competition

Princeton Review vs Kaplan: Which SAT Prep Service is Better?

Research conducted by Emily Kierkegaard, PhD, and expert-reviewed by Kevin Wong, PrepMaven Co-founder

In this Princeton Review vs. Kaplan face-off, we pit two of the biggest test prep companies against each other to see which offers the best SAT prep. From instructor qualifications to price, online platform, guarantees, and other features, discover which is the best SAT prep service.

Both Kaplan and the Princeton Review offer test prep in many different formats, so we'll cover their group SAT classes, one-on-one tutoring, video on-demand courses, and all of their test-prep add-ons.


Princeton Review vs. Kaplan Overview

Live group SAT courses:

Princeton Review’s SAT Essentials Course Kaplan’s Live Online SAT Course
Cost of basic SAT live group course $949 $799
Instructor qualifications None specified, but some training 99th percentile
Class size Varies, average around 12 students Up to 30 students
Practice tests and study materials 6 practice tests + 140 hours of additional video lessons to review individual concepts + question bank Only 2 "realistic" practice tests
Access to materials 12 months 6 months
Option to add tutoring Purchase separately for $175/hour Live Online Plus Course: additional $300 for 3 hours of one-on-one tutoring ($100/hour)

Pre-recorded SAT courses:

Princeton Review Kaplan
Cost of pre-recorded video SAT prep course $499 SAT and ACT $199
Practice tests Unspecified Only 2 "realistic" practice tests
Access to materials 1 year 6 months
Includes AP materials Limited video lessons for US Government, US History, World History, English Language, and Chemistry no
Cost of 10 hours add-on tutoring $200 (discount add-on rate, so $699 total) $1999 (no discount rate)

Private SAT tutoring:

Princeton Review Kaplan
Tutoring rate $175–420/hour $115–299/hour
Minimum tutoring package $2000 for 10 hours $1999 for 10 hours
Instructor qualifications None specified, but some training None specified, but usually 90th-percentile
Score increase guarantee Elite 1500+ option, $7560: for qualifying students who start with a 1400+, guarantee of 1500, with tutoring at $420/hour Higher score (could be just 10 points higher)


Princeton Review vs. Kaplan: Group SAT prep classes

The flagship SAT prep options for both Princeton Review and Kaplan are online group classes. This might be what most people think of when they imagine SAT prep: a group of students all learning the basics of SAT concepts and an introduction to the test format, taught in real time by a single instructor.

Let’s dive into the differences between the group SAT courses from Kaplan and the Princeton Review!

(It’s worth restating that there’s no connection between Princeton Review and Princeton University.)

There are several options from each company for this type of course, so we’ll summarize them here:

Princeton Review live online group classes for SAT prep

Kaplan live online group classes for SAT prep

  • Kaplan Live Online SAT course, $799 — live group classes and practice
  • Kaplan Live Online Plus SAT course, $1099 — same as the Live Online course, plus 3 hours of individual tutoring
  • Kaplan Unlimited Prep course, $1999 — same as the Live Online course but with access to course materials until December of senior year, plus material for PSAT, ACT, and select APs

How do these compare against each other? Let’s take a look at them one by one.

student taking online class

The basic course: Princeton Review SAT Essentials vs Kaplan Live Online SAT

Princeton Review’s SAT Essentials Course Kaplan’s Live Online SAT Course
Cost of basic SAT live group course $949 $799
Instructor qualifications None specified, but some training 99th percentile
Class size Varies, average around 12 students Up to 30 students
Practice tests and study materials 6 practice tests + 140 hours of additional video lessons to review individual concepts + question bank Only 2 "realistic" practice tests
Access to materials 12 months 6 months
Option to add tutoring Purchase separately for $175/hour; pack of 3 hours is $540 Live Online Plus Course: additional $300 for 3 hours of one-on-one tutoring ($100/hour)

Kaplan’s Live Online SAT course is their flagship offering for SAT prep. The course includes 9 sessions of 2 hours each for $799. This is $250 less than the basic SAT course offered by the Princeton Review, which is their SAT Essentials Course ($949).

How do these two courses differ from each other, and is Princeton Review’s course worth the increased price?

Instructors

The most important factor for educational quality is always the teacher. While Kaplan promises 99th percentile instructors, Princeton Review just says that they make sure their instructors are trained. This means that instructors did not necessarily score highly on the test themselves. They don’t need to have teaching experience or a degree from a top school.

We do know that the SAT instructors at the Princeton Review tend to be more highly trained. Kaplan, on the other hand, tends to hire instructors who scored in the 99th percentile, but doesn't discuss the training process much.

Class sizes

One significant flaw of Kaplan’s SAT classes is that all of them tend to be large classes with up to 30 students. In fact, Kaplan is notorious for canceling classes if enrollment isn’t high enough to protect their profit margins.

Kaplan tries to deal with large class sizes by including a second instructor present in the online chat for each class, available to answer questions without disrupting the main discussion. While this is a neat feature, we prefer having smaller class sizes to begin with. After all, one of the main reasons why students learn better from a live class compared to a pre-recorded class is that the instructor can answer questions in real time and adapt to the needs of the students.

Princeton Review’s SAT classes, on the other hand, tend to be a more reasonable size, averaging around 12 students per class.

Practice tests and study materials

Practice tests and study materials for both Kaplan and the Princeton Review live group classes are the same as their materials for self-directed courses, discussed below.

As we’ve seen, the Princeton Review offers more SAT practice questions and more full-length practice tests than Kaplan does. 

However, these materials aren’t as helpful as one might think. The best practice materials are always real SAT questions from past tests. (Six full tests are available for free from the College Board or on their non-profit partner Khan Academy.) While companies try to mimic the test style as best they can when creating these proprietary question banks, they’re never exactly the same as the real ones. Over the years, we’ve found many questions from the Princeton Review’s question banks that do not accurately reflect the real SAT.

Same for the full-length practice tests: we strongly recommend using real SAT tests for practice, not fake tests created by an outside company. A top-notch tutor or SAT prep class can help students navigate how to use the existing real SAT tests most effectively. 

Access to materials

One significant downside of Kaplan’s On Demand SAT prep course is that it’s only available for 6 months. After that, there’s no way to extend access to the test materials. Given that most students take the SAT more than once, and it can be ideal to take the SAT for the first time early on to reduce time pressure, 6 months is not enough time for many students.

The Princeton Review gives students 12 months to access course materials. This is much more helpful for students and more standard for the test-prep industry, although we’ll note that a handful of rare companies like PrepMaven give students lifelong access!

Option to add tutoring

One thing that we liked about Kaplan’s SAT course was the option to add 3 hours of one-on-one tutoring at a discounted rate compared to their usual SAT tutoring. Although 3 hours isn’t much time, this option allows students to get some additional help with a few specific problem areas.

The Princeton Review does not have a specific add-on tutoring package, but families can purchase tutoring packs starting at $540 for 3 hours.

However, as we discuss below, Kaplan’s SAT tutors do not necessarily have strong credentials for teaching the SAT, so students might be better off working with a more experienced SAT tutor.

The verdict: the basic course from the Princeton Review is a bit better than Kaplan’s version, as students get 12 months of access to study materials and a smaller class size. However, neither course is worth the high price tag, since there are other options from smaller companies that offer more individualized attention and more experienced instructors with Ivy-League degrees and top-1% scores themselves.

writing

The deluxe course: Princeton Review 1400+ SAT vs Kaplan Unlimited Prep 

Princeton Review’s 1400+ SAT Course Kaplan’s Unlimited Prep Course
Cost of deluxe SAT live group course $2199 $1999
Instructor qualifications None specified, but more training and experience 99th percentile
Class size Varies, average around 12 students Up to 30 students
Practice tests and study materials 6 practice tests + 140 hours of additional video lessons to review individual concepts + question bank Only 2 SAT practice tests
Access to materials 12 months Until December of senior year
Score increase guarantee For qualifying students who start with a 1250+, guarantee of 1400 Higher score (could be just 10 points higher)

Both the Princeton Review and Kaplan offer an upgraded version of their basic SAT group course. However, each company took this “deluxe” option in a different direction.

Kaplan’s Unlimited Prep

For Kaplan, their Unlimited Prep course provides students with materials for several different tests they might take as high school students. In addition to SAT classes, students can take classes for the ACT and specific AP tests:

  • AP Biology Review Course
  • AP Calculus AB Review Course
  • AP English Language and Composition Review Course
  • AP English Literature Review Course
  • AP Human Geography Review Course
  • AP Psychology Review Course
  • AP US History Review Course
  • AP World HIstory (Modern) Review Course

In addition, Kaplan used this upgrade as a chance to fix one of the most common complaints about their more basic courses, namely the 6-month cutoff to view course materials. WIth Kaplan’s Unlimited Prep course, students can access course materials until the December of their senior year. 

Unfortunately, while this date is fine for SAT and ACT prep (the latest possible date to take these tests for college applications is in December), this means that students can’t use Kaplan’s Unlimited Prep materials for AP review in May of their senior year, the most common time for AP tests.

The Princeton Review’s 1400+ Course

The Princeton Review, on the other hand, took their course upgrade in a different direction.

Their 1400+ SAT Course is significantly longer than their basic course, with 36 hours of live instruction (versus 18 hours for their SAT Essentials Course).

The instructors who lead the classes for the 1400+ SAT Course are the Princeton Review’s top teachers. However, we’ll note that the Princeton Review does not have any specific qualifications for their instructors, so even these “top teachers” might not have top scores themselves or elite college degrees. The only way to guarantee working with a top-1% instructor and/or an Ivy-League graduate is to work with a more selective test-prep company like PrepMaven or Prep Expert.

Most famously, the Princeton Review’s 1400+ Course also offers a beefed-up score guarantee. For students who already have at least a 1250 on previous SAT tests, they guarantee that students who complete all course materials and classes will score a 1400 on their next SAT.

That’s attractive to many students, although we will note that there is a LOT of fine print involved.

We’ll also mention that a 1400, while quite good, is usually not a high enough score for applications to the Ivy League or most of the top-tier schools.

The verdict: for students who specifically want to focus on the SAT, the Princeton Review’s deluxe offering is better, with a longer course, better teachers, and a stronger guarantee. The Kaplan Review’s upgrade, on the other hand, gives students access to basic classes for the ACT and a handful of AP tests. 

Either option is fine for students who specifically want to work with a large test-prep company. However, students who want to work with top-tier instructors who have extensive experience, Ivy-League degrees, and top 1% scores themselves might consider a smaller tutoring company like PrepMaven, Elite Ivy Tutors, or the Tutoring Service of New York.


Princeton Review vs. Kaplan: On-demand video SAT prep courses

Princeton Review and Kaplan are two of the biggest test prep companies, both with thousands of instructors helping students to prepare for a variety of important tests.

(Note that there is zero connection between the Princeton Review and Princeton University. Their name refers to the town of Princeton in New Jersey, and they just happen to benefit from the confusion.)

Until recently, the Princeton Review did not offer any pre-recorded video courses for SAT or ACT prep.

However, they’re just launched a new set of offerings for self-paced video courses, taking advantage of their resources as a huge company.

Of course, “self-paced” and “on demand” are just other ways of referring to pre-recorded video lessons. These self-directed courses are best for students who are capable of managing their own schedules and tracking progress without the assistance of an instructor.

For both Princeton Review and Kaplan, these On-Demand courses are the least expensive option for SAT prep. Both offer a mix of short video lessons paired with practice questions and short quizzes.

Princeton Review Kaplan
Cost of pre-recorded video SAT prep course $499 SAT and ACT $199
Practice tests Unspecified Only 2 "realistic" SAT practice tests
Access to materials 1 year 6 months
Includes AP materials Limited video lessons for US Government, US History, World History, English Language, and Chemistry no
Cost of 10 hours add-on tutoring $200 (discount add-on rate, so $699 total) $1999 (no discount rate)

For Kaplan’s course, we particularly like the video explanations that accompany each of the quiz questions, although there are fewer of these videos than we’d like, since Kaplan’s course has only a handful of questions per concept.

For the Princeton Review’s course, we like that students will get a custom study schedule after they take a diagnostic test. Of course, this is produced by an algorithm and will be less nuanced and personalized than an individual study schedule created by an experienced tutor, but it’s still more customization than offered by Kaplan, which has a more rigid structure.

SAT answer bubble sheet

Practice tests and study materials

In terms of sheer volume of SAT practice questions, the Princeton Review also wins by a significant margin — Princeton Review has about 2000 questions while Kaplan has about 1000 questions. However, we’d point out that the best practice materials are always real SAT questions from past tests. (Eight full tests are available for free from the College Board or on their non-profit partner Khan Academy.) While companies try to mimic the test style as best they can when creating these proprietary question banks, they’re never exactly the same as the real ones. Over the years, we’ve found many questions from the Princeton Review’s question banks that do not accurately reflect the real SAT.

In addition, both the Princeton Review and Kaplan provide students with full practice tests, but not very many (2 tests from Kaplan, and 6 tests from Princeton Review). 

As for the quality of the tests themselves... just as we said about the individual practice questions, we strongly recommend using real SAT tests for practice, not fake tests created by an outside company. A top-notch tutor or SAT prep class can help students navigate how to use the existing real SAT tests most effectively. 

Access to materials

One significant downside of Kaplan’s On Demand SAT prep course is that it’s only available for 6 months. After that, there’s no way to extend access to the test materials. Given that most students take the SAT more than once, and it can be ideal to take the SAT for the first time early on to reduce time pressure, 6 months is not enough time for many students.

The Princeton Review, on the other hand, gives students 12 months of access to course materials. While this is still not as good as the lifetime access offered by PrepMaven, it’s significantly more helpful for students preparing for the tests over the course of junior year or from junior spring to senior fall.

Extras and add-ons

One of the main differences between Kaplan and Princeton Review’s pre-recorded video courses is that the Princeton Review offers several extras and add-ons that may be helpful.

All of the Princeton Review’s packages for pre-recorded SAT prep include a limited number of review videos for 5 AP tests: US Government, US History, World History, English Language, and Chemistry. For students who happen to be taking one of those AP classes that year, this is a nice bonus, though not essential.

The Princeton Review will also give students access to their videos and question bank for the ACT. Given that many students take both tests at least once, this could be helpful for some students.

(Of course, the most effective way to prepare for both tests at the same time is to work with an experienced tutor who can highlight areas of overlap between the tests, as well as key differences that could surprise students. Smart study will avoid overlap and confusion and maximize success on both tests. With the right tutor, it’s certainly possible to prepare for both the SAT and the ACT at the same time.)

Finally, for an additional $200 ($699 in total), students can add on 10 hours of on-demand SAT tutoring at a very reasonable rate. This is one of the biggest benefits of Princeton Review’s new program, since individual tutoring is a great way to address problem areas for students.

However, this add-on SAT tutoring is much lower-quality than we’d like. The Princeton Review uses a different tutor pool for their “on-demand” SAT tutoring, and tutors are less trained and experienced than their higher-end tutors. In fact, there are no required qualifications for these SAT tutors — tutors aren’t required to have scored well on the SAT themselves or have teaching experience.

Princeton Review vs Kaplan On-Demand: Our verdict

In the end, the pre-recorded video courses from both Princeton Review and Kaplan are fine, but not great, ways to brush up on concepts covered by the SAT and do some practice.

Kaplan’s course is much less expensive ($199 compared to $499), but given the additional 6 months of access and bonus AP videos, we’d choose the Princeton Review over Kaplan.

Nevertheless, we would not recommend either course to students. This is because for self-directed SAT preparation there are already great study materials available completely for free from the College Board and the educational non-profit Khan Academy. 

Students can access 6 complete Digital SAT tests and detailed answer explanations directly from the College Board. On Khan Academy, students can create a dashboard to track progress through their SAT prep, watch videos reviewing key concepts, and do targeted practice.

If students need more help than offered by these free resources, then it’s likely that a live course with access to an instructor or one-on-one tutoring will be more effective than a pre-recorded video course.

This is also true for high-scoring students who are aiming for an amazing score that will help get them into the Ivy League/Stanford/MIT/etc. Typically the best fit for high-scoring students is private tutoring with a top 1% instructor.

Winner: the Princeton Review’s course is better, but we recommend the completely free Khan Academy over either option!


Princeton Review vs. Kaplan: Private SAT Tutoring

Princeton Review Kaplan
Tutoring rate $150–420/hour $115–299/hour
Minimum tutoring package $2000 for 10 hours $1999 for 10 hours
Instructor qualifications None specified, but some training None specified, but usually 90th-percentile
Score increase guarantee Elite 1500+ option, $7560: for qualifying students who start with a 1400+, guarantee of 1500, with tutoring at $420/hour Higher score (could be just 10 points higher)

In addition to pre-recorded courses and group classes, both the Princeton Review and Kaplan offer individual SAT tutoring.

Individual tutoring might be an especially good fit for students who need more than a quick review of core concepts. This has been especially true after Covid, as there has been an unprecedented drop in students' math and reading skills due to interruptions in schooling.

Individual tutoring is also a great idea for students who are pursuing very high scores (1400 and above), and who might feel bored in a general class aimed at the average student. High-achieving students should make sure that they’re working with a tutor who got a top score on the SAT themself. 

That said, one-on-one tutoring can be a good fit for any student! Individual tutoring sessions tend to be more impactful in a shorter period of time, since they can hone in on the specific weaknesses of that student, so they’re great for busy students who want to make the most of their SAT study time. 

An experienced tutor can also make sure to create individualized homework assignments that target the areas the student needs to strengthen to improve their SAT scores.

How do Kaplan and the Princeton Review compare for SAT tutoring?

Their one-on-one tutoring offerings are fairly similar in quality.

Both services offer roughly the same minimum package: 10 hours for $2000 (Princeton Review) or $1999 (Kaplan). This works out to about $200/hr.

What's honestly frustrating about both services is they expect you to pay a huge premium if you're targeting a higher score.

Princeton Review's "1500+" tutoring package works out to sky-high rate of $420/hr, all for the "guarantee" of a 1500+. In reality, there are so many caveats and loopholes to this score guarantee that you are unlikely to benefit from it at all.

Kaplan, on the other hand, forces you to pay a roughly 50% premium to work with a "premium" SAT tutor who has scored in the 99th percentile. This means paying an hourly rate of up to $300! What's absurd is that Kaplan treats "99th percentile tutor" as if it's some sort of special add-on--in reality, most smaller, high-quality companies only hire 99th percentile tutors in the first place!

Are either of these tutoring services worth the high prices?

No, no, and no! We found both Kaplan and the Princeton Review to be significantly overpriced compared to other options for SAT tutoring.

These costs of $175--$420 are very high, especially considering that their tutors have no required qualifications like high scores themselves or degrees from top schools!

Neither the Princeton Review nor Kaplan requires any specific qualifications for their SAT tutors — unless you're paying for the "Premium" Kaplan tutors, instructors are not required to be top scorers on the SAT themselves! Even if you pay for the most expensive option at each company, instructors are not required to have a track record of success or degrees from top schools.

Yale University
Yale University

In contrast, several other SAT prep providers hire only top 1% scorers (in the 99th percentile), which means scoring about a 1530+ on the SAT. (This is definitely a competitive score for the Ivy League and any other top school.) Students might consider PrepMaven (Ivy League and top 1%), SoFlo Tutors (top 1%), or Prep Expert (top 1%).

Note that if high-achieving students are aiming for a National Merit scholarship, they’ll need a top 1% score on the PSAT, the version of the SAT that students take in October of their junior year. Every year, $35 million in scholarships are awarded through the National Merit program, and some colleges offer full-ride scholarships and other perks to National Merit students. An elite SAT tutor can help with preparation for the PSAT and this competition as well as the SAT. 

The verdict: unless families specifically want to work with a large test-prep company, we definitely recommend looking elsewhere for SAT tutoring. Both the Princeton Review and Kaplan are significantly overpriced for SAT tutoring. Several smaller test prep companies (like PrepMaven, SoFlo, Elite Ivy Tutors, Tutoring Service of New York, or Prep Expert) provide SAT tutoring with more highly-qualified elite tutors, often at lower rates.


Princeton Review vs. Kaplan Review: Online Platform

The experience and abilities of the tutor or instructor are without doubt the single most important factors in the overall quality of the educational experience for a live class or tutoring, but for online classes and tutoring the platform itself also has an impact.

The Kaplan online platform visually is pretty nice. Students have a home dashboard from which they can navigate to individual study units and practice tests. While other test prep platforms might have an individualized learning plan, Kaplan’s courses are more rigid and are not customized to meet the particular strengths and weaknesses of individual students.

Many clients have reported technical problems with the platform, which are compounded by difficulty reaching customer service.

Overall, it seems that Kaplan’s online learning platform leaves room for improvement.

The verdict: Princeton Review’s online platform is stronger overall, as Kaplan’s is known to have frequent technical difficulties.


Princeton Review vs Kaplan: Customer Service

When speaking with families, the most common critique of Kaplan’s educational services was actually about their lackluster customer support.

Many clients reported that it was impossible to reach Kaplan’s customer support or technical support. Emails and messages went unanswered, and phone lines required wait times of several hours.

The verdict: Princeton Review’s customer service has a better reputation than Kaplan’s. 


Princeton Review vs. Kaplan: Final Verdict

The Princeton Review (no connection to Princeton University) is one of the biggest and most well-known companies. Their tutoring is pricey, but a solid option. Instructors go through a more extensive training process than at many other competitors, but there’s no requirement for instructors to be graduates of top schools or high scorers themselves.

When choosing between Kaplan and the Princeton Review for SAT prep, we found the Princeton Review to be better overall.

However, unless families specifically want to work with a large test-prep company, we recommend considering other test-prep services that offer higher-quality courses and tutoring for comparable or even lower prices.

For families on a tighter budget, we’d suggest looking for an independent tutor on Wyzant. It’s a tutoring marketplace platform, so the quality varies hugely and there’s no oversight or qualification requirements, but you might find a decent tutor under $40/hour.

Students preparing for the SAT should also check out Khan Academy. This online educational platform is completely free and is the only service to partner directly with the College Board, the makers of the SAT. For students with enough self-discipline to stick to a study schedule, Khan Academy can be a powerful tool. We don’t recommend paying for other self-guided courses unless students have already exhausted the resources available for free from Khan Academy and the College Board.

Princeton University
Princeton University

PrepMaven’s SAT MasterClass is the only option that provides students with the opportunity to follow up on questions directly with the instructor during weekly office hours. It’s also the only course under $1000 to guarantee the identity of the instructor, as all SAT MasterClasses are taught by co-founder Kevin, a Princeton graduate and top 1% scorer. 

For one-on-one tutoring, PrepMaven is the best out there both in terms of tutor quality and price. Starting at just $79/hour, students can work with current undergraduates at Princeton, Harvard, and other Ivy-League universities to prepare for the SAT. Families can also work with experienced, professional educators and Ivy-League graduates at $149/hour. As a boutique tutoring service, PrepMaven offers careful attention to each student and boasts amazing customer reviews.


What is the SAT?

Each year, roughly 2 million high school students take the SAT.* 

Along with the ACT, the SAT is a key component of college admissions. Colleges use test scores to gauge a student’s college readiness.

While many schools have gone test-optional in the wake of Covid, the most competitive schools still like to see SAT or ACT scores. In fact, according to reporting by New York Magazine, some elite schools--like MIT--are once again requiring submission of standardized test scores.

And, according to a report by CBS News, Yale and Dartmouth have recently joined MIT as well, saying that required standardized test scores will actually help poorer applicants.

Even for schools that don't yet require the SAT, looking at the Common Data Set information for top schools like MIT and Princeton shows that SAT and ACT scores are still an extremely important part of the admissions process.

In addition to college admission, test scores can be used to earn scholarships or placement in special programs. Many schools that are test-optional are still using test scores for scholarships, so good scores can be an important way of avoiding student debt.

Younger students can also use test scores for admission to gifted and talented programs.

For students whose grades may have slipped during high school, test scores can also be used to show admissions officers your potential.

Finally, test scores are a handy tool for students to figure out where they might be a competitive applicant. Wondering if you have a chance at getting into Harvard? Not sure if University of Illinois is a reach school or a safety school for you? Test scores can help you there.

Check out our other posts for more information about how the digital SAT is scored, SAT test dates and deadlines, and how the SAT is different from the ACT. We also have many free test prep resources. For more test prep guidance, schedule a call with Jessica or one of our founders today!

* 2.2 million students of the class of 2020 took the SAT, a record high. Due to Covid, this number dipped to 1.5 million for the class of 2021. (source: College Board)

quad at Stanford
Stanford University

Why work with a private SAT tutor?

You may want to consider working with an SAT tutor if:

  • You have no idea where to start in order to prepare for the SAT
  • You feel overwhelmed by all of the different SAT prep books and materials and don’t know which to choose
  • You have a hard time keeping yourself on track and want an external structure to hold you accountable
  • You're not sure what counts as a "good" SAT score
  • You're not sure exactly what's on the SAT
  • You’ve been practicing on your own but your gains have plateaued
  • You have a limited amount of time and need to be efficient in your studying
  • You want to learn techniques for managing test anxiety
  • You want insider tips about test strategies
  • You want more individualized attention than you’d get in a prep class with other students
  • You want to learn efficiently, with each lesson tailored to your exact needs
  • You’re a high scorer who would be bored in a general prep class
  • You’re a lower scorer who would benefit from more focused help
  • You have specific gaps in your knowledge (e.g. missed a few months of geometry due to Covid, an injury, a family move, etc.) and need a tutor to teach this material

With our SAT students, we typically see students increase their scores by about 100–300 points after working with a tutor. This can have a significant impact on college admissions.

University of Chicago
University of Chicago

What makes a good SAT tutor?

Like with any other test, it’s possible to improve your performance on the SAT with the right practice and preparation.

However, specific preparation for the SAT is usually not taught in schools, so students and families are on their own preparing for it.

Guidance with SAT prep comes in two main forms: group classes or individual tutoring. Many students combine the two, following an SAT group class with some one-on-one tutoring to focus on a tailored approach for that student’s strengths and weaknesses.

In this post, though, we focused on SAT individual tutoring.

These days, many tutoring sessions are online. This allows students to seek out the best tutor regardless of their physical location, which is great!

The most important aspect of a good SAT tutoring experience is the teacher. Tutoring sessions should be taught by experienced instructors who know the test inside and out and have helped many other students. The instructors should be people who scored highly on the test themselves, ideally in the top 1%

Classes should begin with a diagnostic test and a detailed score report to analyze a student’s starting point.

An SAT tutor can introduce the test format and de-mystify the test for students and families. That also means helping students understand the SAT scoring policies so that they can most effectlvely use their SAT score to get into top colleges!

Especially since the beginning of the COVID-19 pandemic, many students have had interruptions in their education, resulting in knowledge gaps that can cause difficulties on the SAT and for years to come. A good tutor will break the test down and help students target gaps in math, reading comprehension, and grammar.

Working one-on-one is unparalleled in its efficacy for remedying these interruptions in a student’s learning, since a tutor can notice these gaps much more easily than a teacher with a classroom full of students.

Whatever students are struggling with, a good tutor will spot those skill gaps and teach that material in an encouraging way.

Princeton University
Princeton University

Managing test preparation and studying can also be stressful for family dynamics. Working with a tutor means that parents don’t have to be involved directly — the tutor can be the one to assign homework, establish holistic studying schedules, and track progress.

A good SAT tutor takes a lot of the stress out of the SAT process and makes sure students are practicing effectively. Tutors can provide students with study materials and guide students in using them correctly

Thorough SAT tutors can also help students to make a holistic study plan and keep them on track, so that parents don’t have to be involved directly. 

Effective SAT tutors will assign structured homework so that students can practice constructively with official test questions. There are a very limited number of official practice tests, so it’s important to make the most of them! 

Good SAT tutors will help students work through missed problems and answer students’ questions. They'll push students' abilities further by challenging them with especially difficult questions when appropriate.

In addition, there are many strategies and tricks that can make the test easier. Unlike some self-directed courses and books, a good SAT tutor can share these tricks with students and guide them through implementing test strategies.

Finally, a great SAT tutor will be a cheerleader for the student. An experienced SAT tutor can help students to learn ways to manage test anxiety and learn key study strategies — both of which will be super valuable for the rest of their academic careers and beyond. 

A great SAT tutor will encourage their students and leave them feeling confident and ready for the SAT!

Yale University
Yale University




Kaplan SAT Prep Review: Rating All of Kaplan’s SAT Prep Options

Research conducted by Emily Kierkegaard, PhD, and expert-reviewed by Kevin Wong, PrepMaven Co-founder

Kaplan is one of the giants in test prep, and their courses and tutoring for SAT prep are well-known. 

Considering using Kaplan for SAT prep? Read this in-depth review first.

We did the hard work of researching all about Kaplan to get all the information you need to find your best fit for test prep.

For more SAT prep options, check out our list of the 12 best SAT prep courses and the top 15 SAT tutoring services.


Kaplan Review: Fast Facts

  • Kaplan is one of the largest companies for educational products — they have about 12,000 teachers and staff around the world, and they publish dozens of books on test prep
  • Kaplan offers several different plans for SAT prep, including pre-recorded video courses, live group courses, and individual tutoring
  • SAT prep with a live instructor (not just pre-recorded videos) starts at $799
  • Kaplan’s group classes are much larger than those of competitors, with up to 30 students per class — and Kaplan tends to cancel classes if not enough students sign up
  • Instructors are less-qualified than many competitors, and they’re assigned by Kaplan with no option to choose a specific class instructor or tutor
  • Kaplan is known for having unresponsive customer service, with clients reporting waiting hours on hold or sending emails and messages that go unanswered
student working on online SAT prep


Kaplan Review: SAT Prep Options & Pricing

Kaplan has three main options for SAT prep:

  • Kaplan On Demand SAT course, $199 — pre-recorded video lessons and practice questions, but no contact with an instructor
  • Kaplan Live Online SAT course, $799 — live group classes and practice
  • Kaplan Live Online Plus SAT course, $1099 — same as the Live Online course, plus 3 hours of individual tutoring
  • Kaplan Unlimited Prep course, $1999 — access to course materials until December of senior year, and access includes other tests as well (PSAT, ACT, and select APs)
  • Kaplan SAT Tutoring, $1999 for 10 tutoring hours, $2899 for 20 tutoring hours, $3799 for 30 tutoring hours, or $4599 for 40 tutoring hours ($115–200/hour) — one-on-one tutoring 
  • Kaplan Premium SAT Tutoring with 99th percentile instructors, $2999 for 10 hours, $4299 for 20 hours, 5799 for 30 hours, 6999 for 40 hours ($175-$299/hr)
  • These prices are high given the instructors’ lack of credentials (more on that below). 

Kaplan’s SAT prep courses are twice as expensive as the similar offerings from Magoosh ($399). They’re a similar price to the prep courses offered by Princeton Review ($949) with smaller class sizes or the SAT masterclass from PrepMaven ($995) with the company’s founder (a Princeton grad) and more individualized attention, including additional help outside of class time.

Kaplan’s tutoring rates makes them more expensive than higher-quality tutoring services with top 1% and Ivy-League tutors — for example, families can consider tutoring with elite Ivy-League tutors at PrepMaven starting at $79/hour, with top scorers at SoFlo ($75/hour), or with graduate students from the Tutoring Service of New York ($112–160/hour).

