Failures of Test Prep Programs

Failures of Test Prep Programs

Grown into an obligatory must-do for prospective students entering college

The Dilemma – Failures of Test Prep Programs

Parents and students want to invest in the best preparatory programs available. Much is at stake with the average costs tipping over $2000 for parents and students.

Though the reality is the Scholastic Assessment Test (SAT), the American College Testing (ACT), and the Graduate Record Examinations (GRE) are designed by their respective institutions to be minimally coachable, yet, there still exists a multibillion dollar test-prep industry that promises significant gains in test scores. Many experts in the past few years have stated that these costly programs offer little pertaining to increased scores. Worst yet, for the most part the test prep industry is unregulated by state and federal government.

Yet the dilemma remains for parents and students – to do nothing in preparedness seems irresponsible. And while there is a trend towards moving away from standardized test scores as a gateway, most institutions of higher education still require them. Some schools, in fact, have a specific test score set as a cut-off, so if 30 points brings a student over that threshold the thinking is that test prep programs could make the difference between acceptance or rejection. The problem is these test prep programs just do not work as advertised, as mentioned in a 2011 article in Education Week.

What Does Work – Failures of Test Prep Programs

For decades studies have demonstrated what sages have known for a long time –  mindfully focusing on the here and now has many benefits to health, well-being, and as it turns out in recent studies1-6, increased scores in standardized tests. In one study5 scores improved in the mindfulness-trained group taking the GRE from 460 to 520 – that’s a 15% boost! Here’s a few things meditation does for students:

  • Prevents deterioration of your working memory capacity (WMC) during periods of high-stress, like taking the SAT, ACT, and GRE
  • Enhances your attention
  • Improves your visuospatial processing efficiency (reading comprehension)
  • Increases your backward digit memory span (math related)

Students who have the ability to attend to a task without distraction constitutes an ability experts suggest is the leading edge that increases standardized test scores, by far5. Indeed, mind wandering – shifting one’s attention from taking a standardized test to unrelated concerns – is associated with the impaired performance on a wide variety of standardized tests. We have all experienced it one time or another. Focusing in a task can be difficult; and remaining focused and attentive during a three-hour standardized testing period can be brutal.

TestUp Mindfulness Training Sessions is a unique program targeting those people having to endure the hours of testing required by the SAT, ACT, and the GRE. You’ve spent years learning about the world. Let us help you access that knowledge, on-demand.

1Holzel, Carmody, et al. “Mindfulness Practice Leads to Increases in Regional Brain Gray Matter Density.” Psychiatry Research: Neuroimaging, 2011; 191 (1): 36. DOI: 10.1016/j.pscychresns.2010.08.006
2Levy, Wobbrock, et al. “The Effects of Mindfulness Meditation Training on Multitasking in a High-Stress Information Environment.” Proceedings of Graphics Interface, 2012: 45-52.
3Lisa Takeuchi Cullen. “How to Get Smarter, One Breath at a Time.” Time Magazine, 10 Jan. 2006. Web:,9171,1147167,00.html
4MacLean, Ferrer, Aichele, et al. “Intensive Meditation Training Improves Perceptual Discrimination and Sustained Attention.” Psychological Science, June 2010, 21:829-839. DOI: 10.1177/0956797610371339 – See more at:
5Michael D. Mrazek, Michael S. Franklin, Dawa Tarchin Phillips, Benjamin Baird, and Jonathan W. Schooler Psychological Science, May 2013; vol. 24, 5: pp. 776-781., first published on March 28, 2013
6Zeidan, Johnson, et al. “Mindfulness Meditation Improves Cognition: Evidence of Brief Mental Training.” Consciousness and Cognition, 19(2): 597-605, June 2010. DOI: 10.1016/j.concog.2010.03.014

Photo credit: Jaromír Chalabala via


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