What are the pros, cons, and costs of various SAT and ACT prep methods?


Our counselors answered:

What are the pros, cons, and costs of various SAT and ACT prep methods?

Helen Cella

What are the pros, cons, and costs of various SAT and ACT prep methods?

Some are better than others....practice, practice, practice

Patricia Aviezer
President Inside Track To College, Inc.

So many choices, so little time...

Yes, getting familiar with the style, content, flow and timing of these tests will help you score your best, but what type of test preparation will work best for you? Other factors to consider with any option is cost factor, time management, target date for testing and scheduling. Let's discuss some options... 1. Preparing on your own-meaning you purchase a book, DVD or gather materials from "free resources" to prepare. Only try this one, if you're self-motivated, disciplined, organized and able to develop an individualized study plan over time. 2. Purchasing an online study program with feedback and remediation available 24/7-some of these programs are very powerful and if USED can raise your scores. My experience with this, works for about 40% of students who subscribe to these services. 3. Group SAT/ACT Prep classes-you need a structured classroom setting with a teacher in the room and the cost seems more economical. Downside here is there are 25 other students taking the class who are all at different levels of performance and the curriculum is standardized so you're sitting through 6 hours of lessons in areas that won't bring your scores up further. 4. Private one-on-one instruction-Cost factor here can be upwards of $100-$200 per hour and you'll need 8-16 hours of instruction. And where did you get the recommendation for this person from? Make sure you're provided with recommendations and that you follow up on them. Set up an interview to see what the "tutor's style" and expectations are to see if this is a good fit for you.

Nancy Milne
Owner Milne Collegiate Consulting

What are the pros, cons, and costs of various SAT and ACT prep methods?

Everyone's learning style is different. While some students are disciplined enough to study independently, others need the strong arm of a tutor or test prep service to keep them focused. How much money you spend on these options depends where you live, how long the course is, and who is providing the instruction.

Ted Skowron
Counselor Brophy College Preparatory

What are the pros, cons, and costs of various SAT and ACT prep methods?

If you have the motivation, time, and money for a prep course it will only help you. It will give you both strategies to attack the test and also practice time on the test, and both of these will bolster confidence. Often, local community colleges offer reasonable test prep courses. The cost and time commitment are two considerations when choosing a test prep provider.

Reecy Aresty
College Admissions/Financial Aid Expert & Author Payless For College, Inc.

What are the pros, cons, and costs of various SAT and ACT prep methods?

Pros - it can increase your scores tremendously Cons - you may not increase your scores, or you didn't do enough research and took the wrong course or class or read the wrong book Costs - $100's to $1,000's

Benjamin Caldarelli
Partner Princeton College Consulting, LLC

What are the pros, cons, and costs of various SAT and ACT prep methods?

There are basically 3 ways students can prepare for standardized tests. 1. They can buy a study book and work through it on their own. This is the least expensive method (30 dollars), but is also the least effective for most students. 2. Students can take a course with other students. This will provide structured overview of the test and general strategies. It can cost anywhere from 500 to 1500 dollars, but will be impersonal and therefore inefficient. 3. Private tutoring is the usually the best way to prepare. It will be the most expensive, costing between 100 and 400 dollars an hour based an the level of expertise and experience of the tutor, but will be the most effective, efficient and convenient way to prepare. I recommend some amount of private tutoring for almost all of my clients.

Henry DelAngelo
High School Counselor 20 + years Your Key to College

What are the pros, cons, and costs of various SAT and ACT prep methods?

Prep on your own is the most cost effective; being disciplined enough to consistently take time to prepare is difficult. Taking a test prep class can be expensive but it will give you insight to the questions and will keep you on track. Individual tutoring can cost a bit less if you can pin point areas you need to focus.

Brittany Maschal
Founder/Director B. Maschal Educational Consulting

What are the pros, cons, and costs of various SAT and ACT prep methods?

The Common Application collects resume data or 10 activities. There are only a few schools that now even allow for an additional resume upload (Penn, Brandeis, Georgetown, to name a few). So, given that most schools don't request it - aka they don't want it - it isn't all that important compared to other parts of the application. Although if a school gives you the option to submit one do it. Nothing optional is ever really optional.

Bill Pruden
Head of Upper School, College Counselor Ravenscroft School

What are the pros, cons, and costs of various SAT and ACT prep methods?

The reality of test preparation is that it is less about the pros and cons of the various options than it is about individual learning styles. The organized classroom structure that characterizes many program is undoubtedly best for some, but for others focused one-on-one tutoring might be the best approach. Meanwhile, another student might be best served working on their own with a CD or computer program. There is no one best way, but there must be full student engagement for any approach to work. There is no one right answer and the approaches, the costs, and the relative convenience vary significantly. The one thing that can be said is that in today’s world of competitive admissions, if you can afford it, you should undertake some form of preparation, for if you do not, you may find yourself coming up short against the person who did.

Pamela Hampton-Garland
Owner Scholar Bound


First the cost is relatively the same....check out the sites for each test because it depends on timing (early or late) and the tests (subject, with writing, w/o writing, etc) Also, confirm that the institution you are applying to accepts both exams and that will help you decide which you shoud take Differences: ACT has a science section and is often suggested for students who are strong in the science field; additionally unlike the SAT the ACT is set up so that when you complete Math, you do not return to it, The ACT has critical reading, math and science sections SAT focuses on Critical Reading and Math only and is set up so that you may start with math, move to a reading section, return to a math section, go back to another reading section and so on, for some students it is more frustrating but if you are well versed in the areas you are fine with the structure. The SAT offers subject area tests that can be used to place out of a general education requirement. Both tests have a writing section that most colleges require. Basically, I advise students to take the ACT if science is a very strong area for them, it can often increase their score comparison and may be an advantage over the SAT alone, I do believe both tests provide an opportuntiy for some students to showcase their ability to tests well on prior gained knowledge, but it is not an absolute indicator for all students. Those who do not tests well may be slighted on either tests, not because they do not know the information, but the test anxiety is so high that they freeze and do less then they are capable of. Test prep courses are expensive and have not been shown to boost scores high enough to out way the cost; reading and practicing using the many self guided resources available in books and on the internet may provide just as much opportunity as enrolling in a course and save your money to take the tests several times to get familiar with it and cut down the anxiety level by knowing what to expect.