What's especially strange is that Kaplan expects you to pay even higher rates to guarantee a qualified tutor. Most companies charging upwards of $100/hr require their instructors to have scored in the 99th percentile. At Kaplan, you won't get that unless you're willing to pay a roughly 50% premium.

We also definitely don’t think that the On Demand course is worth the $199, given that Khan Academy offers a very similar service completely for free (keep reading to learn more).

Rating: 5/10


Kaplan Review: On Demand SAT course

Kaplan’s least expensive course is their On Demand SAT course for $199. Of course, “on demand” is another way of referring to pre-recorded video lessons.

This type of self-directed course is best for students who are capable of managing their own schedules and tracking progress without the assistance of an instructor.

Each of the video lessons is short, never more than 10–12 minutes long. These videos are slickly produced, though students may find them a little cheesy. Each video explanation is followed by 6–7 practice questions and then a short quiz with 4–5 questions. This is Kaplan’s “Learn It, Drill It, Prove it” system.

One of the best parts of the course is the video explanation that accompanies each of the quiz questions. These are definitely helpful content, but as there are only a handful of questions per concept it’s more limited than we’d like.

In addition to this program, students enrolled in Kaplan’s On Demand SAT course also have access to Kaplan’s “Qbank,” or question bank. This is a library of multiple-choice questions that mimic the kind you’ll see on the SAT.

While additional practice questions are helpful, we find that they’re less effective for raising your SAT score than working with real questions from actual past SAT tests. That’s because while Kaplan’s authors will try to mimic the test, they’re always going to have slight differences in style compared to the real SAT.

SAT answer sheet

One significant downside of Kaplan’s On Demand SAT prep course is that it’s only available for 6 months. After that, there’s no way to extend access to the test materials. Given that most students take the SAT more than once, and it can be ideal to take the SAT for the first time early on to reduce time pressure, 6 months is not enough time for many students.

In the end, Kaplan’s On Demand SAT course is a perfectly fine way to brush up on concepts covered by the SAT and do some practice. Is it worth the $199 price tag, though? In our opinion, no. 

A very similar set of practice questions — but this time created in partnership with the College Board, the makers of the SAT — is available completely for free from Khan Academy. Similarly, 6 full real SAT tests are available from the College Board or on Khan Academy. These resources are available forever, with no 6-month cutoff.

If students need more help than offered by these resources, then it’s likely that a live course with access to an instructor or one-on-one tutoring will be more effective.

That’s also true for high-scoring students who are chasing that amazing score that will help get them into the Ivy League/Stanford/MIT/etc. Typically the best fit for high-scoring students is private tutoring with a top 1% instructor.

Rating: 4/10


Kaplan Review: Live Online SAT courses

Kaplan’s Live Online SAT course

Kaplan’s Live Online SAT course is their flagship offering for SAT prep. The course includes 9 sessions of 2 hours each for $799. (Payment plans are also available.)

One advantage of Kaplan’s version of the course is that students can sign up for the class times that work for them, and can easily switch time slots. This is great for students with busy and ever-changing schedules.

That said, Kaplan is notorious for canceling classes to protect their profit margins if not enough students are signed up for them.

“We enrolled my daughter for Unlimited Prep. We expected to have one live classroom, but we never get that. They are always canceled due to low enrollments.”

“Canceled our ACT class twice causing us to have to push back our test date. Could not offer a viable alternative class and refused to refund the full fee. Horrible business practices and totally unreliable!”

Another common complaint from clients is that Kaplan’s SAT prep has a fairly rigid structure and isn’t customized to the needs of each individual student. Many students have commented that the classes moved too quickly for them:

“I told them the program did not work. I bought the Bootcamp program. It was too fast and my kid could not follow along. No one helped her, no one checked in, no one cared. She just felt like she wasn't smart enough to get it. The whole experience was awful from start to finish.”

frustrated student

In addition to the course, students receive access to the pre-recorded video explanations and quizzes from the On Demand course. They also get several hard-copy books. As we’ve mentioned, these practice materials are fine, but they’re not the best out there for SAT practice.

One interesting feature of Kaplan’s Live Online course is that for each class there is a second instructor present in the online chat, available to answer questions without disrupting the flow of the class. 

However, this feature is likely necessary because Kaplan’s class sizes are quite large, up to 30 students at a time! These classes are much larger than those offered by competitors. Indeed, smaller class sizes are highly endorsed by teacher organizations, such as the American Federation of Teachers, which recommends class sizes under 20.

While the chat function is great, it might be better to have a smaller class where students are able to ask the instructor questions directly during the lesson, and not written separately. In general, we found Kaplan’s SAT prep classes to be less adaptive to the needs of the individual students.

Who teaches these classes? Kaplan does not require any specific qualifications for its SAT instructors and tutors — unless you shell out for the "Premium" tutoring, instructors are not required to be top scorers on the test themselves or have graduated from a top-tier university.

We’re heard that Kaplan hires instructors who score in the 90th percentile and above on the SAT, although they don’t publish this cutoff, so it may not be a strict requirement. This means that instructors are above-average, but they’re not necessarily at the top. 

A 90th-percentile score is about a 1350 on the SAT (out of 1600). This is a strong score, but it’s not nearly high enough to be competitive for an Ivy-League school, where the average score is between 1450 and 1570. In fact, a 1350 isn’t good enough to be competitive at hardly any of the top-tier schools in the US.

In contrast, several other SAT prep providers hire only top 1% scorers (in the 99th percentile), which means scoring about a 1550 on the SAT. Students might consider PrepMaven (Ivy League and top 1%), Magoosh (top 1%), or Prep Expert (top 1%).

Finally, it’s important to note that like Kaplan’s On Demand course, all of these materials are only available for 6 months, and the only way to extend this is to purchase the Unlimited Prep option for $1999. This is not enough time for many students, especially considering that most students take the SAT more than once.

Rating: 2/10

Kaplan’s Live Online Plus SAT course

Kaplan also offers a Live Online Plus option for $1099. This is identical to the Live Online course, but with the addition of 3 hours of one-on-one tutoring. That comes out to $100/hour for the tutoring portion, which is a discount on the price of their tutoring if purchased separately.

We like that this option allows students to get some additional help with a few specific problem areas.

However, as we discuss below, we wish that Kaplan’s tutors had stronger credentials for teaching the SAT.

Rating: 5/10

student working on online SAT prep

Kaplan’s Unlimited Prep course

Kaplan’s Unlimited Prep course ($1999) is its most deluxe option. For an additional $400, families can add 6 hours of individual tutoring.

If students find the large group classes to be a good fit for their learning style and want more of the same, it might be a good fit — it’s the same as the basic Live Online class, but it allows students to access the classes and practice questions until December of their senior year, rather than only 6 months. Many students report that the 6-month cutoff for the Live Online or Live Online Plus courses isn't enough time, and this option remedies that, albeit for a hefty price increase. 

The other difference with the Unlimited Prep course is that students also get access to live group classes for the ACT, PSAT (though this prep is identical to the SAT), and a handful of common AP tests:

  • AP Biology Review Course
  • AP Calculus AB Review Course
  • AP English Language and Composition Review Course
  • AP English Literature Review Course
  • AP Human Geography Review Course
  • AP Psychology Review Course
  • AP US History Review Course
  • AP World History (Modern) Review Course

(Note that other AP courses like AP Physics, AP Calculus BC, AP Chemistry, AP Spanish, AP Political Science, and AP European History are not included.)

Each of the AP review classes have 8 2-hour classes that review important concepts for the tests. They don’t come anywhere close to teaching the entire AP subject, but they could be a good review before the test in May.

The catch? Unfortunately, Kaplan’s Unlimited Prep course expires in December of the student’s senior year. That means that students do not have access to the materials in the spring of their senior year, when many students are taking AP tests for potential college credit.

Is Kaplan’s Unlimited Prep course worth the $1999 price tag? It depends. For a student who is taking several of the 8 AP subjects covered by Kaplan as a sophomore or junior, and who plans to take both the ACT and the SAT, and who likes the large class format, sure.

However, as we’ve seen, the instructors for Kaplan have significantly fewer credentials than those from other top test prep companies like PrepMaven (Ivy League and top 1%), Magoosh (top 1%), or Prep Expert (top 1%). The quality of the teacher is the single most important component of the educational experience, and Kaplan does not have the best teachers.

In addition, families should note that tech problems with Kaplan’s online course platform and unresponsive customer service have impacted the overall learning experience.

Rating: 6/10

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Kaplan Review: SAT Tutoring

In addition to their large group classes, Kaplan also offers one-on-one SAT tutoring.

Individual tutoring might be an especially good fit for students who need more than a quick review of core concepts. This has been especially true after Covid, as there has been an unprecedented drop in student’s math and reading skills due to interruptions in schooling.

Individual tutoring is also a great idea for students who are pursuing very high scores (1400 and above), and who might feel bored in a general class aimed at the average student. High-achieving students should make sure that they’re working with a tutor who got a top score on the SAT themself. 

That said, one-on-one tutoring can be a good fit for any student! Individual tutoring sessions tend to be more impactful in a shorter period of time, since they can hone in on the specific weaknesses of that student, so they’re great for busy students who want to make the most of their SAT study time. 

An experienced tutor can also make sure to create individualized homework assignments that target the areas the student needs to strengthen to improve their SAT scores.

Is Kaplan a good choice for SAT tutoring?

We found it to be significantly overpriced compared to other options.

student working with an online SAT tutor

Kaplan offers four tutoring packages of different sizes. Their minimum purchase is a package of 10 tutoring hours at $1999. This is a very large minimum purchase, much higher than those of PrepMaven, Prep Expert, SoFlo Tutors, or Wyzant

Their minimum comes out to $200/hour for tutoring, which is a very steep price — especially considering that their tutors have no required qualifications like high scores themselves or degrees from top schools!

Their hourly rate does decrease if one purchases a large tutoring package ($4599 for 40 tutoring hours), but it’s still on the higher side.

Is this higher price tied to higher quality?

Unfortunately not. As with Kaplan’s group class instructors, Kaplan does not require any specific qualifications for their SAT tutors — instructors are not required to be top scorers on the SAT themselves or have graduated from a top-tier university.

We’re heard that Kaplan hires tutors who score in the 90th percentile and above on the SAT, although since they don’t publish this cutoff, it may not be a strict requirement. This means that instructors are above-average, but they’re not necessarily at the top. 

For context, a 90th-percentile score is roughly a 1350 on the SAT (out of 1600). This is a good score, but it’s not nearly high enough to be competitive for an Ivy-League school, where the average score is between 1450 and 1570. In fact, a 1350 isn’t good enough to be competitive at any of the top-tier schools in the US.

In contrast, several other SAT prep providers hire only top 1% scorers (in the 99th percentile), which means scoring about a 1550 on the SAT. (This is definitely a competitive score for the Ivy League and any other top school.) Students might consider PrepMaven (Ivy League and top 1%), SoFlo (top 1%), or Prep Expert (top 1%).

Cornell University
Cornell University (Image: Dantes De MonteCristo/Wikimedia Commons (CC BY-SA 4.0)

Note that if high-achieving students are aiming for a National Merit award, they’ll need a top 1% score on the PSAT, the version of the SAT that students take in October of their junior year. Every year, $35 million in scholarships are awarded through the National Merit program, and some colleges offer full-ride scholarships and other perks to National Merit students. An elite SAT tutor can help with preparation for the PSAT and this competition as well as the SAT.

Rating: 4/10


Kaplan Review: Online Platform

The experience and abilities of the tutor or instructor are without doubt the single most important factors in the overall quality of the educational experience for a live class or tutoring, but for online classes and tutoring the platform itself also has an impact.

The Kaplan online platform visually is pretty nice. Students have a home dashboard from which they can navigate to individual study units and practice tests. While other test prep platforms might have an individualized learning plan, Kaplan’s courses are more rigid and are not customized to meet the particular strengths and weaknesses of individual students.

Many clients have reported technical problems with the platform, which are compounded by difficulty reaching customer service:

“They are very glitchy, and they barely have customer service. There have been days that I just spent trying to figure out their site, and I have had to cancel plans because of it.”

“The website was a jumbled mess — the website is constantly broken and will make you want to rip your hair off. Disappointingly, a lot of the course is just telling you what you already know if you are actually prepping for the standardized tests. Also, some of their methods don't even work or are just inefficient. Sorry to say, but mom and dad just wasted a **** ton of money. Save yourself your time and frustration and go somewhere else.”

“Adaptive QBank was not functioning for 2 weeks. I called and emailed several times and received responses that were unhelpful at best and rude at worst.”

frustrated client

“I’ve just stopped using the app all together and I tell people I do not recommend Kaplan for this reason. I have an ongoing tech issue with the app where it doesn’t load because of a test I generated, the result is an app that just gives me the spinning wheel of death nonstop, non resolving. I’ve done everything to try and resolve the problem, even offloading the app and reinstalling. Nothing works.”

“I thought this would be a helpful test prep experience... boy was I WRONG. Their website is a disaster and removes sections randomly so you cannot access them. Their website also deletes work consistently despite troubleshooting from customer service. Now on to customer service... Everyone I spoke to gave me an attitude despite issues being with their system. It sounds as if these customer service reps have never met a kind person in their life. I would run like the wind from Kaplan test prep!”

Overall, it seems that Kaplan’s online learning platform leaves room for improvement.

Rating: 5/10


Kaplan Review: Customer Service

When speaking with families, the most common critique of Kaplan’s educational services was actually about their lackluster customer support.

Many clients reported that it was impossible to reach Kaplan’s customer support or technical support. Emails and messages went unanswered, and phone lines required wait times of several hours.

“Waited on hold with customer service for 4 hours on two different occasions!! Can't get an actual HUMAN to help with my courses. So frustrated and will never be using this company again. Will also tell EVERYONE not to ever use them especially if you need assistance from their customer service. Don't use this company! Not worth it!”

“HORRIBLE! The course itself was fine but the lack of customer service is disgusting. If you ever need help, plan on not receiving it — no matter how urgent. No one answers the phones, the live chat doesn't work, and emails go unanswered for weeks. I wanted to renew my subscription but decided to go with another test prep service who actually cares about helping their customers.”

“I didn't like their customer support. I bought the wrong package and tried to change for what I needed and they just told me I couldn't even though I was willing to pay the difference. For me it ended up being a waste of money.”

student frustrated with laptop

“No response to support emails. I've reached out via email, chat, social media, and had no response whatsoever.”

“POOOOOOR customer support. Expensive, system does not work easily and tech support does not answer. Phone number does not understand simple words, it’s an automated service. It is a piece of junk.”

“The study material and courses were good. I have not taken the test but I am confident I will do okay. My issue is with their customer service department. At the end of every class, they always mention their email address and encourage you to reach out if you have any questions. Well I have reached out twice, and I have also messaged them directly through their online portal. I have gotten zero responses.”

Kaplan does offer its students a higher score guarantee for any of its live SAT courses. There are a lot of rules for this guarantee, and they’re known for avoiding it on technicalities, so make sure you read all of the fine print.

Note that this higher score guarantee means only a score that is higher than the previous SAT score, even if only by the smallest point increment. If you score a 1030 the first time, spend six months studying, and then score a 1040, you cannot make a claim on the guarantee. Many other SAT services offer stronger point increase guarantees of 100–140 points.

Rating: 4/10


Kaplan Review: Final Verdict

Kaplan is one of the giants of the test prep industry, and so their SAT prep products, courses, and tutoring are well-known.

However, we found that they were overall overpriced and of lower quality than other options. As one client said,

“This is a large corporation chiefly concerned with profit. It can meaningfully improve your score yes, but you are far better off buying prep books and paying a private tutor. Don't buy into a system that rips off students, instructors, and publishers.”

Their online learning platform has been reported to have tech problems, and their customer service is very hard to reach.

Their instructors and tutors do not have specific credentials, whereas other companies can boast top 1% or Ivy-League instructors.

Some of their online materials might be helpful to students studying for the SAT, but they’re not as good as real SAT questions, which are available for free elsewhere.

Ultimately, any amount of practice will help students prepare for the SAT, but there are many other options that will teach students more effectively, at better prices. 

If students are looking for a top-notch SAT prep class, but with smaller classes, more individualized attention, and top 1% instructors who hail from the Ivy League, we recommend PrepMaven’s SAT Masterclass. If families are specifically interested in one of the large test prep companies, we recommend Princeton Review over Kaplan

For families on a budget, we cannot recommend enough Khan Academy’s free SAT materials created in partnership with the College Board, creators of the SAT. Magoosh’s SAT prep course is pretty good value, too.

Princeton University
Princeton University

If students and families are looking for a more hands-on tutoring company with carefully selected Ivy-League tutors with prior teaching experience and specific training, we recommend working with a more selective tutoring service like PrepMaven ($79–349/hour) or Elite Ivy Tutors ($200–300/hour), where all of the tutors are from the Ivy-League with impressive backgrounds, and where the quality of instruction is consistently very high. 

Overall Rating: 5/10


What is the SAT?

Each year, roughly 2 million high school students take the SAT, according to College Board.

Along with the ACT, the SAT is a key component of college admissions. Colleges use test scores to gauge a student’s college readiness.

While many schools have gone test-optional in the wake of Covid, the most competitive schools still like to see SAT or ACT scores. In fact, according to reporting by New York Magazine, some elite schools--like MIT--are once again requiring submission of standardized test scores.

And, according to a report by CBS News, Yale and Dartmouth have recently joined MIT as well, saying that required standardized test scores will actually help poorer applicants.

Even for schools that don't yet require the SAT, looking at the Common Data Set information for top schools like MIT and Princeton shows that SAT and ACT scores are still an extremely important part of the admissions process.

In addition to college admission, test scores can be used to earn scholarships or placement in special programs. Many schools that are test-optional are still using test scores for scholarships, so good scores can be an important way of avoiding student debt.

Younger students can also use test scores for admission to gifted and talented programs.

For students whose grades may have slipped during high school, test scores can also be used to show admissions officers your potential.

Finally, test scores are a handy tool for students to figure out where they might be a competitive applicant. Wondering if you have a chance at getting into Harvard? Not sure if University of Illinois is a reach school or a safety school for you? Test scores can help you there.

Check out our other posts for more information about how the digital SAT is scored, SAT test dates and deadlines, and how the SAT is different from the ACT. We also have many free test prep resources. For more test prep guidance, schedule a call with Jessica or one of our founders today!

Princeton University
Princeton University

Why take an SAT prep course?

You may want to consider a SAT prep course if you:

  • You have no idea where to start in order to prepare for the SAT
  • You feel overwhelmed by all of the different SAT prep books and materials and don’t know which to choose
  • You have a hard time keeping yourself on track and want an external structure to hold you accountable
  • You're not sure what counts as a "good" SAT score
  • You're not sure exactly what's on the SAT
  • You’ve been practicing on your own but your gains have plateaued
  • You have a limited amount of time and need to be efficient in your studying
  • You want to learn techniques for managing test anxiety
  • You want insider tips about test strategies
  • You’re not sure how to track your progress
  • You’ve been practicing on your own but your gains have plateaued
  • You have a limited amount of time and need to be efficient in your studying
  • You want to learn techniques for managing test anxiety
  • You want insider tips about test strategies

In our SAT prep course, we typically see students increase their scores by about 100–300 points. This can have a significant impact on college admissions and scholarships.

Stanford University
Stanford University

What makes a good SAT prep course?

Guidance with SAT prep comes in two main forms: group classes or individual tutoring. Many students combine the two, following an SAT group class with one-on-one tutoring to focus on a tailored approach for that student’s strengths and weaknesses.

In this post, though, we focused on SAT group classes.

These days, many courses are online. This allows students to seek out the best classes regardless of their physical location, which is great! It’s up to the individual student and their situation to decide whether in-person classes or online classes are the best fit.

PrepMaven SAT class

The most important aspect of a good SAT prep course is the teacher. Excellent classes should be taught by experienced instructors who know the test inside and out and have many years helping students. The instructors should be people who scored highly on the test themselves, ideally in the top 1%

Classes should begin with a diagnostic test and a detailed score report to analyze a student’s starting point.

A good SAT prep class will also encourage students and help them reduce their test anxiety. If your prep course is making you feel anxious, it might not be the right fit!

All good SAT prep courses will review the content covered by the exam as well as test-taking strategies

Now more than ever with the effects of the Covid-19 pandemic, many students have gaps in their knowledge where their schooling was interrupted. A good SAT class will fill in these gaps by teaching fundamental math and grammar concepts.

Classes should provide students with study materials and guide students in using them effectively

Many good SAT prep courses will assign structured homework so that students can practice constructively with official test questions. There are a limited number of official practice tests, so it’s important to make the most of them! 

Good classes will help students work through missed problems and answer students’ questions.

The best SAT prep courses can also help students to make a holistic study plan and keep them on track, so that parents don’t have to be involved directly. 

Schedule a free 15- to 30-minute consultation with Jessica or one of our founders.




competition

Princeton Review vs Kaplan: Which ACT Prep Service is Better?

Research conducted by Emily Kierkegaard, PhD, and expert-reviewed by Kevin Wong, PrepMaven Co-founder

In this Princeton Review vs. Kaplan face-off, we pit two of the biggest test prep companies against each other to see which offers the best ACT prep.

From instructor qualifications to price, online platform, guarantees, and other features, discover which is the best ACT prep service.

Both Kaplan and the Princeton Review offer test prep in many different formats, so we'll cover their group ACT classes, one-on-one tutoring, video on-demand courses, and all of their test-prep add-ons.


Princeton Review vs. Kaplan Overview

Live group ACT courses:

Princeton Review’s ACT Essentials Course Kaplan’s Live Online ACT Course
Cost of basic ACT live group course $949 $599
Instructor qualifications None specified, but some training 99th percentile
Class size Varies, average around 12 students Up to 30 students
Practice tests and study materials 11 practice tests + 140 hours of additional video lessons to review individual concepts + question bank 5 practice tests + question bank
Access to materials 12 months 6 months
Option to add tutoring Purchase separately for $150–190/hour; pack of 3 hours is $540 Live Online Plus Course: additional $300 for 3 hours of one-on-one tutoring ($100/hour)

Pre-recorded ACT courses:

Princeton Review Kaplan
Cost of pre-recorded video ACT prep course $499 SAT and ACT (no ACT only) $124
Practice tests 10 practice tests 5 practice tests
Access to materials 1 year 6 months
Includes AP materials Limited video lessons for US Government, US History, World History, English Language, and Chemistry no
Cost of 10 hours add-on tutoring $200 (discount add-on rate, so $699 total) $1999 (no discount rate)

Private ACT tutoring:

Princeton Review Kaplan
Tutoring rate $150–420/hour $120–150/hour
Minimum tutoring package $540 for 3 hours $749 for 5 hours
Instructor qualifications None specified, but some training None specified, but usually 90th-percentile
Score increase guarantee Elite 34+ option, $7560, $420/hour: if you don’t score a 34+ or improve your score by 5 points, get 50–100% back  Higher score (could be just 1 point higher)


Princeton Review vs. Kaplan: Group ACT prep classes

The flagship ACT prep options for both Princeton Review and Kaplan are online group classes. This might be what most people think of when they imagine ACT prep: a group of students all learning the basics of ACT concepts and an introduction to the test format, taught in real time by a single instructor.

Let’s dive into the differences between the group ACT courses from Kaplan and the Princeton Review!

(It’s worth restating that there’s no connection between Princeton Review and Princeton University.)

There are several options from each company for this type of course, so we’ll summarize them here:

Princeton Review live online group classes for ACT prep

Kaplan live online group classes for ACT prep

  • Kaplan Live Online ACT course, $599 — live group classes and practice
  • Kaplan Live Online Plus ACT course, $849 — same as the Live Online course, plus 3 hours of individual tutoring
  • Kaplan Unlimited Prep course, $1999 — same as the Live Online course but with access to course materials until December of senior year, plus material for PSAT, SAT, and select APs

How do these compare against each other? Let’s take a look at them one by one.

student working on online SAT prep

The basic course: Princeton Review ACT Essentials vs Kaplan Live Online ACT

Princeton Review’s ACT Essentials Course Kaplan’s Live Online ACT Course
Cost of basic ACT live group course $949 $599
Instructor qualifications None specified, but some training 99th percentile
Class size Varies, average around 12 students Up to 30 students
Practice tests and study materials 4 practice tests + 140 hours of additional video lessons to review individual concepts + question bank 5 practice tests + question bank
Access to materials 12 months 6 months
Option to add tutoring Purchase separately for $200–420/hour Live Online Plus Course: additional $300 for 3 hours of one-on-one tutoring ($100/hour)

Kaplan’s Live Online ACT course is their flagship offering for ACT prep. The course includes 9 sessions of 2 hours each for $599. This is $350 less than the basic ACT course offered by the Princeton Review, which is their ACT Essentials Course ($949).

How do these two courses differ from each other, and is Princeton Review’s course worth the increased price?

Instructors

The most important factor for educational quality is always the teacher. Princeton Review has no specific requirements for their instructors, but does train them. Kaplan at least promises top 99th percentile instructors, without specifying their track record or training. Neither company's instructors necessarily have teaching experience or a degree from a top school.

We do know that the ACT instructors at the Princeton Review tend to be more highly trained. Kaplan, on the other hand, tends to hire instructors who scored in the 99th percentile.

Class sizes

One significant flaw of Kaplan’s ACT classes is that all of them tend to be large classes with up to 30 students. In fact, Kaplan is notorious for canceling classes if enrollment isn’t high enough to protect their profit margins.

Kaplan tries to deal with large class sizes by including a second instructor present in the online chat for each class, available to answer questions without disrupting the main discussion. While this is a neat feature, we prefer having smaller class sizes to begin with. After all, one of the main reasons why students learn better from a live class compared to a pre-recorded class is that the instructor can answer questions in real time and adapt to the needs of the students.

Princeton Review’s ACT classes, on the other hand, tend to be a more reasonable size, averaging around 12 students per class.

Practice tests and study materials

Practice tests and study materials for both Kaplan and the Princeton Review live group classes are the same as their materials for self-directed courses, discussed below.

The Princeton Review offers more ACT practice questions and more full-length practice tests than Kaplan does. 

However, these materials aren’t as helpful as one might think. The best practice materials are always real ACT questions from past tests. While companies try to mimic the test style as best they can when creating these proprietary question banks, they’re never exactly the same as the real ones. Over the years, we’ve found many questions from the Princeton Review’s question banks that do not accurately reflect the real ACT.

Same for the full-length practice tests: we strongly recommend using real ACT tests for practice, not fake tests created by an outside company. A top-notch tutor or ACT prep class can help students navigate how to use the existing real ACT tests most effectively. 

Access to materials

One significant downside of Kaplan’s On Demand ACT prep course is that it’s only available for 6 months. After that, there’s no way to extend access to the test materials. Given that most students take the ACT more than once, and it can be ideal to take the ACT for the first time early on to reduce time pressure, 6 months is not enough time for many students.

The Princeton Review gives students 12 months to access course materials. This is much more helpful for students and more standard for the test-prep industry.

Option to add tutoring

One thing that we liked about Kaplan’s ACT course was the option to add 3 hours of one-on-one tutoring at a discounted rate compared to their usual ACT tutoring. Although 3 hours isn’t much time, this option allows students to get some additional help with a few specific problem areas.

However, as we discuss below, Kaplan’s ACT tutors do not necessarily have strong credentials for teaching the ACT, so students might be better off working with a more experienced ACT tutor.

The verdict: the basic course from the Princeton Review is a bit better than Kaplan’s version, as students get 12 months of access to study materials and a smaller class size. However, neither course is worth the high price tag, since there are other options from smaller companies that offer more individualized attention and more experienced instructors with Ivy-League degrees and top-1% scores themselves.

student doing test prep on laptop

The deluxe course: Princeton Review 31+ ACT vs Kaplan Unlimited Prep 

Princeton Review’s 31+ ACT Course Kaplan’s Unlimited Prep Course
Cost of deluxe ACT live group course $2199 $1999
Instructor qualifications None specified, but more training and experience 99th percentile
Class size Varies, average around 12 students Up to 30 students
Practice tests and study materials 10 practice tests + additional video lessons to review individual concepts + question bank 5 practice tests + question bank + AP materials
Access to materials 12 months Until December of senior year
Score increase guarantee For qualifying students who start with a 26+, guarantee of 31 Higher score (could be just 1 point higher)

Both the Princeton Review and Kaplan offer an upgraded version of their basic ACT group course. However, each company took this “deluxe” option in a different direction.

Kaplan’s Unlimited Prep

For Kaplan, their Unlimited Prep course provides students with materials for several different tests they might take as high school students. In addition to ACT classes, students can take classes for the SAT and specific AP tests:

  • AP Biology Review Course
  • AP Calculus AB Review Course
  • AP English Language and Composition Review Course
  • AP English Literature Review Course
  • AP Human Geography Review Course
  • AP Psychology Review Course
  • AP US History Review Course
  • AP World HIstory (Modern) Review Course

In addition, Kaplan used this upgrade as a chance to fix one of the most common complaints about their more basic courses, namely the 6-month cutoff to view course materials. WIth Kaplan’s Unlimited Prep course, students can access course materials until the December of their senior year. 

Unfortunately, while this date is fine for ACT and SAT prep (the latest possible date to take these tests for college applications is in December), this means that students can’t use Kaplan’s Unlimited Prep materials for AP review in May of their senior year, the most common time for AP tests.

The Princeton Review’s 31+ Course

The Princeton Review, on the other hand, took their course upgrade in a different direction.

Their 31+ ACT Course is significantly longer than their basic course, with 36 hours of live instruction (versus 18 hours for their ACT Essentials Course).

The instructors who lead the classes for the 31+ ACT Course are the Princeton Review’s top teachers. However, we’ll note that the Princeton Review does not have any specific qualifications for their instructors, so even these “top teachers” might not have top scores themselves or elite college degrees.

Most famously, the Princeton Review’s 31+ Course also offers a beefed-up score guarantee. For students who already have at least a 26 on previous ACT tests, they guarantee that students who complete all course materials and classes will score a 31 on their next ACT.

That’s attractive to many students, although we will note that there is a LOT of fine print involved.

We’ll also mention that a 31, while quite good, is usually not a high enough score for applications to the Ivy League or most of the top-tier schools.

The verdict: for students who specifically want to focus on the ACT, the Princeton Review’s deluxe offering is better, with a longer course, better teachers, and a stronger guarantee. The Kaplan Review’s upgrade, on the other hand, gives students access to basic classes not just the ACT, but also for the SAT and a handful of AP tests. 

Either option is fine for students who specifically want to work with a large test-prep company. However, students who want to work with top-tier instructors who have extensive experience, Ivy-League degrees, and top 1% scores themselves might consider a smaller tutoring company like PrepMaven, Elite Ivy Tutors, or the Tutoring Service of New York.


Princeton Review vs. Kaplan: On-demand video ACT prep courses

Princeton Review and Kaplan are two of the biggest test prep companies, both with thousands of instructors helping students to prepare for a variety of important tests.

(Note that there is zero connection between the Princeton Review and Princeton University. Their name refers to the town of Princeton in New Jersey, and they just happen to benefit from the confusion.)

Until recently, the Princeton Review did not offer any pre-recorded video courses for ACT or SAT prep.

However, they’re just launched a new set of offerings for self-paced video courses, taking advantage of their resources as a huge company.

