT prep). Like many prep programs, our students who use it learn from it but it’s difficult to get students engaged with it. Anecdotally, many of our students seek private tutoring because it allows them to work around their busy schedules.
Many of our families work with tutors or take classes with companies.
We use a local company (More Than a Teacher) and offer test prep for the PSAT, SAT and ACT to juniors. A class for each typically consists of 25 – 35 students. The class meets before school on Monday morning (we have a late arrival for students, so they meet from 7:30 am – 9:15 am) and then may meet a second time on Tuesday or Wednesday after school from 3:50 pm – 5:30 pm. The PSAT class begins in mid-August and runs up until the PSAT. This year, we offered a fall ACT prep in lieu of the fall SAT prep that led up to the December test. Our spring SAT class leads up to the March test, while our ACT class leads up to the ACT class. This company does offer individual tutoring outside of the class for students who choose to contact them independently of the class.
This year, I applied for and received a grant for over $11K that allowed us to offer test prep during the school day to nearly all of our juniors leading up to the March SAT that they take for the SAT School Day Program. In this case, there was no cost to parents. For the normal test prep we offer in the six weeks leading up to the June ACT, we charge our families a fraction of the per pupil cost and subsidize the rest.
Currently, test prep for SAT only–no ACT
We have really liked the new Naviance Test Prep (I think it is relatively unknown but it seems to be working for our kids so far).
This year more students are using Khan Academy upon our advice than the test prep course offered on weekends at our school.
We educate faculty to the question formatting of SAT and ACT. We introduce Khan Academy, College Board, and local test prep companies and tutors and encourage student to familiarize themselves with testing. We invite one test prep company to offer an after school class on campus with discounted prices. Kaplan has shown itself most thorough for this service.
We have been working with RevPrep for a number of years. RevPrep has offered free practice tests and will also offer a 30-minute free score review session after the test to our students. We have begun to encourage families to check-out Khan Academy.
We offer a test prep course for SAT and for the first time this year-ACT. We charge less then the local Kaplan, Princeton Review etc. but word on the street is that the national outfits offer better classes for the higher price. I would estimate that 1/2 my students go with private tutors.
We use summit educational group and Revolution prep
Method Test Prep
We use a local test prep service founded by an alum. He knows our students and school well, and we made sure to use a provider who is willing to communicate with our office and be flexible with our families.
Our classroom instruction and online (Method Test Prep) is free to students, and then they are charged for the outside tutor that comes in and teaches evening classes. We also provide full length practice exams on Saturday mornings for a fee of $55
We are trying to figure out our direction. We used to have a prep company do a class in school for a fee but we didn’t like the way it worked so now we are in limbo and pushing Khan Academy.
We only have students work within Khan Academy for PSAT. We are looking at more comprehensive services currently.
We also offer a single test prep session on strategies for test taking (no content review) given by an outside provider. This 3-hour session is provided during the school day and gives students who cannot make the time or cost commitment to other test prep a resource to help them.
The most I suggest students do is familiarize themselves with the test and practice enough times to get an idea of the pacing. Beyond that, their studies come first and are much more important.
We have used Kaplan for a number of years and our enrollment has seriously declined prompting us to consider something different too.
In addition to a classroom-based class offered each semester (at no additional cost), our teachers also offer a summer course that does require a fee.
We offer small-group tutoring through Advantage Testing with 6 to 8 students per tutor. They meet for 90 minutes, one evening a week for 10 weeks.
We recently began working with a local test-prep company; in exchange for space on our campus for classes (and us suggesting them to our students) they have offered financial aid for those who receive aid to attend our school, and worked very well with us so far!
All prep is up to the student. I recommend students take the ACT and SAT practice tests to determine which one works better for them. SAT Question of the day – I recommend 2 questions a day at dinner. I also recommend on line programs – parents need to check these out on their own.
regarding services offered, we also encourage the use of Kahn Academy. We offer free prep, prep for a fee (we provide fee waivers to qualified students) by out staff and prep for a fee by outside providers. We also offer mock testing of both SAT and ACT.
We love Compass Education and Applerouth.

One thought on “Survey Results: Test Prep Services at Secondary Schools

  1. I don’t think there are enough test prep services that are readily available for the children in school. I know we have them but they don’t get introduced until you are really struggling. Those tutoring sessions can really make a difference. I think this is why some schools really differ from others. The learning differences and teaching skills are going to make a huge impact on the child and ultimately determine how successful their child becomes.

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