Did you know that studying for the SAT or ACT can be a joint effort? This is one of the draws of ACT and SAT prep classes, which allow you to learn the most important components of the exam in a group setting, with guidance and advice from an expert teacher. Unfortunately, not all classes are high quality, so you’ll need to carefully vet any you're interested in before committing to one.
In this article, we go over the six key qualities that make for a great SAT/ACT prep class. We then introduce our four tips for finding the right prep class for you. Before we do all that, though, let's answer an important question: should everyone take an ACT/SAT prep class or not?
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Do You Need to Take an SAT/ACT Class?
First off, does everyone actually need to take a prep class in order to do well on the ACT or SAT?
That being said, a prep class can be a great choice for students who struggle to come up with their own study plan and who learn better by having an expert teacher clearly explain difficult problems and concepts to them.
The only major drawbacks of prep classes are that they can be quite costly and are often a big time commitment.
Ultimately, whether an SAT/ACT prep class is worth it for you will depend on various factors, such as what you hope to get out of the class, how many points you need to improve your score by, and what your overall budget is.
What Makes a Good SAT/ACT Class? 6 Qualities to Look For
What makes a good SAT prep class? A good ACT prep class? We’ve come up with six key qualities that every great SAT/ACT prep class should have. Be sure to look for these before you commit to a particular class!
#1: Small Class Size
You might be used to large classes at your high school, but one important sign of a good SAT/ACT prep class is how small it is.
Fewer students in a class means more opportunities for personal attention and guidance from the teacher in each lesson. All students will be able to receive one-on-one help from the teacher with any concepts or strategies they’re struggling with or with any questions they might have about the exam as a whole.
Additionally, a smaller class size gives students more time to discuss ideas as a group.
With PrepScholar Classes, our online SAT/ACT prep courses are capped at just nine students to ensure that all students receive ample attention and plenty of opportunities to really get to know their peers and exchange their questions and thoughts on the exam.
#2: Teacher Expertise
You can’t expect to learn much from an SAT prep class or ACT prep class if the one teaching it isn’t all that familiar with the exam or didn’t get a high mark on it themselves.
The best prep classes will be taught ONLY by teachers who are experts at the exam they’re teaching (or the specific section of the exam they’re teaching).
Look for classes whose teachers scored in the 99th percentile on the SAT and/or ACT. They should also (ideally) have plenty of experience tutoring and/or teaching and should have undergone fairly intensive training.
At PrepScholar, all of our teachers scored in the 99th percentile on the SAT/ACT and completed a rigorous training process to become the experts they are at teaching test prep.
#3: High-Quality Homework and Study Materials
Another sign of a great ACT or SAT prep class is that it offers high-quality study materials and homework assignments for you to do between classes.
These homework assignments should follow the class curriculum and allow you to practice what you’ve studied from the previous class while also preparing you for what you’ll be learning in the next class. This way, you’ll stay sharp and really get down the new skills the class is teaching.
The best homework assignments and study materials for the SAT/ACT are those that are highly realistic, with questions similar to those that appear on the actual exams.
Furthermore, a truly great class will customize homework so that you're focusing on honing your biggest weaknesses, or the content areas and critical strategies you struggle with the most.
PrepScholar's SAT/ACT classes give students responsive, adaptive homework so you can study the concepts and practice the types of questions you need the most help with.
#4: Tailored Curriculum
Aside from personalized homework, a great prep class will tailor the curriculum to its students so that those taking the class can concentrate on improving their biggest weaknesses.
This requires a smaller class size, which gives the teacher ample time to get to know the students and where each of them excels and struggles on the test. Such a quality is similar to what private tutors offer students.
PrepScholar Classes is one of the only SAT/ACT programs to offer an entirely student-centered syllabus based on the testing needs of students.
#5: Guaranteed Results
Most high-quality prep classes and programs will have guaranteed results for the students who take their classes. These results are typically guaranteed point improvements and/or score levels on the SAT/ACT.
The reason guaranteed results are so important to look for when choosing a class is that they emphasize the fact that the class works well for all different types of students.
Basically, whether you struggle with math or vocab, an SAT/ACT prep class with a score guarantee means that you’re going to learn how you can improve your weak spots to get the score you want on test day.
If you don’t end up hitting the program’s score guarantee, you’ll normally get your money back, proving again that the class is a great one to consider, since it’s so confident in its courses that it’s willing to offer full refunds to those who don’t end up with the results promised to them.
At PrepScholar, we're just as confident in our approach: if you don’t improve your SAT score by 160 points or your ACT score by 4 points, you get your money back.
#6: Positive Reviews From Former Students
The final indication of a great ACT or SAT prep course is whether it has positive reviews from real students who’ve taken the class.
These reviews can (and should) tell you a few important details:
- Whether students improved as much as they wanted to (i.e., did they hit their goal score?)
- Whether students achieved the program's guaranteed score result
- Whether the students enjoyed the class atmosphere, found the homework useful, and so on
I recommend first checking out the testimonials for a prep class you’re considering. These are normally found on the company website. As an example, here are our testimonials for our expert online SAT/ACT classes.
You should then do some research on the class by looking at its (or the prep company’s) rating on Google and seeing what former students have written about it on forums such as Reddit and College Confidential.