Of course, “self-paced” and “on demand” are just other ways of referring to pre-recorded video lessons. These self-directed courses are best for students who are capable of managing their own schedules and tracking progress without the assistance of an instructor.

For both Princeton Review and Kaplan, these On-Demand courses are the least expensive option for ACT prep. Both offer a mix of short video lessons paired with practice questions and short quizzes.

At the moment, Princeton Review offers their pre-recorded ACT class only as a bundle with their SAT class. There’s no way to purchase just the ACT class by itself.

(Of course, the most effective way to prepare for both tests at the same time is to work with an experienced tutor who can highlight areas of overlap between the tests, as well as key differences that could surprise students. Smart study will avoid overlap and confusion and maximize success on both tests. With the right tutor, it’s certainly possible to prepare for both the ACT and the SAT at the same time.)

Princeton Review Kaplan
Cost of pre-recorded video ACT prep course $499 SAT and ACT $199
Practice tests 10 practice tests 5 practice tests
Access to materials 1 year 6 months
Includes AP materials Limited video lessons for US Government, US History, World History, English Language, and Chemistry no
Cost of 10 hours add-on tutoring $200 (discount add-on rate, so $699 total) $1999 (no discount rate)

For Kaplan’s course, we particularly like the video explanations that accompany each of the quiz questions, although there are fewer of these videos than we’d like, since Kaplan’s course has only a handful of questions per concept.

For the Princeton Review’s course, we like that students will get a custom study schedule after they take a diagnostic test. Of course, this is produced by an algorithm and will be less nuanced and personalized than an individual study schedule created by an experienced tutor, but it’s still more customization than offered by Kaplan, which has a more rigid structure.

student working with online tutoring

Practice tests and study materials

In terms of sheer volume of ACT practice questions, the Princeton Review also wins by a significant margin. However, we’d point out that the best practice materials are always real ACT questions from past tests. While companies try to mimic the test style as best they can when creating these proprietary question banks, they’re never exactly the same as the real ones. Over the years, we’ve found many questions from the Princeton Review’s question banks that do not accurately reflect the real ACT.

In addition, both the Princeton Review and Kaplan provide students with full practice tests.

However, just as we said about the individual practice questions, we strongly recommend using real ACT tests for practice, not fake tests created by an outside company. A top-notch tutor or ACT prep class can help students navigate how to use the existing real ACT tests most effectively.

Access to materials

One significant downside of Kaplan’s On Demand ACT prep course is that it’s only available for 6 months. After that, there’s no way to extend access to the test materials. Given that most students take the ACT more than once, and it can be ideal to take the ACT for the first time early on to reduce time pressure, 6 months is not enough time for many students.

The Princeton Review, on the other hand, gives students 12 months of access to course materials. While this is still not as good as the lifetime access offered by some competitors, it’s significantly more helpful for students preparing for the tests over the course of junior year or from junior spring to senior fall.

Extras and add-ons

One of the main differences between Kaplan and Princeton Review’s pre-recorded video courses is that the Princeton Review offers several extras and add-ons that may be helpful.

All of the Princeton Review’s packages for pre-recorded ACT prep include a limited number of review videos for 5 AP tests: US Government, US History, World History, English Language, and Chemistry. For students who happen to be taking one of those AP classes that year, this is a nice bonus, though not essential.

(Note that many common AP subjects are not included, such as AP Calculus, AP Physics, AP Statistics, AP Biology, AP European History, AP English Literature, and AP Spanish.)

The Princeton Review's course also gives students access to their videos and question bank for the SAT. Given that many students take both tests at least once, this could be helpful for some students.

(Of course, the most effective way to prepare for both tests at the same time is to work with an experienced tutor who can highlight areas of overlap between the tests, as well as key differences that could surprise students. Smart study will avoid overlap and confusion and maximize success on both tests. With the right tutor, it’s certainly possible to prepare for both the ACT and the SAT at the same time.)

Finally, for an additional $200 ($699 in total), students can add on 10 hours of on-demand ACT tutoring at a very reasonable rate. This is one of the biggest benefits of Princeton Review’s new program, since individual tutoring is a great way to address problem areas for students.

However, this add-on ACT tutoring is much lower-quality than we’d like. The Princeton Review uses a different tutor pool for their “on-demand” ACT tutoring, and tutors are less trained and experienced than their higher-end tutors. In fact, there are no required qualifications for these ACT tutors — tutors aren’t required to have scored well on the ACT themselves or have teaching experience.

student working on online test prep

Princeton Review vs Kaplan On-Demand: Our verdict

In the end, the pre-recorded video courses from both Princeton Review and Kaplan are fine, but not great, ways to brush up on concepts covered by the ACT and do some practice.

Kaplan’s course is significantly less expensive ($199 compared to $499), but given the additional 6 months of access, SAT content, and bonus AP videos, we’d choose the Princeton Review over Kaplan.

Nevertheless, we would not recommend either course to students. This is because for self-directed ACT preparation there are already great study materials available completely for free from the makers of the ACT and the educational non-profit Khan Academy

Students can do a full practice test online or on paper for free from the ACT. On Khan Academy, students can create a dashboard to track progress through their test prep, watch videos reviewing key concepts, and do targeted practice.

Students familiar with Khan Academy might point out that their materials are developed for the SAT in partnership with the College Board (creators of the SAT), not for the ACT. 

However, while the SAT and the ACT are obviously different tests, there’s a lot of overlap. (The main difference is that the ACT has more advanced math — we compare the tests in detail here.) Especially for families on a budget, working through these high-quality free test-prep materials on Khan Academy is a great place to start. Magoosh’s ACT prep course is pretty good value, too.

If students need more help than offered by these free resources, then it’s likely that a live course with access to an instructor or one-on-one tutoring will be more effective than a pre-recorded video course.

This is also true for high-scoring students who are aiming for an amazing score that will help get them into the Ivy League/Stanford/MIT/etc. Typically the best fit for high-scoring students is private tutoring with a top 1% instructor.

Winner: the Princeton Review’s course is better, but we recommend the completely free Khan Academy over either option!


Princeton Review vs. Kaplan: Private ACT Tutoring

Princeton Review Kaplan
Tutoring rate $200–420/hour $110–260/hour
Minimum tutoring package $2000 for 10 hours $799 for 5 hours
Instructor qualifications None specified, but some training None specified, but usually 90th-percentile
Score increase guarantee Elite 34+ option, $7560, $420/hour: if you don’t score a 34+ or improve your score by 5 points, get 50–100% back  Higher score (could be just 1 point higher)

In addition to pre-recorded courses and group classes, both the Princeton Review and Kaplan offer individual ACT tutoring.

Individual tutoring might be an especially good fit for students who need more than a quick review of core concepts. This has been especially true after Covid, as there has been an unprecedented drop in student’s math and reading skills due to interruptions in schooling.

Individual tutoring is also a great idea for students who are pursuing very high scores (31 and above), and who might feel bored in a general class aimed at the average student. High-achieving students should make sure that they’re working with a tutor who got a top score on the ACT themself. 

That said, one-on-one tutoring can be a good fit for any student! Individual tutoring sessions tend to be more impactful in a shorter period of time, since they can hone in on the specific weaknesses of that student, so they’re great for busy students who want to make the most of their ACT study time. 

An experienced tutor can also make sure to create individualized homework assignments that target the areas the student needs to strengthen to improve their ACT scores.

How do Kaplan and the Princeton Review compare for ACT tutoring?

Their one-on-one tutoring offerings are fairly similar in quality.

The minimum cost of starting tutoring is very different between the two companies. .

Kaplan’s smallest package for ACT tutoring is $799 for 5 tutoring hours ($160/hour). Princeton Review's minimum package, however, is $2000 for 10 hours ($200/hr).

Are either of these tutoring services worth the high prices?

We found both Kaplan and the Princeton Review to be significantly overpriced compared to other options for ACT tutoring.

These costs of $160/hour or $200/hour are very high, especially considering that their tutors have no required qualifications like high scores themselves or degrees from top schools!

Neither the Princeton Review nor Kaplan requires any specific qualifications for their ACT tutors — instructors are not required to be top scorers on the ACT themselves or have graduated from a top-tier university.

Harvard University
Harvard University

In contrast, several other ACT prep providers hire only top 1% scorers (in the 99th percentile), which means scoring a 35 or 36 on the ACT. (This is definitely a competitive score for the Ivy League and any other top school.) Students might consider PrepMaven (Ivy League and top 1%), SoFlo Tutors (top 1%), or Prep Expert (top 1%).

The verdict: unless families specifically want to work with a large test-prep company, we definitely recommend looking elsewhere for ACT tutoring. Both the Princeton Review and Kaplan are significantly overpriced for ACT tutoring. Several smaller test prep companies (like PrepMaven, SoFlo, Elite Ivy Tutors, Tutoring Service of New York, or Prep Expert) provide ACT tutoring with more highly-qualified elite tutors, often at lower rates.


Princeton Review vs. Kaplan Review: Online Platform

The experience and abilities of the tutor or instructor are without doubt the single most important factors in the overall quality of the educational experience for a live class or tutoring, but for online classes and tutoring the platform itself also has an impact.

The Kaplan online platform visually is pretty nice. Students have a home dashboard from which they can navigate to individual study units and practice tests. While other test prep platforms might have an individualized learning plan, Kaplan’s courses are more rigid and are not customized to meet the particular strengths and weaknesses of individual students.

Many clients have reported technical problems with the platform, which are compounded by difficulty reaching customer service.

Overall, it seems that Kaplan’s online learning platform leaves room for improvement.

The verdict: Princeton Review’s online platform is stronger overall, as Kaplan’s is known to have frequent technical difficulties.


Kaplan Review: Customer Service

When speaking with families, the most common critique of Kaplan’s educational services was actually about their lackluster customer support.

Many clients reported that it was impossible to reach Kaplan’s customer support or technical support. Emails and messages went unanswered, and phone lines required wait times of several hours.

The verdict: Princeton Review’s customer service has a better reputation than Kaplan’s. 


Princeton Review vs. Kaplan Review: Final Verdict

The Princeton Review (no connection to Princeton University) is one of the biggest and most well-known companies. Their tutoring is pricey, but a solid option. Instructors go through a more extensive training process than at many other competitors, but there’s no requirement for instructors to be graduates of top schools or high scorers themselves.

When choosing between Kaplan and the Princeton Review for ACT prep, we found the Princeton Review to be better overall.

However, unless families specifically want to work with a large test-prep company, we recommend considering other test-prep services that offer higher-quality courses and tutoring for comparable or even lower prices.

For families on a tighter budget, we’d suggest looking for an independent tutor on Wyzant. It’s a tutoring marketplace platform, so the quality varies hugely and there’s no oversight or qualification requirements, but you might find a decent tutor under $40/hour.

Students preparing for the ACT should also check out Khan Academy. This online educational platform is completely free and is the only service to partner directly with the College Board, the makers of the SAT. The ACT and SAT are different tests, but there are enough similarities (especially at the beginning of studying) that students can use this high-quality free SAT prep to get started with the ACT as well. For students with enough self-discipline to stick to a study schedule, Khan Academy can be a powerful tool.

Princeton University
Princeton University (Image credit: Joshua Jen @jjen.photography)

We don’t recommend paying for self-guided courses unless students have already exhausted the resources available for free from Khan Academy and the College Board.

For one-on-one tutoring, PrepMaven is the best out there both in terms of tutor quality and price. Starting at just $79/hour, students can work with current undergraduates at Princeton, Harvard, and other Ivy-League universities to prepare for the ACT. Families can also work with experienced, professional educators and Ivy-League graduates at $149/hour. As a boutique tutoring service, PrepMaven offers careful attention to each student and boasts amazing customer reviews.


What is the ACT?

Each year, roughly 1.4 million high school students take the ACT.

Along with the SAT, the ACT is a key component of college admissions. Colleges use test scores to gauge a student’s college readiness.

While many schools have gone test-optional in the wake of Covid, the most competitive schools still like to see SAT or ACT scores. In fact, according to reporting by New York Magazine, some elite schools--like MIT--are once again requiring submission of standardized test scores.

And, according to a report by CBS News, Yale and Dartmouth have recently joined MIT as well, saying that required standardized test scores will actually help poorer applicants.

Even for schools that don't yet require test scores, looking at the Common Data Set information for top schools like MIT and Princeton shows that SAT and ACT scores are still an extremely important part of the admissions process.

In addition to college admission, test scores can be used to earn scholarships or placement in special programs. Many schools that are test-optional are still using test scores for scholarships, so good scores can be an important way of avoiding student debt.

Younger students can also use test scores for admission to gifted and talented programs.

For students whose grades may have slipped during high school, test scores can also be used to show admissions officers your potential.

Finally, test scores are a handy tool for students to figure out where they might be a competitive applicant. Wondering if you have a chance at getting into Harvard? Not sure if University of Illinois is a reach school or a safety school for you? Test scores can help you there.

Check out our other posts for more information about how the digital ACT is scored, how to prepare for the ACT, and how the SAT is different from the ACT. We also have many free test prep resources. For more test prep guidance, schedule a call with Jessica or one of our founders today!




Kaplan ACT Prep Review: Rating All of Kaplan’s ACT Prep Options

Research conducted by Emily Kierkegaard, PhD, and expert-reviewed by Kevin Wong, PrepMaven Co-founder

Kaplan is one of the giants in test prep, and their courses and tutoring for ACT prep are well-known. 

Considering using Kaplan for ACT prep? Read this in-depth review first.

We did the hard work of researching all about Kaplan to get all the information you need to find your best fit for test prep.

For more ACT prep options, check out our list of the top 15 ACT tutoring services.


Kaplan Review: Fast Facts

  • Kaplan is one of the largest companies for educational products — they have about 12,000 teachers and staff around the world, and they publish dozens of books on test prep
  • Kaplan offers several different plans for ACT prep, including pre-recorded video courses, live group courses, and individual tutoring
  • SAT prep with a live instructor (not just pre-recorded videos) starts at $599
  • Kaplan’s group classes are much larger than those of competitors, with up to 30 students per class — and Kaplan tends to cancel classes if not enough students sign up
  • Instructors are 99th percentile scorers, but they’re assigned by Kaplan with no option to choose a specific class instructor or tutor
  • Kaplan is known for having unresponsive customer service, with clients reporting waiting hours on hold or sending emails and messages that go unanswered
student doing test prep on laptop


Kaplan Review: SAT Prep Options & Pricing

Kaplan has three main options for SAT prep:

  • Kaplan On Demand ACT course, $124 — pre-recorded video lessons and practice questions, but no contact with an instructor
  • Kaplan Live Online ACT course, $599 — live group classes and practice
  • Kaplan Unlimited Prep course, $1999 — access to course materials until December of senior year, and access includes other tests as well (PSAT, SAT, and select APs)
  • Kaplan ACT Tutoring, $799 for 5 hours, $1399 for 10 tutoring hours, $2599 for 20 tutoring hours, $3599 for 30 tutoring hours, or $4399 for 40 tutoring hours ($110–150/hour) — one-on-one tutoring
  • Kaplan ACT Premium Tutoring, $1299 for 5 hours, $2199 for 10 hours, $3999 for 20 hours, $5499 for 30 hours, $6699 for 40 hours

These prices are high given the instructors’ lack of credentials (more on that below), especially considering the upcharge Kaplan expects you to pay to work with a 99th percentile "Premium" tutor (a qualification we believe should be the minimum).

Kaplan’s ACT prep courses are more expensive than the similar offerings from Magoosh ($399). They’re cheaper, however, than the prep courses offered by Princeton Review ($949) with smaller class sizes.

Kaplan’s tutoring rates makes them more expensive than higher-quality tutoring services with top 1% and Ivy-League tutors — for example, families can consider tutoring with elite Ivy-League tutors at PrepMaven starting at $79/hour, with top scorers at SoFlo ($75/hour), or with graduate students from the Tutoring Service of New York ($112–160/hour).

Is the On Demand course worth the $124? Possibly. Practice ACT tests are available for free directly from the makers of the test, but students who can self-study but who want a bit more review might be interested in the 7 hours of short video lectures from Kaplan. We’d also point out that Khan Academy’s online SAT prep, while developed for the other test, is still quite useful for the ACT and absolutely free of cost. However, students who want more in-depth or customized ACT prep should consider other options.

Rating: 6/10


Kaplan Review: On Demand ACT course

Kaplan’s least expensive course is their On Demand ACT course for $124. Of course, “on demand” is another way of referring to pre-recorded video lessons.

This type of self-directed course is best for students who are capable of managing their own schedules and tracking progress without the assistance of an instructor.

Each of the video lessons is short, never more than 10–12 minutes long. These videos are slickly produced, though students may find them a little cheesy. Each video explanation is followed by 6–7 practice questions and then a short quiz with 4–5 questions. This is Kaplan’s “Learn It, Drill It, Prove it” system.

One of the best parts of the course is the video explanation that accompanies each of the quiz questions. These are definitely helpful content, but as there are only a handful of questions per concept it’s more limited than we’d like.

In addition to this program, students enrolled in Kaplan’s On Demand SAT course also have access to Kaplan’s “Qbank,” or question bank. This is a library of multiple-choice questions that mimic the kind you’ll see on the ACT.

While additional practice questions are helpful, we find that they’re less effective for raising your SAT score than working with real questions from actual past ACT tests. That’s because while Kaplan’s authors will try to mimic the test, they’re always going to have slight differences in style compared to the real ACT.

student studying with laptop

Finally, students have access to 5 full practice tests. We found Kaplan’s advertising here to be quite disingenuous, because these practice tests are available directly from the makers of the ACT. One practice test is available for free online, and students can purchase the Official ACT Prep Guide book (about $30) for a set of 6 practice tests. It’s true that practice tests are great study resources, but there’s no need to pay Kaplan for access to practice tests.

One significant downside of Kaplan’s On Demand ACT prep course is that it’s only available for 6 months. After that, there’s no way to extend access to the test materials. Given that most students take the ACT more than once, and it can be ideal to take the ACT for the first time early on to reduce time pressure, 6 months is not enough time for many students.

In the end, Kaplan’s On Demand ACT course is a perfectly fine way to brush up on concepts covered by the ACT and do some practice. Is it worth the $124 price tag, though? Maybe.

If students need more help than offered by these resources, then it’s likely that a live course with access to an instructor or one-on-one tutoring will be more effective.

That’s also true for high-scoring students who are chasing that amazing score that will help get them into the Ivy League/Stanford/MIT/etc. Typically the best fit for high-scoring students is private tutoring with a top 1% instructor.

Rating: 7/10


Kaplan Review: Live Online ACT courses

Kaplan’s Live Online ACT course

Kaplan’s Live Online ACT course is their flagship offering for ACT prep. The course includes 9 sessions of 2 hours each for $599.

The course was developed in partnership with the creators of the actual ACT. This is great, because the best way to prepare for the test is to use real test questions from past tests. However, these materials are also available for free directly from the ACT, so there’s no need to necessarily go through Kaplan to access them.

One good feature of Kaplan’s ACT course is that students can sign up for the class times that work for them, and can easily switch time slots. This is great for students with busy and ever-changing schedules.
That said, Kaplan is notorious for canceling classes to protect their profit margins if not enough students are signed up for them.

“Canceled our ACT class twice causing us to have to push back our test date. Could not offer a viable alternative class and refused to refund the full fee. Horrible business practices and totally unreliable!”

Another common complaint from clients is that Kaplan’s ACT prep has a fairly rigid structure and isn’t customized to the needs of each individual student. Many students have commented that the classes moved too quickly for them:

“I just feel so stupid for falling for the Kaplan sales pitch. I was desperate to help my kid but it is ultimately my fault for being taken in by their hype. Now I am out 500 bucks and Kaplan refuses to do anything but blame my daughter for failing their **** program. I told them the program did not work. I bought the Bootcamp program. It was too fast and my kid could not follow along. No one helped her, no one checked in, no one cared. She just felt like she wasn't smart enough to get it. The whole experience was awful from start to finish.”

frustrated student

In addition to the course, students receive access to the pre-recorded video explanations and quizzes from the On Demand course. They also get several hard-copy books. As we’ve mentioned, these practice materials are fine, but they’re not the best out there for ACT practice.

One interesting feature of Kaplan’s Live Online course is that for each class there is a second instructor present in the online chat, available to answer questions without disrupting the flow of the class. 

However, this feature is likely necessary because Kaplan’s class sizes are quite large, up to 30 students at a time! These classes are much larger than those offered by competitors. Such a large class size makes it hard for students to receive individual attention. 

While the chat function is great, it might be better to have a smaller class where students are able to ask the instructor questions directly during the lesson, and not written separately. In general, we found Kaplan’s ACT prep classes to be less adaptive to the needs of the individual students.

Who teaches these classes? Kaplan does not require any specific qualifications for its ACT instructors and tutors — instructors are not required to be top scorers on the test themselves or have graduated from a top-tier university.

Kaplan hires 99th percentile instructors for its courses, but makes no promises about their instructors' educational backgrounds, experience, or training.

In contrast, several other ACT prep providers hire only top 1% scorers (in the 99th percentile), which means scoring a 35 or 36 on the ACT. Students might consider PrepMaven (Ivy League and top 1%), Magoosh (top 1%), or Prep Expert (top 1%).

Finally, it’s important to note that like Kaplan’s On Demand course, all of these materials are only available for 6 months, and the only way to extend this is to purchase the Unlimited Prep option for $1999. This is not enough time for many students, especially considering that most students take the ACT more than once.

Rating: 4/10

Kaplan’s Live Online Plus ACT course

Kaplan also offers a Live Online Plus option for $749. This is identical to the Live Online course, but with the addition of 3 hours of one-on-one tutoring. That comes out to $100/hour for the tutoring portion, which is a discount on the price of their tutoring if purchased separately.

We like that this option allows students to get some additional help with a few specific problem areas.

However, as we discuss below, we wish that Kaplan’s tutors had stronger credentials for teaching the ACT.

Rating: 5/10

student working on online SAT prep

Kaplan’s Unlimited Prep course

Kaplan’s Unlimited Prep course ($1999) is its most deluxe option. For an additional $400, families can add 6 hours of individual tutoring.

If students find the large group classes to be a good fit for their learning style and want more of the same, it might be a good fit — it’s the same as the basic Live Online class, but it allows students to access the classes and practice questions until December of their senior year, rather than only 6 months. Many students report that the 6-month cutoff for the Live Online or Live Online Plus courses isn't enough time, and this option remedies that, albeit for a hefty price increase. 

The other difference with the Unlimited Prep course is that students also get access to live group classes for the SAT, PSAT (though this prep is nearly identical to the SAT), and a handful of common AP tests:

  • AP Biology Review Course
  • AP Calculus AB Review Course
  • AP English Language and Composition Review Course
  • AP English Literature Review Course
  • AP Human Geography Review Course
  • AP Psychology Review Course
  • AP US History Review Course
  • AP World History (Modern) Review Course

(Note that other AP courses like AP Physics, AP Calculus BC, AP Chemistry, AP Spanish, AP Political Science, and AP European History are not included.)

Each of the AP review classes have 8 2-hour classes that review important concepts for the tests. They don’t come anywhere close to teaching the entire AP subject, but they could be a good review before the test in May.

The catch? Unfortunately, Kaplan’s Unlimited Prep course expires in December of the student’s senior year. That means that students do not have access to the materials in the spring of their senior year, when many students are taking AP tests for potential college credit.

Is Kaplan’s Unlimited Prep course worth the $1999 price tag? It depends. For a student who is taking several of the 8 AP subjects covered by Kaplan as a sophomore or junior, and who plans to take both the ACT and the SAT, and who likes the large class format, sure.

However, as we’ve seen, the instructors for Kaplan have significantly fewer credentials than those from other top test prep companies like PrepMaven (Ivy League and top 1%), Magoosh (top 1%), or Prep Expert (top 1%). The quality of the teacher is the single most important component of the educational experience, and Kaplan does not have the best teachers.

In addition, families should note that tech problems with Kaplan’s online course platform and unresponsive customer service have impacted the overall learning experience.

Rating: 6/10


Kaplan Review: ACT Tutoring

In addition to their large group classes, Kaplan also offers one-on-one ACT tutoring.

Individual tutoring might be an especially good fit for students who need more than a quick review of core concepts. This has been especially true after Covid, as there has been an unprecedented drop in student’s math and reading skills due to interruptions in schooling.

Individual tutoring is also a great idea for students who are pursuing very high scores (in the 30s for the ACT), and who might feel bored in a general class aimed at the average student. High-achieving students should make sure that they’re working with a tutor who got a top score on the ACT themself. 

That said, one-on-one tutoring can be a good fit for any student! Individual tutoring sessions tend to be more impactful in a shorter period of time, since they can hone in on the specific weaknesses of that student, so they’re great for busy students who want to make the most of their ACT study time. 

An experienced tutor can also make sure to create individualized homework assignments that target the areas the student needs to strengthen to improve their ACT scores.

Is Kaplan a good choice for ACT tutoring?

We found it to be significantly overpriced compared to other options.

student studying with laptop

Kaplan offers five tutoring packages of different sizes. Their minimum purchase comes out to $150/hour for tutoring, which is a very steep price — especially considering that their tutors have no required qualifications like high scores themselves or degrees from top schools!

Their hourly rate does decrease if one purchases a large tutoring package ($4399 for 40 tutoring hours), but it’s still on the higher side.

Is this higher price tied to higher quality?

Unfortunately not. As with Kaplan’s group class instructors, Kaplan does not require any specific qualifications for their ACT tutors — instructors are not required to be top scorers on the ACT themselves or have graduated from a top-tier university.

The ACT instructors highlighted by Kaplan on their website are graduates of Indiana University South Bend (ranked #119 in Regional Midwestern Universities), Case Western Reserve University (ranked #44 in national universities), and University of Kentucky (ranked #137 in national universities). These are fine schools, but they’re not in the same category as highly-competitive Ivies+ and top-tier liberal arts colleges.

Kaplan forces you to pay more--almost 50% more--to work with a tutor who scored in the top 1%. Most real top-tier ACT prep services treat a top 1% score as a basic qualification, rather than a "Premium" add-on.

Duke University
Duke University

In contrast, several other ACT prep providers hire only top 1% scorers (in the 99th percentile), which means scoring a 35 or 36 on the ACT. (This is definitely a competitive score for the Ivy League and any other top school.) Students might consider PrepMaven (Ivy League and top 1%), Magoosh (top 1%), or Prep Expert (top 1%).

Rating: 5/10


Kaplan Review: Online Platform

The experience and abilities of the tutor or instructor are without doubt the single most important factors in the overall quality of the educational experience for a live class or tutoring, but for online classes and tutoring the platform itself also has an impact.

The Kaplan online platform visually is pretty nice. Students have a home dashboard from which they can navigate to individual study units and practice tests. While other test prep platforms might have an individualized learning plan, Kaplan’s courses are more rigid and are not customized to meet the particular strengths and weaknesses of individual students.

Many clients have reported technical problems with the platform, which are compounded by difficulty reaching customer service:

“They are very glitchy, and they barely have customer service. There have been days that I just spent trying to figure out their site, and I have had to cancel plans because of it.”

“The website was a jumbled mess — the website is constantly broken and will make you want to rip your hair off. Disappointingly, a lot of the course is just telling you what you already know if you are actually prepping for the standardized tests. Also, some of their methods don't even work or are just inefficient. Sorry to say, but mom and dad just wasted a **** ton of money. Save yourself your time and frustration and go somewhere else.”

“Adaptive QBank was not functioning for 2 weeks. I called and emailed several times and received responses that were unhelpful at best and rude at worst.”

frustrated client

“I’ve just stopped using the app all together and I tell people I do not recommend Kaplan for this reason. I have an ongoing tech issue with the app where it doesn’t load because of a test I generated, the result is an app that just gives me the spinning wheel of death nonstop, non resolving. I’ve done everything to try and resolve the problem, even offloading the app and reinstalling. Nothing works.”

“I thought this would be a helpful test prep experience... boy was I WRONG. Their website is a disaster and removes sections randomly so you cannot access them. Their website also deletes work consistently despite troubleshooting from customer service. Now on to customer service... Everyone I spoke to gave me an attitude despite issues being with their system. It sounds as if these customer service reps have never met a kind person in their life. I would run like the wind from Kaplan test prep!”

Overall, it seems that Kaplan’s online learning platform leaves room for improvement.

Rating: 5/10


Kaplan Review: Customer Service

When speaking with families, the most common critique of Kaplan’s educational services was actually about their lackluster customer support.

Many clients reported that it was impossible to reach Kaplan’s customer support or technical support. Emails and messages went unanswered, and phone lines required wait times of several hours.

“Waited on hold with customer service for 4 hours on two different occasions!! Can't get an actual HUMAN to help with my courses. So frustrated and will never be using this company again. Will also tell EVERYONE not to ever use them especially if you need assistance from their customer service. Don't use this company! Not worth it!”

“HORRIBLE! The course itself was fine but the lack of customer service is disgusting. If you ever need help, plan on not receiving it — no matter how urgent. No one answers the phones, the live chat doesn't work, and emails go unanswered for weeks. I wanted to renew my subscription but decided to go with another test prep service who actually cares about helping their customers.”

“I didn't like their customer support. I bought the wrong package and tried to change for what I needed and they just told me I couldn't even though I was willing to pay the difference. For me it ended up being a waste of money.”

student frustrated with laptop

“No response to support emails. I've reached out via email, chat, social media, and had no response whatsoever.”

“POOOOOOR customer support. Expensive, system does not work easily and tech support does not answer. Phone number does not understand simple words, it’s an automated service. It is a piece of junk.”

“The study material and courses were good. I have not taken the test but I am confident I will do okay. My issue is with their customer service department. At the end of every class, they always mention their email address and encourage you to reach out if you have any questions. Well I have reached out twice, and I have also messaged them directly through their online portal. I have gotten zero responses.”

Kaplan does offer its students a higher score guarantee for any of its live ACT courses. There are a lot of rules for this guarantee, and they’re known for avoiding it on technicalities, so make sure you read all of the fine print.

Note that this higher score guarantee means only a score that is higher than the previous ACT score, even if only by one point. If you score a 21 the first time, spend six months studying, and then score a 22, you cannot make a claim on the guarantee. Many other ACT prep services offer stronger point increase guarantees.

Rating: 4/10


Kaplan Review: Final Verdict

Kaplan is one of the giants of the test prep industry, and so their ACT prep products, courses, and tutoring are well-known.

However, we found that they were overall overpriced and of lower quality than other options. As one client said,

“This is a large corporation chiefly concerned with profit. It can meaningfully improve your score yes, but you are far better off buying prep books and paying a private tutor. Don't buy into a system that rips off students, instructors, and publishers.”

Their online learning platform has been reported to have tech problems, and their customer service is very hard to reach.

Their instructors and tutors do not have specific credentials, whereas other companies can boast top 1% or Ivy-League instructors.

Some of their online materials might be helpful to students studying for the ACT, but they’re not as good as real ACT questions, which are available for free or very low cost elsewhere.

Ultimately, any amount of practice will help students prepare for the ACT, but there are many other options that will teach students more effectively, at better prices. 

For families on a budget, we cannot recommend enough Khan Academy’s free SAT materials created in partnership with the College Board, creators of the SAT. While the SAT and the ACT are obviously different tests, there’s a lot of overlap (the main difference is that the ACT has more advanced math), and working through these high-quality free materials is a great place to start. Magoosh’s ACT prep course is pretty good value, too.

