How to Choose a Test Prep Course

Last updated: Jan 17, 2023

Whether you’re preparing for college admission, entry into a graduate program, or a professional certification, the required test can literally alter the course of your future. With so much on the line, it’s no surprise that you have a dizzying number of options to help you prepare for your exam.


In an industry as crowded as test prep, course style, included resources, and instructor experience can dramatically differ among providers. If you’re wondering how to choose a test prep course, use the following tips to sort through your options and find the best one for you.


Determine Your Test Prep Course Needs

Before you sign up for a test prep course, find out how prepared you are by taking a practice test. Depending on the exam you’re going to take, there may be many available for free online, including SAT and ACT practice exams. With your baseline score in hand, you can then use it to identify any weaknesses and determine what kind of course will help you most.


Find that you’re already scoring well above the average? A shorter test prep course that offers a quicker overview of the exam format, some general strategies, and a more in-depth look at the difficult concepts may be right for you. Didn’t earn the score you were hoping for on the practice test? You may benefit from a longer, more comprehensive program that delves into the test content in detail.


Choose the Right Delivery Format for Your Learning Style

How do you learn best? Find out whether you’re an auditory, visual, or kinesthetic learner before enrolling in a course. This will help you pick the option that delivers the content in your preferred learning method.


From there, you can answer a few other questions that will help you decide between online or in-person instruction:

  • Are you comfortable with the technology required for remote instruction?
  • Do you have trouble concentrating if you’re at home?
  • Do you get easily distracted if you’re in a big classroom?
  • Do you have a quiet place to study at home?
  • If the course is held in person, can you easily attend?

A female college student taking a test prep course

Evaluate Your Testing Timeline

Many exams are only offered a few times a year. If this is the case with your upcoming test and the big day is coming at you fast, you may be forced to opt for a shorter, week-long prep course that will help you review key concepts and sharpen knowledge you may have forgotten. Many of these courses cover frequently tested subjects and offer additional online support that can help offset the tight turnaround.


Is that upcoming exam many months down the road? If you left yourself enough time, a more comprehensive test prep program can walk you through each and every facet of the exam. From specific question types to subject-matter instruction to time-management tips, longer test prep courses offer a stronger foundation for success.


Find Out Which Resources Are Included

The right additional resources can dramatically improve your results by extending your practice opportunities and deepening your understanding of the material. When weighing your course options, ask yourself some important questions:

  • Does the test prep include free study guides or online resources?
  • Are practice exams included?
  • Will you receive additional section-specific practice questions?
  • Will course sessions be recorded so that you can go back and review later?

Students in a library choosing a test prep course.

Discover if Instructor Interaction Is Encouraged

Will you have the opportunity to stop the class to ask questions, or will the instructor be working on a tight timeline? Can you request extra assistance with concepts and content that you find challenging, or is the instructor following a lesson plan? Particularly if you’re reviewing content you haven’t seen in a long time or learning entirely new topics, the opportunity to interact with your instructor can be huge.


Not the type of student to raise your hand with a question? No problem. In some cases, instructor office hours may be included in the course. This will give you additional opportunities to clarify anything that you’re struggling to master in a more personal setting.


Choose a Proven Course Provider

Your results on these critical tests play such a big role in your future that an entire industry has sprung up around helping you earn your top score. From private, individual tutors to big national companies and everything in between, course providers run the gamut. With so many options, though, you want to make sure that you’re spending your money wisely by picking a reputable provider with a long track record of success helping students.


At USF, we feature an expert team of instructors with years of experience helping students master the skills needed to earn their top scores. This includes various test prep courses for college admission, graduate programs, and professional certifications, such as the ACT, GMAT, GRE, LSAT, PMP, SAT, SHRM-CP/SCP, and more.


Let us help you prepare for exam day!