Brightstorm is a website offering online test preparation classes for the SAT, ACT, PSAT and several AP tests. In addition to the test preparation classes, Brightstorm offers classes in writing, literature, U.S. history, and math to help students in their everyday studies. While most of the offerings require purchasing a subscription for the class, the PSAT and math classes are free! In this review, I'll be discussing the SAT and ACT portions of the website.
The SAT and ACT Prep Packages each cost $99.00 for a 3-month subscription. For this price you receive one diagnostic test, 2 full-length tests, video episodes covering all aspects of the tests, worksheets, practice quizzes, and web links related to test topics. You can access these offerings from any computer 24 hours per day for 3 months, and there is a 30-day satisfaction guarantee for each program. Additionally, this site provides an amazing amount of personalization so that each student is learning exactly what he needs to improve his test scores. I used an older PC with a high-speed Internet connection to view the classes and had no trouble in doing so.
Getting started was easy! After making your purchase, you are directed to the start-up page for your specific test. The site suggests that the student take the diagnostic test first. Both the diagnostic and full-length tests must be downloaded and printed out. The student records his answers in the online scorer at the Brightstorm website. Once the 1 hour and 25 minute diagnostic test is complete, the website analyzes the student's answers and creates a very detailed online report of his performance on each concept and skill covered on the test. The online report shows the student's score on each test section and further breaks down the results into individual concepts, listing the percentage of those questions the student answered correctly and suggesting specific video class episodes for the student to watch relating to each concept. The student can decide which video episodes to watch--all of them or just those that teach specific skill areas. Of course, it would be best to watch all of the video lessons! After watching the videos, which vary in length from a few minutes to 12 or more, the student can take the first full-length test and repeat the process of looking at the online report, prioritizing the skills needing work, and watching the videos. Brightstorm suggests that students take the final full-length test about a week prior to taking the "real" test.
The video episodes are very well done. The SAT Prep Package has 36 videos (including episodes about the SAT writing test), and the ACT Prep Package has 29 videos. The teachers, both young women who received perfect scores on the test they are teaching, speak clearly and use a variety of multi-media tools as they teach. The videos aren't flashy, but they certainly aren't boring or old fashioned. After viewing an episode, the student should go to the Bonus Materials tab, where there are worksheets and quizzes (accessible through PDFs or web links). Answers for both are also provided.
The My Stuff tab is another very helpful and completely personalized feature of each Prep Package. Every video episode and the corresponding worksheets and quizzes are listed on this page. When a student watches a video or does a worksheet, a green check mark is automatically placed next to it. The score earned on each quiz is also recorded here. This makes it easy for students to keep track of what they've done, and it helps parents keep tabs on the progress being made. One final perk is the Flashcard feature. Online flashcards are available for students to study and review.
Preparing for the SAT or ACT has come a long way since my day! These programs are very easy to use, and the level of personalization is incredible. Hands down, it beats the book I used to prepare "way back when." The product isn't cheap, but it might be worth the cost if it helps your student achieve a higher score. Obviously, there is no guarantee of that. I know that there are brick and mortar businesses that offer extensive test prep classes and come with a big price tag. I would choose this first! The price is much more reasonable, and your student can study on his own time.
After I looked over the packages, I had my son get started on the SAT program, as he'll be taking the test for the first time in May. He took the diagnostic test, and we looked at the areas that need the most work. Then he started watching a video and completing the corresponding work each day. I also asked him to review a set of ten flashcards daily. While it isn't his favorite way to spend time on the computer, he has yet to complain, and I am pretty sure I heard him laugh just a bit at one of the videos. I know he enjoys using the Brightstorm Prep Package more that he would enjoy using a test prep book.
Note: I found the math section of the Brightstorm website to be amazing! It offers 2,000 free video lessons in classes from Algebra I to Calculus. Did I mention they were FREE? If you go to the website and click on math, you can search for the lesson you need by class and concept. You can also type in what you need help with, and the appropriate video lesson will come up. There are even problems with each lesson for your student to work through. I watched a couple of videos and relearned the concept of sine (don't tell my son I didn't remember).