Lisa Jardine

Column: Parents need test prep, too

owlSpring break means the official start to standardized testing season.

If you have a high school student, you may have some of the same questions I do: Whom should I use to help my kids prepare and, with so many options on the market, which one is the right one for my child?

When I was in high school, I remember one or two test preparation companies, but not everyone used one. And when I sat down to type my college application, I was lucky if one of my parents read the essay before I mailed it in.

These days, getting into college is big business. Kaplan and Princeton Review are the market leaders in a $1 billion industry, but there are so many other choices it’s best to do your research before plunking down what could be thousands of dollars.

I did a very unscientific survey on Facebook and came away with a list of service providers friends in our area have used in the past. These ranged from the new and groundbreaking companies that use technology instead of tutors to the smaller, hands-on companies that feel the quality of their teachers makes them the obvious choice.

After my research, I’ve come to the conclusion that there is no right answer for everyone, but there could be better ones depending on what type of child you are dealing with.

Here is a very brief synopsis of some of the more popular choices in our area:

Carnegie Pollak is celebrating its 30th year serving Westchester and Fairfield counties. Starting out with one SAT class taught by a verbal teacher, Bud Pollak, and a math teacher, Lynn Carnegie, it has grown into a full-service test prep and tutoring company that continues to grow larger every year.

“People choose to work with us because our students are not just names; we work closely with each student to determine the most successful and most efficient course of action. The classes and tutors shouldn’t add stress to the student’s life, they should help alleviate it,” Carnegie said.

Carnegie Pollak credits their teachers who make subject matter come to life, bringing energy and excitement to something most students and their parents’ dread. They offer courses to prepare for the PSAT, the SAT, the SAT Subject Tests, the ACT and AP exams. They also offer private in-home tutoring for many academic subjects, reading and writing skills and the private school admission tests, ISEE and SSAT.

For more information, visit

TestRocker says they are the best of both worlds—private tutoring and technology. was created by Suniti Mathur, an SAT and ACT tutor with more than a decade of experience tutoring thousands of students around the world. She has adapted her simple and intuitive approach for the online space. After a one-time payment, students begin by taking a diagnostic online test to assess their strengths and weaknesses and gain access to a customized study plan, which they can follow to study smarter, not longer.

“Having a personalized game plan reduces students’ anxiety and gives them the confidence to attempt any question because they feel adequately prepared,” Mathur said.

Every question on the TestRocker program comes with a video explanation done by Suniti. It’s the private tutor experience at a more affordable price.

“Students today are extremely busy with extra-curricular activities, academics, leadership positions, etc. Most of them don’t have time in their day to schedule private or group tutoring. The reality is that they usually have a few spare moments at night, when in-person solutions are closed. Most of our students, no matter where in the world they are, log-on to TestRocker after 9 p.m.,” said Urvashi Mathur, co-founder and chief operating officer of TestRocker.

For more information, check out

Regents Review is a teacher-owned-and-operated company that provides test preparation for middle and high school students for Regents, AP and SAT II exams.

“Regents Review is unique because our programs are set up as one-day courses. Students arrive in the morning, spend the day with us as we review the entire curriculum and then practice with actual past exams. We show them tricks and give them tips and strategies for excelling on their tests. Our programs provide a comprehensive review at a fraction of the cost of a private tutor,” said Michelle Zakarin, director.

With the introduction of the Common Core curriculum in math, Regents Review is seeing increased demand for its algebra 1 review and its global history review, which covers two years of material.

For more information, visit

Private Prep has served Westchester families since 2009 and works with hundreds of students each year.

They offer personalized one-on-one programs for a full range of K-12 subjects, standardized exams like the SAT, ACT, SAT Subject Tests, private school admissions exams such as the ISEE and SSAT, New York State Regents and AP Exams as well as college admissions. The program’s philosophy recognizes all students learn differently and have varying strengths and challenges, so it takes the time to truly get to know families, allowing the program to craft personalized plans for each individual student.

“We are not only invested in helping students achieve their academic goals, but also teaching them how to learn and develop study skills that they can take with them beyond a particular course or test,” Stephanie Loeb, director, said.

Private Prep prides itself on lending personalized, professional support, not only for their students but also for parents and tutors.

For more information:

Educational experts debate whether you can study for a standardized test like the SAT or ACT, so why spend all the time, energy and money?

“Every test in life needs preparation, otherwise it is just an IQ test. In the case of the SAT/ACT, it means strengthening topics of weakness and clearing up hazy concepts. It also means increasing speed and reducing the tendency to make careless mistakes. Preparation also increases confidence, which is a big factor in performance on such tests,” Mathur said.

Carnegie feels very strongly about taking the time to prepare.

“Based on decades of experience, I can say confidently that dedicating time and energy to test preparation makes all the difference. We, as teachers, focus on the ‘three Cs,’ learning the content, improving concentration and building confidence,” she said.prep


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