Harvard University
Harvard University

If students and families are looking for a more hands-on tutoring company with carefully selected Ivy-League tutors with prior teaching experience and specific training, we recommend working with a more selective tutoring service like PrepMaven ($66–349/hour) or Elite Ivy Tutors ($200–300/hour), where all of the tutors are from the Ivy-League with impressive backgrounds, and where the quality of instruction is consistently very high. 

Overall Rating: 5/10


What is the ACT?

Each year, roughly 1.4 million high school students take the ACT.

Along with the SAT, the ACT is a key component of college admissions. Colleges use test scores to gauge a student’s college readiness.

While many schools have gone test-optional in the wake of Covid, the most competitive schools still like to see SAT or ACT scores. In fact, according to reporting by New York Magazine, some elite schools--like MIT--are once again requiring submission of standardized test scores.

And, according to a report by CBS News, Yale and Dartmouth have recently joined MIT as well, saying that required standardized test scores will actually help poorer applicants.

Even for schools that don't yet require test scores, looking at the Common Data Set information for top schools like MIT and Princeton shows that SAT and ACT scores are still an extremely important part of the admissions process.

In addition to college admission, test scores can be used to earn scholarships or placement in special programs. Many schools that are test-optional are still using test scores for scholarships, so good scores can be an important way of avoiding student debt.

Younger students can also use test scores for admission to gifted and talented programs.

For students whose grades may have slipped during high school, test scores can also be used to show admissions officers your potential.

Finally, test scores are a handy tool for students to figure out where they might be a competitive applicant. Wondering if you have a chance at getting into Harvard? Not sure if University of Illinois is a reach school or a safety school for you? Test scores can help you there.

Check out our other posts for more information about how the digital ACT is scored, how to prepare for the ACT, and how the SAT is different from the ACT. We also have many free test prep resources. For more test prep guidance, schedule a call with Jessica or one of our founders today!




15 Best Online Writing Tutoring Services for 2024 (50 Tutoring Services Reviewed)

Writing is a core skill that is essential for success in high school and college, as well as many graduate programs and future careers. 

However, many schools don’t teach students how to write effectively. Writing is a highly individual skill and the best way to learn is with one-on-one help. 

When school classes assign essays, most students are left to flounder. The students who are the most successful tend to benefit from writing lessons at home from their parents. But this is challenging and time-consuming—not to mention, many parents might not have honed those writing skills themselves!

Families have been increasingly recognizing the immense benefit of private writing tutoring. Learning how to write early on will have a positive ripple effect throughout the student’s academic and professional career, and a little bit of improvement can go a long way!

What is the Best Online Writing Tutoring?

  1. PrepMaven – best online writing tutoring overall
  2. StudyPoint – best big tutoring company for writing tutoring
  3. Skooli – best super-quick tutoring
  4. Wyzant – alternative for families on a budget
  5. Learn to Be – best free writing tutoring (for qualifying families)

The best of the rest:

  1. Tutor.com / The Princeton Review – disappointing quality from test-prep giant
  2. ArborBridge – pricey service with mystery tutors
  3. Learner – writing tutoring that includes ESL learners
  4. Club Z! Tutoring – tutoring franchise with (purported) writing curriculum
  5. Sylvan Learning – tutoring franchise that includes Spanish-speaking staff
  6. Varsity – uneven quality at higher prices
  7. Chegg – lightweight essay review on a membership basis
  8. Revolution Prep – Decent rates but mystery tutors
  9. Tutoring Service of New York – new service with higher minimum package
  10. Preply – lower-cost tutoring marketplace platform
student writing assignment


Best Online Writing Tutoring in 2024

#1 - PrepMaven

Our Verdict — Best Online Writing Tutoring Overall

Price: $75–349/hour

PrepMaven offers high-quality one-on-one writing tutoring at an incredibly reasonable price, given the qualifications of its instructors.

All of PrepMaven’s tutors are Ivy-League grads, mostly from Princeton. (A few tutors are from elite universities that aren’t Ivies, like Stanford or Duke.) Many of PrepMaven's writing tutors have won Ivy-League academic prizes for their written work. Not only do these tutors come from the most prestigious colleges in the US, but many also have professional writing experience. Among PrepMaven’s fantastic writing tutors are professional Hollywood screenwriters, journalists, published authors, and editors for academic presses.

What makes PrepMaven special is that they don’t just offer essay editing and support with school writing assignments — they also provide expert instruction in how to write, which is a foundational skill that will help students succeed throughout their lives. PrepMaven has developed an original writing curriculum through their sought-after Academic Writing Workshop and expanded this for students seeking individualized tutoring.

In addition to support with school writing assignments, PrepMaven can also provide students with educational enrichment outside of their school curriculum — this is especially beneficial for writing, which often isn’t taught effectively in schools. Students can work with PrepMaven tutors to craft research papers, literary analysis essays, or creative writing projects that will teach them essential writing skills.

PrepMaven also offers specific coaching through the college essay writing process and has 15 years of experience helping students to gain acceptance to their dream schools. Read here for more specific information about college application essay help.

Founded by brothers and Princeton grads Greg and Kevin, PrepMaven focuses on delivering consistently high-quality tutoring to students. Because PrepMaven’s tutors hail from the most elite universities, they’re uniquely positioned to coach students towards writing great school essays and papers. All tutors undergo a thorough training program and can use proprietary teaching materials to help students reach their goals.

To make high-quality tutoring accessible to more families, PrepMaven offers tutoring at several different price points. At the most affordable rate, students can work with current Ivy-League undergraduates who specialize in writing. At higher rates, students can work with coaches who are both Ivy-League grads and professional writers (screenwriters, journalists, editors), many who also hold advanced graduate degrees.

Best for:

PrepMaven’s one-on-one writing tutoring is the best option for any student wanting high-quality writing help or enrichment.

At a glance:

  • Cost: $75–349/hour, depending on tutor qualifications; minimum $450 package
  • Writing tutor qualifications: Princeton graduates and professional writers (or current Princeton students); all experienced and highly trained, some with master’s or doctoral degrees

What we like:

  • Experienced Ivy-League tutors — most of their writing tutors are Princeton grads or current students, with some from Harvard and other Ivies, and many tutors have won prestigious academic prizes for their writing
  • Professional writers option to work with professional writers in nonfiction (journalism, published academic authors, academic book editing) or creative writing (screenwriters, playwrights, novelists, poets)
  • Different pricing options to meet different families’ circumstances
  • Smaller, boutique company offers more individualized approach customized for each student

What we don’t like:

  • Because they take the time to pair each student with the tutor that will be the best fit, sessions are not instantaneous and usually it takes 1–3 days to schedule with an Ivy-League tutor


#2 - StudyPoint

Our Verdict — Best Big Tutoring Company for Writing

Price: $60-120/hour

StudyPoint is a large test-prep company that keeps its rates lower than Princeton Review or Kaplan. While they do require basic qualifications for their tutors (2 years of experience and a college degree), it's hard to know much about the tutor you'll be matched with. You'll also need to pay more for a more experienced tutor, so StudyPoint's top rate of $120/hr runs on the more expensive side.

While we like StudyPoint's platform and their tutor qualifications, there's likely to be a wide variance in tutro quality, since not all their tutors are from top schools. We’d suggest that families consider working with a Standard Tutor at PrepMaven, where fees start at $79/hour for Ivy-League tutors.

Best for:

  • StudyPoint is a good option for families who want to work with a large, established company at decent rates.

At a glance:

  • Cost: $60-120/hr
  • Tutor qualifications: 2 years of tutoring experience and a Bachelor's degree

What we like:

  • Higher educational experience — their tutors have some experience and a college degree
  • Responsive - from our experience, it's easy to get in touch with someone at StudyPoint

What we don’t like:

  • Tutors aren’t necessarily from top schools, and it’s not possible to see any information about their tutors
  • Rates may be high for standard academic tutoring
writing

Why is learning how to write important for future success? Jump below.


#3 - Skooli

Our Verdict — Best Super-Quick Tutoring

Price: $39–49/hour

Skooli is a newer online tutoring platform and the only one we’ve found that offers tutoring charged by the minute.

Families can purchase packs for 8, 16, or 32 hours, or purchase individual hours. Students can then use these hours in as little as 15-minute increments. This might be handy for students who want to ask a tutor quick questions, and who don’t care about developing a relationship with a consistent tutor.

Tutors for Skooli have college degrees, but haven’t necessarily graduated from a top-tier school. It’s not possible to see more details about individual tutors until after giving credit card details.

Their online interface is slick and modern, although according to our inside sources it crashes frequently.

Best for:

  • Students who want to work with a tutor to answer quick questions (sessions as short as 15 minutes).

At a glance:

  • Cost: $1248 for 32 hours ($39/hr), $672 for 16 hours ($42/hr), $352 per 8 hours ($44/hr), or $49/hour for individual hours, billed by the minute ($0.82/minute, minimum 15 minutes)
  • Writing tutor qualifications: college graduates

What we like:

  • Tutoring available in very short increments, with a minimum session length of just 15 minutes
  • Instant tutoring — on-demand tutoring is available 24/7, and just enter your credit card information to start immediately
  • Reasonable pricing

What we don’t like:

  • Students can’t work with the same tutor consistently, which is less effective for learning
  • Tutors aren’t necessarily from top schools, and it’s not possible to see any information about their tutors
  • Online tutoring platform has some technological problems and crashes frequently

#4 - Wyzant

Our Verdict — Alternative for Families on a Budget

Price: $20–600/hour

There are plenty of large platforms with large stables of part-time tutors and coaches available to work with students. Wyzant is one of the largest such platforms, with more than 65,000 tutors providing services through their website — including 4,260 online writing tutors. Students and families can pick individual tutors to work with from their roster and arrange tutoring services directly.

One benefit of this model is that tutors can set their own rates, which vary hugely. Families on a budget can find online writing tutors as low as $20 per hour.

However, these tutors might not have any teaching experience or training, and they may not have graduated from a top school or have professional writing experience. Some tutors on Wyzant with more qualifications may have much higher rates — as high as $600 per hour!

Best for:

  • Families on a budget who are willing to work with a freelance tutor directly.

At a glance:

  • Cost: $20–600/hour
  • Writing tutor qualifications: varies

What we like:

  • Marketplace platform means that some tutors list low rates for tutoring, which can make tutoring more affordable

Families can choose their own tutor directly out of over 4,000 writing tutors listed

What we don’t like:

  • No training for tutors — which leads to uneven quality of instruction
  • Families are hiring individual tutors, which means tutor qualifications vary enormously, and there are no guarantees
  • Choosing the right tutor out of 4,000+ is one more task for busy families

#5 - Learn to Be

Our Verdict — Best Free Writing Tutoring (for qualifying families)

Price: free (or voluntary contribution of $9–30 per month)

Learn to Be is a fantastic non-profit organization improving education for underserved youth in the US. Students work with the same tutor consistently, which allows them to build a strong relationship and allows for mentoring as well as learning.

Students working with Learn to Be have seen an average increase in test scores of 15.8% and an average GPA increase of 1.6 — nearly two full letter grades (for example from a C to an A-)! Tutors are volunteers who are passionate about educational equity, and range from current high school and college students to professionals or retirees.

The program works primarily with foster youth, homeless youth, and other lower-income families. Possible qualifications for free tutoring with Learn to Be include: student attends a Title 1 school, receives free or reduced lunch at school, comes from a single-parent home, is a foster child, is homeless, or qualifies for food stamps. It’s possible to work with a Spanish-speaking tutor through Learn to Be.

Best for:

  • Students who qualify for free tutoring (foster youth or low-income families).

At a glance:

  • Cost: $0
  • Writing tutor qualifications: varies

What we like:

  • Non-profit helping underserved youth
  • Completely free tutoring for qualifying families
  • Students work with the same tutor consistently, which builds trust and leads to a better individualized educational experience

What we don’t like:

  • Volunteer tutor qualifications vary — some tutors are high school students as young as 14 years old
  • Only for qualifying youth in the US (low income or foster youth)
writing assignment online

Read below: how learning how to write well can unlock success for decades to come


Best of the Rest for Online Writing Tutoring

#6 - Princeton Review / Tutor.com

Our Verdict — Disappointing Quality from Test-Prep Giant

Price: lower-quality instant tutoring at $29–35/hour, minimum package $350; monthly subscription instant tutoring at $36–40/hour

Back in 2014, Tutor.com acquired the well-known test-prep company The Princeton Review. In 2022, a Chinese private-equity firm Primavera Capital Group, purchased Tutor.com and The Princeton Review.

(Note that the Princeton Review has no connection to Princeton University.)

They now offer subject-area tutoring in over 80 different academic areas, including math. The range of tutoring options is a little confusing, but it basically breaks down to two different models: families can choose one-off tutoring packages of 10–50 “instant tutoring” hours that can be used over a six-month period, or a monthly subscription for 1–5 instant tutoring hours each month. Tutors are available 24/7 for instant sessions.

Unfortunately, we were disappointed with the quality of this offering from The Princeton Review. In contrast to their operations for standardized test prep (like SAT and ACT prep), their platform for subject-area tutoring does not provide instructors with training, so there’s very little consistency. Tutors are also capped at 2 or 3 sessions per day, so they’re by design part-time instructors who are teaching a little on the side.

While The Princeton Review / Tutor.com claims to count Ivy grads and experts with advanced degrees among their tutors, we found this to be misleading. Most of their tutors have only a BA, and most have graduated from local schools that are not even in the top 200 universities. Pay for tutors is minimum wage, so it’s difficult for them to attract good teaching talent.

Surprisingly for The Princeton Review, their subject-area tutoring is a tutoring marketplace platform (similar to Wyzant). Families select individual tutors to work with based on their bios and arrange the tutoring sessions individually. For us, this obviates the point of working with a large company like Princeton Review, where in theory the advantage is quality control and a standard curriculum, even if it comes with a more corporate feel. With this marketplace model, tutor quality and qualifications vary considerably, especially given that tutors do not receive any training or teaching materials.

At a glance:

  • Cost: Homework Help packages that can be used over a period of 6 months: $350 for 10 hours ($35/hr), $950 for 30 hours ($32/hr), or $1499.99 for 50 hours ($29/hr); Homework Help tutoring subscriptions: $40 for 1 hour each month, $115 for 3 hours each month ($38/hr), or $180 for 5 hours each month ($36/hr)
  • Tutor qualifications: college graduates

What we like:

  • Reasonable pricing for tutoring and a range of payment models
  • Tutors are available 24/7 for instant Homework Help packages

What we don’t like:

  • Tutor qualifications vary — most are from local or state schools, not competitive colleges
  • Online platform is buggy and crashes frequently
  • Challenging for them to attract good teaching talent as pay is minimum wage
  • Low quality of teaching, surprising for a big-name player in test prep

#7 - ArborBridge

Our Verdict: Pricey Service with Mystery Tutors

Price: $165+/hour, minimum package $2400 for 15 hours

Featuring crisp, minimalist visuals and a younger team, ArborBridge calls itself “the next generation of test prep.” They’ve always been remote and online, so they haven’t suffered the growing pains with the shift to online learning that many competitors with outdated platforms (like Pearson and Princeton Review) have experienced.

That said, their tutoring is quite expensive! Their rate is always at least $160 per hour, and the minimum package is a hefty $2400 for 15 hours of tutoring. They also advertise a “concierge” tutoring service with a more customized experience — price upon request.

Is it worth the price? We’re not so sure.

ArborBridge claims to have hired the “best” tutors but they do not list any specific qualifications for their tutors or provide any bios for their tutor roster. On their (slightly-defunct) Instagram page they have provided some fun facts about a few of their tutors, but they don’t list any educational background, years of experience, or relevant professional credentials, just favorite foods and television shows. There’s no indication that their tutors have graduated from top colleges, have teaching experience, or any other relevant qualifications — unlike services like PrepMaven or Tutoring Service of New York that only hire Ivy-League tutors. In fact, our sources have mentioned that their tutors don’t receive much training prior to teaching.

They also, unlike the Princeton Review, don’t offer any guarantees for raising grades or scores.

In the end, we’re not sure why ArborBridge has such high prices without offering particularly high-quality tutoring in return. Their website looks nice, though!

At a glance:

  • Cost: $160/hour, minimum package is $2400 for 15 hours (+ 1 bonus hour); $4800 for 30 hours (+ 3 bonus hours); $7200 for 45 hours (+ 6 bonus hours) — or “concierge tutoring” with “highest level of hands-on care,” price upon request
  • Writing tutor qualifications: unknown

What we like:

  • Known for good customer service
  • Younger, more modern tutoring service that’s built with technology from the get-go

What we don’t like:

  • Expensive, with a minimum cost of $2400 for 15 hours of tutoring
  • No information about tutor qualifications provided
  • No guarantees for grade or score raises
  • Seems more design than substance

#8 - Learner

Our Verdict — Writing Tutoring that Includes ESL Learners

Price: $55–80/hour, minimum $400 package

Learner is another newer online tutoring platform. Unlike many of the other services on this list, Learner also provides tutoring services to adults, especially for non-native English speakers.

While they advertise that their tutors have degrees from “top universities,” it seems that the only necessary qualification for tutors at Learner is a college degree (not just from top schools).

We found their sign-up sequence to be frustrating. New clients start by answering a series of questions about their students. While it repeatedly seems like they’ll show a selection of tutors that may be a match, this is a bait-and-switch tactic, and they never display any actual tutor profiles. Instead, new clients must first make a payment before they can view any tutor details.

Learner has a “satisfaction guarantee,” which simply means that they’ll allow families to request a switch to another tutor if it’s not a good fit.

Their rates are on the pricier side for “average” tutors who do not have teaching experience or degrees from elite universities.

At a glance:

  • Cost: $400 for 5 hours ($80/hour), $700 for 10 hours ($70/hour), $1200 for 20 hours ($60/hour), or $1650 for 30 hours ($55/hour)
  • Tutor qualifications: college graduates

What we like:

  • Explicitly offers tutoring for ESL learners

What we don’t like:

  • No specific tutor qualifications beyond a college degree
  • Prices are high given quality of service

#9 - Club Z! Tutoring

Our Verdict — Tutoring Franchise with (Purported) Writing Curriculum

Price: varies by location (franchise)

Club Z! is a tutoring franchise, so pricing and other details vary by location. Tutors with Club Z! do not have any specific qualifications.

We’ve included them on this list because they claim to have developed a writing tutoring program, The Power of Words ©, which helps students write more effectively and efficiently for writing assignments and timed essays.

However, our sources have mentioned that they do not actually provide tutor training or teaching resources, so it’s unclear to what extent this writing tutoring program has actually been implemented.

They offer both online and in-home tutoring.

At a glance:

  • Cost: varies depending on franchise location
  • Writing tutor qualifications: not specified

What we like:

  • (Supposed) writing curriculum, The Power of Words ©

What we don’t like:

  • No specific qualifications for tutors — so unclear if tutors are college graduates, come from strong educational backgrounds, or have teaching experience
  • No training or teaching resources for tutors, leading to uneven quality

#10 - Sylvan Learning

Our Verdict — Tutoring Franchise that Includes Spanish-Speaking Staff

Price: varies by location (franchise)

Like Club Z! Tutoring, Sylvan Learning is a franchise, so pricing and other details vary by location.

While previously Sylvan Learning was entirely in-person, they have more recently pivoted to offer online tutoring as well via their “MySylvanMarketplace” platform. Families can find online writing tutoring via this platform.

Tutors with Sylvan Learning do not have any specific credentials like college degrees, elite educational backgrounds, or teaching experience. However, we like that many Sylvan Learning centers do have Spanish-speaking staff, which may be helpful for some families and students.

On the whole, we found their website and platform a bit challenging to navigate, and it was difficult to get answers to our questions. Since each of the Sylvan centers is locally owned and operated, the customer service experience can vary significantly.

At a glance:

  • Cost: varies depending on franchise location
  • Writing tutor qualifications: college graduates

What we like:

  • Some staff at Sylvan Learning centers may speak Spanish

What we don’t like:

  • No specific qualifications for tutors — so unclear if tutors are college graduates (let alone come from strong educational backgrounds) or have teaching experience
  • Confusing website and online tutoring platform

#11 - Varsity Tutors

Our Verdict — Uneven Quality Without Budget Pricing

Price: $75+/hour

Varsity Tutors is an enormous tutoring platform offering online instruction in all academic subjects and test prep, including writing. These days their marketing has been ubiquitous!

However, Varsity Tutors' size has many downsides — most notably, very uneven quality of teaching. Read our full Varsity Tutors Review here.

Tutors at Varsity need only a high school degree, and there is no requirement for tutors to have a college degree or teaching experience, let alone a top-tier educational background or professional writing credentials.

Tutors can join the Varsity team very quickly and are paid lower rates than nearly any other tutoring company (just $12–15 for sessions that cost families up to $95), so it’s difficult for Varsity to attract and retain good talent. Lucky families might get assigned a good tutor, but that’s not at all assured.

Varsity Tutors also does not provide any tutor materials, curriculum, or training, so it’s up to individual tutors to create everything from scratch, contributing further to the unevenness of quality.

With rates higher than the competition with similar types of tutors (no specific qualifications beyond a college degree), Varsity is significantly overpriced. We’d recommend that families either consider a more budget-friendly option that would offer the same quality as Varsity in the $30–40/hour price range, or else consider a service like PrepMaven (starting at $75/hour) or Tutoring Service of New York (starting at $112/hour) that pairs students with highly-qualified tutors with advanced degrees, professional writing experience, and Ivy-League backgrounds.

At a glance:

  • Cost: $75+/hour
  • Writing tutor qualifications: high school graduates

What we like:

  • Large number of tutors, so certain to find a tutor to fit your schedule

What we don’t like:

  • No education or training requirements for tutors, along with low pay rates for instructors, means tutors are less-qualified than alternative writing tutoring services
  • Uneven teaching quality due to lack of resources for instruction
  • Overpriced given the lack of required qualifications for tutors

#12 - Chegg

Our Verdict — Lightweight Essay Review on a Membership Basis

Price: $20 per month

Chegg is one of the biggest tutoring platforms, so families may be familiar with their name already. We should note that they’ve pivoted several times in the past few years, so their service may have changed from what families have read.

Whereas previously (first as InstaEDU, then as Chegg Tutors) Chegg offered live tutoring instruction online, Chegg no longer offers one-on-one tutoring.

Instead, they now offer two subscription levels that allow students to view instructional videos, access answer keys for common textbooks, and receive asynchronous written feedback to homework questions. These questions are primarily answered by “subject matter experts” located in India.

We’ve kept Chegg on our list for online writing tutoring because the higher subscription tier, their “Chegg Study Pack,” does include the option to submit papers for limited written feedback with a 48-hour turnaround time. Students can submit up to 15 short papers per month, up to 3000 words each (about 6 pages double-spaced).

That said, this is not the same as active writing tutoring with live discussion and exercises directly with a tutor. The written feedback provided by Chegg’s essay review service is limited. Moreover, the essay reviews are done by different tutors every time, so there’s no opportunity to grow through working with one tutor consistently.

This service might work for students who want merely a quick check of their grammar or other small details on school assignments and don’t care about long-term improvements as a writer.

They also throw in an online tool to scan for plagiarism. Even if you didn’t intend to plagiarize, this tool can check for well-meaning “paraphrasing errors or missing citations.”

However, we don’t think it’s a good way to learn how to write. For the best educational experience, families should look for online writing tutoring services that provide one-on-one video sessions with a consistent tutor each time.

At a glance:

  • Cost: $15 per month for Chegg Study subscription, which provides homework resources only and no essay reviews; $20 per month for Chegg Study Pack subscription which provides essay reviews (up to 15 short papers per month, up to 3000 words each) and math question help in addition to the homework resources
  • Writing tutor qualifications: none specified

What we like:

  • Large number of written essay reviews per month, up to 15 short essays

What we don’t like:

  • Asynchronous, written feedback is not an effective way to learn
  • No education or training requirements for tutors, and no information about who the writing reviewers are
  • No option to work with the same writing tutor for each review, so no chance to grow with an individual tutor

#13 - Revolution Prep

Our Verdict — Decent Rates but mystery tutors

Price: $79/hour, minimum $948 for 12 hours

Revolution Prep is a larger platform providing online tutoring with a focus on interactive learning. While they used to offer more affordable small-group classes, they no longer do so for math tutoring..

Their individual tutoring rate of $132/hour is quite high, especially given the backgrounds of their instructors. While we like that all of their tutors are full-time staff, versus tutoring part-time alongside another career, their tutors do not have any other specific qualifications. These rates are comparable or higher than other services that provide more customized learning with Ivy-League tutors, like PrepMaven or select tutors on Wyzant..

At a glance:

  • Cost: individual tutoring $79/hour, minimum $948 for 12 hours
  • Tutor qualifications: none specified

What we like:

  • All tutors are full-time staff
  • Small-group tutoring provides lower prices

What we don’t like:

  • No specific qualifications for tutors
  • Tutoring rates are high for the type of service

#14 - Tutoring Service of New York

Our Verdict — New Service with Higher Minimum Package

Price: $130–155/hour

Founded by a former tutor with the now-defunct Ivy Global tutoring service, the new Tutoring Service of New York offers subject-area tutoring online, including literature and writing.

We like that they state that they teach both academic writing and creative writing — only #1 service PrepMaven and TutaPoint explicitly include creative writing.

Most of their tutors are current graduate students, many at Columbia University and NYU. The higher prices of the Tutoring Service of New York reflect the more elite educational background of the tutors. However, their minimum of $1200 for at least 5 sessions is high, especially since many other services have smaller minimum packages (compare $510 minimum at PrepMaven or $450 minimum at The Princeton Review), or else allow families to purchase one-off tutoring sessions (Pearson, Skooli, and others).

At a glance:

  • Cost: $1200 for five 90-minute sessions; $2000 for 10 sessions; $2700 for 16 sessions
  • Writing tutor qualifications: college graduates, mostly current graduate students at Columbia or NYU

What we like:

  • Qualified tutors with mostly Ivy-League backgrounds
  • Creative writing included along with academic writing

What we don’t like:

  • New service, so client reviews are still limited
  • Higher minimum tutoring packages

#15 - Preply

Our Verdict — Lower-Cost Tutoring Marketplace Platform

Price: $10–40/hour

Preply is a lower-cost marketplace platform. It’s significantly smaller than Wyzant, and currently there are only 45 writing tutors listed on the platform (compared with over 4,000 writing tutors listed on Wyzant).

Among those writing tutors listed, most don’t have high educational backgrounds. We spotted a number of grammar and punctuation mistakes on some of the tutor bios, which doesn’t bode well for their abilities as writing instructors. Preply is a more international platform, and some of the tutors are from other countries or located outside the US.

One benefit of Preply’s platform is that rates are very low, ranging from $10/hour to $40/hour. These rates are actually comparable or higher than the pay rates for most of the larger platforms on our list (like Pearson, The Princeton Review, Varsity Tutors, and TutaPoint), so don’t necessarily take these numbers on their own as indications of lower quality — just that tutors are earning a larger share.

That said, the writing tutoring available through Preply does appear to be lower-quality than other options.

At a glance:

  • Cost: $10–40/hour, depending on rates set by individual tutors
  • Writing tutor qualifications: varies

What we like:

  • Families can choose individual tutors on their marketplace platform

What we don’t like:

  • No specific qualifications for tutors and no quality control
  • Task of choosing the right tutor can be stressful

student studying for SAT with online tutor

Top 50 Online Writing Tutoring Services Considered

  • PrepMaven
  • Pearson’s Smarthinking
  • Skooli
  • Wyzant
  • Learn To Be – free tutoring for underserved youth in the US
  • Tutor.com/The Princeton Review
  • Learner
  • Club Z! Tutoring
  • Sylvan Learning
  • Varsity Tutors
  • Chegg
  • TutaPoint
  • Preply
  • Kaplan
  • TutorMe
  • StudyPoint
  • Lehman Tutoring Center
  • Spires
  • TeacherOn
  • Business Writing Center
  • UPchieve – free tutoring for underserved youth in the US
  • SpecialEdTutoring.com 
  • GilliamWritersGroup
  • Jamie Haverkampf, MFA
  • Suprex Learning
  • Superprof
  • UniversityTutor.com
  • Huntington Learning Center
  • MathTowne
  • Cluey Learning
  • Galaxy Grades
  • Clever Fox Education
  • Nurturing Wisdom
  • Paper.co
  • Themba Tutors
  • Tutoring Service of New York
  • Carla Castillo, carlaswritingspace.com 
  • Literacy Access, Ivy Sandz 
  • Kaplan Tutoring Services (separate from Kaplan)
  • ArborBridge
  • INC Education – focus on BIPOC students
  • Central Park Tutors
  • Special Education Resource
  • Parallel
  • Aralia
  • Revolution Prep
  • Prepclass
  • Studypool
Princeton University
Princeton University (Image Credit: Ilya Chugunov CC BY-SA 4.0)


Why is writing tutoring important?

According to research done by the US Department of Education, effective academic tutoring is linked to increased content mastery and even higher graduation rates. Out of all the academic disciplines, writing is one of the most important tom aster before college.

Writing is a core skill that is essential for success in high school and college, as well as many graduate programs and future careers

Consider the following:

  • AP tests that require short answers and essays: AP English Literature, AP English Language, AP US History, AP European History
  • College admissions essays
  • Scholarship essays
  • Writing samples for college applications
  • Exams and papers for college classes
  • Internship applications
  • Grant applications
  • Fellowship applications (Fulbright, Rhodes, Gates, NIH, etc)
  • Graduate school applications (medical school, law school, business school, etc)
  • Research paper samples for graduate school applications
  • Master’s and doctoral theses
  • Coverletters and resumes for job applications
  • Networking with potential mentors
  • Written updates for your supervisor
  • Quarterly and annual reports for your job
  • Advertising for your freelance business
  • Letter for your mortgage application
  • Instructions to your direct supervisee
  • Speeches for your best friends’ weddings
  • Emails to your boss asking for a raise

Effective writing is at the heart of nearly every life hurdle! 

The skills that you build when you’re writing school assignments will be incredibly useful throughout your life. They’re applicable in nearly any job that you can imagine! Even for STEM jobs like doctors or computer engineers, clear writing is a highly-valued skill — one that becomes increasingly important as one aims at higher roles.

According to the National Association of Colleges and Employers, 72.7 % of employers want a candidate with strong written communication skills. According to the College Board's National Commission on Writing, two-thirds of salaried workers in large US companies have jobs that require writing

"Writing skills are fundamental in business," a survey respondent in the College Board report said, "It's increasingly important to be able to convey content in a tight logical direct manner particularly in a fast-paced technological environment."

A recent publication from the Harvard Business School agreed, noting that “companies will waste lots of time and effort if their executives and employees can’t communicate clearly.”

writing in future career

However, many people lack the writing skills to succeed in their careers. The College Board's study found that a majority of US employers said that a third of workers fail to meet the writing requirements of their positions.

When I was teaching college students at the University of Notre Dame, many of my students (especially freshmen and sophomores) had brilliant ideas, but were not able to communicate those ideas clearly in writing.

If writing is such a key skill for success in education, career, and life, why do so many people lack this skill?

