Smart consumers do their homework before they invest. Before you choose an SAT preparation company, be sure you ask the questions that will ensure you are getting what you are paying for - real results that last a lifetime. Here is a list of the questions you should ask. Following each question is the answer from PEN's SAT course partners.
WHAT IS THE PROFESSIONAL BACKGROUND AND EXPERIENCE OF YOUR TEACHERS?
We hire classroom teachers and other professionals from the fields of Mathematics and Language Arts. Many commercial companies use college students to teach their courses, the only requirement often being a high SAT score and a good personality. Would you want your child being taught by a college student 2-3 years older than your own child? Other companies will have teachers teach both the math and verbal sections. Our math teachers are math specialists; our verbal teachers are Language Arts specialists.
HOW ARE YOUR TEACHERS TRAINED AND SUPERVISED?
Our teachers have undergone intensive training and observation by our specialists. Each teacher has received a minimum of 40 hours of individual training plus 40 hours as a teacher's assistant. Many commercial companies have only 15 to 30 hours of total training before they place an instructor in front of a class. Still others hire teachers through internet job sites, never meeting in person nor giving any formalized training, offering only "phone support" if a tutor requests.
WHICH COURSE MATERIAL DO YOU USE?
We EXCLUSIVELY use the REAL SAT's, PSAT's, and ACT’s published by The College Board and American College Testing Company. Beware: many commercial companies use "look-alike" tests that are NOT THE REAL THING. Although some companies will give The College Board book to their students, they rely on their own written material for instruction and testing. We feel that the only way to learn the test is from the actual test itself. There is NO reason to use anything but authentic test material from the test-maker!
CAN YOU EXPLAIN YOUR GUARANTEE?
NO ONE can guarantee a student's score. There are many factors that can affect a student's performance on any given day that may have nothing to do with the instruction received. For example, at one high school where we offer classes, prom was scheduled the night before SAT's... We will only guarantee that students receive the highest quality academic instruction from the most qualified teachers.
PRIVATE TUTORING: IS THERE A MINIMUM NUMBER OF SESSIONS REQUIRED?
Our private tutoring is on a class-by-class basis. If a company gives you a minimum number, beware! Our philosophy is that every student is different. Some students may need only a few sessions, others may need more. We do not bind you to any agreement. Since every student is unique, we schedule sessions based on a student's need.
DO YOU HAVE DIFFERENT LEVELS OF TEACHERS?
At PEN we do not believe in a "lower ranked" teacher for someone who cannot "afford" the best. Our fees are the same for all of our teachers. We provide small group options for students who cannot afford the fee for private tutoring.
IS A COURSE/TUTORING NECESSARY?
Many motivated and disciplined students can prepare by themselves for the various admissions' tests. One critical piece of advice: ONLY buy College Board SAT material and American College Testing for the ACT, Check on-line for product availability and services (www.collegeboard.com; www.act.org). There are shelves upon shelves of books at the local bookstores that will promise you the world. Remember: if it sounds too good to be true, it probably is. Don't look for gimmicks. Don't look for a quick fix. Go about your preparation with the same seriousness that you approach your school work. Don't be fooled by companies promoting their "look-alike" tests as the real thing.