You Know You Want Online Prep - Is Tutoring For You?


You’ve decided that you want to do online test prep for the SAT or ACT. Congratulations! You're already ahead of many students in the test prep game/process. The question now becomes: Do you opt for tutoring as well?

feature image credit: Yes No by Jean-Etienne Minh-Duy Poirrier, used under CC BY-SA 2.0/Cropped from original.


Just The Facts, Ma'am

Here at PrepScholar, we've found that supplementing test prep with additional tutoring increases its effectiveness by a minimum of 150-200%...


...While effective, tutoring is also expensive. If you want to get your top score and have the budget for it, tutoring is the way to go.

Wait, that's it? Nope- that’s just the quick and dirty answer. Read on for a more nuanced look at this issue.


The Slightly Longer Answer

There are several factors to consider when deciding whether or not to get a tutor to supplement your test prep. The best tutors willl yield the biggest improvement in your test scores. Why should you care about this? Because of the degree to which SAT and/or ACT scores count during the college admissions process. While there are some rare instances in which your test scores will not matter, for the most part your SAT/ACT score is a significant part of the college admissions process.

Explore our snazzy infographic for more on the importance of SAT/ACT scores!

In the end, whether or not you should get a tutor boils down to two important questions.


#1: Can You Get a High Quality Tutor?

Up to 75% of all tutors are not very effective (more on that here). Rather than helping you figure out how to solve a problem or answer a question, lower quality tutors will just tell you how to solve it. Show, not tell applies to tutors just as much as it does to good writing!

More about this in our upcoming article: What makes an effective SAT/ACT tutor?

What about that high school senior, whatsherface, who took the test last year and aced it? You might think you're getting a deal by hiring that student for $30 an hour, but trust me—you're not. Acing the test is not a substitute for teaching experience, nor does it mean that a potential tutor knows how to teach students at your exact level.

So what makes a high quality tutor?


Top 3 Signs Of The Best SAT/ACT Tutors

  • They scored extremely well on the test (99th percentile).

Why does this matter? Because it demonstrates that the tutor knows what all the tricks are. While on its own this is not enough to ensure great tutoring, it is an extremely important factor.

  • They are able to explain the tricks of the test and strategies to use to avoid being tricked by the test.

How can you tell this about a tutor, without the benefit of a sample lesson? The best tutor will have experience teaching the material, high rates of success with past students, and a reputation for high quality tutoring (discerned either by word of mouth or through their working for a reputable tutoring service).

  • They see mistake patterns and suggest ways to fix them that are specific to YOU.

Good tutors won't push one particular strategy for answering questions, because they wil understand that different things work for different people.


#2: Is Tutoring in Your Budget?

We’ve established that if done correctly, tutoring is highly effective. Now we come to the tricky part: high quality tutoring is also costly. As with most things, and particularly if you have a limited budget, you want to make sure you're getting the most for what you spend. Find out more about how much to pay for an SAT/ACT tutor in this article.

Because both the quality and the total amount of time spent preparing matters, if you only have $500 you might want to consider spending it on a great 40-100 hour test prep course, rather than on 5-10 hours of tutoring.

Storytime: When I started composing music, it was on my own, without much supervision. After a few months, it became obvious that if I wanted to continue growing as a composer, I needed to invest both time and money. My options at the time were to take either weekly group classes or occasional private lessons, so I decided that it was better to take 4 years of group composition lessons than to have intermittent private lessons. If I'd had the budget, both would have been amazing, but I chose to go with the option that would force me to spend more time consistently on the skill I needed to master. The result: I acquired a BA and MM in Music Composition, and my first orchestral piece was premiered in May 2015!


The Bottom Line

If you can afford it and have access to good quality tutoring, definitely go for it. College is hugely expensive, often costing 5-6 digits in financial cost and 4 years in time. Spending a few hundred to a thousand dollars more to make sure you can go to the school that’s right for you is worth it.


college by Sean MacEntee, used under CC BY 2.0/Cropped from original.


What's Next?

If you're still in the midst of planning out your study schedule, take a look at our article on how far in advance you should begin studying.

Want to read more about finding a tutor? Read our article on finding the best tutor for you.



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About the Author
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Laura Staffaroni

Laura graduated magna cum laude from Wellesley College with a BA in Music and Psychology, and earned a Master's degree in Composition from the Longy School of Music of Bard College. She scored 99 percentile scores on the SAT and GRE and loves advising students on how to excel in high school.

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