Does Success Come at a Price? A Look at Standardized Test Prep

Last updated Feb 5, 2021 


The New York Times recently ran an opinion piece titled, “How I Learned to Take the SAT Like a Rich Kid,” by Dylan Hernandez. Much of the article chronicles Hernandez’s time as a scholarship student in a summer program at Phillips Exeter, an exclusive New England prep school. Hernandez describes it as “five weeks of classes and sports, with some optional SAT prep mixed in.”

At first, the article proceeds in a fairly predictable manner. The author mentions the discouraging state of public education in his home in Michigan and provides statistics to emphasize the advantages that kids from more prosperous backgrounds enjoy. He characterizes his fellow summer school attendees as “affluent” students from “prestigious private” schools.

However, somewhere in the fourth or fifth paragraph of the article the tone changes. The focus shifts from privilege to attitude. Hernandez—who did not elect to take the SAT training offered that summer—maintains that what he took away from his experience was not a collection of secret tips or strategies, but one important principle: “one must train for standardized tests with the intensity of an athlete.”

What impressed Hernandez about the Phillips Exeter program was how serious the participants were about their goals. Inspired, he decided upon his return home that he could emulate these students and do test prep without racking up bills for tens of thousands of dollars. He went to the library and took out test prep books. He enrolled in a local free program offered by the University of Michigan. He practiced online. And he succeeded. Instead of spending money, he ultimately earned “tens of thousands in automatic merit awards to local universities.”

Dylan Hernandez’s goal (and the goal of this article) is not to minimize the effectiveness of intensive academic standardized test prep. Dylan admits that exposure to the program is what led him to make changes in his study habits. He also maintains that his classmates in the summer program “worked extremely hard” and that they earned their successes. However, he clearly demonstrates that he was able to duplicate that success with a combination of careful planning, persistence, and dedication.

Many students may be in a situation similar to Hernandez’s before he was exposed to the scholastic ideals at Phillips Exeter. That is, students may possess all the qualities necessary to earn high standardized test scores (intelligence, good study habits, dedication) but simply not know how to get started.

That’s where A+ comes in!                     

At A+, we welcome you and your family into a community of educators and fellow students, all of whom are committed to academic excellence and success. A+ offers one-on-one tutoring in school subjects, test preparation (PSAT, SAT, and ACT), and executive function coaching. Students may participate in proctored exams to simulate “real-life” testing conditions. Our environment provides the same motivation, positive attitude, and skills enhancement as those featured in other more exclusive private programs—at a fraction of the cost.  Our goal is to make your student’s testing process as productive and stress-free as possible and to help him or her attain a “personal best” score.

If you would like more information about our standardized test prep programs, our Client Service Directors Anne Stanley and Susan Ware are available to answer questions and provide solutions. You may reach either of them by calling A+ Test Prep and Tutoring at 215-886-9188.

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