Unfortunately, many schools don’t teach students how to write effectively. Classes assign essays and leave students to flounder, especially in larger classes where well-meaning teachers might not have enough time to help each student individually. 

The students who are the most successful tend to benefit from informal writing guidance at home from their parents or other mentors. But this is challenging and time-consuming — not to mention, many parents might not have honed those writing skills themselves!

Families have been increasingly recognizing the immense benefit of private writing tutoring. Learning how to write early on will have a positive ripple effect throughout the student’s academic and professional career, and a little bit of coaching can go a long way!

student writing


Learning to Write for College Admissions Essays

Because they’re one of the most consequential writing assignments students face, let’s focus on college application essays for a moment.

Can a great college essay alone get you into Harvard?

No. You’ll need your grades, test scores, and extracurricular activities (as well as letters of recommendation and interview) to be outstanding.

But can a mediocre essay be the reason you didn’t get into Harvard?

Yes. There are thousands of amazingly-qualified students who graduate from high school each year. Great grades and test scores might be a prerequisite for admission to a competitive college, but they alone aren’t enough.

College essays are a key component of a student’s application. When done well, they transform a collection of numbers — GPA, class rank, SAT scores or ACT scores, number of AP classes taken, AP scores — into a picture of a real, individual person.

Essays do many things. Good college essays can highlight extracurricular achievements which otherwise would be overlooked in a sterile list. Strong essays often indicate the student’s future plans — how they plan to leave a mark on their college campus and on the world. They can shine a light on unique challenges that a student may have had to face on their journey.

Princeton University
Princeton University (Image Credit: Joshua Jen @jjen.photography)

College admissions officers only have a few minutes to spend on each application. College essays need to be original, interesting, and memorable. They need to grab the attention of the admissions officer and persuade them that this is the student out of hundreds or thousands of other similarly-qualified applicants who should be admitted.

College admissions essays are usually unlike any other kind of writing that students have done before. They’re a combination of memoir and marketing pitch, and they need to be creative but also highly strategic. That’s a tough assignment!

A great writing tutor can help students learn the essential skills that underpin this unique kind of writing.


Why work with a writing tutor?

You may want to consider working with a writing tutor if:

  • You want to improve your grades in your school essays and papers
  • You want to improve your performance on the writing portion of exams (like many APs)
  • You don’t know how to make an outline before writing an essay
  • You don’t know how to write a thesis statement
  • You’re not sure how to improve your writing based on feedback from your teachers
  • You’re not sure how to edit and refine what you’ve written
  • You have a hard time keeping yourself on track for your writing assignments and want an external structure to hold you accountable
  • You have no idea where to start in order to write your college application essays
  • You don’t know how to craft a compelling story for your college application essays
  • You feel overwhelmed by all of the different ideas you have and don’t know what would be the most strategic for college admissions—and what topics to definitely avoid for college essays
  • You’re tired of conflict between students and parents about college essays
  • You’re aiming at a competitive college (not just the Ivy League!) and know that you need your essays to be outstanding
  • Your grades, test scores, and extracurriculars aren’t exceptional, so you need your college essays to make your essay stand out from the pack
  • You’re unfamiliar with the US college admissions process (a common situation for international students and first-generation families in the US)
  • You want to learn to write so you can succeed in your later career
  • You know that if you learn to write well now, you’ll do better on every class, exam, assignment, and application for the rest of your life!

Any of these are good reasons to consider working with a writing tutor.

A good writing tutor should not only provide students feedback on writing assignments (comments like “your thesis statement should be clearer” or “your introductory paragraph needs a better hook”) — they’ll teach students how to effect those changes

A good writing tutor can provide lots of examples of good student writing and model how to improve the specific areas that need improvement for each individual student.

Remember, writing is an essential skill for most degrees and most careers — even in STEM! Learning to write well early on will make each subsequent education and career step easier and more successful.

writing


What makes a good writing tutor?

Of course, a good writing tutor should be someone who understands how to write well!

But in addition to that sine qua non, a good writing tutor should be an amazing teacher with experience, a strong educational background, and the ability to plan appropriate enrichment assignments.

Good writing has two components: 

  • a micro level: good grammar, a rich vocabulary, correct punctuation, and the other nuts and bolts of writing “correctly”
  • a macro level: being able to organize your ideas clearly and communicate them effectively — figuring out what you want to say, in what order to present your ideas, and how to connect them

Both are crucial to written communication, and a good writing tutor will teach both the micro level and the macro level.

It can be surprisingly challenging to find a good instructor who can teach both sides of writing.

Look for experienced tutors with strong educational backgrounds (i.e. who attended top universities) who have taught writing previously.

Harvard University

Writing is a highly individualized activity — learning to write is, after all, learning how to communicate. This means that individual tutoring is particularly effective for learning how to write more effectively. 

The personal nature of writing also means that students will learn better when they can establish a relationship with their writing tutor. Look for a tutoring service where students can continue with the same tutor and build a sense of rapport.

A good writing tutor can help students to succeed on any writing assignments they may have for school. They can teach students how to work through the entire process of brainstorming, researching, planning, outlining, writing, and revising an essay.

An experienced writing tutor can also create additional assignments for students that will teach them key writing skills for the future and enrich their education. 

These enrichment assignments might include research papers, literary analysis papers, or creative writing projects appropriate to their grade level. This can be a great opportunity to challenge high-achieving students and develop their skills beyond what is offered by their school.

writing


Summary

Best overall: The one-on-one writing tutoring from PrepMaven is the best out there both in terms of tutor quality and price. While PrepMaven's tutors can certainly help with school assignments, they can also offer educational enrichment and coach students through creative writing projects. Starting at $75/hour, students can work with current undergraduates at Princeton, Harvard, and other Ivy-League universities to improve their writing skills. Families can also work with experienced, professional educators and Ivy-League graduates at $149/hour. As a boutique tutoring service, PrepMaven offers careful attention to each student and boasts amazing customer reviews. Unique among the tutoring services we surveyed, PrepMaven doesn't just offer assignment support — they can also teach students how to write.

Best of the big companies: The Smarthinking platform developed by publishing giant Pearson provides reasonably-priced tutoring both on-demand and scheduled in advance, and it's better than the tutoring provided by other large companies. Their tutors have a higher level of education than many other options — the majority hold advanced degrees. That said, mosts of their tutors aren't from top-tier universities, and they struggle to keep good teachers. In addition, their online platform is older and prone to crashing.

Best super-quick tutoring: If students want short-term tutoring available instantly, they might consider Skooli. Skooli is the only tutoring service we reviewed that offers tutoring by the minute. Tutors aren't necessarily from top schools, and students can't work with the same tutor consistently, so the quality of tutoring is lower, but on-demand tutoring can start as soon as you enter your credit card details.

Alternative for families on a budget: For families on a tighter budget, we’d suggest looking for an independent tutor on Wyzant. It’s a tutoring marketplace platform, so the quality varies hugely and there’s no oversight or qualification requirements, but you might find a decent tutor under $40/hour.

However, in our experience a good tutor can accomplish more with a student in one hour than an average tutor can do in five hours. With that in mind, it might be more effective to choose fewer hours of reliably high-quality tutoring.

Best free writing tutoring (for qualifying families): For qualifying lower-income families and students, Learn to Be is a fantastic option for free tutoring. Students can work with the same tutor consistently, which provides a good environment for learning. Tutors are volunteers with a wide range of backgrounds and experience levels, from current high school students to retired professionals.

University of Chicago (Image Credit: Rick Seidel Creative Commons CC BY 2.0)
University of Chicago (Image Credit: Rick Seidel Creative Commons CC BY 2.0)


Next steps

Ready to learn to write with one of our experienced tutors? Schedule a free tutoring consultation with Jessica (Director of Tutoring) or one of our founders to see what would be the best fit for your family.

Regardless of your current writing abilities and planned career path, learning how to write well is a skill that will pay dividends throughout your life

Remember that essays can be used to earn scholarships as well as college admission, so a few months of writing coaching now can pay off with up to $300,000 in tuition saved later.

Writing is also a highly-valued skill in the workplace, and employers are looking for graduates who are strong writers.

To start working with an Ivy-League writing coach today, set up a quick free consultation with our team.




competition

Wyzant vs. Varsity Tutors: Which Tutoring Service is Better?

In this Wyzant vs. Varsity Tutors face-off, we pit two of the biggest tutoring companies against each other to see which is the best. From tutor qualifications to price, subjects, guarantees, and other features, discover which is the best tutoring platform.


Wyzant vs. Varsity Tutors Overview

Wyzant Varsity Tutors
Company type Tutoring marketplace Tutoring service
Cost of tutoring $10–600/hr, average $35–65/hr $73–95/hr
Minimum purchase $10 $1,140
Tutor earnings 75% of hourly rate, average $26–48/hr $11–15/hr
Tutor qualifications Varies: background check not required but visible on tutor profiles, education varies Varies: background check required, minimum education high school graduates
Tutor match Client chooses; can filter results by cost, ratings, etc. Tutor matched by company based on questionnaire
Time to start tutoring Varies, but can be same day Typically 2–4 days, but “instant tutoring” also available
Online platform Proprietary platform Proprietary platform
Subjects tutored Over 3000 subjects 275 subjects 
Guarantee "Good Fit Guarantee" — if you’re not satisfied with your first lesson with a tutor, that session is free "Tutor Satisfaction Guarantee" —  if you're unsatisfied with the tutor you're working with, you can contact Varsity Tutors, explain the situation and get matched with a new tutor; the next session will be free
Lesson cancellation Varies, 6–36 hours notice 24 hours notice

Not sure what kind of tutoring is the right fit?


Wyzant vs. Varsity Tutors: Company Type

Wyzant and Varsity Tutors are two of the biggest tutoring companies, both with thousands of tutors.

One of the most significant differences between Wyzant and Varsity Tutors is that Wyzant is a tutoring marketplace whereas Varsity Tutors is a tutoring service.

Wyzant Varsity Tutors
Company type Tutoring marketplace Tutoring service

What do these terms mean?

A tutoring marketplace is a platform where clients can view and select independent tutors — like the modern version of a bulletin board with advertisements posted.

bulletin board

That means that Wyzant facilitates the connection between tutors and students, but it does not directly oversee the tutoring sessions. Wyzant does not take an active role in testing tutor qualifications, pairing students with tutors, scheduling, or quality control for tutoring sessions. They set a minimum price of $10/hour but beyond that, tutors are free to set their own rates.

From the client’s perspective, one advantage of a tutoring marketplace is that all of the tutors on the platform are competing with each other to get the most requests from clients. This can motivate tutors to create the best tutoring experience in order to get good reviews and return customers.

A tutoring service is more hands-on. As a tutoring service, Varsity Tutors has more direct control over the tutoring offered on its platform. Varsity Tutors controls the price of tutoring sessions and matches tutors with students — neither the students nor the tutors have the final say in this matching process.

One advantage of a tutoring service is that in theory it creates a more uniform experience for students. The company headquarters is always available should there be any problems, be it simple tech problems connecting to the online classroom or more significant complaints about a tutor.

Winner: neither, since it really depends on client preference.


Wyzant vs. Varsity Tutors: Cost of Tutoring

Wyzant and Varsity Tutors are also quite different when it comes to the cost of tutoring.

Because tutors are able to set their own prices on Wyzant, the rates for tutoring vary immensely. The minimum rate allowed by Wyzant is $10 per hour, and although there aren’t many tutors who set their rates quite that low, there are many tutors available from $20 per hour. The majority of tutors on Wyzant set their rate between $35 and $65 per hour. Of course, some highly-rated tutors might set higher rates, especially those teaching advanced subjects or holding impressive credentials, and it’s possible to see tutors with rates as high as $600 per hour.

The advantage is the range of choice: with Wyzant, students and families can choose the right balance between price and tutor qualifications. For families with a tighter budget, this can make Wyzant a great fit, the option to access tutoring at $20 per hour simply doesn’t exist on many other tutoring services.

Another advantage of Wyzant’s model is that prices are immediately transparent to clients.

On the other hand, pricing at Varsity Tutors is more consistent. The cost of tutoring with Varsity Tutors ranges from $73 to $95 per hour, depending on which package clients purchase:

  • $1,140 for 12 tutoring hours ($95/hour)
  • $1,920 for 24 tutoring hours ($80/hour)
  • $2,700 for 36 tutoring hours ($75/hour)
  • $3,504 for 48 tutoring hours ($73/hour)

Even though some tutors teaching through Varsity Tutor’s platform might have higher credentials than others, all tutoring sessions for a given subject area are charged the same rate.

Varsity Tutors is well-known for being a little secretive about their prices. Potential clients need to schedule a call with their sales reps in order to get pricing info, which is frustrating to go through if it ends up being outside one’s budget in the end.

Wyzant Varsity Tutors
Cost of tutoring $10–600/hr, average $35–65/hr $73–95/hr

Winner: Wyzant. On average, tutoring on Wyzant is lower cost than Varsity Tutors.


Wyzant vs. Varsity Tutors: Minimum Purchase

Wyzant and Varsity Tutors have opposing approaches to minimum purchases.

On Wyzant, there is no minimum purchase. Families and students can simply pay for one session at a time, so the first payment is just the cost of the first tutoring session, which can be as low as $10.

On Varsity Tutors, clients must purchase packages of at least 12 hours at a time — so the minimum cost is $1,140 for 6 tutoring sessions (12 hours) at $95/hour.

Wyzant Varsity Tutors
Cost of tutoring $10–600/hr, average $35–65/hr $73–95/hr
Minimum purchase $10 $1,140

Winner: Wyzant. The minimum purchase means that Wyzant is more flexible and accessible than Varsity Tutors.


Wyzant vs. Varsity Tutors: Tutor Earnings

As a student or family, why would you care about tutor earnings for Wyzant or Varsity Tutors?

Ultimately, tutoring companies that pay their tutors better are more able to attract the best teaching talent and tutors with the most impressive backgrounds.

Despite the fact that the cost of tutoring with Varsity Tutors ($73–95/hour) is significantly higher than the average cost of tutoring on Wyzant ($35–65/hour), tutors working for Varsity Tutors earn much less.

In fact, the tutors that you’re paying $95/hour to learn from are earning only $11–15/hour, depending on the subject.

On the other hand, tutors on Wyzant earn 75% of their rate. (Wyzant takes 25% as their commission for listing on the platform.) This means that tutors on average earn $26–48 per hour through Wyzant.

Wyzant Varsity Tutors
Cost of tutoring $10–600/hr, average $35–65/hr $73–95/hr
Tutor earnings 75% of hourly rate, average $26–48/hr $11–15/hr

The upshot of this for clients is that the best tutors are likely to leave Varsity Tutors eventually and migrate either to marketplace platforms like Wyzant or else more selective tutoring companies like PrepMaven, where they can earn a much fairer wage for their high-impact teaching.

Winner: Wyzant. Varsity Tutors pays their tutors only 15% of the lesson cost, while Wyzant allows tutors to keep 75% of the lesson cost — so Wyzant is more likely to have better teaching talent.


Wyzant vs. Varsity Tutors: Tutor Qualifications

Probably the single most important aspect in determining the outcome of tutoring is the individual tutor.

These days, there are many online tutoring platforms. If you pay attention, you’ll notice that tutor qualifications vary hugely

On some platforms, tutors could be recent graduates of high school, while other platforms might offer tutors with Master’s or PhDs. Some tutors might have degrees from local colleges, while other tutors might have Ivy-League experience and degrees from Harvard or Princeton. And some platforms might hire tutors after a short questionnaire and let them start teaching immediately, while others might have a competitive interview process and rigorous tutor training.

In the end, it comes down to this question: who do you want teaching your student?

teacher with whiteboard

On Wyzant’s tutoring marketplace, tutor qualifications vary considerably but are clearly visible on the profile of each tutor. Some tutors available on Wyzant do have Ivy-League degrees, but these tend to have high rates, often hundreds of dollars per hour. Clients can also clearly see how many years of teaching experience each tutor has, and how many hours they’ve tutored on the Wyzant platform. Clients can choose the tutor that best fits their needs and price range.

There is no additional testing or certification process for subject area tutors listed on Wyzant.

With Varsity Tutors, all tutors have at least a high school diploma, and most have a college degree. A small handful of tutors might have Ivy-League degrees, but most tutors studied at local or less-competitive schools. Since clients cannot choose which tutor they work with, it’s up to luck what credentials the selected tutor will have.

Tutors with Varsity Tutors become “certified” in individual subject areas. However, this is a bit misleading, as in most cases certification requires simply passing a 10-question online quiz.

All tutors with Varsity Tutors have passed a background check. This is not mandatory for tutors on Wyzant, but it’s possible to see on each tutor’s profile whether they’re taken a background check. 

Past teaching experience is not required for tutors with either Wyzant or Varsity Tutors, but on Wyzant many tutors describe relevant past experience in their bios.

Wyzant Varsity Tutors
Tutor qualifications Varies: background check not required but visible on tutor profiles, education varies Varies: background check required, minimum education high school graduates

Winner: Wyzant, as it allows clients to view and select specific tutors, even though tutor quality is very uneven.

Families who are specifically looking to work with an Ivy-League or highly-credentialed tutor might consider a more selective tutoring service like PrepMaven ($66–349/hour) or Elite Ivy Tutors ($200–300/hour), which hire only the best Ivy-League tutors with extensive teaching experience and impressive credentials.

Schedule a free consultation with an educational consultant at PrepMaven


Wyzant vs. Varsity Tutors: Tutor Match

As explained above, Wyzant is a tutoring marketplace, while Varsity Tutors is a tutoring service.

This means that the way that students are matched with tutors is completely different with Wyzant and Varsity Tutors!

With Wyzant, families and students select the individual tutor that seems like the best fit in terms of qualifications, cost, and availability. Families and students contact the desired tutor through Wyzant’s platform and can message to discuss further details about the match. If both parties agree it’s a good fit, the first lesson can be scheduled immediately.

Wyzant gives clients complete control over the matching process, but it’s also a huge responsibility and can take a lot of time to read through the tutor profiles. It’s possible to filter tutors based on price, ratings, popularity, etc. There are over 65,000 tutors listed on Wyzant’s platform, so it can feel stressful!

With Varsity Tutors, their headquarters has complete control over matching students with tutors. Families and students answer a questionnaire about the student’s learning goals, personality, and schedule. Then Varsity Tutor’s central team sends this student profile out to all tutors for that subject area. Tutors can then respond to indicate interest, and from this pool of tutors Varsity will select the best match.

Wyzant Varsity Tutors
Tutor match Client chooses; can filter results by cost, ratings, etc. Tutor matched by company based on questionnaire

Winner: neither — it depends whether you want to do the work of selecting a tutor yourself or have one chosen for you.


Wyzant vs. Varsity Tutors: Time before Tutoring Starts

In a rush to set up tutoring sessions?

Because with Wyzant tutoring sessions are arranged directly between the tutor and the client, it could be possible to set up tutoring immediately. The average response time for a tutor is listed on their profile, so be aware of this number if you want to start ASAP.

With Varsity Tutors, typically it takes a few days to go through their student questionnaire and be paired with an appropriate tutor.

However, Varsity Tutors also has an option for “instant tutoring” that can be started in as little as seconds. Of course, with this option you don’t work with a consistent tutor, so it’s less effective for learning, but can be helpful if you need a little help ASAP.

Wyzant Varsity Tutors
Time to start tutoring Varies, but can be same day Typically 2–4 days, but “instant tutoring” also available

Winner: Wyzant tends to be faster for regular tutoring, but Varsity Tutors offers “instant tutoring” — so it’s a tie.


Wyzant vs. Varsity Tutors: Online Platform

These days, we’re all accustomed to learning and meeting online via Zoom or other platforms.

Both Wyzant and Varsity Tutors do offer in-person tutoring in locations across the US, but most of the tutoring happens online. Online tutoring has many advantages: it’s convenient, more widely available, and it allows students to work with tutors throughout the country, not just whomever happens to be local.

Both Wyzant and Varsity Tutors have built their own proprietary online tutoring platforms with live whiteboards and video. They’re both quite similar and pretty good!

Wyzant Varsity Tutors
Online platform Proprietary platform Proprietary platform

Winner: tie.


Wyzant vs. Varsity Tutors: Subjects Tutored

Both Wyzant and Varsity Tutors offer an extensive list of subjects. Wyzant lists 275 subjects covered by their tutors, while Varsity Tutors breaks their list into over 3000 subjects.

Wyzant Varsity Tutors
Subjects tutored Over 3000 subjects 275 subjects 

Does that mean that Varsity Tutors offers more subjects than Wyzant? We chose a few obscure subjects to test this out:

Wyzant Varsity Tutors
Finnish language No Yes
Inorganic chemistry Not a subject category, but many tutors Yes
Aerospace engineering Not a subject category, but many tutors Yes
Chinese history Not a subject category, but many tutors Yes (but tutors did not look qualified)

Based on our tests, it seems that if you are looking for a tutor in a more obscure area, which tutoring platform will depend on the particular subject.

That said, most tutoring on both platforms is focused on basic skills in reading, writing, math, and test prep (SAT, ACT, PSAT, and other important standardized tests). 

Wyzant has tutors with specializations working with ADHD, autism spectrum disorder (ASD), Braille, dyslexia, hard of hearing students, and sign language. Varsity Tutors will also attempt to pair students with particular needs with the tutors who are best able to help.

Winner: tie — if you need tutoring in a more niche subject, check which platform can connect you with individual expert tutors.


Wyzant vs. Varsity Tutors: Guarantee

If you book a session with a tutor on Wyzant and aren’t satisfied, Wyzant will refund the cost of that session. Since tutoring on Wyzant is pay-as-you-go, that means you’re then free to continue with a different tutor on Wyzant or switch to a different tutoring company entirely.

If you’re not satisfied with your tutor via Varsity Tutors, they’ll pair you with a new tutor and give you a free tutoring session (up to two hours of tutoring). There’s no way to back out of the rest of your tutoring package, however — and with a minimum package of $1,140 for 12 hours of tutoring, that’s some serious commitment!

Wyzant Varsity Tutors
Guarantee "Good Fit Guarantee" — if you’re not satisfied with your first lesson with a tutor, that session is free Tutor Satisfaction Guarantee —  if you're unsatisfied with the tutor you're working with, you can contact Varsity Tutors, explain the situation and get matched with a new tutor; the next session will be free

Winner: Wyzant — if you try a first session and you’re not satisfied, you can get all of your money back, but this isn’t possible with Varsity Tutors.


Wyzant vs. Varsity Tutors: Lesson Cancellation

Both Wyzant and Varsity Tutors have cancellation policies to make sure that tutors aren’t left hanging by students.

With Varsity Tutors there is a standard requirement for at least 24 hours’ notice in order to cancel a scheduled session. (It’s always possible to message your tutor directly and see if you can cancel or change within the 24 hours without charge, but that is at the tutor’s discretion.)

Tutors on Wyzant’s marketplace can set their own notice period for lesson cancellations; these range between 6 and 36 hours

Wyzant Varsity Tutors
Lesson cancellation Varies, 6–36 hours notice 24 hours notice

Winner: tie.


Wyzant vs. Varsity Tutors: Overall Winner

Overall, we prefer Wyzant over Varsity Tutors.

Wyzant’s marketplace platform gives students and families the ability to choose the tutor who is the best fit for their specific needs. Wyzant has a wider range of prices, with budget-friendly tutors teaching for around $20 per hour or tutors with stronger credentials and experience charging rates from $50 to $500 per hour. 

Although it might not seem important, Wyzant’s model for tutor pay is also a key differentiating factor, since Varsity Tutors’ surprisingly low pay for tutors ($11-15/hour when clients pay $73–95/hour) means that their platform can’t attract the best tutors.

While Varsity Tutors markets themselves as a “high-end” tutoring platform, we’re ultimately not convinced. Only a handful of their thousands of tutors have Ivy-League degrees or substantial teaching experience — most of their tutors don’t come from top-tier universities and don’t have relevant professional experience.

Wyzant’s tutoring marketplace does come with some downsides, however. It definitely takes more work to research different tutor bios and select the best fit. There’s no vetting process for the tutors on Wyzant, so the quality of tutoring has a certain element of luck.

Princeton University
Princeton University

If students and families are looking for a more hands-on tutoring company with carefully selected Ivy-League tutors with prior teaching experience and specific training, we recommend working with a more selective tutoring service like PrepMaven ($66–349/hour) or Elite Ivy Tutors ($200–300/hour), where all of the tutors are Ivy-League and have impressive backgrounds. 


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…and more on our blog!

competition


pencil for taking the SAT

12 Best SAT Prep Courses for 2024 (32 Courses Reviewed)

Research conducted by Emily Kierkegaard, PhD, and expert-reviewed by Kevin Wong, PrepMaven Co-founder

Not sure which SAT prep course is the best? We compared the top 32 courses, created in-depth reviews for 12 of them, and narrowed it down to the 4 best that will help you increase your SAT scores.

What is the Best SAT Prep Course?

  1. PrepMaven - best SAT prep course overall
  2. Khan Academy  - best for self-guided SAT prep
  3. Princeton Review - best of the big test prep companies
  4. Magoosh - best for families on a budget

The best of the rest:

  1. Kaplan - big classes with big prep
  2. Prep Expert - high price, uneven quality
  3. Kranse Institute - high price for only videos
  4. PrepScholar - overpriced shorter class without support
  5. Peterson’s - reasonable self-guided practice
  6. Ivy Bound - higher price but no extras
  7. College Prep Genius - alternative for live instruction on a budget
  8. Varsity Tutors - uneven quality, no extras
colored pencils


Best SAT Prep Courses in 2024

#1 - PrepMaven

Our Verdict — Highest Quality Instruction

Price: $895

PrepMaven’s SAT MasterClass offers students the chance to learn directly from the company’s co-founder, Kevin Wong, a Princeton grad with 15+ years and over 15,000 hours of SAT experience.

The course emphasizes teaching students how to use practice materials effectively and provides all students with a comprehensive study and homework plan. 

Founded by two brothers, both Princeton graduates passionate about education, PrepMaven offers a more individualized learning experience than bigger test prep companies. Students can easily add on one-on-one tutoring to continue their test prep after the course.

Sign up if you’re looking for a small group class led by an instructor with live classes, not a self-guided online platform. 

Best for:

PrepMaven’s SAT MasterClass is the best option for anyone looking for SAT prep led by a qualified instructor.

At a glance:

  • Cost: $895 SAT MasterClass
  • Program length: 18 hours of live instruction
  • Class size: average size 20 students
  • Instructor qualifications: all courses taught by co-founder (Princeton grad & top 1%)
  • Support: weekly office hours with private support
  • Practice tests: 3 official practice tests
  • Materials: math coursebook, grammar workbook, reading strategy guide with sample passages
  • Online access: lifetime access to recordings of classes
  • Guarantee: score raise guarantee

What we like:

  • You know exactly who the instructor will be — and the instructor (Princeton grad with extensive teaching experience) is the most qualified of any course we’ve compared.
  • Weekly office hours where students can ask any questions they have and work through more examples.
  • More individualized learning experience compared to large companies.

What we don’t like:

  • Limited availability for courses means less flexibility for course dates.

PrepMaven SAT class

#2 - Khan Academy

Our Verdict — Best Self-Guided SAT Prep

Price: $0

It’s hard to beat completely free, officially-approved SAT prep!

But even if it weren’t free, Khan Academy would still top our lists for self-guided test prep.

For motivated and organized students ready to work independently, Khan Academy has amazing content. A non-profit educational organization, Khan Academy has partnered with the College Board (the makers of the SAT) to provide free test prep that’s accessible to everyone. That means that apart from the official practice tests, Khan Academy’s materials are the only other materials officially approved by the College Board.

(Many companies will produce their own “practice tests” that mimic the test but are not official tests. All of the official tests are available for free online from the College Board or in the College Board SAT book.)

Students create a profile with a SAT Dashboard that guides them through video lessons, quizzes, practice questions with detailed explanations, and full-length practice tests.

Best for:

Khan Academy’s SAT prep platform is the best option for anyone who wants to prep independently with just the test content, no strategy tips.

At a glance:

  • Cost: $0
  • Program length: on-demand
  • Instructor qualifications: no instructor, but the materials are approved by the College Board
  • Support: no support
  • Practice tests: 3 practice tests
  • Materials: interactive practice materials approved by the College Board
  • Online access: lifetime access
  • Guarantee: no guarantee

What we like:

  • Partnership with the College Board (makers of the SAT) means that materials are officially approved
  • Individual math concepts have particularly strong content, great for reviewing with short videos and then doing practice with instant feedback
  • It’s free!

What we don’t like:

  • Covers only test content, no strategy—and learning the test format and key strategies is an important component of test prep
  • Content is weaker for Reading and Writing sections, especially compared to their content for the Math sections
  • Self-guided platform means that students have to craft their own study plan and decide which areas to practice—and there’s no one to hold them accountable
Khan Academy data problem

#3 - The Princeton Review

Our Verdict — Best of the Big Prep Companies

Price: $949–$2199

The Princeton Review actually has no connection to Princeton University.

However, they’re still well-known in their own right as a large educational company, as well as the publishers of many test prep and college admissions guides.

The Princeton Review provides a deep set of practice materials, including 140 hours of additional video lessons to review individual concepts.

Teachers with the Princeton Review receive extensive training. They are not required to be Ivy-League graduates or have scored highly themselves.

At a glance:

  • Cost: $949 SAT Essentials Course, $1199 Summer Camp, or $2199 SAT 1400+
  • Program length: 18 hours or 36 hours live online or live in-person
  • Instructor qualifications: trained instructors
  • Practice tests: 3 practice tests
  • Materials: 23 practice tests and many practice questions
  • Online access: available for 12 months
  • Guarantee: depending on the course, no guarantee or guaranteed 1400+ score

What we like:

  • Large, established test prep company
  • The SAT 1400+ Course has 36 hours of instruction, which is a lot of learning time!

What we don’t like:

  • No specific qualification requirements for instructors, and you don’t know who the instructor will be—although instructors have more extensive training than some other companies
  • No score raise guarantee for the Essentials Course

#4 - Magoosh

Our Verdict — Best on a Budget

Price: $399

For students who want an instructor-led online class on a budget, Magoosh’s Guided Live Class is a solid choice.

All classes are recorded and also available to watch on-demand. We like Magoosh’s user-friendly online test environment with a mobile app, and the fact that they offer 24/7 support via email or chat support.

At a glance:

  • Cost: $129/year self-paced course or $399 Guided Live Classes
  • Program length: 16 hours live instruction over one month
  • Instructor qualifications: top 1%
  • Support: email or chat support
  • Online access: available for 12 months
  • Guarantee: score increase of 100 points guaranteed

What we like:

  • All instructors scored in the top 1% themselves
  • 24/7 support via email or chat
  • Affordable pricing

What we don’t like:

  • You don’t know who the instructor will be
  • Shorter course compared to other options

SAT Prep Alternatives (that Didn’t Make the Cut)

#5 - Kaplan

Our Verdict — Big Classes with Big Prep

Price: $799+

Along with Princeton Review, Kaplan is one of the other large companies in the test prep space.

Kaplan’s Live Online class offers 18 hours of live online classes (9 sessions of 2 hours each) and the opportunity to message instructors through a group chat. It also includes 15 hours of additional on-demand video content. Kaplan’s classes are larger than many other providers', with up to 30 students per class.

