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How do I choose the best test prep company?

QUESTION: I am an ESL junior and need to improve my verbal SAT score. My highest score is 570. I missed 6 questions in the analogies section and 14 questions in the critical reading section. Where I live there are three national test preparation companies. How do I choose the best one, especially for help with the verbal section? Also, I recently took a diagnostic test for the ACT. It was my first time taking the test, and I got an equivalent score to my highest SAT verbal score. Should I take the ACT instead? Signed, Testing the Test Tutors

Dear Testing: If you were an employer conducting interviews, you would ask potential job candidates how they could help your company. In a similar way, you need to ask these three test preparation companies how they can help you.

Test preparation companies offer introductory meetings and diagnostic exams. Take advantage of each of these. More importantly, grill them about how they can help you, especially with the verbal section. Ask about who your instructor would be and their background, their approach for teaching the verbal section and especially critical reading and how their program is different from the other companies. The best way to choose is to make each company tell you why you should choose them.

For your second question about the ACT, since you've performed well after taking the exam only once, you should consider taking it. Before you do, make sure that the schools that you are interested in applying to accept the ACT. Also, compare how you did on the rest of the ACT with how you did on the rest of the SAT.

If the colleges all accept the ACT and you performed similarly on the two tests, then go ahead and take the ACT. Even though your score may be different on an actual test than from what you received on a diagnostic test, it seems that your skills may be better demonstrated through the ACT.

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Gen & Kelly Tanabe

Gen and Kelly Tanabe are the founders of SuperCollege and the award-winning authors of 11 books on college admission, financial aid and scholarships. Together they were accepted to all of the Ivy League colleges and won more than $100,000 in merit-based scholarships to graduate from Harvard debt-free.