Guide to SAT Prep

Guide To SAT Prep Selection

This is the definitive guide to selecting an effective preparation tool for the SAT. The SAT has an enormous impact on a student’s desirability in the eyes of colleges and universities. Most parents and students will go to great lengths to maximize their scores on this all-important test. This overwhelming demand has created a massive multi-million dollar market for SAT studying classes, tutors, and tools.  The SAT industry continues to grow bigger, but not necessarily better. With more options than ever we set out to help cut through all the noise and explain how to select the very best SAT Prep strategy. This guide explores the pros and cons of every available approach and what to look for in an SAT prep product or class. For more on product information, please visit our Program Comparison Chart.

Introduction: Know Your Options

SAT Prep Options

We have reviewed over 120 SAT prep products, hundreds of SAT-oriented books and papers, interviewed nine experts in SAT tutoring and preparation, and analyzed 4 distinct approaches for SAT prep. The results of our research have been condensed into the following three page guide. Here we will present and explain each major approach to the SAT prep and the corresponding pros and cons. On page 2 we clearly outline the important factors to consider when selecting an SAT prep system. And on page 3 we recommend our current pick for the most effective high value SAT prep course available.  (To learn more about what specific SAT prep approaches and the best options in each category, visit our Types of SAT Prep Section)

Option 1: Classroom Course SAT Prep in the Classroom

Cost:

High

Effectiveness:

Low

Value:

Low

The Basics: Classroom Courses are the most common type of SAT prep. They are operated in a form most similar to traditional schooling and therefore seen as an obvious SAT Prep choice to many. View Top SAT Prep Classroom Courses

Pros:
    • Classroom courses allow students to learn SAT skills with friends and peers. They are often slightly less expensive than private tutoring options.
Cons:
    • Classroom courses suffer a handful of major disadvantages when compared to other SAT Prep programs. Classroom courses are not specialized around any one person’s needs, and very often students will be left behind. Because of the rigid structure of the classroom and the need to serve multiple students at the same time, very little value is often gained by students. Many classroom courses are unacceptably expensive.
Verdict:

Classroom courses are very profitable for SAT Prep companies, but their rigid structure results in low test score improvement and  little overall value to students. We do not recommend the use of traditional classroom courses when preparing of the SATs. Far better and more modern options exist.

Option 2: Private Tutor Private Tutoring SAT Prep

Cost:

Very High

Effectiveness:

Medium

Value:

Low

The Basics: One-on-one tutoring is, by many measures, the most effective way to get better at anything, not just the SAT.  But there’s a small issue: one-on-one tutoring is very expensive, and, unfortunately, it can be incredibly inconsistent. There are millions of people who know all the math, grammar, and vocab necessary for a great SAT score – the problem is very few can actually teach these facts and strategies effectively. View Top SAT Private Tutors

Pros:
    • Private Tutoring can be the most effective means of learning the SAT if a fantastic tutor with a verified track-record of success is found.
Cons:
    • The vast majority of private tutors have either bad or non-existent track records. This includes both tutors contracted by  companies and those working independently. Finding a tutor who can actually teach the skills they have is very difficult resulting in a high-risk when contracting a private tutor. Private tutoring is the most expensive option for SAT prep.
Verdict:

Generally we do not suggest using Private Tutors for SAT prep. Private Tutoring is only recommended  when the tutor has a verified track record of success. Otherwise, tutor quality is dangerously inconsistent and overpriced. 

Option 3: Books/Other SAT Prep with Books and Other 

Cost:

Medium

Effectiveness:

Low

Value:

Low

The Basics: This category includes books, online courses, and study games. These tools are often a key piece of any effective study program. In fact, certain SAT books, like those including practice tests, are of such high quality and usefulness that they should be required for all SAT preparation.

View Top SAT Prep Books
View Top SAT Prep Online Courses

Pros:
    • Some of the greatest tips, tricks, strategies, and skills have been captured in SAT Prep books and online courses. Books also present the best possible way of acquiring practice exams, a necessary part of any study program. Books and online courses are relatively inexpensive when compared to other SAT prep options.
Cons:
    • Without a careful plan or detailed instructions books alone offer little value to the student. The books can be intimidating, confusing, and lacking of structure if not paired with a high quality course. Online courses face the opposite problem, while useful in teaching SAT knowledge, tricks, and strategies, without the proper books many courses miss key information and forgo test practice .
Verdict:

SAT Prep books are most valuable  when paired with high quality courses. Certain online courses present the greatest effectiveness only when operated with the proper books.

Option 4: Hybrid Program Hybrid SAT Prep

Cost:

Medium

Effectiveness:

Very High

Value:

High

The Basics: A “Hybrid” Program is any course or system which combines existing materials (like the College Board’s official SAT Prep books) with high-engagement study plans and testing strategy. This can include  products which come with books included, as well as combining multiple products to form Hybrid Program.
View Top “Hybrid” SAT Prep Programs

Pros:
    • Combines all the benefits of a great class or tutor with the essential practice tests and official SAT recommendations found in the best SAT books. Offers the most comprehensive teaching capabilities which results in the highest recorded increases in student scores.
Cons:
    • Hybrid Programs are the least common SAT Prep option and often involve purchasing products from multiple sources. This can be difficult and confusing.
Verdict:

All our experts agree that a Hybrid SAT Prep Program is the most effective means of maximizing a student’s score.

Next Up: Making a Decision

At this point you should have a better understanding of your general SAT Prep options. Next we discuss what to look for in a “Hybrid” SAT  Prep Program as well as specific program recommendations. 

 

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