Should I Hire an SAT Tutor?

In preparing for the SAT, many parents must decide whether or not to hire an SAT tutor to help you prepare for the exam. Hiring a good coach or tutor can be costly, depending on the experience of the person and where you live.

It is not unreasonable in big cities, especially along both coasts, to spend over$2000+ on private lessons for the SAT exam. In California and the Northeast, expect to pay at least twice that. But before you hire an SAT tutor, make sure the choice makes sense. If you decide to try self-study first, don't forget to read my recommendations for Best SAT Prep books and Best ACT Prep books.

Insider's Perspective

Even though I have made my living for over twenty years coaching students privately for the SAT, you may be surprised to know that I do not think every student benefits from hiring a private coach for the SAT. If a student is smart and motivated, he or she may be just fine self-preparing. I actually designed this website with that type of student in mind. So, before you hire someone, make sure to read my tips below.

Why Do I Need an SAT Tutor?

The purpose of hiring a coach for the SAT is to help a student become “test-wise” and confident on test day. A good coach will help students with the following:

  • Become familiar with the format of the exam
  • Make effective use of test time
  • Become aware of any guessing penalty
  • Teach general test-taking strategies
  • Target specific strategies for weak areas
  • Use “real” practice tests to increase accuracy and speed
  • Help students create a schedule and study plan

(click image to purchase)

(click image to purchase)

Which Students Benefit from SAT Tutoring?

Some students benefit from the personal attention of a private tutor more than others. Over the years I have found students with the following situations or qualities may want to consider private coaching for test preparation:

  • Lack of confidence in their abilities
  • Lack of experience with standardized tests (like a home schooled student)
  • Particular weakness in one subject area, such as reading or grammar
  • Poor performance on standardized tests compared to grades or class rank
  • Diagnosed learning issue or ADD/ADHD diagnosis

Why Do Tutors Charge So Much?

Tutors, like myself, charge higher rates to match our experience. Often I can do more for a student in 2-3 sessions than a less experience tutor (who charges half the fee) can in 6-8 sessions. There are little tricks that you learn along the way, mainly from the experience of teaching so many different students, with different needs and challenges. As private tutors, we also have other costs of renting an office, copying, business license, materials, and more that must get built into the fee.

Be carefulIf you are going to pay a tutor $50+/hr (not to mention $150/hr, you need to make sure the tutor has the experience to match the fee). Many tutoring companies (not private tutors) often charge high fees but the person tutoring has very little experience (and paid much less). This is a problem because you are paying high prices for someone who does not have the experience. You may get lucky and land a great tutor, or you may pay someone $2000+ and not see you score go up. It happens (more than I would like to say).

Soon, I will try to write a longer post on this issue because it in important one in the test prep industry.

How Much Can an SAT Tutor Raise a Score?

Most experienced tutors strive to raise the score as high as possible, but that varies depending on the student, the starting score, motivation of the client (and many other factors). With that said, in my own experience, the only times that I could not raise an SAT score significantly was for two main reasons: 1) undiagnosed learning issue; or 2) test anxiety (or letting the stress of testing interfere with using good judgement, especially when timed). 

These two groups can score well, but it often means tutoring for longer periods, and remedying some of the other factors (for example, applying for extra time accommodations). Both these groups need an experienced tutor who will accommodate these issues with different strategies that addresses the specific issue (versus the one-approach model, typical for new tutors and test prep companies). 

If a test prep tutor is not good at raising scores, they will not be in business very long. That is why you must ask how long they have been tutoring for the SAT (and ideally where they were trained was a reputable company, not themselves). If a tutor as been tutoring the SAT (not just tutoring in general) for less than 2-3 years, move on.

What If I Cannot Afford Private Tutoring?

Well, the main reason I created this website is to provide "free" coaching to students (or to supplement a student's current coaching). If you read the website thoroughly and follow my suggestions, you can approximate the private coaching experience by purchasing high-quality SAT books (or ACT books), subscribing to the RSS feed on my blog, and setting aside time each week to study for the tests.  To become your own SAT tutor, start with the "SAT Study Skills Checklist"

Many College are "Test Optional" Now

Did you know that not all colleges require students to submit SAT or ACT scores to be admitted to college? If you are a strong student, with a GPA of 3.0 or higher, you may be surprised to learn that many colleges, and really good colleges, have become "test-optional". Too many parents and students dismiss "test-optional" as a possible route to college admission. But before you do that, find out more about this growing, "student-friendly" trend in college admission.

News & Updates

Several times each week, I post articles and test taking tips about the SAT and ACT tests as well as college admissions. These blog entries are a great way to keep current with what is happening in high school test prep and college admissions. So please bookmark this page (or subscribe to my RSS feed) and let your friends and family know about!