Friends Don’t Let Friends Prep Alone

Why we need to make test prep more engaging and interactive for our high school students.

GUEST COLUMN | by Kenny Nova

CREDIT play2prep daily trainingThe preparation process for high-stakes college admissions tests has not changed in decades. High school students slog long hours, typically paying thousands of dollars on courses, texts and tutoring in what has become an isolated and highly stressful experience. Why is this the case when many other aspects of learning for today’s high school student are social and interactive, both offline and online? Put simply, why does test prep remain an expensive, stressful, solitary chore?

High-stakes test preparation needs a new approach. Ideally, preparation truly benefits the student and parent by improving access, decreasing cost, and increasing efficacy and engagement. High school students are social and work best in collaboration. Adults don’t work well in constant isolation, so why should we expect our students to?  We need to provide learning environments that go beyond “skill and drill” exercises, as we know that the learners need content presented in a variety of modalities.

From our data at my company, a mobile multi-player test prep game for the SAT and ACT, it is clear that students can be decidedly self-motivated when provided an engaging learning environment. We’ve discovered a clearly established pattern of “play” for users. Newly on-boarded students typically engage with both the ACT and SAT in an effort to gauge the best “fit” for them, answering questions in both test modes. Once that fit is determined, students connect with a variety of single-player and two-player formats.

In the case of test preparation, technology is not only a way to connect students with one another, but also a tool for engagement and retention.

Our data also reveals when and how students interact with test preparation once engaged with the content. Students will connect with the app throughout the day, in times that are not traditionally seen as “prep times,” including actually during the school day. Students show a higher propensity to answer questions sent to them by friends or random opponents in the two-player game than in the single-player mode, indicating that wrapping questions (the core exercise of test prep) into a game of “turns” dramatically increases engagement and interaction. We see a massive increase in back-and-forth activity at night, when students have the greatest availability. It is clear that engagement is the key to greater effort.

In the case of test preparation, technology is not only a way to connect students with one another, but also a tool for engagement and retention. The community of traditional education and edtech companies can help remove the barriers to entry around test prep by making learning interactive and connected, offering quality content, and increasing accessibility. We have found that offering tools that engage and challenge, and that are available at the student’s convenience, encourage more active learning. It’s time to stop studying alone. Test preparation, like so many other components of digital classrooms, can now be a more social experience.

Kenny Nova is the founder of play2prep, providing powerful personalized mobile training for ACT, SAT and PSAT college admissions tests. play2prep has guided over 100,000 students to achieve their best score; students sharpen their skills with customized daily training, get test tough with simulated tests, improve their time management with games – on their own or against the community of players – and track their progress to achieve their goals.

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