If you’re going to do well on the SAT, you’ll probably need to invest in some additional study materials beyond what you’re given in school. (And some schools may not provide SAT study resources at all!)
SAT test prep costs can include buying study materials and practice tests, one-on-one tutoring, and taking SAT study courses. It’s a good idea to start asking “how much does SAT prep cost” now so that you can budget for the SAT test prep service that’s right for you. After all, taking the SAT is a long and fairly involved process that you don’t want to take lightly!
But how much do SAT prep courses cost, exactly? In this article, we’re going to break down SAT prep cost and SAT coaching fees for self guided study, online programs, and one-on-one tutoring. That way you and your family can make sure your testing strategy fits within your budget.
So let’s get started.
SAT Prep Cost Comparison
How much do SAT prep courses cost? When it comes to SAT prep cost, the prices can vary pretty significantly between the least expensive and most expensive options. That’s why we’ve put together a chart of the average cost of sat prep courses to give you a quick SAT prep cost comparison.
Type of SAT Prep
Cost For 40 Hours of Prep
Self-Guided Study Guides
$0-$50 per book
$0-$200 if you use multiple books to prepare
$100-$1400 per course
$100-$2800, depending on the length of each course
$800-$1800 per course
$800-$3600, depending on the length of each course
$40-$200 per hour
As you can see, there are SAT test prep courses and options at every price point. SAT study guides, like the ones you can buy on Amazon or other bookstores, are your cheapest option. One-on-one tutoring is the most expensive SAT prep option, but for students who want to get into the best universities, getting expert help might make the biggest difference in your overall score.
Because the prices of these services vary widely, it’s hard to determine the average cost of SAT prep courses. But in general, you can expect to spend somewhere between $50 and $2,000 preparing for the SAT, depending on the option you choose.
Let’s take a closer look at each of these services by type so you can choose the SAT test prep that’s best for you and your wallet.
Our SAT prep cost breakdown will help you pick the best test prep option for you and your wallet!
SAT Prep Cost Breakdown by Type
Let’s now break down the costs related to three options: self-guided preparation, purchasing an online course, and hiring a one-on-one tutor.
- Total Cost: $0 to $50 per book
- Best For: People on a budget and/or people who are self-motivated studiers
If you wish to go it alone, you can find the test prep resources you need at little to no cost. First of all, the College Board provides a free study guide on their website. They also provide a free practice course called Khan Academy (which, on average, can improve your score by 110 points with twenty hours of practice), a free phone app that gives you a study question every day, free practice tests, and a host of materials to help you start a study group! The resources provided by College Board are completely free and a great starting point in your study process.
Once you exhaust those free resources, it’s time to start looking at SAT guide books. The College Board also has a range of Official Study Guide books available for purchase at their website in the $20-$30 range, but plenty of other companies offer excellent SAT test prep books, too. To see which ones we recommend, check out our article on SAT guide books by clicking here.
Another thing that can help with a self-guided approach is study groups. They have the benefit of turning the process of studying for an exam into a shared social experience with people who are going through the same thing. Having several people studying for the same test creates a pool of knowledge you can share. Study groups also add an element of accountability. If you don’t study for a whole week, then everyone in your study group knows about it. Peer pressure can be a great motivator!
And finally, don’t forget to check out the resources available in your community. You may find there are SAT resources offered by your local public library or community center. Look at bulletin boards, online calendars, or ask an assistant to see if they offer SAT prep resources for self-motivated students like you.
Pros of Self-Guided Preparation
The advantage of self-guided preparation is that it can be basically free, and--so long as you’re motivated--can be just as effective in raising your scores as much as any paid service. That’s especially true if you take some time to learn how to make these resources work for you. For example, take practice tests to assess your skills (and to see how much you’re improving). Putting together a study plan can also help you maximize your study time. And read up on what others did to get a perfect 1600 on the SAT so you can follow their lead!