Their Unlimited Prep Course offers students to schedule classes when they want, and there is no fixed calendar. This can be beneficial for students who are fitting test prep into already busy schedules. For students wanting external structure and accountability, however, this can be less beneficial. The course comes with a high price tag, but 12-month payment plans are available. Students enrolled in the Unlimited Prep Course can also choose between classes for the ACT and selected AP exams.

Kaplan’s On Demand Course provides short (under 30 minutes) pre-recorded courses with practice questions and quizzes. There is no live instruction or access to a teacher.

At a glance:

  • Cost: $799 Live Online, or $1999 Unlimited Prep Course
  • Program length: 18 hours live online or on-demand, 10 days to 8 weeks
  • Class size: 30 students
  • Instructor qualifications: none given
  • Online access: available for 12 months
  • Guarantee: score raise guarantee

What we like:

  • Large, established test prep company
  • Students can message instructors through a group chat to ask questions

What we don’t like:

  • Instructors have no required qualifications
  • You don’t know who the instructor will be
  • Larger classes than other providers, with up to 30 students per class

#6 - Prep Expert

Our Verdict — High Price, Uneven Quality

Price: $1199

Prep Expert’s Flagship SAT Prep Course offers 36 hours of live instruction and guarantees a score increase of 200 points, the largest in the industry.

Their longer Capstone SAT Prep Course includes 42 hours of live classes taught by an expert instructor and a 3-hour review session taught by another instructor.

We like that Prep Expert states which instructor teaches which course date, since the quality of the teacher is the single most important factor in an SAT course, and most other SAT prep providers do not name who will be teaching the course. (The other exception is PrepMaven, where all SAT courses are taught by co-founder Kevin Wong.) However, they have been known to switch instructors without warning.

There is also a self-paced option for students who want to plan their study schedule independently with 30 hours of video content. The self-paced course does not include the interactive practice question interface.

At a glance:

  • Cost: $1199 Flagship SAT Prep Course, $1699 Capstone SAT Prep Course
  • Program length: 36 or 45 hours live online
  • Instructor qualifications: top 1%
  • Materials: no additional materials (only official published tests)
  • Online access: available for 12 months
  • Guarantee: score increase of 200 points guaranteed

What we like:

  • You know who the instructor will be, as the name is listed for each course date (although they have been known to switch instructors without warning)
  • Score raise guarantee of 200 points 

What we don’t like:

  • Refund process is difficult and families have reported that the score increase guarantee may not be honored
  • Instructor may change from the one listed, and some are less well-reviewed
  • Long class sessions (3 hours) are difficult for students

#7 - Kranse Institute

Our Verdict: High Price for Only Videos

Price: $599

The Kranse Institute is affiliated with Prep Expert and provides the same self-paced option with 30 hours of video content. The price is far too high for only videos without any contact with an instructor. Strangely, their website now claims "they are no longer accepting new enrollments"--although they only offer an online class! We'll keep monitoring their website, but our best guess is that they still haven't been able to update their material for the Digital SAT.

At a glance:

  • Cost: $599
  • Program length: self-paced 30 hours of video
  • Class size: N/A
  • Instructor qualifications: top 1%
  • Support: N/A
  • Practice tests: N/A
  • Materials: no additional materials (only official published tests)
  • Online access: available for 18 months

What we don’t like:

  • Temporarily not accepting new students
  • Self-guided platform means that students have to craft their own study plan and decide which areas to practice—and there’s no one to hold them accountable 
  • High price tag for only self-guided videos, especially when Khan Academy is completely free

#8 - PrepScholar

Our Verdict — Overpriced Shorter Class Without Support

Price: $895

PrepScholar’s core offering is its $895 SAT Classes, which provide 9 hours of live instruction. We like the small classes of just 9 students, but the classes don’t offer office hours, group chats, or other ways of requesting extra help from the instructor. Instead, students needing additional explanations are encouraged to purchase additional tutoring hours. The course is also significantly shorter than other options at the same price, with only six sessions.

PrepScholar’s most affordable option gives students access to a variety of online prep materials, including videos about both content and strategy. There is no live instruction or access to a teacher. Read our full review of PrepScholar's offerings here!

At a glance:

  • Cost: $397 Complete Prep (self-paced) or $895 Live Classes
  • Program length: 9 hours of live classes
  • Class size: 9 students
  • Support: none
  • Online access: available for 12 months
  • Guarantee: Score raise of 160 points guaranteed

What we like:

  • Small class sizes of 9 students

What we don’t like:

  • Just 9 hours of live instruction is less than half of what competitors offer at the same price point
  • No additional support from instructor—there’s no group chats, office hours, or other way for students to ask questions

#9 - Peterson’s

Our Verdict — Reasonable Self-Guided Practice

Cost: $39-49/month

Peterson's is a budget option that offers resources on a monthly subscription basis. These subscriptions offer access to Peterson's library of practice materials, though you're likely to find materials as good for free on Khan Academy.

If you subscribe for a longer plan, you'll also get a few sessions of live tutoring thrown in. But there's no information on the qualifications or expertise of these tutors, so we personally wouldn't expect them to be particularly qualified, especially at this price point.

At a glance:

  • Cost: $39-49/month
  • Support: several live tutoring sessions if you purchase a 3 or 6 month subscription.
  • Online access: while enrolled
  • Guarantee: none

What we like:

  • Reasonable price for additional video content

What we don’t like:

  • Subscription program is not the best for students working on a long time-line
  • No information on who these live tutors are

#10 - Ivy Bound

Our Verdict — Higher Price but No Extras

Price: $1350

For students wanting a course longer than those offered by PrepMaven (18 hours) or the Princeton Review (18 hours), Kaplan (18 hours), or PrepScholar (9 hours), but who aren’t ready to spend $2200 on the Princeton Review’s 36-hour course, Ivy Bound might offer a good middle ground. Their SAT class offers 24 hours of live instruction on a variety of different schedules, depending on the time of year.

Students and families should note that Ivy Bound has a disclaimer that not all course dates might be offered and are subject to sufficient enrollment.

At a glance:

  • Cost: $1350
  • Program length: 26-28 hours live instruction
  • Instructor qualifications: none specified
  • Guarantee: none

What we like:

  • Longer course with more hours of live instruction
  • Two hours of private tutoring with the instructor

What we don’t like:

  • Not all course dates are guaranteed to go ahead
  • No score raise guarantee
  • No specific qualifications for their instructors, and you don’t know who the instructor will be

#11 - College Prep Genius

Our Verdict — Alternative for Live Instruction on a Budget

Price: $395

College Prep Genius offers another option for shorter live online classes. Their virtual class provides 11 hours of instruction spread out over either 3 days or 8 weeks.

It’s a reasonable option for families on a budget, but it does not offer additional support via office hours or the ability to email or chat with an instructor, so we prefer Magoosh’s 16-hour live class instead for this price range.

At a glance:

  • Cost: $189 eCourse, $395 virtual class
  • Program length: 11 hours over either 3 days of 8 weeks
  • Instructor qualifications: 
  • Support: none
  • Online access: available for 12 months
  • Guarantee: none

What we like:

  • More affordable price—although College Prep Genius’ class is only 11 hours, so Magoosh’s 16-hour class at the same price is a better bang for your buck 

What we don’t like:

  • No additional support offered via chat, email, or office hours, so students have no way of asking questions outside of class
  • No score raise guarantee
  • No specific qualifications for their instructors, and you don’t know who the instructor will be

#12 - Varsity Tutors

Our Verdict — Uneven Quality, No Extras

Price: $525

Formerly known as Veritas Prep, Varsity Tutors offers a SAT Prep Class in three different time frames: as a one-week bootcamp, spread out over four weeks, or spread out over eight weeks.

This course is less comprehensive than many of the other options, as it does not guide students in taking full practice tests, one of the most important components of test preparation. There is no additional support for students outside of class time.

There are no specific qualifications or training for the instructors, and as Varsity Tutors is a large tutoring platform, their quality of tutors can be uneven. While the price point might be appealing, we prefer Magoosh’s course for families on a budget.

At a glance:

  • Cost: $525 prep class
  • Program length: 16 hours over 1 week, 4 weeks, or 8 weeks
  • Class size: 9 students
  • Instructor qualifications: none specified
  • Support: none
  • Practice tests: none
  • Online access: available for 12 months
  • Guarantee: none

What we like:

  • More affordable price
  • Smaller class size of 9 students

What we don’t like:

  • No additional support offered via chat, email, or office hours, so students have no way of asking questions outside of class
  • No score raise guarantee
  • No specific qualifications for their instructors, and you don’t know who the instructor will be
  • Does not use full practice tests, a key part of SAT prep 

Top 32 SAT Prep Courses Considered

  • PrepMaven
  • Khan Academy
  • The Princeton Review
  • Magoosh
  • Kaplan
  • Prep Expert
  • Kranse Institute
  • PrepScholar
  • Peterson’s
  • Ivy Bound
  • College Prep Genius
  • Varsity Tutors
  • Sylvan
  • Green Test Prep
  • Higher Scores Test Prep
  • ePrep
  • Excel Test Prep
  • Best in Class
  • Testive
  • CollegeVine
  • Prepare
  • College Drive
  • Love the SAT
  • Method Learning
  • SAT Blitz
  • The Answer Class
  • Trudeau Prep
  • Test Prep 4 Success
  • Private Prep
  • Manhattan Review
  • Olive Book
  • Veritas
colored pencils

What is the SAT?

Each year, roughly 2 million high school students take the SAT, according to College Board.

Along with the ACT, the SAT is a key component of college admissions. Colleges use test scores to gauge a student’s college readiness.

While many schools have gone test-optional in the wake of Covid, the most competitive schools still like to see SAT or ACT scores. In fact, according to reporting by New York Magazine, some elite schools--like MIT--are once again requiring submission of standardized test scores.

And, according to a report by CBS News, Yale and Dartmouth have recently joined MIT as well, saying that required standardized test scores will actually help poorer applicants.

Even for schools that don't yet require the SAT, looking at the Common Data Set information for top schools like MIT and Princeton shows that SAT and ACT scores are still an extremely important part of the admissions process.

In addition to college admission, test scores can be used to earn scholarships or placement in special programs. Many schools that are test-optional are still using test scores for scholarships, so good scores can be an important way of avoiding student debt.

Younger students can also use test scores for admission to gifted and talented programs.

For students whose grades may have slipped during high school, test scores can also be used to show admissions officers your potential.

Finally, test scores are a handy tool for students to figure out where they might be a competitive applicant. Wondering if you have a chance at getting into Harvard? Not sure if University of Illinois is a reach school or a safety school for you? Test scores can help you there.

Check out our other posts for more information about how the digital SAT is scored, SAT test dates and deadlines, and how the SAT is different from the ACT. We also have many free test prep resources. For more test prep guidance, schedule a call with Jessica or one of our founders today!

Princeton University
Princeton University

Why take an SAT prep course?

You may want to consider a SAT prep course if you:

  • You have no idea where to start in order to prepare for the SAT
  • You feel overwhelmed by all of the different SAT prep books and materials and don’t know which to choose
  • You have a hard time keeping yourself on track and want an external structure to hold you accountable
  • You're not sure what counts as a "good" SAT score
  • You're not sure exactly what's on the SAT
  • You’ve been practicing on your own but your gains have plateaued
  • You have a limited amount of time and need to be efficient in your studying
  • You want to learn techniques for managing test anxiety
  • You want insider tips about test strategies
  • You’re not sure how to track your progress
  • You’ve been practicing on your own but your gains have plateaued
  • You have a limited amount of time and need to be efficient in your studying
  • You want to learn techniques for managing test anxiety
  • You want insider tips about test strategies

In our SAT prep course, we typically see students increase their scores by about 100–300 points. This can have a significant impact on college admissions and scholarships.

Stanford University
Stanford University

What makes a good SAT prep course?

Guidance with SAT prep comes in two main forms: group classes or individual tutoring. Many students combine the two, following an SAT group class with one-on-one tutoring to focus on a tailored approach for that student’s strengths and weaknesses.

In this post, though, we focused on SAT group classes.

These days, many courses are online. This allows students to seek out the best classes regardless of their physical location, which is great! It’s up to the individual student and their situation to decide whether in-person classes or online classes are the best fit.

PrepMaven SAT class

The most important aspect of a good SAT prep course is the teacher. Excellent classes should be taught by experienced instructors who know the test inside and out and have many years helping students. The instructors should be people who scored highly on the test themselves, ideally in the top 1%

Classes should begin with a diagnostic test and a detailed score report to analyze a student’s starting point.

A good SAT prep class will also encourage students and help them reduce their test anxiety. If your prep course is making you feel anxious, it might not be the right fit!

All good SAT prep courses will review the content covered by the exam as well as test-taking strategies

Now more than ever with the effects of the Covid-19 pandemic, many students have gaps in their knowledge where their schooling was interrupted. A good SAT class will fill in these gaps by teaching fundamental math and grammar concepts.

Classes should provide students with study materials and guide students in using them effectively

Many good SAT prep courses will assign structured homework so that students can practice constructively with official test questions. There are a limited number of official practice tests, so it’s important to make the most of them! 

Good classes will help students work through missed problems and answer students’ questions.

The best SAT prep courses can also help students to make a holistic study plan and keep them on track, so that parents don’t have to be involved directly. 

Schedule a 30-minute consultation with Jessica or one of our founders.


Summary

Best overall: PrepMaven’s SAT MasterClass is the only option that provides students with the opportunity to follow up on questions directly with the instructor during weekly office hours. It’s also the only course under $1000 to guarantee the identity of the instructor, as all SAT MasterClasses are taught by co-founder Kevin, a Princeton graduate and top 1% scorer. 

Best self-guided: For self-guided online SAT practice, it doesn’t get much better than Khan Academy. This online educational platform is completely free and is the only service to partner directly with the College Board, the makers of the SAT. For students with enough self-discipline to stick to a study schedule, Khan Academy can be a powerful tool. We don’t recommend paying for self-guided courses unless students have already exhausted the resources available for free from Khan Academy and the College Board.

Best on a budget: For families looking for SAT prep with an instructor under $400, Magoosh’s Guided Live Classes are a good option. They provide 16 hours of live instruction and guarantee a score increase of at least 100 points. We like that students have the ability to ask the instructor study questions via email or chat.

Best of the big test prep companies: Of the big test prep companies, The Princeton Review's SAT classes are the best option. (Note that they have no connection to Princeton University.) The downside with a big company is that you don't know who the instructor will be or what their qualifications are, and students receive less individualized attention.

PrepMaven SAT class

As an alternative, families might want to consider purchasing a few hours of one-on-one SAT tutoring. Because individual tutoring sessions can be tailored to the needs of the specific student, they’re often more efficient than group classes and can hone in on the best way for that student to raise their score rather than general strategies.


Next steps

Ready to begin a SAT prep course? Schedule a free test prep consultation with Jessica (Director of Tutoring) or one of our founders to see what would be the best fit for your family.

It’s always best to start early and not wait until the last minute to prepare for the SAT! Remember that test scores can be used to earn scholarships as well as college admission, so a few months of study now can pay off with up to $300,000 in tuition saved later. 

Students who achieve their goal score earlier on in high school can relax and not worry about testing at the end of their junior year (the most important year for grades, and when many students are focused on AP tests) or in the beginning of their senior year, when most students are working on college essays

High-achieving students will also want to take the PSAT seriously, as it offers another opportunity to win big scholarship money through the National Merit program.

To start an SAT prep course or one-on-one SAT tutoring today, set up a quick free consultation with our team.



15 Best ACT Tutoring Services for 2024 (75 Tutoring Services Reviewed)

Research conducted by Emily Kierkegaard, PhD, and expert-reviewed by Kevin Wong, PrepMaven Co-founder

Not sure which ACT tutoring service is the best? We conducted days of research and compared the top 75 tutoring services, created in-depth reviews for 15 of them, and narrowed them down to the 4 best that will help you increase your ACT scores.

What is the Best ACT Tutoring Service?

  1. PrepMaven – best ACT tutoring overall
  2. Princeton Review – best of the big test prep companies
  3. Wyzant – alternative for families on a budget
  4. Khan Academy – honorable mention for self-guided prep

The best of the rest:

  1. Kaplan – big test prep with high minimum purchase
  2. Prep Expert – budget rates with inexperienced tutors
  3. PrepScholar – overpriced tutoring with limited guarantee
  4. Tutoring Service of New York – new service with higher minimum package
  5. StudyPoint – corporate vibe with high minimum purchase
  6. Soflo Tutors – young service featuring memes
  7. Parker Academics – higher rates for outdated ACT tutoring
  8. LA Tutors – higher rates for less-qualified instructors
  9. Elite Ivy Tutors – pricey service with long sessions
  10. Summit Prep – less-qualified instructors
  11. Varsity Tutors – uneven quality, no extras
Stanford University
Stanford University (Image Credit: King of Hearts Creative Commons CC-BY-SA-3.0)


Best ACT Tutoring Service in 2024

#1 - PrepMaven

Our Verdict — Best ACT Tutoring Overall

Price: $79–349/hour

It’s hard to beat PrepMaven for ACT tutoring!

PrepMaven has assembled an impressive team of Ivy-League tutors to provide one-on-one ACT tutoring. Most tutors are Princeton graduates with extensive teaching experience, and many of the tutors earned a perfect 36 on the ACT.

Founded by two brothers, both Princeton graduates passionate about education, PrepMaven offers more individualized learning experiences than at bigger test prep companies. Tutors undergo a thorough training process that allows them to effectively teach students how to take advantage of the standardized nature of the test.

With a range of price points depending on tutor qualifications, families are able to find the right fit for their budget. Starting at $79/hour, families can work with current students at the most elite universities in the country. PrepMaven’s Master level provides one-on-one tutoring with Ivy-League graduates who have extensive teaching and test prep experience at just $149/hour — a lower price than other tutoring services, for more elite instructors. It’s also possible to work one-on-one with the very best tutors at $349/hr, and there is the opportunity to work directly with the founders of the company.

Recommended by US News, PrepMaven also provides free resources for the ACT and regularly shares insights garnered from connections with former admissions officers.

Best for:

PrepMaven’s one-on-one ACT tutoring is the best option for anyone looking for high-quality ACT prep.

At a glance:

  • Cost: $79–349/hour, depending on tutor qualifications
  • Tutor qualifications: Ivy-League students and graduates (mostly from Princeton) with extensive teaching experience and top 1% test scores

What we like:

  • Experienced Ivy-League tutors, selected for their passion for education and working with students
  • Competitive pricing — rates are lower than other options for highly qualified tutors
  • Impressive client reviews — hundreds of 5-star reviews on Google and other independent review platforms
  • More individualized learning experience compared to large companies

Cornell University
Cornell University (Image Credit: Dantes De MonteCristo/Wikimedia Commons CC BY-SA 4.0)

#2 - Princeton Review

Our Verdict — Best of the Big Test Prep Companies

Price: $175-200/hour

The Princeton Review actually has no connection to Princeton University.

However, they’re still well-known in their own right as a large educational company, as well as the publishers of many test prep and college admissions guides. Their hourly rates are on the high end, and require you to purchase a package costing thousands of dollars.

Tutors with the Princeton Review receive extensive training. They are not required to be Ivy-League graduates or have scored highly themselves on standardized tests like the SAT, ACT, or GRE.

Best for:

  • Princeton Review is a good option for families who want to work with one of the largest test prep companies.

At a glance:

  • Cost: $175-200/hour
  • Tutor qualifications: trained instructors; no specific requirements for high ACT scores or top school

What we like:

  • Large, established test prep company

What we don’t like:

  • No specific qualification requirements for tutors—although tutors have more extensive training than some other companies
  • Large minimum purchase: To lock in the $175/hr rate, you'd need to buy 18 hours, for a total price of $3,150
Princeton University
Princeton University

#3 - Wyzant

Our Verdict — Alternative for Families on a Budget

Price: $20–600/hour

There are plenty of large platforms with large stables of part-time tutors and coaches available to work with students. Wyzant is one of the largest such platforms, with more than 65,000 tutors providing services through their website. Students and families can pick individual tutors to work with from their roster and arrange tutoring services directly.

One benefit of this model is that tutors can set their own rates, which vary hugely. Families on a budget can find online ACT tutors as low as $20 per hour. However, these tutors might not have any experience or training, and they may not have scored highly on the ACT themselves or graduated from a top school. Tutors with more qualifications may have much higher rates, as high as $600 per hour!

Best for:

  • Wyzant is a good option for families on a budget who are willing to find their own tutor and take a gamble on quality

At a glance:

  • Cost: $20–600/hour
  • Tutor qualifications: varies

What we like:

  • Marketplace platform means that some tutors list low rates for tutoring, which can make tutoring more affordable
  • Families can choose their own tutor directly

What we don’t like:

  • No training for tutors—which leads to uneven quality of instruction
  • Families are hiring individual tutors, which means tutor qualifications vary enormously, and there are no guarantees
University of Chicago
University of Chicago (Image Credit: Rick Seidel Creative Commons CC BY 2.0)

#4 - Khan Academy

Our Verdict — Honorable Mention for Free Self-Guided Test Prep

Price: $0

Khan Academy technically doesn’t belong on this list, since they don’t offer any live ACT tutoring, and they’re actually focused on the SAT, not the ACT. However, it’s such a fantastic resource that we’d be remiss not to mention it.

It’s hard to beat completely free test prep!

For motivated and organized students ready to work independently, Khan Academy has amazing content. A non-profit educational organization, Khan Academy has partnered with the College Board (the makers of the SAT) to provide free test prep that’s accessible to everyone.

And while we know the SAT and the ACT are not the same, they do share many similarities, and especially for the fundamentals the materials covered by the two tests have a lot of overlap.

Yes, the ACT does cover some math material that’s more advanced than what you’ll find on the SAT, and their math questions are a bit harder than the SAT’s math questions. However, it’s a great place to start before moving on to ACT-specific practice.

On Khan Academy, students create a profile with an SAT Dashboard that guides them through video lessons, quizzes, and practice questions with detailed explanations. Students focusing on the ACT can skip the full-length practice SAT tests.

Of course, this resource is quite limited as there’s no tutor or instructor to guide students, craft learning plans, and answer questions—and students will eventually want to learn ACT-specific content and strategies.

Best for:

  • Khan Academy’s SAT prep platform is a good starting place for students who want to practice some fundamentals for the ACT independently with just the test content, no strategy tips — and are willing to overlook the references to the SAT.

At a glance:

  • Cost: $0
  • Tutor qualifications: no instructor, but the materials are approved by the College Board

What we like:

  • Partnership with the College Board (makers of the SAT) means that materials are officially approved
  • Individual math concepts have particularly strong content, great for reviewing with short videos and then doing practice with instant feedback
  • It’s free!

What we don’t like:

  • Designed for the SAT, not the ACT — so while it’s a good starting place, students will want to practice ACT materials and strategies as well
  • Covers only test content, no strategy — and learning the test format and key strategies is an important component of test prep
  • Content is weaker for Reading and Writing sections, especially compared to their content for the Math sections
  • Self-guided platform means that students have to craft their own study plan and decide which areas to practice — and there’s no one to hold them accountable

ACT Tutoring Alternatives (that Didn’t Make the Cut)

#5 - Kaplan

Our Verdict — Big Test Prep with High Minimum Prices

Price: $96–208/hour, $600 minimum package

Along with Princeton Review, Kaplan is one of the other large companies in the test prep space. Because of their size, their tutoring sessions have more of a corporate vibe.

They offer many different package sizes, but lower packages work out to very high hourly rates. Kaplan also forces you to pay almost double if you want to work with a tutor who scored in the top 1% on the ACT.

Their hourly rate does decrease if one purchases a large tutoring package, but their tutor qualifications remain less rigorous than other options.

At a glance:

  • Cost: $1999 for 10 tutoring hours, $2899 for 20 tutoring hours, $3799 for 30 tutoring hours, or $4599 for 40 tutoring hours
  • Tutor qualifications: no specific qualifications

What we like:

  • Large, established test prep company

What we don’t like:

  • Tutors have no required qualifications
  • You have to pay almost double for a tutor who scored in the top 1%, while many other companies require that all their tutors meet this qualification.

#6 - Prep Expert

Our Verdict — Budget Rates with Inexperienced Tutors

Price: $79-99/hour

Better known for their test prep group courses, Prep Expert also offers individual tutoring.

Their tutors are all top 1% scorers on the ACT themselves, which is a good background. However, the tutors may be inexperienced at tutoring and don’t benefit from training, so the quality of teaching may be uneven.

At a glance:

  • Cost: $79-99/hour, with a 4-hour package for $396, an 8-hour package for $712, and a 16-hour package for $1,264.
  • Tutor qualifications: top 1% scorers

What we like:

  • ACT tutors are top 1% scorers

What we don’t like:

  • Refund process is difficult and families have reported that the score increase guarantee may not be honored
  • Tutors don’t have training

#7 - PrepScholar

Our Verdict — Overpriced Tutoring with Limited Guarantee

Price: $120–249/hour, minimum $995 package

PrepScholar is another larger tutoring company that offers tutoring with top scorers.

A major promise that they make is their score increase guarantee of 4 points on the ACT after finishing their program. However, we found this promise a bit misleading—students who don’t manage to achieve the advertised score increase can claim a refund for only the value of their pre-recorded prep videos, which is $397. They can also request continued tutoring for the same number of hours that they originally purchased without additional cost. They can’t request a refund for the majoring of the tutoring cost!

We also noted that PrepScholar’s advertised hourly rate (of $50 per hour) is a bit disingenuous, since it relies on including the independent homework done by the student. Of course, any tutoring service can tutor for four hours at $250/hour, assign the student to practice and watch videos for 16 hours, and then claim that the hourly rate is $50/hour…but that hardly seems fair to clients.

At a glance:

  • Cost: $120–249/hour; $995 for “monitored prep” with 4 hours of tutoring ($249/hr), $1995 for 12 hours of tutoring ($166/hr), $2995 for 20 hours ($150/hr), or $4795 for 40 hours ($119/hr)
  • Tutor qualifications: top 1% scorers

What we like:

  • Tutors are top 1% scorers
  • Tutoring includes their “Automated Prep program”

What we don’t like:

  • More expensive than other options for comparable quality
  • No tutor bios or information about qualifications beyond high ACT scores
  • Disingenuous advertising that includes homework hours to calculate the hourly rate

#8 - Tutoring Service of New York

Our Verdict — New Service with Higher Minimum Package

Price: $112–160/hour ($1200 5-session minimum)

Founded by a former tutor with the now-defunct Ivy Global tutoring service, the Tutoring Service of New York offers test prep and subject-area tutoring online. Most of their tutors are current graduate students, particularly at Columbia University and NYU.

At $1200, their minimum package for ACT tutoring is on the higher side.

At a glance:

  • Cost: $1200 for five 90-minute sessions; $2000 for 10 sessions; $2700 for 16 sessions
  • Tutor qualifications: college graduates, mostly current graduate students at Columbia or NYU

What we like:

  • Qualified tutors, some with Ivy-League backgrounds

What we don’t like:

  • New service, so client reviews are still limited
  • Higher minimum tutoring packages

#9 - StudyPoint

Our Verdict — Corporate Vibe with High Minimum Purchase

Price: $60-120/hour

StudyPoint is an older company with more of a corporate feel. They do not have any specific qualifications for their tutors, like scoring highly on the ACT themselves or graduating from an elite university.

Their main claim is their “guarantee.” This is only available for students who complete at least 30 tutoring hours with their program, which is a lot of tutoring! If students don’t improve their ACT scores after completing their Comprehensive Program, they offer 18 additional tutoring hours (not your money back).

At a glance:

  • Cost: $60-120/hour; Intensive Program with 60 tutoring hours, Comprehensive Program with 30 tutoring hours, Review Program with 18 tutoring hours (no score increase guarantee)
  • Tutor qualifications: no specific qualifications

What we like:

  • Additional 18 hours of tutoring if students complete at least 30 tutoring hours and don’t improve by 4 points on the ACT

What we don’t like:

  • High minimum purchase
  • No specific tutor qualifications
  • Limited score increase guarantee
  • Secretive about pricing — clients need to call to receive pricing information, which is not available online or via email

#10 - SoFlo Tutors

Our Verdict — Young Service Featuring Memes

Price: $75+/hour

Founded by a 24-year-old in Southern Florida (hence their name), SoFlo is a newer company with a young team. They're more focused on the SAT, but have recently expanded to include some ACT tutoring as well.

Their tutors are top 1% scorers themselves and are current college students or recent graduates. We would have loved to see the bios of more of their tutors — they only provide six tutor bios on their website, and a few more in their brochure.

Their website has a younger feel, with a section devoted to SAT memes.

At a glance:

  • Cost: $75–90/hour
  • Tutor qualifications: top 1% scorers from top schools

What we like:

  • Tutors are top 1% scorers and from top schools
  • Reasonable pricing

What we don’t like:

  • New company with young leadership, with less experience
  • No specific option to work with more experienced tutors who have graduated college
  • More focused on the SAT than on the ACT

#11 - Parker Academics

Our Verdict — Higher Rates for Outdated ACT Tutoring 

Price: $200/hour

Based in New York City, Parker Academics is a high-end tutoring service offering online ACT test prep. Like PrepMaven and Elite Ivy Tutors, their tutors are graduates of Ivy-League institutions, but their fees are higher.

Parker Academics is more focused on the SAT than the ACT. We also noted that their materials online are a little bit dated (this is especially evident for their SAT materials, since the SAT has undergone changes more recently).

At a glance:

  • Cost: $200/hour
  • Tutor qualifications: Ivy-League graduates

What we like:

  • Tutors are Ivy grads

What we don’t like:

  • More expensive than other options for comparable quality
  • More focused on the SAT than on the ACT
  • Website is not up-to-date, which suggests a lack of attention to their materials

#12 - LA Tutors

Our Verdict — Higher Rates for Less-Qualified Tutors

Price: $160–200/hour

Based in Los Angeles, San Francisco, and New York City, LA Tutors is a larger tutoring company. They offer limited “guaranteed results” for students who complete all tutoring sessions and homework, and take the ACT within a certain specified timeframe.

Their prices are on the higher side, but their tutors are not necessarily top scorers on the ACT themselves or graduates of elite universities.

At a glance:

  • Cost: $160–200/hour
  • Tutor qualifications: college graduates

What we like:

  • Good insights on their blog about college admissions and testing

What we don’t like:

  • Tutors are mostly not from Ivy-Plus schools — tutors are primarily college graduates but not from the most elite institutions
  • Fees are high given the credentials of the tutors

#13 - Elite Ivy Tutors

Our Verdict — Pricey Service with Long Sessions

Price: $200–300/hour

Elite Ivy Tutors (EIT) is a small team offering tutoring from Ivy-League graduates. However, they do not publish crucial information about pricing and tutoring logistics, and we found them to be slow to respond to client emails.

Unique among the tutoring services we researched, EIT schedules sessions that are two or three hours long, rather than sixty or ninety minutes long. This length of time can be challenging for students.

At a glance:

  • Cost: $200/hour, or $300/hour to work directly with the company founder
  • Tutor qualifications: Ivy-League graduates

What we like:

  • ACT tutors are Ivy grads

What we don’t like:

  • Website is confusing and lacks information
  • Long tutoring sessions of two or three hours at a time can be challenging for students
  • Higher prices than other tutoring services also offering the chance to work with Ivy-League grads

#14 - Summit Prep

Our Verdict — Less-qualified Tutors

Price: $175-225/hour

Summit Prep is a tutoring and admissions counseling company located in New Jersey. The majority of their tutors are not graduates of elite institutions, yet their fees are higher than services with comparable instructors.

