Savvy tutors and online study can help keep test prep on track even as online learning has become the norm for many students, even during SAT test prep.

Re-imagining test prep amid a pandemic


Savvy tutors and online study can help keep test prep on track even as online learning has become the norm for many students

Education has been upended amid COVID-19. Across the country, many schools and universities have had to shut down physical campuses and have rushed to roll out online learning. While online college classes, web-based test prep, and other internet-facilitated learning methods have become a popular option over the last decade, in-person education remained the norm until the pandemic struck. Now, educators are stitching together online offerings on the fly and rolling them out across entire schools and universities.

Many time-honored traditions, like welcome week for incoming freshmen or on-stage graduation ceremonies for seniors, have bitten the dust. Some students are putting college on hold, waiting for things to return to normal before heading off to university. Yet for many, education must go on. And for high school students, preparing for the ACT and SAT remains as important as ever.

Related content: Why college test prep is like triathlon training

Fortunately, online learning offers many possibilities. Online and at-home test prep materials have been available for years. Students or their parents could pick up study guidebooks and computer practice exams, for example. Still many students, and especially those still in high school, struggle without guidance and accountability.

That’s why some education gurus have been looking to innovate test preparation with courses that meld the best of at-home, online learning with individualized remote sessions with tutors. This allows students to maximize their educational experience while staying safe in the comfort of their own home.

At-home test prep reimagined

Yesteryear’s test preparation methods often fail to hold water these days, especially as the COVID-19 pandemic rages. Study books, for example, are useful, but nothing replaces person-to-person instruction. Yet many prep centers are closed down due to the pandemic. Now, educators are having to adapt their methods and materials to the reality of a socially distanced word. Good thing innovators are proving up to the task.

While in-person teaching may be out of the question for many, connecting online through video services remains promising. Meanwhile, continued advancement in education software and online programs allows tutors to deliver an effective experience even while maintaining safe distances. This means students can still maximize their scores and aim for their top-choice universities.

One promising area of test prep innovation is bringing advanced algorithms to bear. If you’ve been following AI and machine learning, you may have heard of how scientists are using advanced algorithms to analyze vast amounts of data. This allows AI programs to learn about their environment.

What does this have to do with test prep? Everything! Some educators are using intricate algorithms to analyze students and their current readiness for the ACT, SAT, and other standardized tests. By using advanced algorithms, test prep providers can see where students are falling short and where knowledge gaps may exist. This allows educators to develop customized study plans for individual students, which in turn may lead to higher test scores.

Yet as powerful as algorithms are, they can’t replace humans. Plain old people are still far better at understanding, creativity, and emotional IQ (all of which play a vital role in education) than computer programs. While test prep software is a powerful tool, it works best paired with human tutors who can work one on one with students. A tutor can provide a guiding hand, and in collaboration with powerful software, can develop custom study plans that home in on the student’s needs. Using the right tools, a tutor can also work remotely with students, allowing them to learn in the safety of their own home.

Accountability is important as well, more so with so many students studying at home. Netflix and other distractions can tempt learners away from study. Setting up homework plans, and holding students accountable to them, can ensure that people stay on track. The greatest study strategies will fall short if students don’t stick to the plan. Tutors can assign homework and ensure students remain on track while preparing for college admissions exams.

Prep smarter, not harder

To add to all this confusion, most schools have adopted testing-optional policies. This means that you may not have to submit an SAT or ACT score in order to qualify for admissions. But don’t confuse “test-optional” for “test-blind.” Strong SAT or ACT scores will still be seen very positively and can help you differentiate in an environment where many of your classmates may have chosen not to take the test. Submitting a strong SAT or ACT score shows colleges that you have a good grasp of the core academic concepts; it helps colleges compare students who have had different high school curricula; and it shows schools that you’re willing to go above the minimum requirements in your pursuit of academics.

Many students are struggling to adapt to online learning. Finishing high school or starting college 100 percent online is proving difficult for even the most dedicated learners. The same is true for test preparation. The SAT and ACT remain as important as ever. While COVID-19 has upended many traditional test prep methods, by combining technology and remote one-on-one tutoring, educators can continue to get students ready for college admissions.

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