Some parents and students believe it is worthwhile to take as many practice tests as possible in preparation for an admissions exam. Indeed, there are some tutoring services whose process involves giving a practice test each week and using tutoring time to correct problems. We believe this approach is flawed and can even be counterproductive.
While it is helpful for students to take one or perhaps two practice tests to familiarize themselves with the timing, structure, and pressure involved in the actual exam, if each test is approached in the serious manner required, practice exams entail considerable commitment of time and effort and each sitting takes quite a lot out of students.
When students sit for multiple practice tests they tend to take them less and less seriously, in part because practice tests require substantial effort and stamina and students gradually begin losing energy, interest, and enthusiasm. Instead of building up to the big test day and arriving at an ideal point in which they are mentally prepared to sit for the actual exam, the test can instead seem anticlimactic for students who have taken lots of practice exams because they aren’t as focused or engaged as when they are at the peak of preparation.
Taking a practice test at the appropriate time during tutoring is far more significant than inundating students with multiple practice tests. For example, taking a test too early, when a student hasn’t properly prepared, can be demoralizing. Or taking multiple tests with only incremental improvement can cause a student to assume he or she cannot do better. Students are often mentally and emotionally drained after taking a practice test, so we must be judicious about precisely when and how often to administer them.
Next Level instructors are trained to teach the underlying concepts and material so students aren’t merely memorizing specific types of questions and answers, they are learning to work through actual test material. Not only does this approach significantly improve confidence (which can have a dramatic impact on anxiety and performance) but students often find themselves feeling more confident in their work at school as well.