At a glance:

  • Cost: $175-225/hour
  • Tutor qualifications: mostly college graduates

What we like:

  • Good insights on their blog about college admissions and testing
  • ACT tutors are full-time instructors with more extensive training

What we don’t like:

  • Majority of tutors are not from Ivy-Plus schools — tutors are primarily college graduates but the majority of them are not from elite institutions

#15 - Varsity Tutors

Our Verdict — Uneven Quality Without Budget Pricing 

Price: $75–95/hour

A bit like Uber for tutoring, Varsity Tutors is an enormous tutoring platform offering online instruction in all academic subjects and test prep, including ACT prep.

However, its size has many downsides — most notably, very uneven quality of teaching. Tutors can be very quickly approved and are paid lower rates than nearly any other tutoring company (just $15 for sessions that cost families $95), so it’s difficult for them to attract and retain good talent.

Varsity Tutors also does not provide any tutor materials, curriculum, or training, so it’s up to individual tutors to create everything from scratch, contributing further to the unevenness of quality.

For families on a budget, we’d suggest the Standard Tutor option at PrepMaven (taught by Ivy-League students starting at $79/hour), Prep Expert ($69–89/hour), or SoFlo Tutors (taught by current students at $60–90/hour). If those options still don’t fit the budget, we’d recommend looking for an independent tutor on Wyzant (quality varies but you might find a decent tutor under $40/hour).

At a glance:

  • Cost: $75–95/hour
  • Tutor qualifications: high school graduates

What we like:

  • Large number of tutors, so certain to find a tutor to fit your schedule

What we don’t like:

  • Uneven teaching quality due to lack of resources for instruction
  • No education or training requirements for tutors, along with low pay rates for instructors, means tutors are less-qualified than alternative ACT tutoring services

Yale University
Yale University (Image Credit: Flickr user m10229 Creative Commons CC BY 2.0)

Top 75 ACT Tutoring Services Considered

  • PrepMaven
  • Khan Academy
  • The Princeton Review
  • Kaplan
  • Prep Expert
  • PrepScholar
  • Peterson’s
  • Ivy Bound
  • College Prep Genius
  • Varsity Tutors
  • Sylvan
  • Green Test Prep
  • Higher Scores Test Prep
  • Excel Test Prep
  • Best in Class
  • CollegeVine
  • Prepare
  • College Drive
  • Love the SAT
  • Method Learning
  • SAT Blitz
  • The Answer Class
  • Trudeau Prep
  • Test Prep 4 Success
  • Private Prep
  • Manhattan Review
  • Olive Book
  • Veritas
  • Manhattan Elite Prep
  • Advantage Testing
  • New Summits
  • Parker Academics
  • LA Tutors
  • Summit Prep
  • Elite Ivy Tutors
  • Study Point
  • Huntington Learning Center
  • eTutorWorld
  • Manhattan Review
  • J & J Education
  • Boston Tutoring Services
  • Livius Prep
  • AJ Tutoring
  • Hack Your Course
  • Tiger Campus
  • Brains and Brawn
  • Bulldog Tutors
  • Denver Test Prep
  • Sexton Test Prep
  • First Choice College
  • Vint Hill Educational Services
  • Genesis Tutoring
  • Applerouth
  • Signet Education
  • Tutor Chase
  • Spires
  • Preply
  • TeacherOn
  • Socratic Summer Academy
  • MyGuru
  • Cates Tutoring
  • Kweller Prep
  • Krupnick Approach
  • Revolution Prep
  • Beyond the Test
  • Everest Tutoring
  • MathTowne
  • Gooroo
  • Bay Area Learning Center
  • McElroy Tutoring
  • Outschool
  • Leap2College
  • Tutor Corps
  • ClearPath Advantage
  • Cardinal Education
Harvard University
Harvard University

What is the ACT?

Each year, roughly 2 million high school students take the ACT. 

Along with the SAT, the ACT is a key component of college admissions. Colleges use test scores to gauge a student’s college readiness.

While many schools went test-optional during the pandemic, that's recently changing. Elite schools like MIT are reinstating mandatory test scores as part of the application process. According to an article from Boston University's Associate Dean of Strategic Initiatives, additional schools like Yale, Brown, and Dartmouth are also now requiring ACT/SAT scores.

So, for students targeting top universities, either the SAT or ACT is once again a must! Younger students can also use test scores for admission to gifted and talented programs.

For students whose grades may have slipped during high school, test scores can also be used to show admissions officers your potential.

Finally, test scores are a handy tool for students to figure out where they might be a competitive applicant. Wondering if you have a chance at getting into Harvard? Not sure if University of Illinois is a reach school or a safety school for you? Test scores can help you there [link to other post].

Check out our other posts for more information about how the ACT is scored, when to take the ACT, and how the ACT is different from the SAT. We also have many free test prep resources. For more test prep guidance, schedule a call with Jessica or one of our founders today!

* 2.2 million students of the class of 2020 took the SAT, a record high. Due to Covid, this number dipped to 1.5 million for the class of 2021. (source: College Board)

Duke University
Duke University

Why work with a private ACT tutor?

You may want to consider working with an ACT tutor if:

  • You have no idea where to start in order to prepare for the ACT
  • You feel overwhelmed by all of the different ACT prep books and materials and don’t know which to choose
  • You have a hard time keeping yourself on track and want an external structure to hold you accountable
  • You’re not sure how to track your progress
  • You’ve been practicing on your own but your gains have plateaued
  • You have a limited amount of time and need to be efficient in your studying
  • You want to learn techniques for managing test anxiety
  • You want insider tips about test strategies
  • You want more individualized attention than you’d get in a prep class with other students
  • You want to learn efficiently, with each lesson tailored to your exact needs
  • You’re a high scorer who would be bored in a general prep class
  • You’re a lower scorer who would benefit from more focused help
  • You have specific gaps in your knowledge (e.g. missed a few months of geometry due to Covid, an injury, a family move, etc.) and need a tutor to teach this material

With our ACT students, we typically see students increase their scores by about 3–10 points after working with a tutor. These numbers might seem small, but that’s because for the ACT, every point counts. A score increase of 3 points can have a significant impact on college admissions.

Harvard University
Harvard University

What makes a good ACT tutor?

Like with any other test, it’s possible to improve your performance on the ACT with the right practice and preparation.

However, specific preparation for the ACT is usually not taught in schools, so students and families are on their own preparing for it.

Guidance with ACT prep comes in two main forms: group classes or individual tutoring. Many students combine the two, following an ACT group class with some one-on-one tutoring to focus on a tailored approach for that student’s strengths and weaknesses.

In this post, though, we focused on ACT individual tutoring.

These days, many tutoring sessions are online. This allows students to seek out the best tutor regardless of their physical location, which is great!

The most important aspect of a good ACT tutoring experience is the teacher. Tutoring sessions should be taught by experienced instructors who know the test inside and out and have helped many other students. The instructors should be people who scored highly on the test themselves, ideally in the top 1%

Classes should begin with a diagnostic test and a detailed score report to analyze a student’s starting point.

An ACT tutor can introduce the test format and de-mystify the test for students and families. A good tutor will make sure that students are using the best available resources for studying and practice.

Especially since the beginning of the COVID-19 pandemic, many students have had interruptions in their education, resulting in knowledge gaps that can cause difficulties on the ACT and for years to come. 

A perceptive tutor will find these gaps and help to fill them by teaching whatever material a student needs. Working one-on-one is unparalleled in its efficacy for remedying these interruptions in a student’s learning, since a tutor can notice these gaps much more easily than a teacher with a classroom full of students.

Whatever students are struggling with, a good tutor will spot those skill gaps and teach that material in an encouraging way.

Stanford University
Stanford University (Image Credit: Frank Schulenburg Creative Commons CC BY-SA 4.0)

Managing test preparation and studying can also be stressful for family dynamics. Working with a tutor means that parents don’t have to be involved directly — the tutor can be the one to assign homework, establish holistic studying schedules, and track progress.

A good ACT tutor takes a lot of the stress out of the ACT process and makes sure students are practicing effectively. Tutors can provide students with study materials and guide students in using them correctly

Thorough ACT tutors can also help students to make a holistic study plan and keep them on track, so that parents don’t have to be involved directly. 

Effective ACT tutors will assign structured homework so that students can practice constructively with official test questions. There are a very limited number of official practice tests, so it’s important to make the most of them! 

Good ACT tutors will help students work through missed problems and answer students’ questions.

In addition, there are many strategies and tricks that can make the test easier. Unlike some self-directed courses and books, a good ACT tutor can share these tricks with students and guide them through implementing test strategies.

Finally, a great ACT tutor will be a cheerleader for the student. An experienced ACT tutor can help students to learn ways to manage test anxiety and learn key study strategies — both of which will be super valuable for the rest of their academic careers and beyond. 

A great ACT tutor will encourage their students and leave them feeling confident and ready for the ACT!

Princeton University
Princeton University


Summary

Best overall: PrepMaven’s one-on-one ACT tutoring is the best out there both in terms of tutor quality and price. Starting at just $79/hour, students can work with current undergraduates at Princeton, Harvard, and other Ivy-League universities to prepare for the ACT. Families can also work with experienced, professional educators and Ivy-League graduates at $149/hour. As a boutique tutoring service, PrepMaven offers careful attention to each student and boasts amazing customer reviews.

Best of the big companies: The Princeton Review (no connection to Princeton University) is one of the biggest and most well-known companies. Their tutoring is pricey, but a solid option. Instructors go through a more extensive training process than at many other competitors, but there’s no requirement for instructors to be graduates of top schools or high scorers themselves.

Best on a budget: For families on a tighter budget, we’d suggest looking for an independent ACT tutor on Wyzant. It’s a tutoring marketplace platform, so the quality varies hugely and there’s no oversight or qualification requirements, but you might find a decent tutor under $40/hour.

However, in our experience a good tutor can accomplish more with a student in one hour than an average tutor can do in five hours. With that in mind, it might be more effective to combine free resources like Khan Academy with a few hours of high-quality tutoring.

Best self-guided: For motivated and organized students ready to work independently, Khan Academy has amazing free content. They've developed a fantastic SAT prep platform, and while it's obviously for the wrong test, there's so much overlap between the SAT and the ACT that this material works well for laying foundations for the ACT. Eventually, students will want to brush up on ACT-specific material and strategies.

University of Chicago
University of Chicago (Image Credit: Nicomachian Creative Commons CC BY-SA 4.0)

Next steps

Ready to begin ACT tutoring? Schedule a free test prep consultation with Jessica (Director of Tutoring) or one of our founders to see what would be the best fit for your family.

It’s always best to start early and not wait until the last minute to prepare for the ACT! Remember that test scores can be used to earn scholarships as well as college admission, so a few months of study now can pay off with up to $300,000 in tuition saved later. 

Students who achieve their goal score earlier on in high school can relax and not worry about testing at the end of their junior year (the most important year for grades, and when many students are focused on AP tests) or in the beginning of their senior year, when most students are working on college essays. 

To start one-on-one ACT tutoring today, set up a quick free consultation with our team.


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SAT vs ACT: Everything You Need to Know
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Your Complete ACT Guide for 2021




Varsity Tutors Review

Research conducted by Emily Kierkegaard, PhD, and expert-reviewed by Kevin Wong, PrepMaven Co-founder

These days Varsity Tutors operates the largest platform for online tutoring in the US.

Considering using Varsity Tutors for tutoring or live online classes? Read our in-depth review first.

We did the hard work of interviewing students, families, and instructors with Varsity Tutors to get the inside scoop about their services. We backed that up with hours of research to answer all of your questions about Varsity Tutors.


Varsity Tutors Review: Fast Facts

  • The average cost of an hour of tutoring with Varsity Tutors varies, but ranges from $70 to $100.
  • To lock in lower rates, you'll have to commit to a 6 month subscription or longer.
  • One-on-one tutoring is available for a wide range of subjects and for all ages (K-8 students, high school students, college students, and adults).
  • It takes on average 2–4 days to be matched with a tutor and start sessions.
  • On-demand video courses and live group classes are also available for many subjects.
  • Instructors with Varsity Tutors do not have any specific credentials or training, despite marketing claims.
  • The quality of tutoring is hit-or-miss according to many reviews.

Not sure what kind of tutoring is the right fit?


Varsity Tutors Review: Range of Services

Based in St. Louis, Varsity Tutors has grown rapidly in recent years to become the largest online tutoring platform in the US. They offer a variety of services including:

  • Individual tutoring for academic subject areas (Math, English, Physics, History, etc.)
  • Individual tutoring for test prep (SAT, ACT, GRE, LSAT, etc.)
  • Live group bootcamp classes for test prep (SAT, ACT)
  • Live group classes and workshops in enrichment subjects
  • On-demand videos for academic and enrichment subjects

Most of their tutoring is focused on core skills in reading, writing, math, and test prep for the SAT and ACT. In recent years, especially with the Covid-19 pandemic, they’ve expanded to offer more classes in “enrichment subjects” like how to draw animals, use Microsoft Excel, or perform magic tricks.

These educational services are offered for a wide age range:

  • Kindergarten through 8th grade
  • High school
  • College
  • Adult

Varsity Tutors now offers “Learning Membership Plans” that combine live group classes with limited hours of individual tutoring for a recurring monthly fee.

Rating: 9/10


Varsity Tutors Review: Price

One common complaint about Varsity Tutors is that they’re not transparent with their pricing. For the most part, their rates are not posted online, and can only be ascertained by scheduling a call with one of their sales reps, where they’re notoriously pushy.

However, we’ve done some research to discover important information about their pricing. Here’s what we found:

The cost of one-on-one tutoring with Varsity Tutors ranges from $70 to $100 per hour, depending on which package clients purchase:

Varsity Tutors’ Learning Membership plans combine unlimited group enrichment classes with 4 hours of tutoring per month. The cost for Learning Membership plans are as follows:

  • $1,794 for 6 months ($299/month)
  • $3,228 for 12 months ($269/month)

Varsity Tutors promises that these classes cover most schools subjects from K-12, and they also heavily promote some celebrity classes (a "backpack magic" course taught by Justin Willman, for example) which are interesting but not necessarily academically useful.

It's important to note that these learning membership plans don't cover subjects like test prep or college essay coaching.

Varsity Tutors also offers group test prep bootcamps for SAT and ACT prep in three different time frames: as a one-week bootcamp, spread out over four weeks, or spread out over eight weeks. These group classes do not include any full practice tests or additional support  for students outside of class time. Regardless of the time frame, the cost for each test prep bootcamp is the same:

  • $525 for 16 hours of group class

These prices are very high given the quality of the tutoring and classes (more on that below). 

student frustrated with laptop

Varsity Tutors' rates put them in the same range as higher-end tutoring services with Ivy-League tutors and instructors with graduate degrees or years of experience — for example, families can consider tutoring with elite Ivy-League tutors at PrepMaven starting at $66/hour, with top scorers at SoFlo ($60–90/hour), or with graduate students from the Tutoring Service of New York ($112–160/hour).

However, the actual quality of their services is more in line with competitors like Pearson ($38–42/hour), Skooli ($39–49/hour), and Learner ($40+/hour).

It’s also possible to find some good individual tutors on the marketplace Wyzant in the $50–90/hour range, and budget-friendly tutors with rates from around $20/hour.

In this context, Varsity Tutors is glaringly overpriced.

Rating: 3/10


Varsity Tutors Review: Tutor Qualifications

Probably the single most important aspect in determining the outcome of tutoring is the individual tutor.

These days, there are many online tutoring platforms. If you pay attention, you’ll notice that tutor qualifications vary hugely

On some platforms, tutors could be recent graduates of high school, while other platforms might offer tutors with Master’s or PhDs. Some tutors might have degrees from local colleges, while other tutors might have Ivy-League experience and degrees from Harvard or Princeton. And some platforms might hire tutors after a short questionnaire and let them start teaching immediately, while others might have a competitive interview process and rigorous tutor training.

In the end, it comes down to this question: who do you want teaching your student?

teacher with whiteboard

With Varsity Tutors, all tutors have at least a high school diploma, and most have a college degree. A small handful of tutors might have Ivy-League degrees (these are the ones the company tends to feature for marketing), but most tutors studied at local or less-competitive schools. 

Since clients cannot choose which tutor they work with, it’s up to luck what credentials the selected tutor will have.

All tutors with Varsity Tutors have passed a background check. This is not mandatory for tutors on Wyzant, but it’s possible to see on each tutor’s profile whether they’re taken a background check. 

Tutors with Varsity Tutors become “certified” in individual subject areas. However, this is a bit misleading, as in most cases certification requires simply passing a 10-question online quiz.

Past teaching experience is not required for tutors with Varsity Tutors.

Aspiring tutors can join the Varsity Tutors team within just a few days, and there is no training for tutors with Varsity Tutors. This means that the quality of teaching is very uneven.

Despite implications in their marketing that clients can select individual tutors, Varsity Tutors does not allow families to select the tutor.

Instead, their headquarters has complete control over matching students with tutors. Families and students answer a questionnaire about the student’s learning goals, personality, and schedule. Then Varsity Tutor’s central team sends this student profile out to all tutors for that subject area. Tutors can then respond to indicate interest, and from this pool of tutors Varsity will select the best match.

teacher with whiteboard

Some families get lucky and are paired with a great tutor who knows the subject material and works well with the student’s personality and learning style.

Some families are less lucky and are stuck with tutors who are woefully underprepared or even unprofessional. It’s a bit of a gamble!

Some comments from clients:

“They sell you their service as if it was perfect until they get your money. They entice you to sign up for 2 years, 1 year, several months or 1 month, to get your money. Then you get stuck with mediocrity. They promise high quality tutors and they certainly don’t deliver.”

“A serious lack of professionalism in the tutors working here. If you are okay with only a 40% chance of receiving a competent tutor, that's on you.”

“They have not been able to assign me a good qualified tutor. Most of the tutors they have are college students while with the amount they charge, I had expected to have a qualified and experienced tutor.”

“My tutor could not help me with my homework at all; he knew as little about how to solve my math problem as I did. I have never been more upset or disappointed.”

“I was with the company for two months, and they never found me an adequate tutor.”

“The tutor Varsity provided to my daughter was woefully under-qualified. Despite the fact that I spent half an hour outlining my daughter's class course requirements and even specific areas within that class, they still sent someone who barely knew the materials. As a result, my daughter wasted 1.5 hours learning nothing.”

Based on our research, it seems that it’s harder to get a qualified tutor when looking for help with more advanced subject material, especially math and physics.

When you learn more about Varsity Tutors’ business model, this is less surprising.

That’s because Varsity Tutors pays their instructors only about 15% of the cost of the lesson. The tutors that clients might pay $95/hour to learn from will earn only $11–15/hour, depending on the subject. That’s lower than driving for Uber.

That low pay rate makes it difficult for Varsity Tutors to attract and retain good teaching talent. Tutors who are excellent teachers or who come from elite universities will prefer to work for other educational services that pay more fairly.

student working on laptop

Families who are specifically looking to work with an Ivy-League or highly-credentialed tutor might consider a more selective tutoring service like PrepMaven ($66–349/hour) or Elite Ivy Tutors ($200–300/hour), which hire only the best Ivy-League tutors with extensive teaching experience and impressive credentials.

Rating: 4/10


Varsity Tutors Review: Other Aspects of Educational Quality

The experience and abilities of the tutor or instructor are without doubt the single most important factors in the overall quality of the educational experience, but there are other aspects to consider, as well.

Timing

It’s not possible to choose your specific tutor with Varsity Tutors. Instead, for one-on-one tutoring, clients fill out a short questionnaire about preferences and then are paired with the best available tutor. Typically it takes several days to go through this process and connect with the tutor to schedule the first sessions, even though they may promise a tutor match sooner:

“I looked for a subject and was effusively ensured that a tutor will be found in 24 to 48 hours — and I needed one indeed! After buying a particular package, here I am, 48 hours later, with no help.”

“I contacted Varsity Tutors to help me pass a math class. They want $630 for 9 hours which works out to $70/hour and it would take one whole week to connect with your tutor they assign you. You don't even get to choose.”

However, Varsity Tutors also has an option for “instant tutoring” that can be started in as little as seconds. Of course, with this option students don’t work with a consistent tutor, so it’s less effective for learning, but can be helpful if students need a little specific help ASAP. The tutors available on “instant tutoring” are also less likely to be qualified in the specific subject area:

“I will spend 2 hours trying to find a tutor through instant tutoring and when I finally find one they don't know how to do any of the problems. I have met with two different tutors in person and they were both incompetent.”

The minimum lesson length is one hour, and many subjects (like SAT and ACT prep) are only available in two-hour tutoring sessions. This works for many students, but might be tough for the youngest students or those with busy schedules who are trying to squeeze in shorter lessons:

“Overall the tutors have been amazing. The only thing I would change is offering tutoring options for less than an hour per week. At my son’s age, an hour is really pushing his attention span. Also, it seems like the matching process doesn’t really take the availability I entered into account so the times that the tutor and I are able to set aren’t that convenient for my schedule.”

With Varsity Tutors there is a standard requirement for at least 24 hours’ notice in order to cancel a scheduled session. Sessions canceled with less than 24 hours’ notice will still be charged.

student in online classroom

Group classes

Like their one-on-one tutoring, their group classes vary quite a bit in quality as well. 

We like how the class sizes for “small group” classes are indeed small, with 6–9 students.

However, clients have noted that many of the “large group” classes they offer consist primarily of videos, with very little live teaching or interaction with the instructor. 

“Our son also noticed the quality of classes got worse over the course of the year. Some of the classes being “taught” were 90% watching videos. He also wasn’t impressed with the knowledge of a decent amount of the teachers.”

Question banks

Varsity Tutors has created some impressively large question banks for various subjects like “angle geometry” or “comma errors.”

The quality of these questions, however, varies quite a bit. In particular, the question banks for concepts covered by standardized tests like the SAT or ACT are not accurate representations of the types of questions or question styles that actually appear on the exams. Many are too easy, too hard, the wrong format, or simply material that does not appear on the tests. For that reason, we recommend caution when using these question banks to study and practice.

pencil shavings

Curricula and other educational materials

Varsity Tutors does not provide curricula or lesson plans for individual tutoring sessions — it’s up to the individual tutors to create any lesson materials and make an educational plan for their students. Some tutors do this well, but other tutors don’t do any planning! As with many other aspects of Varsity Tutors, this makes the educational quality quite inconsistent.

In our opinion, the lack of consistency in lesson planning is antithetical to the point of working with a large company rather than hiring an individual freelance tutor.

They do not monitor the sessions, no matter what they tell you, they don't. The tutors are unorganized and basically are just there to make a buck. They set no goals for the students, they do no prep for the sessions and do not give the students any work outside of the sessions themselves to further the goal of good scores. They waste the session time doing two or three problems and that's it. No test tips. No looking at past scores or breakdown of prior tests. Just stay away.”

Clients have commented that the content of the large group classes varies quite a bit as well.

Rating: 6/10


Varsity Tutors Review: Online Platform

Varsity Tutors used to offer up to half of their tutoring sessions in-person, but these days they’ve transitioned to primarily online.

Varsity Tutors’ online platform is one place where they shine. They’ve built a custom online classroom that allows tutors and students to collaborate on the same whiteboard in a way that’s slightly more flexible than the whiteboard on Zoom. 

(On Varsity Tutors’ platform, it’s possible to paste multiple images onto the same whiteboard and then draw everywhere, and both students and tutors can easily toggle between multiple “pages” of the whiteboard.)

Of course, sometimes there can be tech problems with the online classroom, but during US business hours there’s a tech support line available to help troubleshoot problems. Overall, we found their platform to be less buggy than some of the competition that relies on old web platforms (like Pearson or Princeton Review/Tutor.com). 

The rest of their online experience is modern and clean, as well.

Rating: 9/10


Varsity Tutors Review: Customer Service

On the whole, customer service with Varsity Tutors seems to be stronger than the quality of their instructors. Many clients found their customer service team to be helpful in addressing questions, although not always:

“Once a tutor is identified, your service drops off to zero and I question what your service provides except for a tech platform and a lottery match with potential tutors.”

They offer a “Tutor Satisfaction Guarantee”: if you’re not satisfied with your tutor via Varsity Tutors, they’ll pair you with a new tutor and give you a free tutoring session (up to two hours of tutoring). 

One recurring theme with past clients, however, is frustration that it’s not possible to get your money back.

So while you can request to try a new tutor, there’s no way to back out of the rest of your tutoring package — and with a minimum package of $1,140 for 12 hours of tutoring, that’s some serious commitment!

student working with online tutoring

Similarly, families who purchased the monthly subscription plan for 6 months or 1 year have commented that it was impossible to cancel the subscription, and that they had to contact their credit card companies to block the recurring charge.

“This is a scam. They will sign you up for 1 year of service for $270/month, with no cancellation. Deceptive language.”

“They make you pay a lot of money for mediocre tutors. They take your money and miss-sell the subscription and they won't agree to cancel it.”

Depending on the agreed contract, the tutoring hours purchased can either be used indefinitely or they can have an expiration date. Many past clients expressed frustration that the hours they had paid for expired — and that Varsity Tutors did not warn them before this happened.

“Our experience with the tutors was not a good match, and then the hours that you pay for can expire, so you are not able to reserve them until more help is needed. We wound up paying a lot of money for nothing.”

“Don't use Varsity Tutors. Only have a certain amount of time where you can use the hours you've spent money on... Do not tell you until your time is almost up.”

Finally, Varsity Tutors is well-known for aggressive sales tactics and frequent sales calls:

“Our tutor is great, and gives my child lots of fun while learning! Communication with Varsity is not so great, though. I get calls from them trying to sell me more tutoring, but NOT when they are planning to "expire" my sessions — even when we are actively using and scheduling them.”

“Deducted a star due to the multiple calls I received when we ran out of hours at the end of the school year.”

Rating: 7/10


Varsity Tutors Review: Final Verdict

Overall, Varsity Tutors is disappointing. 

While Varsity Tutors markets themselves as a “high-end” tutoring platform, we’re ultimately not convinced. Only a handful of their thousands of tutors have Ivy-League degrees or substantial teaching experience — most of their tutors don’t come from top-tier universities and don’t have relevant professional experience. There’s no curricula or lesson materials and little oversight of sessions from the company, and the educational quality does not live up to our expectations.

Some individual tutors with the platform are great, but as students and families can’t choose the tutor, there is a significant element of luck. Their “instant tutoring” option is very convenient, but again, the effectiveness of the tutor varies.

Their custom online platform is great, and their customer service is often helpful. However, many clients feel frustrated with the inability to request a refund for unused tutoring sessions or cancel their monthly subscription.

Princeton University
Princeton University

If students and families are looking for a more hands-on tutoring company with carefully selected Ivy-League tutors with prior teaching experience and specific training, we recommend working with a more selective tutoring service like PrepMaven ($66–349/hour) or Elite Ivy Tutors ($200–300/hour), where all of the tutors are from elite schools with impressive backgrounds, and where the quality of instruction is consistently very high. 

Overall Rating: 5/10


Schedule a short free consultation with an educational consultant today!



15 Best PSAT Tutoring Services for 2024 (75 Tutoring Services Reviewed)

Research conducted by Emily Kierkegaard, PhD, and expert-reviewed by Kevin Wong, PrepMaven Co-founder

Looking for the best PSAT tutoring service? We conducted days of research and compared the top 75 tutoring services, created in-depth reviews for 15 of them, and narrowed it down to the 4 best that will help you increase your PSAT scores and compete for scholarships.

(Not sure what the PSAT is in the first place, and if it matters? Read on to learn why it counts and which students in particular should take it seriously!)

What is the Best PSAT Tutoring?

  1. PrepMaven – best PSAT tutoring overall
  2. Princeton Review – best of the big test prep companies
  3. Wyzant – alternative for families on a budget
  4. Khan Academy – honorable mention for self-guided PSAT & SAT prep

The best of the rest:

  1. Kaplan – big test prep with high minimum purchase
  2. Prep Expert – budget rates with inexperienced tutors
  3. PrepScholar – overpriced tutoring with limited guarantee
  4. Tutoring Service of New York – new service with higher minimum package
  5. StudyPoint – corporate vibe with high minimum purchase
  6. SoFlo Tutors – young service featuring memes
  7. Parker Academics – higher rates for outdated PSAT tutoring
  8. LA Tutors – higher rates for less-qualified instructors
  9. Elite Ivy Tutors – pricey service with long sessions
  10. Summit Prep – less-qualified instructors
  11. Varsity Tutors – uneven quality, no extras


Best PSAT Tutoring in 2022

#1 - PrepMaven

Our Verdict — Best PSAT Tutoring Overall

Price: $79–349/hour

When comparing quality of teaching, price, and customer service, PrepMaven comes out on top.

PrepMaven has assembled an impressive team of Ivy-League tutors to provide one-on-one PSAT tutoring. Most tutors are Princeton graduates with extensive teaching experience. Many of PrepMaven’s tutors were also National Merit Finalists and Scholarship winners (the ultimate goal of high-achieving students when they take the PSAT).

A boutique education company founded by two brothers, both Princeton graduates passionate about teaching, PrepMaven offers more individualized learning experiences than bigger test prep companies. Tutors undergo a thorough training process that allows them to effectively teach students how to take advantage of the standardized nature of the test.

With a range of price points depending on tutor qualifications, families are able to find the right fit for their budget. At just $79/hour, families can work with current students at the most elite universities in the country, like Princeton and Harvard. PrepMaven’s Master level ($149/hour) provides one-on-one tutoring with Ivy-League graduates who have extensive teaching and test prep experience — a lower price than other tutoring services, for more elite instructors. It’s also possible to work one-on-one with the very best tutors at $349/hr, and there is the opportunity to work directly with the founders of the company.

Recommended by US News, PrepMaven also provides free resources for test prep and regularly shares insights garnered from connections with former admissions officers.

Best for:

PrepMaven’s one-on-one PSAT tutoring is the best option for anyone looking for high-quality PSAT prep.

At a glance:

  • Cost: $79–349/hour, depending on tutor qualifications
  • Tutor qualifications: Ivy-League students and graduates (mostly from Princeton) with extensive teaching experience

What we like:

  • Experienced Ivy-League tutors, selected for their passion for education and working with students
  • Competitive pricing — rates are lower than other options for highly qualified tutors
  • Impressive client reviews — hundreds of 5-star reviews on Google and other independent review platforms
  • More individualized learning experience compared to large companies

MIT
MIT

#2 - Princeton Review

Our Verdict — Best of the Big Test Prep Companies

Price: $167–190/hour

The Princeton Review actually has no connection to Princeton University.

However, they’re still well-known in their own right as a large educational company, as well as the publishers of many test prep and college admissions guides.

Tutors with the Princeton Review receive extensive training. They are not required to be Ivy-League graduates or have scored highly themselves on standardized tests like the SAT, ACT, or GRE.

Best for:

  • Princeton Review is a good option for families who want to work with one of the largest test prep companies.

