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With test prep, do you get what you pay for?

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January 18, 2020

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Josh Jones

You get what you pay for… or do you?

In one sense, we can’t charge you enough for what we deliver; after all, your score may be the difference between the school you want and the school you get into.  What’s your future worth?

On the other hand, of course, your score is only one element of your application (which is why you should check out our admissions consulting too!  But that’s another post…)

But that’s not the question you asked, and you deserve an answer: does the price of a test prep program accurately reflect its quality?

Now I know what you expect me to say: of course!  But you’d be wrong. Kind of.

Because the answer depends.

If you’re the sort of person who’s truly going this alone and if all you really want is a few books, a little structure, and someone to answer a few questions, then no, price doesn’t accurately reflect quality.  You can find that program – or make it up on your own – for very little.

But I wouldn’t recommend it (unless perhaps you’re already within 20 points of your target score).

I’m not saying you’ll fail the test.  That sort of program will get you your personal average score, plus or minus a little.

But do you want your average score?

To understand my point, you’ll have to understand how standardized tests work.  Basically, they’re polls, by which I mean that they have a margin of error, and your score will vary.  Let’s say that your “personal average” score is 650 (or wherever you’re testing). That implies that if you took the test a thousand times, the average (the mean) of your thousand scores would be 650.  So, if you studied and took the test, you’d expect to get 650, plus or minus a margin of error.

But who wants to send their personal average?  You want to get your best possible score, and that requires a strategy and expert help.

I like analogies, especially sports analogies, so here’s what I mean: did you watch that AFC title game?  Face it, KC was the better team; on average, I think they’d have beaten the Patriots, but they only place the game once, so average doesn’t help.  A great coach gets his team ready to get the best possible outcome on the one day they play the game.

That’s what you want, and that’s what we’re here to help you achieve: your best possible score!

Now, I want to leave you with one caution: some people think they can take the test a bunch of times and submit their “best” score.  First, do you really think that’s possible? Be honest: are you going to study for and do your best on each and every test, or are you going to wind-up studying a little and winging it on game day?  Besides, there’s a limit on how many tests you can take.

Second, in the long run you’ll just tend towards your personal average; that is, nobody can get up for the big game time and time again.  (You think the Patriots wanted a rematch?)

Third, people focusing on Plan Bs rarely achieve their Plan As: you’re just not going to be able to put in the required effort when, in the back of your mind, your treating this test like practice.  I’m not going to lie: desire is a big part of success. You can only get that score if you want it badly enough to invest what it takes to get your best possible shot at success. In other words, if you’re choosing your test prep on price alone, you probably don’t want it enough for test prep to save you.  

In short, the price of failing to get your target score is far more expensive than the cost of test prep.

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