SAT / ACT Prep Online Guides and Tips

How Much Should You Pay for SAT/ACT Classes?


Studying on your own for the SAT/ACT can feel like trying to prepare for a marathon when you’ve never even run one before: it can be overwhelming and you have no idea what to do or where to start.

This is why a prep class is often an excellent idea. Classes teach you all the components of the exam, give you tips for test day, and ensure you get the score you want. But as you might’ve guessed, classes can be pretty expensive, making you wonder: are ACT prep classes worth it? Are SAT prep classes worth it?

We’ll go over the biggest benefits of SAT/ACT prep classes, how to figure out your own prep class budget, and how to ensure you get your money’s worth.


Do You Need to Pay for SAT/ACT Classes?

First off, do you usually need to pay for an SAT/ACT class or are there ever any free ones?

While you might be able to find some free local classes, the vast majority of quality ACT and SAT classes are run by private companies and will cost you a decent sum of money, often ranging from $600 to $3,000+ for a full program (online or in-person). So if you really think a class might be a good option for you, be prepared to have to spend money to get top-notch instruction.

Of course, no student absolutely needs to take an SAT/ACT prep class. If money is a burden for you, studying for free is certainly possible, just as long as you know what materials to use and how to schedule your study time.

SAT and ACT classes are generally best for students who prefer guided instruction, a curriculum, and group settings. If you think you might struggle with understanding specific exam concepts or strategies, a class would likely be a smart choice.


Key Benefits of Taking an SAT/ACT Prep Class

There are many advantages to enrolling in an SAT/ACT prep class.


Teachers Are There to Answer Questions and Offer Clear Explanations

When you study by yourself for the SAT/ACT, you don’t have anyone you can go to for help with a complex practice question or for clarification on a tricky concept.

In a class, though, you'll always have access to a knowledgeable teacher who can break down difficult problems and concepts into clear, easy-to-follow explanations.

You’ll also be able to ask your teacher any questions you might have about the test structure, the content, practice problems, or test-taking tipsand get a clear, immediate, and correct response.


You Don’t Have to Build Your Own Study Plan

If you’re not that into the idea of coming up with your own prep schedule, then an SAT/ACT class is a great option to consider. Since classes are typically scheduled for specific days and times, there’s no need to worry about having to set your own SAT/ACT prep schedule—it's already been done for you!

Most SAT/ACT prep classes follow a fairly broad curriculum that covers all major content areas while also going over specific practice questions to teach you how problems look on the exam and how you can (and should) approach them.

The only drawback to classes is that you won’t typically get an individualized curriculum that’s specifically meant to help you improve your biggest weaknesses.

Fortunately, PrepScholar Classes tailors the entire program’s curriculum to students’ unique weaknesses, meaning you’ll always get the focused support and review you need to ace the exam you’re taking.


You Get Access to Additional Study Materials

Most ACT/SAT prep classes, especially online ones, give students a number of resources and test materials they can use as prep outside the classroom. These resources can range from practice tests to private tutoring to simple homework assignments.

The point of these extra materials isn’t to try to overwhelm you, but rather to help you develop a solid study routine and keep practicing what you’ve learned in class.


It’s Cheaper Than Private Tutoring

If you'd prefer personal (either in-person or online) instruction in your SAT or ACT prep but don’t want to fork out a ton of cash, classes will be a better option for you than private tutoring will be due to their lower cost.

High-quality tutors will typically cost you around $80 per hour—that’s $1,600 for just 20 hours of tutoring! Meanwhile, a 20-hour prep course would generally cost you around $1,000, which isn’t only significantly cheaper but also far more bang for your buck when you consider the number of extra resources you'll likely be getting with the class.

While you won’t have the benefit of private one-on-one support with a prep class, you’ll still have access to a qualified teacher, much like you do with a private tutor, who can answer any questions you have about certain practice problems or concepts tested on the exam.






Figuring Out Your Budget for SAT/ACT Classes: 3-Step Guide

So you’ve decided to enroll in an SAT/ACT prep class. Awesome! The next part of the process is to figure out how much money you should (and are willing to) spend on a particular program. We've divided this section into three steps.


Step 1: Find Out How Many Points You Need to Hit Your Goal Score

The first step to finding your budget for an SAT/ACT prep class is to find your goal score and your baseline score.

A goal score is the SAT or ACT score that gives you your best shot at getting accepted to all the colleges you’re applying to. Check out our in-depth guides on what a good SAT score is and what a good ACT score is to learn more about how to determine your goal score.

Once you've found your goal score, it’s time to figure out your baseline score. A baseline score is the SAT or ACT score you start with before doing any intense exam prep. It's essentially your starting point.

To find your baseline score, take a full-length official SAT/ACT practice test. Make sure to take the test in a realistic setting and using the correct time constraints; this will ensure that your baseline score is as accurate as it can be.

Afterward, use the test’s answer key to calculate each section score and your overall score out of 1600 (for the SAT) or 36 (for the ACT).

Now that you have both your goal score and your baseline score, you can use these numbers to calculate how many points you must improve by on the exam. To do this, simply subtract your baseline score from your goal score.

