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GMAX SAT Online Review by Carissa Ruiz


GMAX SAT Online is an online streaming video course for students preparing to take the College Board's Scholastic Assessment Test (SAT), which tests the student's aptitude for college in the subjects of math, language arts, and reasoning skills. In this program there are more than 64 hours of video instruction, plus the homework assignments to be completed between each video session. The student is given about 128 hours of viewing time, so if you need to watch a video again you can. There is no time limit for completing your approximate 128 hours. This allows you to go at your own pace.

The GMAX SAT Online course requires a broadband connection, Internet Explorer, speakers/headphones, and Media Player 9 or higher. A tutoring option is available to the student at an additional cost; it requires a microphone and a web-cam in addition to the other technology. The following books are required for anyone taking the course: SAT: The Official SAT Study Guide (ISBN 0-87447-718-2) and Barron's How to Prepare for the SAT, 23rd Edition (ISBN 978-07641-3449-4.) The program price does not include the books.

To access the program you need to (1) register and pay for your lessons and (2) have all the required books and technology. Once you have created your account and your password, you are ready to begin. After logging in, print out the course lessons and the assigned homework for each lesson. Then start your first video. It is easy to maneuver around the site and to choose what video you want to watch. You can follow the course outline or skip to the sections you think the student needs more work in. This is a very individualized program.

There are two teachers in this online course, Steve and Abby. Steve, the energetic math teacher, explains the math concepts step-by-step and solves them mathematically, yet he teaches how to solve them using reasoning skills so the student can move quickly through some of the problems on the SAT. Steve constantly reminds the student of the SAT time limit and how they need to problem-solve quickly. He does talk fast, which at times made it difficult for us to understand him, but we were able to conveniently replay those segments.

Abby, the language arts instructor, teaches reading comprehension, sentence correction, vocabulary, essay writing, and more. She begins with the parts of speech and then takes larger steps, explaining how to read and answer the SAT questions. She does a fine job explaining the material, but she doesn't have the enthusiasm that makes you want to keep watching for the full one to two hours of each lesson. I suggest watching the lessons in smaller time frames.

Both teachers use a large white board to write on. Though it didn't slow down the math section, I found that it slowed the language arts lessons because Abby had more to write on the board.

A concern I had with the program was that the homework answers were complicated to locate. Let me clarify. The instructors teach on topics and then give homework according to that topic. For instance, if Steve is talking about negatives, then you are going to get homework that works with negatives. I really like this approach and found it helpful for my student. The concern began when we had to do the assigned homework and locate them. The homework has problems from both SAT books, and throughout each of their diagnostic tests. Each book has ten diagnostic tests. This means that you have to search through each test for your assigned problems. The homework is listed by book, page, and problem number (e.g., CB pg.315 #13). Though getting to the assigned problems is doable, checking the answers is more bothersome because you have to find what section you were in, locate the answer key to that section, find the number of the problem, and find the answer. If you get the wrong answer, there is no solution to show you where you went wrong--unless you try to go to the book's website and find the answer or pay GMAX SAT $10 for an explanation for the correct answer. Do you see that it can get complicated?

Overall, I really liked this program. My two concerns are not enough to dissuade me from recommending this program to others. I like the teaching approach used. The teachers begin with the basics of their subjects and progressed to harder parts, all the while reminding the student that they are taking a timed test. This program would be a good fit for those who like an individualized approach to learning, especially since there is no time limit to complete the course. I also think this would make a good program for gifted children who really don't need to be in a regular curriculum--they just need an overview of the subject and some practice problems before moving on to a different concept. This is certainly a good course for college-bound students who are not sure they are ready for the SAT. Frankly, my son and I agree that we have learned more material more quickly doing this program than we have from the regular high school curriculums we have been using.

GMAX SAT Online course is definitely worth looking into, and I will recommend it to friends whose children are college bound.

Product review by Carissa Ruiz, The Old Schoolhouse® Magazine, LLC, May 2009