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In a nutshell, we believe that probably most high school students would benefit from hiring a tutor or taking an ACT prep course.
How do you know which category you fall into?
First, you need to perform a “self diagnostic,” if you will. Take an ACT practice test with official questions under timed conditions, trying to simulate the test conditions as best you can. (Cell phones off, find a quiet area free from distractions, etc.)
Mark the questions where you guessed and look at the answer explanations to both the ones you got wrong as well as guessed correctly. Do the explanations make sense? Did you do significantly better on one section than another and, perhaps, only need to concentrate your ACT test prep time on certain portions of the test?
Most ACT prep courses (online courses are the exception) do not offer you much flexibility for your schedule. In other words, you may sign up for a class that meets every Thursday evening and you will have to accommodate your schedule around this commitment.
No “live” course is better than the individual instructor that is teaching it. Ask your friends, neighbors, and family if they have had any firsthand experience with the local ACT instructors. While the larger ACT prep courses offer many top-notch instructors, we have heard our share of complaints about instructors who read the presentation material in a very dry and monotonous tone right out of a textbook.
ACT prep courses tend to give an equal amount of time to each section of the ACT. If you are very strong in the math and analogies sections, for instance, you may want to focus most of your efforts on the critical reading and sentence completion sections.
Reputable ACT prep can significantly increase your test scores and are likely more effective for most students than self study. It can cost a significant amount of money though. Make sure you understand the “value proposition” and have reasonable expectations for achieving your ACT test score goals. Finally, assuming you have finite resources, you will want to consider that the ACT is only one part of your college applications and you may want to allocate financial resources to campus visits and other areas of the college admission process.