Cons of Self-Guided Preparation
The big problem with this is making sure you are motivated and disciplined enough to actually follow through on keeping up with your study routine. Self-guided study is best for people who don’t mind starting things in advance and are great about sticking to a plan. If you’re the sort of person who enjoys routine and has the discipline to study on your own for long periods of time, then you’re probably a good candidate for self-guided SAT test prep!
However, many people will find that it’s just too hard to stay motivated when you’re studying for the SAT on your own. If you find that you have trouble keeping to a set schedule without oversight, then this approach may prove difficult for you. You may also find this type of studying difficult if you hate working by yourself. While study groups can make a difference, the fact is that you’ll spend the bulk of your time practicing for the SAT alone.
Even though self-guided study can be inexpensive, it’s not an effective SAT prep option for everyone.
Online test prep options are great for people with busy schedules.
Online SAT Prep Courses
- Total Cost: $100-$1400 per course
- Best For: People who do well in classroom environments but want more flexibility; people who want a classroom experience at a lower cost
There are an almost limitless number of online resources to help you learn, from books to courses to practice tests, and these can range from free to quite expensive. Like we mentioned above, courses can cost as little as $100, and the price can soar as high as $1400.
If you’re doing an SAT prep cost comparison, you’ll need to take into account the added benefits a structured course contributes to the learning process. These course curricula are designed by experts to help you learn quickly and efficiently, and many classes tailor themselves to meet your unique needs.
Another added benefit is that you can choose a course option that suits your needs. For example, if you’re super busy with extracurricular activities, you can choose an online class that lets you learn at your own pace. But there are also options where real, live instructors teach students from all over the United States in virtual classrooms! With a little research, you’ll be able to find an online SAT prep course that fits both your schedule and your learning style.
Lastly, many companies that offer courses give you options that fit your budget. For example, Prepscholar offers budget-friendly online classes all the way to one-on-one expert coaching. Also keep in mind that not all online sources are equal, so make sure to do your research. Make sure that the class is being led by experts, and take some time to read reviews of the service.
Pros of Online SAT Prep Courses
There are countless resources and courses for you to choose from, which means you’ll be able to choose a class that’s right for both your learning style and your budget. Online classes can also help you cram for the SAT exam, especially if they’re self-guided. More traditional classes force you to start studying ahead of time, which is even better for information retention and skill building.
More importantly, SAT prep courses give you a structured learning experience that can help you track your progress. You’ll be able to see how you improve over the course of the class, and you’ll have expert resources to guide you through your studying process. And because these classes are designed (and sometimes taught!) by experts, you’ll get insider tips and tricks to help you ace the SAT.
Cons of Online SAT Prep Courses
Many of the most affordable online SAT prep courses are self-guided, meaning that you'll pay for the class, then work through the material at your own pace. While this is great for self-motivated students, some people may find that without a teacher or tutor, they don't actually work through the course. Additionally, most classes work best if you're studying consistently over a longer course of time. If you put off taking your class until the last minute, it will probably be less effective.
Also: there are some associated costs with online learning. For instance, you'll need to have a reliable internet connection in order to access the course materials without randomly disconnecting or experiencing lag. Additionally, you'll need a laptop that's compatible with any software you'll need to download. Some online courses have virtual classrooms, which require you to access them using specific apps or programs. If your computer, tablet, or smartphone isn't compatible, then you may be out of luck!
In-person SAT prep courses work a lot like your high school classes: you show up at a particular time, learn from an instructor, and sometimes even complete homework assignments.
In-Person SAT Prep Courses
- Total Cost: $800-$1800 per course
- Best For: People who want a traditional classroom experience; people who want the accountability that comes with in-person instruction
In-person SAT prep courses work a lot like their online counterparts. They’re developed by SAT experts, and you’re going to get classroom instruction with someone who’s well-qualified to teach you what you need to know to do well on the SAT. In other words, taking an in-person SAT prep course is a lot like adding another class to your academic schedule!
The difference between online and in-person classes is that with in-person classes, you’ll have to show up to a classroom, listen to lectures, work on practice problems, and even do group work with your fellow classmates. You’ll likely have homework assignments, and you’ll get feedback on them from your teacher. But perhaps most importantly, you’ll have the opportunity to ask questions and get one-on-one instruction.
