Making money by taking tests
December 9, 2010 8:56 PM   Subscribe

I am crazy good at taking tests. How can I make some side money from this skill? Nothing illegal like taking tests for other people, obviously.

Anon so as not to brag. But I have always been exceptionally good at taking tests no matter the subject as long as it's not an essay format. I'm okay at those but not as awesome as short-answer and multiple choice. I have some big expenses coming up next year and would love to put this skill to use. Ideas?

One of the few notions I have had is trying to get on a game show, but I don't live in CA or NY, so that might be difficult and involve some upfront costs that I might not recoup.
posted by anonymous to Education (16 answers total) 9 users marked this as a favorite
SAT tutor, either with a company or try advertising as a private one.

For either situation you'll be asked to produce your SAT and/or GRE scores.
posted by bardic at 9:01 PM on December 9, 2010

Take some major standardized test like the LSAT, SAT, ACT, GRE, or whatever. Score well, and get a gig teaching that test to wannabe law students/college students/grad students, etc.
posted by mesha steele at 9:02 PM on December 9, 2010 [3 favorites]

Relatedly, it's also possible to write sample questions for prospective test-takers - though you probably would first have to prove your chops as an instructor. My wife did both of these things for the LSAT (years ago), and made some decent money writing test materials.

You can also certainly try out for Jeopardy online, but that really involves knowledge of trivia, not test-taking skill. I have a friend who did very well on Jeopardy - he said, among other things, he did tons and tons of old games on J! Archive. Try seeing how you do there.
posted by Conrad Cornelius o'Donald o'Dell at 9:30 PM on December 9, 2010

The thing about getting on Jeopardy! is that it's actually somewhat easy to test into the "pool" of potential contestants. The hard part is getting on the show (They choose thousands more people than will ever actually be asked out to Los Angeles).

Oh, and doing well on the show itself is more about buzzer speed and strategy than trivia knowledge. If you test into the pool of contestants, you know enough trivia to do well on the "knowing stuff" component.

(Former Jeopardy! contestant, weighing in.)

All of that said, if game shows interest you, it's actually not all that impossible to do.
posted by Sara C. at 9:38 PM on December 9, 2010

i have a temp roommate who works for a test company and whose job is to teach people how to teach standardized tests, specifically the LSATs. he travels around the country, staying a few months at a certain location each time until the the course is done.
posted by violetk at 9:50 PM on December 9, 2010

Game shows
posted by Cool Papa Bell at 9:54 PM on December 9, 2010

If you can get a 99th percentile score on the LSAT and live in a major market, it's pretty easy to find a job with the major test prep companies, even in this economy (especially in this economy actually, competition to get into law school is even fiercer now). You can also hire yourself out as a tutor on craigslist. The better companies pay $50-60/hr, tutors can sometimes get even more if they're good at self-promotion. It's a fun job and very flexible.
posted by bluejayk at 10:51 PM on December 9, 2010

Pub trivia nights with cash prizes.
posted by jaynewould at 11:22 PM on December 9, 2010 [3 favorites]

Also, where I live commercial radio stations often have call-in trivia games during the drive-time shows. It's not big game show money (less than a thousand dollars) but probably easier to get a spot.
posted by jaynewould at 11:26 PM on December 9, 2010

If you can get in the 99th percentile on the GMAT and/or LSAT, you can make ONE HUNDRED bucks an hour teaching for places like Manhattan Test Prep. At full time (40 hours a week for fifty weeks...unlikely, but who knows) that's $200,000 a year. Pretty good scratch. But in my experience, teaching for standardized tests long term is pretty difficult and exhausting. Definitely a skill.
posted by banishedimmortal at 1:25 AM on December 10, 2010

Yeah, go work for one of the big tutoring outfits. I'm a Princeton Review tutor, and they're pretty well organized and have a great product. You can actually make an okay living doing this if you're willing to put in the time and effort. A good friend of mine is making low-six figures tutoring in Dubai of all places.
posted by valkyryn at 5:18 AM on December 10, 2010

Teach: Make money by telling other people about the skills you use to do well in tests. Of course that is not all there is to being a good teacher by any means - but it is a way of benefiting both yourself and others from your talent.
posted by rongorongo at 5:40 AM on December 10, 2010

Several years back I went to interview for a Kaplan teaching position - I did score in the 99th percentile on the LSAT - and the pay was nowhere near $50 or $100 an hour. They also did not pay for prep time. I would have been going into the city so it was also travel time and parking cost for me to consider.

It was much more centered on how good you were at presenting - you needed good scores to get in to the interview, but after that it was much more about how you interacted with students.

Other places may be, different, I know I am going to go read right now about that place that says it pays $100/hr...
posted by mrs. taters at 6:01 AM on December 10, 2010

"I don't believe there is any particular unique skill to 'test-taking' beyond knowing the subject matter."

As it turns out, there are definitely skills specific to standardized test taking, and that's what test prep companies teach.

Subject-matter tests do require you know the subject, but even there the standardized test skills can help you get a higher score than you otherwise might. You'd still bomb the test without subject-matter knowledge, but you might not bomb as badly. Whereas honing the test-taking skills while having the subject-matter knowledge will help you score higher than "just" the knowledge alone would.

If you're a naturally good test-taker, you probably apply these skills without knowing you do so, and a test prep class would be a big, giant, boring "DUH" do you because you already know how to do those things. But for students who have test anxiety, or who aren't naturally good test-takers, learning the skills can make a big difference.

OP, I taught ACT prep for a while. Where I was, smaller private outfits paid better than Kaplan, et al (they took less of a cut), but the market hadn't inflated quite so crazily as it has now so I didn't make the kind of money people above are talking about. But definitely the money was in teaching classes or doing one-on-one tutoring in a wealthy suburban area where parents will pay panic-money to get their kids scoring better. I enjoyed it; while I initially felt like test-prep was sort-of scammy (and I still think some of it is), I came to see how much we actually were helping kids who struggled with testing and who gained confidence and raised their scores, who weren't dumb kids, but who struggled with that model of testing. (Which raises entirely different questions about the legitimacy of the tests, but ....)
posted by Eyebrows McGee at 6:45 AM on December 10, 2010 [1 favorite]

Several years back I went to interview for a Kaplan teaching position - I did score in the 99th percentile on the LSAT - and the pay was nowhere near $50 or $100 an hour. They also did not pay for prep time.

From what I have gathered from friends and my own aborted hiring process there, Kaplan is the worst company to teach for, both in terms of pay and working environment. They're the McDonald's of test prep. I've talked to some of the people who work at Manhattan Test Prep, they seem like a great company and their teachers are really sharp. I know it's really hard to get many hours teaching with them, but they seem like they're growing, so it might be worth the trade-off.
posted by bluejayk at 9:19 AM on December 10, 2010

I'm also like that and I think the skills are pretty similar to the skills needed for computer science.
posted by callmejay at 7:54 AM on December 11, 2010

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