If you happen to know anyone who took an ACT or SAT prep class, it's always a good idea to try to reach out to them and ask whether they thought the class was worth it or not.
Finding the Right SAT/ACT Class for You: 4 Essential Tips
We now know the six general qualities to look for in an ACT and SAT prep class. But not everyone wants the exact same thing in a class. How can you find the right SAT/ACT class for you, based on what you’re hoping to learn and how you learn best?
Here are four essential tips to help you figure out what your ideal class looks like.
Tip 1: Consider Your Location
Prep classes for the SAT and ACT are typically offered either in-person or online (or both). These days, more and more live online classes are being made available so as to appeal to a wider array of students all over the country, many of whom do not live in an area that offers quality in-person instruction.
If you live in a more populous area where many in-person SAT and ACT prep classes are held, take some time to determine whether you might prefer physically attending a class held in a room with other students. This is ideal for those who struggle to study at home or would prefer more face-to-face interaction with their peers and teacher.
(It should be noted that many online prep classes nowadays, including PrepScholar Classes, make use of video chat programs to allow you to interact directly with your teacher and classmates.)
For everyone else, online classes will be your best bet. Even if you normally prefer traditional classes, you don’t want to accidentally sacrifice quality of instruction by enrolling in an ineffective in-person class over a much higher-quality online class.
Tip 2: Determine How You Learn Best
Learning style is a big factor for a lot of students, so take time to figure out how you learn best—and what kind of prep class will fit this particular style.
For example, some students prefer self-study over large group study sessions. In this case, a small class that does self-paced homework assignments and offers study materials you can use on your own time would probably be ideal.
PrepScholar Classes is a great example of this: we use a blended structure that lets students both interact with their peers and progress in their prep on their own time via adaptive assignments.
Another question to ask yourself is whether you learn best by watching, writing, listening, or talking. Some SAT/ACT classes are more like lectures (which we generally recommend avoiding), but if you prefer listening and watching, this kind of class might be a decent fit for you.
Meanwhile, many online classes encourage students to participate by responding and asking questions in a chat box (i.e., writing), which is ideal if you're not super comfortable speaking in front of groups.
Our online SAT/ACT prep classes use all four learning styles to appeal to all types of students. You can watch and listen to teachers explain concepts, write down your questions and ideas using the interactive whiteboard, or talk directly through audio chat with your teacher and classmates.
Finally, consider whether you prefer big or small classes. Smaller classes are typically best since they allow for personal attention from teachers, but if you’d feel more comfortable in a larger class setting, try to find those that cater to 20+ students.
Tip 3: Know Your Budget
Before you register for a class, it’s important that you know and understand what your budget is for your test prep.
Classes can range in price from $600 to as much as $3,000+ depending on the program you’ve selected and how long you intend to study for.
In order to determine your budget, you’ll need to gather the following information:
- Your SAT goal score/ACT goal score
- Your baseline score
- How many points you need to improve by
- How much time you have left before test day
To learn more about setting a budget, check out our in-depth guide on how much you should pay for a prep class.
Tip 4: Try Out the First Class for Free (If Possible)
It's possible that you might not be too sure about a class but want to try it out anyway. In this case, just make sure that the program allows you to withdraw and get a full refund after the first class if you don’t end up loving it.
Actually testing out an ACT/SAT prep class can be highly beneficial, as it gives you a clearer idea of how the class is structured, what type of interaction you’ll have with your teacher and classmates, and what kind of curriculum you’ll follow.
Only try out a class if you’re 100% certain you can get your money back should you not want to continue with the program. This way, you won’t be wasting hundreds (or thousands!) of dollars on a program you don’t like.
At PrepScholar, we understand how important it is to be able to see what a class is like before you commit to it, which is why our SAT/ACT prep classes will give you your money back if you don’t love the first class.
Recap: The Key to Finding the Right ACT/SAT Class for You
SAT/ACT courses can be wonderfully helpful for students who prefer following a main curriculum and having a teacher there to explain tricky concepts and answer questions about the test.
But not all classes are created equal, which is why it’s so crucial that you carefully vet potential classes before you spend any money on a program.
Here are six essential qualities you’ll want to look for in an ACT/SAT prep class:
- Small class size—fewer than 20 is usually best
- Teacher expertise—prioritize programs taught by 99th percentile scorers
- High-quality homework and study materials you can use between classes
- A curriculum that's tailored to students' individual needs
- Guaranteed results, with the promise to fully refund you if you don't get the score stated
- Positive reviews and opinions (online or in-person) from former students
These are just general guidelines for what makes a good SAT/ACT prep class. Ultimately, though, to find the best class for you, you’ll need to consider things such as how you normally learn best, what kind of class size you prefer, and what your budget is.
Once you’ve done all this, you’re ready to enroll in a prep class and get the score you need!
Considering taking an online ACT/SAT class? Then check out our expert guide on how these classes actually work and whether they're worth the price.
How much should you pay for an SAT or ACT prep class? Don't keep wondering—just read our guide to learn what a typical prep class costs and how you can set a personalized budget.
Want to improve your SAT score by 160 points or your ACT score by 4 points?
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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.