You have four main options when deciding how to prepare for the ACT or SAT. You can attend a group class, work with your peers, hire a private tutor, or self-study materials either online or in person. As you would expect, each of these approaches has pros and cons, which I’ll cover in detail below.
option 1: Group Classes
A group class can range from 12 to 15 students and will likely cost between $1200 and $1500 per student with larger prep companies. The classes are usually held on weekends over the course of a couple months.
- Pros: This type of environment is very structured and there’s a teacher to lead and motivate. Many students tend to feel comfortable because they’re used to sitting in classes with other people.
- Cons: Group classes can’t be personalized. Consider that prep classes spend 70% of the time reviewing math. If you’re already a whiz at math, then 70% of your parent’s money and 70% of your time are wasted.
- Also, be wary of the experience of the teacher. Often times, prep companies assign their newest, least qualified instructors to teach group classes and save the teachers with the most experience to tutor privately. While a group class might be the best approach for your child, I recommend asking about the experience of the instructor and requesting a class with a teacher who has a track record of success.
option 2: Peer Tutoring
Next is peer tutoring. Peer tutoring can be wonderful when peers truly want to work together to support each other.
- Pros: Peer tutoring establishes camaraderie; it’s great for the person doing the teaching; and it’s great for the person receiving instruction.
- Cons: Of course, the disadvantages here are that a peer might not necessarily have a lot of experience as an instructor. Sometimes people can try to help each other and they don’t necessarily explain things properly, so there are risks involved.
option 3: Private Tutoring
One-on-one test preparation offers a program customized to students’ strengths and weaknesses. Most private tutoring packages from mega-corporation prep companies range from $3,000 to $20,000.
- Pros: Private tutoring is a highly effective way to prepare for either the ACT or SAT exam, with a professional who sits with you and caters all instruction to your personal needs.
- Cons: Students can really only get help and have their questions answered during the sessions. Plus it’s expensive — the national average cost for a private tutor is $300 an hour for ACT and SAT prep, with some tutors charging over $1,000/hour.
option 4: Self-Study Online
Some students choose to manage their own studying by practicing with books of past exams or with online materials.
- Pros: This is the least expensive, most flexible, and most convenient way to prepare.
- Cons: Many online learning options aren’t personalized and don’t offer feedback on incorrect answers. For example, if you make a mistake and all that you’re told is “no you’re wrong,” then you’re not going to have an opportunity to learn. When you’re evaluating resources, ensure that the program you select provides supportive feedback. Because these exams are predictable in terms of what they test, the best way to improve your score is by learning from your mistakes.
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