When and where these classes take place depends on your location and who is offering the class. Some students are able to take in-person prep courses at their high schools, either before or after the normal school day. That can make things much easier since you won’t have to worry about additional transportation. If that doesn’t work for your schedule, though, many prep companies offer classes on weekends, too.
Lastly, in-person prep courses come in a variety of lengths, and often they are tailored to specific concerns or subject areas. For example, some shorter courses may focus on one skill or subject, while longer classes may cover every section of the SAT as well as test-taking strategies. Some places even offer cram courses designed to help you prep just a few weeks before you’re scheduled to take the test!
Whatever the case may be, there is probably an in-person SAT prep class in your area that will fit both your academic needs and schedule.
Pros of In-Person SAT Prep Courses
The biggest benefit of an in-person prep course is that it mimics a normal classroom environment. You don’t have to figure out how to study from a book on your own, nor do you have to wrestle with a virtual classroom. You just show up, bust out your notebooks, and get to work.
Additionally, in-person classes are often offered by schools or other certified companies, meaning you’re likely to get a top-notch educational experience. Since you’ll have a chance to meet your instructor, you can talk to them about their qualifications and teaching style to make sure they’re a good fit for you. If not, you can always choose a different course, or even take a class from a different provider.
Finally, in-person SAT classes offer the benefits of hands-on instruction with a lower price tag than one-on-one tutoring. Like we mentioned, instructors will be evaluating your work, and you’ll have the chance to ask them tons of questions. This is especially beneficial for students who learn best in a structured environment and improve when they receive specific feedback from their teachers.
Cons of In-Person SAT Prep Courses
Like we mentioned earlier, these types of classes are run like...well, the courses you’re taking in high school. That means you’ll probably have to fit in-person SAT courses into your schedule either before or after school. This can be tough if you don’t have reliable transportation, or if you’re involved with work or extracurriculars that happen at the same time. Also, if you live in a small town, in-person courses may not be available in your area.
Even if you can attend an in-person SAT course, you’ll actually have to take notes during lectures and study provided materials on your own time. (Did we mention these classes are just like the ones you’re taking in high school?) If you’re not willing to put in the time and effort, you won’t get as much of a benefit come test day. For some students, the time commitment of an SAT prep course is too much to add to their already busy schedules.
One-on-one tutoring allows you to get individualized attention from an SAT expert.
One-on-One SAT Tutoring
- Total Cost: $40-$200 dollars per hour; $1000+ total
- Best For: People who need help to get motivated, people who learn best from in-person explanation, people who are struggling with the exam material
Private tutoring seems like an excellent approach to studying for the SAT. Having a person who can offer personalized individual recommendations based on their assessment of your own strengths and weaknesses can be very valuable. However, tutoring isn’t cheap! In fact, one-on-one tutoring is the most expensive SAT test prep option on our list.
Good SAT tutors charge around $40-$100 per hour. If you’re really struggling with core concepts on the SAT, a tutor is a great option for you. Good tutors are trained in the SAT material, so they’ll be able to walk you through questions and teach you the information you need to know. It’s like having a teacher and a coach all in one! A one-on-one tutor can also help you stay focused on the study material, so you’re getting more quality instruction out of an hour with them than you would studying for multiple hours on your own.
Pros of One-on-One SAT Tutoring
Individual, one-on-one attention means that you can get immediate feedback regarding your strengths and weaknesses. Your tutor will also be able to observe your study habits, and will create a unique study plan for you that will help you target problem areas. This expertise has the potential to raise your score significantly, especially since you’ll have guided instruction on any material you may not understand.
Just like with SAT prep courses, private tutors offer you the chance to work closely with an SAT expert. But unlike a class with multiple people, you’ll be getting totally individualized attention! And finally, having a private tutor means that you have the accountability factor to help motivate you. You’ll have to show up to meetings prepared, and your tutor will follow up with you to make sure that you’re really tackling your problem areas.
