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On-the-go college prep tests

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Between practicing the piano, the violin, playing in her high school band and keeping up with her homework, honors student Mikki Lim is using apps to help fit prepping for college entrance exams into her busy schedule. 

"I like these apps because they were extremely convenient and wherever I was or whatever I was doing I could just take my phone out," she said.

Lim downloaded the Test Precision app.  For about $40, it gave her a series of test questions to assess if she would do better on the ACT or SAT.

"I thought that was very helpful because I wasn't able to decide between the two before," she said.

Other SAT and ACT prep apps challenge students with vocabulary quiz flash cubes.  And math problems which demonstrate how to solve logic puzzles. Some even offer test questions in the palm of your hand, just open up app stores and you'll find dozens. 

"There are more students using test preparation technologies than ever before. Across the board I think we're seeing a boom in educational technology," said test prep expert Bill Huston.

Many of the apps are free or cost a few bucks, much cheaper than test prep classes, hiring a private tutor or even an online instructor. But, can this technology really prepare students for all the challenges of tough standardized tests?  

"I think of apps as a real benefit, a huge benefit to the highly motivated student.  I still don't want them to be the only form of test prep that people do," said test prep expert Mark Greestein.

Experts say apps can't replace that one on one interaction students get from being able to ask a test prep teacher or tutor, questions. And there's nothing that can replace taking practice tests. 

"The SAT is still done in 8 and a half by 11 sheets," said Greestein. "There's still answer sheets that you bubble in. There's still a clock that's running that's on a wall. Not on your smart phone. So I really want students to get acclimated to the real thing."

So, how do you balance having your child use inexpensive apps versus shelling out big bucks for professional help? Experts say remember: what you financially invest in test prep can really pay off. 

"Merit scholarships are a very powerful source of financial aid for qualified students and ACT and SAT scores play a big part in the awarding of these scholarships," said Huston.

Lim's app revealed she may be more well suited to take the ACT. She says just knowing that is music to her ears for how to get a jump start on her future.

"I definitely take that's app's advice into consideration because if it tells me that I would be better for one test then I'd probably take that test first," Lim said.

Experts say before you download any app, always look at reviews and feedback about them.

Links to Test Prep Apps