At a glance:

  • Cost: $167–190/hour
  • Tutor qualifications: trained instructors; no specific requirements for high SAT scores or top school

What we like:

  • Large, established test prep company

What we don’t like:

  • No specific qualification requirements for tutors—although tutors have more extensive training than some other companies
Stanford University
Stanford University (Image Credit: King of Hearts Creative Commons CC BY-SA 3.0)

#3 - Wyzant


Our Verdict — Alternative for Families on a Budget

Price: $20–600/hour

There are plenty of large platforms with large stables of part-time tutors and coaches available to work with students. Wyzant is one of the largest such platforms, with more than 65,000 tutors providing services through their website. Students and families can pick individual tutors to work with from their roster and arrange tutoring services directly.

One benefit of this model is that tutors can set their own rates, which vary hugely. Families on a budget can find online PSAT tutors as low as $20 per hour. However, these tutors might not have any experience or training, and they may not have scored highly on the PSAT themselves or graduated from a top school. Tutors with more qualifications may have much higher rates, as high as $600 per hour!

Best for:

  • Wyzant is a good option for families on a budget who are willing to find their own tutor and take a gamble on quality

At a glance:

  • Cost: $20–600/hour
  • Tutor qualifications: varies

What we like:

  • Marketplace platform means that some tutors list low rates for tutoring, which can make tutoring more affordable
  • Families can choose their own tutor directly

What we don’t like:

  • No training for tutors—which leads to uneven quality of instruction
  • Families are hiring individual tutors, which means tutor qualifications vary enormously, and there are no guarantees

#4 - Khan Academy

Our Verdict — Honorable Mention for Free Self-Guided PSAT Prep

Price: $0

Khan Academy technically doesn’t belong on this list, since they don’t offer any live PSAT tutoring. However, it’s such a fantastic resource that we’d be remiss not to mention it.

It’s hard to beat completely free, officially-approved test prep! And because the PSAT and SAT are nearly identical (both are made by the College Board), Khan Academy’s SAT resources are also great for prepping for the PSAT.

For motivated and organized students ready to work independently, Khan Academy has amazing content. A non-profit educational organization, Khan Academy has partnered with the College Board (the makers of the SAT) to provide free test prep that’s accessible to everyone. That means that apart from the official practice tests, Khan Academy’s materials are the only other materials officially approved by the College Board.

(Many companies will produce their own “practice tests” that mimic the test but are not official tests. All of the official tests are available for free online from the College Board or in the College Board SAT book.)

Students create a profile with a SAT Dashboard that guides them through video lessons, quizzes, practice questions with detailed explanations, and full-length practice tests.

Of course, this resource is quite limited as there’s no tutor or instructor to guide students, craft learning plans, and answer questions.

Best for:

  • Khan Academy’s SAT prep platform is the best option for anyone who wants to prep independently for the PSAT with just the test content, no strategy tips.

At a glance:

  • Cost: $0
  • Tutor qualifications: no instructor, but the materials are approved by the College Board

What we like:

  • Partnership with the College Board (makers of the SAT and PSAT) means that materials are officially approved
  • Individual math concepts have particularly strong content, great for reviewing with short videos and then doing practice with instant feedback
  • It’s free!

What we don’t like:

  • Covers only test content, no strategy—and learning the test format and key strategies is an important component of test prep
  • Content is weaker for Reading and Writing sections, especially compared to their content for the Math sections
  • Self-guided platform means that students have to craft their own study plan and decide which areas to practice—and there’s no one to hold them accountable
  • Refers to the SAT, not the PSAT—the tests are nearly identical but there are some slight differences, which might confuse students

SAT Tutoring Alternatives (that Didn’t Make the Cut)

#5 - Kaplan

Our Verdict — Big Test Prep with High Minimum Prices

Price: $115–200/hour, $1999 minimum package

Along with Princeton Review, Kaplan is one of the biggest test prep companies. We found their tutoring sessions to have a more corporate vibe, perhaps due to their large size.

Kaplan offers four tutoring packages of different sizes. Their minimum purchase is a package of 10 tutoring hours at $1999. This comes out to $200/hour for tutoring, which is a very steep price—especially considering that their tutors have no required qualifications like high test scores themselves or degrees from top schools!

Their hourly rate does decrease if one purchases a large tutoring package, but their tutor qualifications remain less rigorous than other options.

At a glance:

  • Cost: $1999 for 10 tutoring hours, $2899 for 20 tutoring hours, $3799 for 30 tutoring hours, or $4599 for 40 tutoring hours
  • Tutor qualifications: no specific qualifications

What we like:

  • Large, established test prep company

What we don’t like:

  • Tutors have no required qualifications
  • High minimum purchase of $1999 for 10 hours of tutoring

#6 - Prep Expert

Our Verdict — Budget Rates with Inexperienced Tutors

Price: $59–89/hour

Better known for their SAT prep group courses, Prep Expert also offers individual tutoring that can work for the PSAT.

Their tutors are all top 1% scorers on the SAT themselves, which is a good background for the PSAT. However, the tutors may be inexperienced at tutoring and don’t benefit from training, so the quality of teaching may be uneven.

At a glance:

  • Cost: $59–89/hour; $89/hour for pay-as-you-go, $316 for 4 hours ($79/hour), $552 for 8 hours ($69/hour), or $944 for 16 hours ($59/hour); alternatively, the offer a tutoring subscription service: $299 for 4 hours each month, $499 for 8 hours each month, or $699 for unlimited hours each month
  • Tutor qualifications: top 1% scorers

What we like:

  • PSAT tutors are top 1% scorers

What we don’t like:

  • Refund process is difficult and families have reported that the score increase guarantee may not be honored
  • Tutors don’t have training

#7 - PrepScholar

Our Verdict: Overpriced Tutoring with Limited Guarantee

Price: $130–249/hour, minimum $995 package

PrepScholar is another larger tutoring company that offers tutoring with top scorers on the SAT.

We also noted that PrepScholar’s advertised hourly rate (of $50 per hour) is a bit disingenuous, since it relies on including the independent homework done by the student. Of course, any tutoring service can tutor for four hours at $250/hour, assign the student to practice and watch videos for 16 hours, and then claim that the hourly rate is $50/hour…but that hardly seems fair to families.

At a glance:

  • Cost: $130–249/hour; $995 for “monitored prep” with 4 hours of tutoring ($249/hr), $1995 for 12 hours of tutoring ($166/hr), $2995 for 20 hours ($150/hr), or $6995 for 54 hours ($130/hr)
  • Tutor qualifications: top 1% scorers

What we like:

  • Tutors are top 1% scorers

What we don’t like:

  • More expensive than other options for comparable quality
  • No tutor bios or information about qualifications beyond high SAT scores
  • Disingenuous advertising that includes homework hours to calculate the hourly rate

#8 - Tutoring Service of New York

Our Verdict — New Service with Higher Minimum Package

Price: $112–160/hour ($1200 5-session minimum)

Founded by a former tutor with the now-defunct Ivy Global tutoring service, the Tutoring Service of New York offers test prep and subject-area tutoring online. Most of their tutors are current graduate students, particularly at Columbia University and NYU.

At $1200, their minimum package for PSAT tutoring is on the higher side.

At a glance:

  • Cost: $1200 for five 90-minute sessions; $2000 for 10 sessions; $2700 for 16 sessions
  • Tutor qualifications: college graduates, mostly current graduate students at Columbia or NYU

What we like:

  • Qualified tutors, some with Ivy-League backgrounds

What we don’t like:

  • New service, so client reviews are still limited
  • Higher minimum tutoring packages

#9 - StudyPoint

Our Verdict — Corporate Vibe with High Minimum Purchase

Price: $??/hour

StudyPoint is an older company with more of a corporate feel. They do not have any specific qualifications for their tutors, like scoring highly on the SAT themselves or graduating from an elite university.

Their main claim is their “guarantee.” This is only available for students who complete at least 30 tutoring hours with their program, which is a lot of tutoring! If students don’t improve their SAT scores after completing their Comprehensive Program, they offer 18 additional tutoring hours (not your money back). They are unclear about how this guarantee can be used for PSAT tutoring.

At a glance:

  • Cost: $??/hour; Intensive Program with 60 tutoring hours, Comprehensive Program with 30 tutoring hours, Review Program with 18 tutoring hours (no score increase guarantee)
  • Tutor qualifications: no specific qualifications

What we like:

  • Additional 18 hours of tutoring if students complete at least 30 tutoring hours and don’t improve by 140 points on the SAT (guarantee raises to 220 points if students complete 60 tutoring hours)

What we don’t like:

  • High minimum purchase
  • No specific tutor qualifications
  • Limited score increase guarantee
  • Secretive about pricing — clients need to call to receive pricing information, which is not available online or via email

#10 - SoFlo Tutors

Our Verdict — Young Service Featuring Memes

Price: $60–90/hour

Founded by a 24-year-old in Southern Florida (hence their name), SoFlo is a newer company with a young team.

Their tutors are top 1% scorers themselves and are current college students or recent graduates. We would have loved to see the bios of more of their tutors — they only provide six tutor bios on their website, and a few more in their brochure.

Their website has a younger feel, with a section devoted to SAT memes.

At a glance:

  • Cost: $60–90/hour; $90/hour for pay-as-you-go, $1500 for 20 hours ($75/hour), or $2400 for 40 hours ($60/hour)
  • Tutor qualifications: top 1% scorers from top schools

What we like:

  • Tutors are top 1% scorers and from top schools
  • Reasonable pricing

What we don’t like:

  • New company with young leadership, with less experience
  • No specific option to work with more experienced tutors who have graduated college

#11 - Parker Academics

Our Verdict — Higher Rates for Outdated SAT Tutoring 

Price: $200/hour

Based in New York City, Parker Academics is a high-end tutoring service offering online PSAT test prep. Like PrepMaven and Elite Ivy Tutors, their tutors are graduates of Ivy-League institutions, but their fees are higher.

We noted that their materials online for the SAT and PSAT are outdated, and appear as if they were created shortly after the last significant change to the tests in 2016. However, the SAT and PSAT are about to undergo a major change in 2024, so it’s especially important to work with a tutoring service that’s aware of the latest updates to the tests.

At a glance:

  • Cost: $200/hour
  • Tutor qualifications: Ivy-League graduates

What we like:

  • Tutors are Ivy grads

What we don’t like:

  • More expensive than other options for comparable quality
  • Website is not up-to-date

#12 - LA Tutors

Our Verdict — Higher Rates for Less-Qualified Tutors

Price: $145–185/hour

Based in Los Angeles, San Francisco, and New York City, LA Tutors is a larger tutoring company. They offer limited “guaranteed results” for students who complete all tutoring sessions and homework, and take the SAT within a certain specified timeframe. It's unclear how this guarantee applies to PSAT students.

Their prices are on the higher side, but their tutors are not necessarily top scorers on the SAT themselves or graduates of elite universities.

At a glance:

  • Cost: $145–185/hour
  • Tutor qualifications: college graduates

What we like:

  • Good insights on their blog about college admissions and testing

What we don’t like:

  • Tutors are mostly not from Ivy-Plus schools—tutors are primarily college graduates but not from the most elite institutions
  • Fees are high given the credentials of the tutors

#13 - Elite Ivy Tutors

Our Verdict — Pricey Service with Long Sessions

Price: $200–300/hour

Elite Ivy Tutors (EIT) is a small team offering tutoring from Ivy-League graduates. However, they do not publish crucial information about pricing and tutoring logistics, and we found them to be slow to respond to client emails.

Unique among the tutoring services we researched, EIT schedules sessions that are two or three hours long, rather than sixty or ninety minutes long. This length of time can be challenging for students.

At a glance:

  • Cost: $200/hour, or $300/hour to work directly with the company founder
  • Tutor qualifications: Ivy-League graduates

What we like:

  • Tutors are Ivy grads

What we don’t like:

  • Website is confusing and lacks information
  • Long tutoring sessions of two or three hours at a time can be challenging for students
  • Higher prices than other tutoring services that also offer the chance to work with Ivy-League grads

#14 - Summit Prep

Our Verdict — Less-qualified Tutors

Price: $130–155/hour

Summit Prep is a tutoring and admissions counseling company located in New Jersey. The majority of their tutors are not graduates of elite institutions, yet their fees are higher than services with comparable instructors.

At a glance:

  • Cost: $155/hour (reduced to $130/hour with 50-hour package)
  • Tutor qualifications: mostly college graduates

What we like:

  • Good insights on their blog about college admissions and testing
  • Tutors are full-time instructors with more extensive training

What we don’t like:

  • Majority of tutors are not from Ivy-Plus schools — tutors are primarily college graduates but the majority of them are not from elite institutions

#15 - Varsity Tutors

Our Verdict — Uneven Quality Without Budget Pricing 

Price: $75–95/hour

A bit like Uber for tutoring, Varsity Tutors is an enormous tutoring platform offering online instruction in all academic subjects and test prep, including PSAT prep.

However, the company's size has many downsides — most notably, very uneven quality of teaching. Tutors at Varsity can be very quickly approved and are paid lower rates than nearly any other tutoring company (just $15 for sessions that cost families $95), so it’s difficult for them to attract and retain talented instructors.

Varsity Tutors also does not provide any materials, curriculum, or training for tutoring sessions, so it’s up to individual tutors to create everything from scratch — contributing further to the unevenness of quality.

For families on a budget, we’d suggest considering the Standard Tutor option at PrepMaven (Ivy-League students starting at $79/hour), Prep Expert ($59–89/hour), or SoFlo Tutors (current students at $60–90/hour). If those options still don’t fit the budget, we’d recommend looking for an independent tutor on Wyzant (quality varies but you might find a decent tutor under $40/hour).

At a glance:

  • Cost: $75–95/hour
  • Tutor qualifications: high school graduates

What we like:

  • Large number of tutors, so certain to find a tutor to fit your schedule

What we don’t like:

  • Uneven teaching quality due to lack of resources for instruction
  • No education or training requirements for tutors, along with low pay rates for instructors, means tutors are less-qualified than alternative SAT tutoring services

Duke University
Duke University

Top 75 PSAT Tutoring Services Considered

  • PrepMaven
  • Khan Academy
  • The Princeton Review
  • Kaplan
  • Prep Expert
  • PrepScholar
  • Peterson’s
  • Ivy Bound
  • College Prep Genius
  • Varsity Tutors
  • Sylvan
  • Green Test Prep
  • Higher Scores Test Prep
  • Excel Test Prep
  • Best in Class
  • CollegeVine
  • Prepare
  • College Drive
  • Love the SAT
  • Method Learning
  • SAT Blitz
  • The Answer Class
  • Trudeau Prep
  • Test Prep 4 Success
  • Private Prep
  • Manhattan Review
  • Olive Book
  • Veritas
  • Manhattan Elite Prep
  • Advantage Testing
  • New Summits
  • Parker Academics
  • LA Tutors
  • Summit Prep
  • Elite Ivy Tutors
  • Study Point
  • Huntington Learning Center
  • eTutorWorld
  • Manhattan Review
  • J & J Education
  • Boston Tutoring Services
  • Livius Prep
  • AJ Tutoring
  • Hack Your Course
  • Tiger Campus
  • Brains and Brawn
  • Bulldog Tutors
  • Denver Test Prep
  • Sexton Test Prep
  • First Choice College
  • Vint Hill Educational Services
  • Genesis Tutoring
  • Applerouth
  • Signet Education
  • Tutor Chase
  • Spires
  • Preply
  • TeacherOn
  • Socratic Summer Academy
  • MyGuru
  • Cates Tutoring
  • Kweller Prep
  • Krupnick Approach
  • Revolution Prep
  • Beyond the Test
  • Everest Tutoring
  • MathTowne
  • Gooroo
  • Bay Area Learning Center
  • McElroy Tutoring
  • Outschool
  • Leap2College
  • Tutor Corps
  • ClearPath Advantage
  • Cardinal Education
dormitory at Princeton University
Princeton University (Image Credit: Peter Dutton Creative Commons CC BY 2.0)

What is the PSAT?

Many people have heard of the SAT and the ACT, which are the two main standardized tests used to apply to colleges in the US. Both tests are accepted equally at all colleges and universities, and since there are some differences between the two, many students will try taking both to see on which test they can get a higher score.

The PSAT/NMSQT, or Preliminary Scholastic Aptitude Test and National Merit Scholarship Qualifying Test, is the “practice” SAT. Most students take the SAT in the spring of their junior year, the summer between junior and senior years, or the fall of their senior year. The PSAT, on the other hand, is taken in the fall of junior year.

(There is also the PSAT 8/9, which is a version of the test for students in eighth and ninth grades to track college readiness. The PSAT 10 is exactly the same as the PSAT/NMSQT, but it’s taken in the sophomore year and can’t be used for the National Merit program. More on that in a moment.)

There are a few key differences between the PSAT and the SAT. Whereas the SAT can be taken most months of the year, the PSAT is only offered once a year in mid-October. The PSAT is taken through the student’s school, and there’s no cost to students as fees are paid by the schools. (It’s possible for homeschooled students to sign up for the PSAT at a nearby school; families should contact the school at least four months in advance to register.)

The PSAT is a little bit shorter and a little bit easier than the SAT, but otherwise it’s the same test with the same format. The whole test lasts two hours and forty-five minutes. 

Section Length (minutes) Number of questions
Reading 60 47
Writing & Language 35 44
Math 70 48

The PSAT is also scored in the same way as the SAT, but with slightly lower numbers. The two sections, Math and Evidence-Based Reading & Writing, are each scored on a scale from 160–760. This means that a “perfect” PSAT score is 1520. (A perfect SAT score, on the other hand, is 1600.)

Harvard University
Harvard University (Image Credit: Ryan Pflaum Creative Commons CC BY-SA 4.0)


Does the PSAT matter?

It depends!

For the majority of students, it’s fine for the PSAT to simply be a “practice” SAT. In and of itself, the PSAT is not used for college admissions, and colleges will not see PSAT scores. 

It’s a good chance for students to get familiar with the test structure and question types they’ll see on the SAT. A PSAT score also lets students know approximately what scores they’ll achieve on the SAT at their current level of preparedness, and make test prep plans accordingly.

Taking practice tests is a cornerstone of test prep, and the PSAT is a chance to take a “practice SAT” that includes the features of a real test day—the nerves, the small distractions in the room, the official forms at the beginning of the test, and so on. That makes it a great trial run for the SAT, which is a key component of college admissions!

Students can also elect to make their PSAT scores visible to college recruiters. Students who score well will start receiving lots of college brochures in the mail, which can be fun!

However, for a small number of students, the PSAT can matter much more. This is because the PSAT is also the qualifying test for the National Merit Scholarship Program. The National Merit Program gives scholarships to top students across the US, and students need to be in at least the top 3% of scorers for recognition, with competition for most awards limited to the top 1%.

For this reason, if students are typically in roughly the top 5% of whichever annual standardized tests they take through their school, it can be worth it to take the PSAT more seriously! The National Merit awards are widely known and can be a big boost for college admissions, in addition to the monetary value of the prizes.

If you’re not sure if you’re likely to be a National Merit contender, try taking a practice PSAT or practice SAT. If your initial scores are in 95th percentile or above, then yes, you should take the junior-year PSAT seriously.
Some elite prep schools (like Phillips Exeter Academy or the Hotchkiss School) also use the PSAT as an alternative to the SSAT or ISEE for admission to grades 11–12 or a postgraduate year. For students who want to spend the last year or two of high school at a prep school, it can be much more convenient to use the PSAT compared to the SSAT or ISEE, since the PSAT is so similar to the SAT and study materials are much more widely available.

Yale University
Yale University (Image Credit: John Phelan Creative Commons CC BY-SA 3.0)


What is National Merit?

The National Merit Scholarship Program is one of the most widely-known and prestigious scholarship competitions in the US. 

Administered by the National Merit Scholarship Corporation, a private, not-for-profit organization, the National Merit Program recognizes high-achieving students across the country.

The contest begins in the fall of a student’s junior year, when they take the PSAT through their high school. Approximately 1.5 million students take the PSAT and, by doing so, enter the National Merit Scholarship Competition.

The following year (in September of their senior year), 34,000 students across the country receive a Letter of Commendation recognizing high achievement on the PSAT. These students scored in approximately the 97th or 98th percentile on the PSAT. Commended students are not eligible to continue on in the competition, but this is a great award to include in college applications, and they may be eligible for some special scholarships provided by corporate and business sponsors.

At the same time, 16,000 students are notified that they have achieved Semifinalist status. These are the very highest scorers in each state, roughly the 99th percentile of students taking the PSAT.

The 16,000 Semifinalists are then invited to submit applications for the National Merit Scholarships. These applications are a little like college applications, and include high school transcripts / GPA, extracurriculars, and an essay.

In February of their senior year, 15,000 of the Semifinalists advance to Finalist status. This is an amazing achievement, and is a definite boost on college applications!

Finally, roughly half of the Finalists are awarded scholarships and become National Merit Scholarship winners. There are three types of scholarships:

  • The 2,500 highest-achieving students are awarded a one-time prize of $2,500 directly from the National Merit Scholarship Corporation.

  • More scholarships are awarded by approximately 340 different corporate sponsors. In order to be eligible for one of these, typically a student has to both be a Finalist and also have a parent who is employed by one of the sponsors. The prizes range from $2,500 to $5,000 one-time or $1,000 to $10,000 annually. You can see a list of the companies here

  • Many colleges and universities will also offer a scholarship to students who are both admitted and also achieve Finalist status. Prizes range from $500 to $2,000 annually. 
National Merit diagram

Of course, these are only the scholarships that are offered via the National Merit Program. There are many other colleges that offer larger scholarships to National Merit Finalists. Schools tend to compete to see how many of the National Merit Finalists they can attract, and some will even offer full-ride scholarships or guaranteed admission to National Merit students.

Some schools offering full-ride scholarships to National Merit students include:

  • University of Texas at Dallas — in addition to free tuition, UT Dallas also gives National Merit students room and board, a $4,000 per semester stipend, and a one-time $6,000 stipend for international study
  • Florida International University — their international business program is ranked #2 in the nation
  • University of Alabama — full tuition for five years for undergraduate and graduate studies, four years of on-campus housing, a $3,500 annual stipend for four years, $2,000 for summer research or international study, and $2000 book scholarship
  • University of Oklahoma — full tuition for five years (undergraduate and graduate), $5,500 freshman housing scholarship, $5,500 annually for fees, books, room and board, $5,000 cash stipend, $1,000 technology and textbook stipend, $1,000 research and study abroad stipend
  • Fordham University
  • University of Maine
  • Oklahoma State University — they offer free tuition for five years, a $5,500-per-year scholarship for room and board, and $19,000 in additional scholarships
  • University of South Florida
  • Washington State University
  • University of New Mexico

In short, for high-achieving students there can be a lot of money on the line with the PSAT! And while schools like Harvard or Stanford might not offer scholarship money for National Merit (in fact, there are no merit scholarships at Harvard and the other Ivies), it will definitely help with admissions.

That’s why we advise students in the 95th percentile and above to take it seriously. If that might apply to you, set up a free test prep consultation with our team.

National Merit piechart

Read more details about the competition directly from the National Merit Program here.


What’s a good score on the PSAT?

The definition of a “good” PSAT score is subjective, really.

Each section on the PSAT is scored on a scale from 160–760. This means that a “perfect” PSAT score is 1520: 760 Math and 760 Evidence-Based Reading & Writing, are each scored 

The College Board has set “benchmarks” to college readiness for each of their tests. For the PSAT/NMSQT, those numbers are 460 for Reading & Writing and 510 for Math. Students need to hit those benchmarks in order to be “ready” for college.

According to 2020–21 data, the average PSAT score in the US is slightly higher than those benchmarks, or 1010 (source). 

The cutoff score for National Merit Commended status varies each year, but generally students need to score about 1400.

(Note: the National Merit Scholarship Corporation compares your PSAT scores with those of other students in your state using its own Selection Index, which falls on a scale between 48 and 228. This is calculated by adding each of the three section scores (Math, Reading, and Writing) together and then multiplying by 2. The upshot of this is that your Math score counts less in the eyes of National Merit than it does for your straight-up PSAT or SAT score, where your Reading and Writing scores are averaged. Yes, we know it’s confusing. We’re going to just talk about PSAT scores here, but read here for more about the Selection Index cutoff scores for each state.)

The cutoff score for National Merit Semifinalist status depends on the state. To be competitive for National Merit Semifinalist status, students need to score about 1400 on the PSAT in less competitive states like Wyoming, Montana, and North Dakota . . . or about 1470 on the PSAT in more competitive states like Connecticut or New Jersey.

Furthermore, a PSAT score is a good predictor of a student’s SAT score if they don’t do any further studying or preparation.

In order to be a competitive applicant for the Ivy League, students will need SAT scores of at least 1450: higher than 730 Math and higher than 710 Reading & Writing.

If we broaden that list to the top 50 colleges and universities in the US, students need SAT scores of 1390 (700 Math and 690 Reading & Writing) to be competitive.

Learn more about average SAT scores at different schools here.

If your PSAT score still falls below those cutoff scores, don’t worry! It’s absolutely possible to raise your scores through studying and practice. We find that most of our students see a score raise of 100–300 points on the PSAT and SAT after working with our tutors.

Princeton University
Princeton University (Image Credit: James Loesch Creative Commons CC BY 2.0)


Why work with a PSAT tutor?

Remember, the PSAT is nearly the same as the SAT, so any prep for the PSAT also prepares students for the SAT.

You may want to consider working with a PSAT tutor if:

  • You have no idea where to start in order to prepare for the PSAT and SAT
  • You feel overwhelmed by all of the different SAT prep books and materials and don’t know which to choose
  • You have a hard time keeping yourself on track and want an external structure to hold you accountable
  • You’re not sure how to track your progress
  • You’ve been practicing on your own but your gains have plateaued
  • You have a limited amount of time and need to be efficient in your studying
  • You want to learn techniques for managing test anxiety
  • You want insider tips about test strategies
  • You want more individualized attention than you’d get in a prep class with other students
  • You want to learn efficiently, with each lesson tailored to your exact needs
  • You’re a high scorer who would be bored in a general prep class
  • You’re a lower scorer who would benefit from more focused help
  • You have specific gaps in your knowledge (e.g. missed a few months of geometry due to Covid, an injury, a family move, etc.) and need a tutor to teach this material

With our PSAT and SAT students, we typically see students increase their scores by about 100–300 points after working with a tutor. This can have a significant impact on college admissions.

University of Chicago
University of Chicago


What makes a good PSAT tutor?

Like with any other test, it’s possible to improve your performance on the PSAT and SAT with the right practice and preparation.

However, specific preparation for the PSAT and SAT is usually not taught in schools, so students and families are on their own preparing for it.

Guidance with PSAT and SAT prep comes in two main forms: group classes or individual tutoring. Many students combine the two, following an SAT group class with some one-on-one tutoring to focus on a tailored approach for that student’s strengths and weaknesses.

In this post, though, we focused on PSAT and SAT individual tutoring.

These days, many tutoring sessions are online. This allows students to seek out the best tutor regardless of their physical location, which is great!

The most important aspect of a good PSAT tutoring experience is the teacher. Tutoring sessions should be taught by experienced instructors who know the test inside and out and have helped many other students. The instructors should be people who scored highly on the test themselves, ideally in the top 1%

Classes should begin with a diagnostic test and a detailed score report to analyze a student’s starting point.

A PSAT tutor can introduce the test format and de-mystify the test for students and families. A good tutor will make sure that students are using the best available resources for studying and practice.

Princeton University
Princeton University

Especially since the beginning of the COVID-19 pandemic, many students have had interruptions in their education, resulting in knowledge gaps that can cause difficulties on the SAT and for years to come. 

A perceptive tutor will find these gaps and help to fill them by teaching whatever material a student needs. Working one-on-one is unparalleled in its efficacy for remedying these interruptions in a student’s learning, since a tutor can notice these gaps much more easily than a teacher with a classroom full of students.

Whatever students are struggling with, a good tutor will spot those skill gaps and teach that material in an encouraging way.

Managing test preparation and studying can also be stressful for family dynamics. Working with a tutor means that parents don’t have to be involved directly — the tutor can be the one to assign homework, establish holistic studying schedules, and track progress.

A good PSAT tutor takes a lot of the stress out of the PSAT process and makes sure students are practicing effectively. Tutors can provide students with study materials and guide students in using them correctly

Thorough PSAT tutors can also help students to make a holistic study plan and keep them on track, so that parents don’t have to be involved directly. 

Effective PSAT tutors will assign structured homework so that students can practice constructively with official test questions. There are a very limited number of official practice tests, so it’s important to make the most of them! 

Good PSAT tutors will help students work through missed problems and answer students’ questions.

In addition, there are many strategies and tricks that can make the test easier. Unlike some self-directed courses and books, a good PSAT tutor can share these tricks with students and guide them through implementing test strategies.

Finally, a great PSAT tutor will be a cheerleader for the student. An experienced PSAT tutor can help students to learn ways to manage test anxiety and learn key study strategies — both of which will be super valuable for the rest of their academic careers and beyond. 

A great PSAT tutor will encourage their students and leave them feeling confident and ready for the PSAT!

Stanford University
Stanford University


Summary

Best overall: PrepMaven’s one-on-one PSAT tutoring is the best out there both in terms of tutor quality and price. Starting at just $79/hour, students can work with current undergraduates at Princeton, Harvard, and other Ivy-League universities to prepare for the PSAT and SAT. Families can also work with experienced, professional educators and Ivy-League graduates at $149/hour. As a boutique tutoring service, PrepMaven offers careful attention to each student and boasts amazing customer reviews.

Best of the big companies: The Princeton Review (no connection to Princeton University) is one of the biggest and most well-known companies. Their tutoring is pricey, but a solid option. Instructors go through a more extensive training process than at many other competitors, but there’s no requirement for instructors to be graduates of top schools or high scorers themselves.

Best on a budget: For families on a tighter budget, we’d suggest looking for an independent tutor on Wyzant. It’s a tutoring marketplace platform, so the quality varies hugely and there’s no oversight or qualification requirements, but you might find a decent tutor under $40/hour.

However, in our experience a good tutor can accomplish more with a student in one hour than an average tutor can do in five hours. With that in mind, it might be more effective to combine free resources like Khan Academy and the free practice materials available from the College Board with a few hours of high-quality tutoring.

Best self-guided: For self-guided online PSAT practice, the SAT prep materials from Khan Academy are definitely worth checking out. This online educational platform is completely free and is the only service to partner directly with the College Board, the makers of the PSAT and SAT. For students with enough self-discipline to stick to a study schedule, Khan Academy can be a powerful tool. We don’t recommend paying for self-guided video courses unless students have already exhausted the resources available for free from Khan Academy and the College Board.

Cornell University
Cornell University (Image Credit: Maeshima Hiroki Creative Commons CC BY-SA 3.0)

Next steps

Ready to begin PSAT tutoring? Schedule a free test prep consultation with Jessica (Director of Tutoring) or one of our founders to see what would be the best fit for your family.

It’s always best to start early and not wait until the last minute to prepare for the PSAT and SAT! Remember that test scores can be used to earn scholarships as well as college admission, so a few months of study now can pay off with up to $300,000 in tuition saved later. 

High-achieving students in particular will want to take the PSAT seriously, as it offers another opportunity to win big scholarship money through the National Merit program.

To start one-on-one PSAT or SAT tutoring today, set up a quick free consultation with our team.