Every year, the number of students taking the SAT grows larger. Taking the SAT is a stressful event in every one of those students’ lives. A few extra points could mean admission to a prestigious university or a scholarship to help with tuition. More than taking the SAT, however, the process of preparing for the SAT is what is truly stressful in the eyes of an achieving student. While some students choose to self-study the SAT, most do not have the motivation and discipline to effectively self-study the SAT. As a result, most students opt for an SAT tutor or program. If you are one of those students, then here are 7 things you need to know before choosing a SAT tutor or program.

Also read: 5 Questions to Ask Before Choosing an SAT Tutor

1. The Difference Between a SAT Tutor and a SAT Program

Every student will have different areas of weaknesses on the SAT. It is important to identify and pinpoint your strengths and weaknesses before choosing a SAT tutor or program. Regardless of the section, topic, or question-type, you need to ensure that you will spending the most time on strengthening your weakest areas on the SAT.

This is where distinguishing between a private SAT tutor and a SAT prep program becomes imperative.

The Differences Between the Common SAT Prep Program and Tutor

SAT Prep Program SAT Tutor
Classes will occur in weekly sessions that may be an hour or so long. Students are left to their own devices during the week. Students will meet with their tutor in weekly sessions that may vary in length. The tutor may check in with the student’s progress throughout the week.
Practice questions will be assigned as homework at the end of each class. The answers to these questions will be reviewed in the following class. Practice questions will be assigned as weekly homework but the amount can best fit the student’s needs. The tutor can also provide immediate feedback and assign more questions as necessary.
Classes have a strict schedule spanning a few months and end right before the next SAT test date. Study schedules are flexible and can be shortened or extended.

As can be seen, a SAT program will have a class of many students and will go at a pace that will allow them to cover every topic. This means you will not receive a lot of individual prep or attention in a SAT program.

If you are interested in individual focus and prep, then you should consider a private SAT tutor. Choosing a SAT tutor will ensure that you will receive one-on-one attention and that your prep will focus around your strengths and weaknesses on the exam. However, a private SAT tutor can be relatively more expensive than a SAT program.

2. The Right Methodology

We will be the first to admit that every student learns differently. There is no one-size-fits-all method in learning. However, there are certain aspects to studying for the SAT that are musts.

  • Ensure that any and all practice questions come from the official College Board released questions. While your program or tutor of choice may tout in-depth understanding of the SAT’s formula, working with the real deal will always beat out the imitations.
  • The first session should be a diagnostic test. That test will need to be an Official SAT released administration.
  • You should have a measure of input in crafting your study plan. After assessing your strengths and weaknesses through your diagnostic test, your tutor/program should have suggestions and a study plan that should suit your needs. Here is a guide to creating an effective summer study plan.
  • Instead of only focusing on question-types, your tutor/program should also be helping you gain an in-depth understanding of the concepts and topics on the SAT. You should be able to answer the question regardless of a change in wording.
  • Although you should focus on your problem areas, your tutor/program should also cover all of the material, strategies, and question-types on the SAT. You should have adequate practice in all these areas as to ensure familiarity with the SAT.

Talk to your program coordinator or tutor about their methodology extensively. They should already be implementing most, if not all of the aforementioned aspects. If they are not open to discussing their process transparently, it is unlikely that their methodology will work.

3. There is No SAT Score Increase Guarantee

SAT Tutor Program Choosing

Any SAT program or tutor who guarantees a large increase in scores probably will not be effective

Do not fall for a SAT program or tutor who guarantees a specific increase in their students’ SAT score. It is important to ask a potential program coordinator or tutor about their expectations for you. However, tread carefully. Do not make the mistake of choosing a SAT program or tutor who promises at least 100-point or 120-point increase. These programs or tutors are likely to be using a one-size-fits-all methodology. Consequently, stay away from these ineffective programs or tutors.

A good program or tutor will explain the factors in their methodology that will help you improve the necessary skills to succeed on the SAT. They will perhaps intimate their track record with prior students and their process in determining what works for each student. These program or tutors are worth your while.

4. Disregard Ivy-League Credentials

While a program or tutoring service that only employs Harvard graduates seems appealing, remember that Ivy-League credentials do not ensure effective teaching. Many of us have had teachers who were truly brilliant in their subject but should have had no business in teaching it to others. The same concept applies to these programs or tutors.

Instead of giving extra points to programs or tutors that hold Ivy-League or other prestigious credentials, judge these programs or tutors on their efficacy. Most programs and tutors will offer a free consultation and/or session. Take advantage of those opportunities. No matter how hard you try to vet potential SAT programs and tutors, sometimes certain things do not align correctly. Talk to previous and current students. It might look perfect on paper but could be impractical and ineffective in practice.

5. Remember the SAT Essay

Highlight Important SAT

Choose an SAT tutor or program that places as much importance on the essay as the other sections!

Nowadays, the optional essay section on the SAT is not truly optional. Most colleges recommend their applicants to take the essay portion of the SAT regardless of its relevancy to the major that they are applying for. Of course, we know that colleges rarely use the word ‘recommendation’ as a mere suggestion. Start considering the SAT essay as a mandatory part of the SAT. This means you must also ensure that your preparation for the SAT includes preparation for the SAT essay.

Ensure that you choose a SAT program or tutor with a plan to teach you how to analyze and identify arguments and evidence quickly after reading a large passage. This skill takes a lot of practice, dedication, and hard work. You will need to understand how the three subscores on the essay portion work as well as how to write a strong, analytical piece in 50 minutes. It is not an easy task. Focus on programs and tutors that give the essay equal importance with the other sections.

6. Test-Taking Strategies are Compulsory

Effective studying for the SAT means learning essential test-taking strategies alongside content and question-type. The SAT has a formula that it follows without fail. Dedicating time to learning the formula will make studying go faster and will bring a better end result. Your SAT program or tutor of choice should know and emphasize this. The SAT tests basic high school level material; the concepts in question are fairly simple. College admission tests like the SAT are exceptionally difficult for the type of language they use when wording their questions. In fact, specific keywords can clue students into finding the correct answer without necessarily knowing it conceptually.

When a SAT program or SAT tutor implements test-taking strategies in their curriculum, they are helping you answer the questions on the SAT more efficiently. The most effective SAT program or SAT tutor would ensure that you know the answer conceptually and strategically. Choose a SAT program or tutor who can help you reach that skill level.

7. Your First Choice May Not Be the Best Choice

Choosing a SAT tutor or program can be a difficult task. Do not be discouraged if the first SAT tutor or program you choose is not working well for you. In fact, you may need to switch around and try different avenues before finding the right choice for you. Be open to change. Sticking to a program or tutor with a curriculum or teaching style that chafes with your learning style will only result in a waste of time, money, and effort. Prioritize your efficacy, your SAT score, and your future.

To help you take a step further to ace the SAT, Talentnook is currently offering SAT Math Level 2 diagnostic tests to help you assess your Math skillsRegister here for a free SAT Math Level 2 Diagnostic Test. 

5 Questions to Ask Before Choosing an SAT Tutor

Having trouble finding the right SAT tutor for your child? Find the best SAT tutors in your neighborhood at Talentnook. 

This resource is part of the How To: SAT series. Check out The How To: SAT MasterPost to find 
more resources for effectively studying the SAT.
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Posted by Irfhana Zakir Hussain

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