Let’s look at an example: Natalie’s SAT goal score is 1350 (that's the 75th percentile for CU Boulder, her dream school). Her baseline score, however, is 1260. This means that she’ll need to improve by 90 points in order to meet her goal score.


Step 2: Choose a Test Date That Gives You Ample Time to Prep

The next step to figuring out your budget for a prep class is to choose an SAT test date/ACT test date that will give you enough time to reach your goal and that works well with your schedule.

If you’ve taken the SAT/ACT once or twice but still want to raise your score, a prep class will be an excellent option for you. In general, it's best to choose a test date that’s at least two months before your college applications are due. So if it's already fall of your senior year, definitely try to register for an upcoming test date ASAP!

Your prep time will vary depending on how much time you have between now and the exam, and how many points you need to improve by (see Step 1). It’s generally best to give yourself three to six months for a self-paced study plan.

Below are broad estimates for the total number of study hours you'll need to clock in based on the total point improvement you wish to make on the SAT or ACT:

  • 0-30 point improvement: 10 hours
  • 30-70 point improvement: 20 hours
  • 70-130 point improvement: 40 hours
  • 130-200 point improvement: 80 hours
  • 200-330 point improvement: 150+ hours
  • 0-1 point improvement: 10 hours
  • 1-2 point improvement: 20 hours
  • 2-4 point improvement: 40 hours
  • 4-6 point improvement: 80 hours
  • 6-9 point improvement: 150+ hours

As you can see, the higher the point improvement you want to make on the SAT or ACT, the more hours you’ll need to put into prep (this includes self-study, classes, and tutoring) and the more time you should give yourself before the exam.

Recall our example scenario from above. Natalie has to improve by 90 points on the SAT in order to reach her target score, making her total study time come out to 40 hours. She could approach this prep time in numerous ways, spreading it out thinly over several months or cramming it into just a month of focused self-study and classes.

Ultimately, how much time you want to give yourself is up to you, your schedule, and your score goals.




Step 3: Estimate Your SAT/ACT Class Budget

Now, it’s time to use all that information you’ve gathered—that is, the number of points you need to improve by, the total number of hours you need to prep, and the amount of time you have left before test dayto help you find your ideal budget for a prep class program.

Generally speaking, shorter programs with fewer classroom hours (<20 hrs in total) will be cheaper than prep programs that last longer and include more classroom time.

Furthermore, in many cases, online classes will be slightly cheaper than your basic in-person ones, so this might also factor into your decision.

The following table shows comparisons of different test-prep companies and their prices for SAT and ACT class options:



Program Type

Total Classroom Time



PrepScholar SAT Course/ACT Course


9 hrs + elective Advanced Classes

2-5 weeks + 1 year access to online SAT/ACT Complete Prep program


The Princeton Review

SAT 1400+ Course


36 hrs

1-3 months


SAT 1500+ Course

Online, in-person

100+ hrs

6 months

$3,299 (online), $3,599 (in-person)

ACT 31+ Course


1-2 months



SAT In-Person Course


18 hrs + 30 elective hrs

10 days to 8 weeks


SAT In-Person PLUS Course


18 hrs + 30 elective hrs + 3 hrs private coaching

10 days to 8 weeks


LiveOnline ACT Course


18 hrs + 14 elective hrs

10 days to 8 weeks


*Just $498 for existing PrepScholar students!




These are just some examples of potential SAT/ACT prep classes you could take. But what exactly does this table mean for you in terms of figuring out your budget for a class?

If you need to study a lot to make huge improvements in your ACT/SAT score, a program that lasts longer and offers tons of classroom time and a decent number of resources and assignments will likely be an ideal fit for you.

Before you rush to sign up for the class with the highest number of classroom hours, though, take a moment to consider whether you might prefer a prep program that offers more classroom time or more self-study time.

With PrepScholar Classes, for instance, you get less classroom time but a wealth of high-quality homework assignments and online prep, which you can do in-between and after classes. We also offer Advanced Classes for those who'd like to keep prepping with our expert teachers, all for the affordable price of just $895.

Typically, if you're aiming to make a huge score increase and you want lots of live classroom time, you'll need to be prepared to spend a little more on your SAT/ACT prep class. A good budget for a student in this case would be about $1,400, possibly $3,000+ if you're hoping to make a very big improvement over the course of several months or even a year.

If, on the other hand, you don’t need to study a ton (20 or fewer hours) to hit your SAT/ACT target score, then a program that offers a moderate amount of class time, gives you plenty of resources for self-study, and doesn’t last that long will be the better choice for you. Naturally, these kinds of programs tend to be cheaper, so aim to budget around $1,000 at most.

Keep in mind that all ACT/SAT classes have their pros and cons, so it's important that you take some time to research the courses you're interested in before you commit to one. Check out this article to learn more about the biggest advantages and disadvantages of SAT/ACT prep classes.


Getting the Most Out Of an SAT/ACT Class: 4 Key Questions

No matter what kind of prep class you end up choosing, you’re likely going to spend a pretty hefty sum of money on it—which is why it’s so important to ensure your money is being well spent.

Here are four critical questions to ask yourself before you commit to a class.



