How Much Does ACT or SAT Test Prep Cost? [Test Prep Method Comparison]

Why Choose One-to-One Tutoring for SAT or ACT Prep?

In the greater Philadelphia area, families have access to a wide range of SAT and ACT test preparation options. Typically, students and their families research the options—looking at cost and time commitment, researching success stories, and asking for references—before making a decision.

As a one-to-one tutoring and test prep company, we are confident in the quality and effectiveness of our test preparation methods. However we also recognize that every family has different expectations and a budget to consider, and that every student has different abilities, needs, and learning obstacles.

It’s important to find a program that will give your child the best chance of improving his test score, whether he is taking the PSAT, SAT, or ACT. Test prep costs range from free to a few thousand dollars, so it is essential to understand what each option will provide to your student. Let’s take a look at the options:

Internet-Based Tools (Free)

The Internet provides a number of quality test prep options for free. Khan Academy and number2.com are two respected companies that offer free online test prep resources. With interactive exercises, custom courses, and practice tests, these options work well for bright, self-motivated students. Note that Khan Academy currently has only SAT test prep materials, while number2.com offers help with both the SAT and ACT.

Pros: Free web-based options can be effective for bright, highly motivated students.

Cons: Most students do not have the discipline and motivation level to study entirely independently and there is no instructor to explain wrong answers.

Test Prep Books ($25–$50)

For a small investment, many motivated students purchase test prep books from companies like Barron’s, McGraw-Hill, ACT, and the College Board (the latter two are the organizations that actually create the exams). Test prep books allow your student to prepare for the test at her own pace, but she may have trouble understanding why she got a particular question wrong without explanation from an instructor. 

Pros: Very low cost; this option can be effective for bright, highly motivated students.

Cons: Most students do not have the discipline and motivation level to study consistently and entirely independently and there is no instructor to explain wrong answers. 

Local Group Test Prep Courses ($200–$300)

For a few hundred dollars, your student can register for a group test prep course at a local community college. In the greater Philadelphia area, these types of programs can be found at Penn State – Abington and Montgomery County Community College. These courses teach effective test-taking strategies and understanding of the test sections and format to help students prepare for the test. They are respected test prep programs and are more affordable than a private group option.

Pros: Relatively low cost; provides course structure and access to a live instructor.

Cons: The instructor may not be able to respond effectively to the needs of students with differing ability levels; group programs do not hold students as accountable for homework as one-to-one tutoring does; courses may not be at convenient times/locations.

Live and Online Test Prep Hybrid Courses ($300–$500)

Hybrid test prep options—such as a mix of live and online prep—are available for several hundred dollars. For example, PREPWORKS uses a student’s performance on skill assessments, practice tests, and quizzes throughout the course to deliver instruction that specifically targets that student’s individual areas of need. The course includes weekly live online sessions with instructors, giving a limited amount of personal interaction.

Pros: Relatively low cost; provides course structure; somewhat able to customize program to fit varying abilities.

Cons: Very limited access to live instructor; limited accountability for homework completion; practice exams are “mock” exams, not actual exams.

Private Company Group Test Prep Courses ($600–$1,000)

For under a thousand dollars, your student can enroll in a group test prep course through a private company like Kaplan, Princeton Review, or Revolution Prep.

Group sessions put students in a room with an expert teacher in a structured classroom setting.

Pros: Moderate cost; provides course structure; access to high-quality, in-person instruction.

Cons: The instructor may not be able to respond effectively to the needs of students with differing ability levels; group programs do not hold students as accountable for homework as one-to-one tutoring does; courses may not be at convenient times/locations.

One-to-One Tutoring ($1,000 and up)

Finally, private one-to-one tutoring options are offered by local companies like A+ Test Prep and Tutoring, as well as national companies such as Kaplan and Princeton Review. These programs vary in length of program, hours of instruction, experience of tutors, and target demographic, which explains the variance in pricing. One-to-one programs are premium services because of their customized approach to preparing students.

Pros: High-quality, one-to-one instruction; program is customized to student’s level and pace; flexible schedule; student is highly accountable for homework completion.

Cons: Relatively high cost.

What Makes One-to-One Tutoring Worth the Cost?

While a high-achieving, motivated student may be successful using a book or online program independently (without an instructor), most students do not fall into this category and therefore may not benefit from such approaches.

And in a group tutoring session, instructors typically teach to the middle level of the group, which can have a negative impact on the class’s lower- and upper-level students who may feel frustrated that the pace of the instruction is too fast or too slow.

At A+, we see extremely high value in one-to-one interaction between tutors and students. Students feel less self-conscious than they do in a group setting, and are therefore more willing to ask questions. In addition, a one-to-one relationship fosters a higher level of accountability for homework completion, which is critical since practice is such an important component of test prep success. 

Because instruction is one-to-one, we are able to match students with tutors based on the student’s ability, personality, preferred learning methods, academic history, overall fit, location, and schedule. In addition to all the other benefits of one-to-one tutoring, students don’t have to worry about missing classes as they would in a group course since sessions can be rescheduled as needed.

Our SAT and ACT test prep programs consist of 19.5 hours of instruction and include one-to-one tutoring, all course materials (books, practice tests, flash cards), and access to an online portal for both students and parents. Students use the online portal to score their practice tests, and tutors review student progress prior to each session. Parents can log in to monitor progress as well. The package also includes an essay grading service. Two readers (in addition to a student’s individual tutor) score and provide feedback on your student’s practice essays. Students typically meet with tutors for weekly 90-minute sessions over the course of 13 weeks.

The cost of our 19.5-hour SAT and ACT test prep programs currently ranges from about $2,500 to $2,900, depending on the location of tutoring (in-home, at our offices, or online) and the duration of the program. Our Ultimate Program includes 31 hours of SAT or ACT tutoring, is designed to prepare students for multiple test dates, and is available for a slightly lower hourly rate. Extra sessions can also be arranged on an hourly basis.

We encourage you to send us a note below so that we can further discuss the benefits, cost, and value of our one-to-one test prep tutoring programs.

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