Online Test Prep: Evening the Playing Field

Traditionally, students preparing for the SAT, MCAT, GMAT, GRE, or any other standardized test would pay a lot of money to for-profit educational companies for test prep and tutoring services. These courses usually cost thousands of dollars, and for the most part, exclude students from lower socio-economic families. Performing well on the aforementioned standardized tests is a must in order to secure a spot in a competitive higher education program at a college or university. However, with the advent of high speed internet and fast advancing computer technology, the days of exclusive standardized test preparation are over.

Earlier this year, the College Board, the nonprofit organization responsible for administering the SAT, collaborated with to offer free SAT preparatory lessons on their site. The lessons will be in the form on short video tutorials, the teaching mechanism that has made Sal Khan and the Khan Academy so popular to date. The Khan Academy allows students to view videos at any time and on any internet capable device, for free, while it tracks the students' progress. In fact, Khan Academy has become so successful that certain school districts in California have incorporated Khan Academy videos into public school classrooms. The flexibility offered by the Khan Academy allows teachers to incorporate the video lessons into their own curriculum. A fourth grade teacher using the software at Burnett Elementary noted that "there is no right or wrong way to use KA in your classroom. Involve your students in the structure and the learning will begin immediately."

Similarly,, a website dedicated to teaching basic medical science for all healthcare professionals, offers educational videos like the Khan Academy, except charges a small fee of $99 for a two year membership. Dr. Najeeb's website boats that they have over 40,000 active members from over 100 countries, with over 25 million views. He has over 400 hours worth of videos which can easily replace any test prep course that promises to teach test taking techniques, and those courses can run anywhere from $3,500 to $11,000. Furthermore, these more expensive in person courses can run for a short, predetermined set of time, while the online courses are openly accessible for much longer, making students more likely to both learn and master the material. "Many students fall for review courses that promise quick results but [I] believe you cannot review what you never knew," writes Dr. Najeeb.

The Khan Academy and are just the tip of the iceberg when it comes to online supplementary educational resources. There is no shortage of startup websites that promise students higher grades and better test results. How these online courses translate into real learning, remains to be seen in the longterm.