#1: Are the Teachers Experts?

You’re not going to learn a lot in an SAT/ACT prep class if your teacher doesn’t know what it takes to actually ace the test. After all, prep classes aren’t just about teaching you the content on a test, but also about giving you critical test-taking tips and tricks.

Classes that don’t explicitly state what percentile their teachers scored in on the SAT or ACT most likely won’t be worth the cost. You shouldn’t struggle to find this information, either, since most programs will flaunt this fact in their advertising.

The very best ACT/SAT classes will be taught by actual experts, that is, those who scored in the 99th percentile on one or both of the exams.

In fact, this is how we run PrepScholar Classes: our SAT and ACT courses are led exclusively by 99th percentile scorers who graduated from top colleges and completed a highly rigorous selection and training process. This way you'll have no doubt your teacher knows what they're talking about!


#2: Have Past Students Found Success?

Another key question to consider before you sign up for an SAT/ACT prep class is whether past students had positive results. In other words, did the students who wanted to improve by a certain number of points on the SAT/ACT actually do so after taking this course?

Many prep courses offer a specific point guarantee on the SAT/ACT (for example, The Princeton Review claims that students enrolled in its SAT 1400+ Course will earn at least 1400 on the SAT or their money back). This claim is a solid indicator that the course will be worth the price tag, as the company is extremely confident they can get you this particular score.

Regardless of whether the course you’re considering has a point guarantee, it’s a good idea to look at customer reviews of the class (or if you can’t find reviews for the specific class, at least reviews of all that company’s prep programs).

Start by looking for class testimonials on the company’s official website, as these can tell you a lot about the types of students who enroll in the class and what kinds of results they've gotten from it (here are PrepScholar’s testimonials, in case you’re interested).

Other options are looking for reviews and star rankings on Google. You can also check out forums, such as Reddit and College Confidential, to see whether any former customers have written about their experiences with the class.

Of course, if you personally know someone who took a prep class, don't hesitate to ask if they can tell you a bit about their experience with the program and whether it actually helped them get the score they needed for the schools they applied to.


#3: Does the Class Offer Resources to Keep You Going?

The best SAT and ACT prep classes won’t just offer you live instruction but also additional study materials you can use outside of class, as well as opportunities for advancement after the class ends.

Such resources could include practice questions/tests and access to online instructional videos, content review, strategies, and tutoring. These extra resources are vital for those who wish to continue their SAT/ACT prep well after the end of the course.

At PrepScholar, we offer students the chance to take advanced continuing classes. We also give them one-year access to our online prep to help students stay on track and keep all the skills they've acquired sharp.


#4: Are You Committed to Prepping?

The fourth and final question you need to ask yourself is how committed you are to prepping for the ACT or SAT.

This is important because even if you signed up for the best possible ACT class, without making a sustained effort to study on your own time, do homework the class gives out, and concentrate on what the teacher tells you, you likely won’t see any improvement in your scores.

This would then mean that the entire course you took was pointless and not worth the large sum of money you spent on it. So no matter what, make sure your mindset is in the right place before you commit to a prep class!




Conclusion: Are ACT/SAT Prep Classes Worth It?

Studying for the SAT or ACT can often involve spending a little money, but if you’re set on doing a prep class, you’ll likely end up spending quite a bit of money, which is why it’s important that you ensure the class you choose is ultimately worth taking.

But why take a class at all? As we discussed above, there are several benefits to an SAT/ACT prep class:

  • Teachers are there to answer questions and offer clear explanations
  • You don’t have to build your own study plan
  • You get access to additional study materials
  • It’s cheaper than private tutoring

Choosing the right SAT/ACT class for you means knowing what kind of budget you’re working with and what kind of score you need to get on your chosen exam.

To figure out your prep class budget, calculate your goal score and baseline score. Then, find the difference between these two scores; this is the number of points you will need to improve by in order to give yourself a great shot at getting accepted to all the colleges you’re applying to.

Next, pick a test date that gives you ample time to study for the test and work on increasing your score.

Finally, estimate your course budget based on the number of points you need to improve by, the estimated time it’ll take you to make this improvement, and the time you have before test day.

An SAT/ACT prep class is a big investment, both in terms of money and time. Therefore, be sure to ask yourself (and try to answer!) the following questions before registering for a course:

  • Are the teachers experts?
  • Have past students found success?
  • Does the class offer resources to keep you going?
  • Are you committed to prepping?

Once you've done all this, you're ready to take a prep course and hopefully get an amazing score on the SAT/ACT!


What’s Next?

Once you have your class budget figured out, how can you determine which class is best for you? Check out our expert guide to learn what makes a good SAT/ACT prep class.

Do online SAT/ACT prep classes really work? We answer this question and more in our guide to online classes.

What are the best SAT prep classes? The best ACT prep classes? Read our picks for the best courses and learn what makes them shine a little brighter than others.



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Hannah Muniz
About the Author

Hannah received her MA in Japanese Studies from the University of Michigan and holds a bachelor's degree from the University of Southern California. From 2013 to 2015, she taught English in Japan via the JET Program. She is passionate about education, writing, and travel.

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