— Classroom Learning is Ineffective —
Secret #2: Classroom Learning is Ineffective and Totally Outdated, but INSANELY PROFITABLE (and the Test Prep Companies Know It)
It’s my prediction that the entire classroom learning model – not just for test prep courses, but for the entire worldwide education system – will be dead within a few decades.
Thousands upon thousands of studies have shown that learning in a classroom is THE worst way to learn. Classroom instruction uses pretty much NONE of the new knowledge we have about brain science, learning, and memory. Have you ever been bored in a classroom before? Well, let me ask you something:
How can you be bored when you’re challenged and engaged, and when you’re learning something that actually matters to you?
If you’re actively engaged by your instructor, boredom isn’t even possible.
Most students who sit in SAT and ACT classroom courses want higher scores, just like most students in high school algebra class want to be better at math. But the one thing they have in common is mind-numbing boredom, staring at the clock from start to finish and praying for the classes to end.
I can’t save you from your algebra classes, but I can save you from ineffective test prep classroom courses.
Many people ask me the same question: if classroom courses are so insanely ineffective, then why are they still the #1 option for test prep, and why are there so many of them? The reason is simple:
It’s WAY EASIER and FAR MORE PROFITABLE to sell a classroom course than it is to design and sell an effective SAT/ACT prep program without a classroom model. And when you make a big profit, you have TONS of money to spend on marketing.
If you sign up for your average $1,200 test prep program, and you’re in a classroom with 20 other students, here’s what the company is making in revenue:
$1,200 X 20 = $24,000
But here’s the beautiful thing – they’ve already developed their materials, and they only have to pay one teacher! So if they spend $40/student on materials and printing, they’re losing:
$40X20 = $800
If it’s a 24-hour course, and if they’re paying their instructor $40/hour:
24X$40 = $960
That leaves the test prep firm with $22,000 left over. They don’t need any word of mouth so long as they can get the next round of students in the door through advertising. If they can spend $15,000 on ads to fill another class, they’re still netting $7,000/class.
Why do you keep hearing about classroom courses? Because you are being drowned in their marketing budget, and all the other, more effective (but less profitable) options are being drowned out.
Since most people think of “test prep” and “SAT classes” as synonymous, it’s even easier for these companies to get more students in the door. A lot of well-meaning parents sign their kids up for these classroom courses just because “it’s what you do.” They’re aware of the option, they’ve seen a billion ads for the option, and they don’t want to “rock the boat” by trying something new and unheard of. But all the evidence points to a clear conclusion:
It is not what you SHOULD do.
These classroom courses DO NOT WORK. Sure, they “improve your score,” but remember: ANY prep will “improve your score” by a little bit. What they don’t do is “improve your score by nearly as much as they should.” In fact, a recent study showed that the average classroom course is only improving its students’ scores by 15 points!
Because classroom courses are so ludicrously profitable, and because they’re so scalable and easy to market, test prep firms promoting these classes can drown out every other option and make sure that they maintain top-of-mind awareness. Getting you big score improvements is not their first concern. They can still fill seats in classrooms with their big budgets, no matter what individual students achieve while they are there.
If you’re about to pay $1,200 for one of these courses, I have a better recommendation for you:
A) Buy the book published by the test prep company
B) Work your way through it the best you can and take all the practice tests you can find
C) Save $1,200 minus the cost of the book
These classes give you no individualized attention, don’t cater to YOUR needs, are scheduled at often inconvenient times and days for your schedule, and move at a pace designed for “the average student” – in other words, it would be too expensive to create multiple programs and have multiple instructors work with you, so they use a “pretty good” program, make their thousands of dollars, give you “a score improvement,” and hope you don’t come banging on their door again.
These classroom courses are THE reason why my industry has a bad rep. People pay tons of money for sub-par results, then claim that “SAT prep doesn’t really work.” It does, but not when you get it through classrooms.
Many sophisticated parents, who are “in the know” and who realize how poor of an investment these classroom courses really are, decide to go for a vastly more effective option: one-on-one tutoring.
One-on-one tutoring is, by many measures, the most effective way to get better at anything, not just the SAT and ACT. But there’s a small issue: one-on-one tutoring is very expensive, and, unfortunately, it can be incredibly inconsistent. This brings us to the next thing you need to know about the test prep industry: Tutoring Track Records…