Cons of One-on-One SAT Tutoring
The biggest con is, of course, the expense. When it comes to the average cost of SAT prep courses, one-on-one tutoring is generally the most costly option. SAT coaching fees can be affordable for just a few hours, but if you need to meet for weeks or months, the price can get pretty hefty. For many families, a private tutor can be way beyond their budget.
Also, not all tutors are created equal. Many college students bill themselves as “SAT tutors” because they’ve taken the test...but that doesn’t mean they’re an expert! It’s important to look for trained professionals who are SAT experts, so you’ll have to do your research before you decide to hire someone.
Finally, how much tutoring can actually improve your score is ultimately based on how much effort you yourself put into improvement. One-on-one tutoring doesn’t eliminate the need for self-motivation, even if it does minimize it quite a bit. Ultimately, only you can improve your scores. Even the world’s best SAT tutor can’t raise your SAT scores if you’re not willing to put in the work yourself!
3 Tips for Picking the Right SAT Prep Course for You
Now that we’ve answered the question, “how much do SAT prep courses cost,” it’s time for you to pick an SAT prep method. But before you decide, check out our top three tips for picking the right SAT prep method for you.
Tip 1: Determine Your SAT Weak Spots
Before you start studying for the SAT, it’s a great idea to figure out the areas where you’re strongest...and the areas where you’re weakest. Once you know where you’re struggling, you can focus your studying and get more bang for your buck!
The best way to do this is by taking a few SAT practice tests. Make sure you time yourself to mimic the testing environment and see how you perform under pressure. Once you finish a practice test and score the results, you’ll be able to tell where your score is the lowest. That will show you which subject areas you should focus your studying on!
From there, you can start looking at SAT prep courses that meet your needs. If you’re struggling with math, for example, you can look for math-specific courses instead of choosing a general overview course. Not only will you get more out of your prep, you’ll probably save some money in the long run, too.
Tip 2: Think About Your Learning Style
Do you learn best when you’re reading your textbook? Or do you understand concepts better when your teacher talks about them in class? Figuring out how you like to learn—or at least, how you learn best—can help you pick the most effective SAT prep tactic for you.
Here’s what we mean: if you learn best when a person talks to you about them, then you may not get as much out of an SAT prep book as you would out of an SAT prep course. The same is true for the pricer options, too. If you’re nervous about studying with others and prefer working alone, then an SAT study book may work better for you than one-on-one tutoring.
So how do you figure out your learning style? Take a minute and think about the classes where you get the best grades. (These may not be your favorite classes!) What teaching styles do the teachers in your best classes use? Do they lecture a lot? Do they assign tons of homework? Are you required to read a textbook? You’ll probably see a trend in the classes you do well in, which will help you choose the type of SAT prep that’s a good fit for your learning style.
Tip 3: Put Together a Budget
Since you’re reading an article about how much SAT prep costs, so you’re probably interested in how much you’ll end up spending to prepare for the SAT. It’s always a good idea to have a budget in mind. That way you can make good decisions about your SAT prep without putting financial stress on yourself or your family.
You may find that the test prep method that would work best for you is a little outside of your price range based on the numbers in this article. Remember: we’re talking about the average cost of SAT prep courses! Depending on where you live, what kinds of SAT prep services you need, and how much time you have to study, you may be able to find more affordable options.
Unfortunately, the SAT isn’t the only expensive part about going to college. You’ll also have to pay application fees for every university you apply to! Luckily, there are some universities out there that have no application fee (or grant students fee waivers). Putting one or two of these schools on your list can help you mitigate the costs of applying to college.
Paying for college can also be pretty intimidating. A good place to start is by learning everything you can about financial aid. This article walks you through everything you need to know about applying for financial aid, and this article demystifies the FAFSA (which you’ll have to submit as part of your financial aid application).
Also, there are some universities out there that offer incredible financial aid packages. Learn which universities have the best financial aid and/or offer full-ride scholarships for students.
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Ashley Sufflé Robinson has a Ph.D. in 19th Century English Literature. As a content writer for PrepScholar, Ashley is passionate about giving college-bound students the in-depth information they need to get into the school of their dreams.