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Best SAT Prep Courses & Classes
Our all-encompassing guide to the best SAT prep courses and classes
Despite a number of recent headlines noting that some top universities have dropped the SAT as a mandatory part of their applications process, acing the SAT is arguably more important than ever. With nearly every college-bound high school student these days having an impressive GPA and a thorough roster of extracurriculars, you need something that makes your application stand out – a top tier SAT score. And in order to maximize your exam score, you’ll almost certainly need a prep course. Our team of test prep experts has reviewed and rated just about every SAT prep course on the market and ranked the best ones in this guide, to help you make the right decision.
Princeton Review offers one of the most well-developed and detailed SAT curriculums in the test prep space. It is clear that every inch of their study plan has been expertly curated, down to the last word. Your assigned study plan guides you step-by-step through all of the necessary content review and test taking strategies in a course structure designed to build on itself and maximize material retention. This is all accomplished through some first-rate live classes, video-based lessons, practice questions, books and more.
This package of impressive study resources is led by the live class work and video lectures. The live classes are taught by SAT instructors with decades of experience, who know the exam inside and out and have honed their communication skills to near perfection. In addition, the video lessons are incredibly engaging and well-crafted (more on these below). Backing up these instructional channels, Princeton Review also provides a set of content-rich textbooks and high-quality practice material that serves to hammer home the concepts taught through the classes and recorded lessons. Altogether, this is an extremely powerful and comprehensive prep bundle that every high school student needs to give serious consideration to.
Stellar Video Lessons
Though just about every aspect of the Princeton Review SAT prep course is noteworthy, their video-based lectures are particularly outstanding. Foremost, we loved the structure of these lessons. Rather than some lengthy video of a teacher standing in front of a whiteboard with their back to the camera taking notes, you get short, engaging clips with some awesome digital effects. These 4 to 10 minute video lessons take the form of your instructor in front of a plain white background, but as they talk, text and graphics are superimposed on the screen in front of them. This allows the instructor to grab a marker and write on an invisible whiteboard between you (the audience) and the instructor.
It is a very cool effect with the lesson taking place in real time right between you and the teacher. It’s kind of like watching a 3D movie (not really, but you know what I mean). And not only is the delivery of the video lesson cool, but the content is on point. Your instructor deftly covers the most necessary content and relevant test taking strategies for a given topic in under 10 minutes. It is really impressive how much solid material they can pack in to a short clip and keep it captivating. All in all, we loved these video-based lessons from Princeton Review.
Though our team of test prep experts was a little skeptical of this prep course, given their unique entry into the SAT prep space through ABC’s Shark Tank, Prep Expert’s prep program absolutely passes muster. Centered around founder Shaan Patel’s 100 homegrown test taking strategies, Prep Expert offers one of the best instructional packages in SAT prep. Each and every one of their SAT instructors has either gotten a perfect score on the SAT or scored in the top 1% (evidencing their mastery of the exam), and has been trained to teach Shaan’s methods. The popular live online classes are engaging, informative and one of the best methods of teaching SAT prep we have seen. In total, the classes add up to 36 total hours of first-rate instruction (if you take one of the popular 6-week or 3-week courses) and covers both content review and strategy sessions.
These top-notch live lessons are supplemented with video lectures from Shaan Patel himself and official SAT practice material. While the delivery format of the video lessons isn’t our favorite, we like Shaan’s teaching abilities and the content of these prerecorded lectures. In addition, the practice work that hammers home his strategy teachings doesn’t get any better, as it derived from real, previously administered SATs. Prep Expert was a must on our best list after having tried and verified their intelligent SAT strategies (more on these below).
Shaan Patel’s 100 SAT Strategies
The most unique, and coolest, feature of the Prep Expert course is their set of 100 SAT test taking strategies. These techniques were self-designed by founder Shaan Patel himself when he was studying for the SAT. Although that may have been a decade or so ago, these strategies still work, and work well. The video lessons and live classes revolve around these strategies, which include such techniques as “remove nonessential appositives,” “tackle line-cited questions first” and “ace exponents.”
These strategies are woven into the lesson plans as the central theme. Your instructor identifies a pain point of the SAT or way in which they try to trick you. He or she then shows you why and how the technique works, and works a few practice problems to demonstrate. When applied to practice questions, it is clear these Prep Expert strategies work. Many of these testing strategies we had not seen before, but think they make a ton of sense. And not only do they work, they are also practical and fairly easy to remember (both of which are crucial aspects of worthwhile test strategies).
It’s no secret that Magoosh makes our list of best SAT prep courses primarily for their value. But it isn’t ultra-affordable pricing alone that earns you a spot on our roster of top courses. You also have to deliver the goods – and Magoosh does. When you sign up for one of the three Magoosh plans you will get access to their library of 200+ video lessons, 1,750+ practice problems, 3 practice exams and a ton of fantastic problem explanations. While the format of the video lessons isn’t our favorite, with a slideshow-style presentation and basic production value, the quality of content cannot be disputed. And the practice problems designed by Magoosh’s SAT experts do a fine job replicating real SAT questions.
In fact, our team of test prep experts actually prefers the Magoosh text and video-based solutions to many of the problem explanations you get with other prep companies on this very list. The text explanations are thorough and well-executed with graphics, equations and diagrams. And the video lessons are an extremely valuable benefit for visual learners. We still can’t figure out how Magoosh offers thousands of video-based solutions for their problems when much more expensive courses don’t offer any. In short, yes, Magoosh offers incredible bang for your buck (which we discuss more in the section below), but they are much more than that. They offer a solid prep program built on some pretty incredible study resources that we are confident will work for most students.
Tremendous Value For Students
As mentioned above, the biggest selling point of the Magoosh SAT course is bang for your buck. This course really is all about value, value, value. Their three packages, which are identical in terms of content, differ only in terms of content access periods. These three packages run for right around $100, $120, and $130, respectively. The Kaplan and Princeton Review self-paced options come somewhat close to this affordable pricing, but Magoosh remains the king of value. As noted above, and to be clear, our team doesn’t just look at price and call it a day. We weigh the cost of the course against the actual value of the study materials, classes and more. And when it comes to Magoosh, they deliver on both ends.
There is a reason Kaplan is the popular choice among students and their parents for SAT prep – their curriculum is one the best around. Led by some killer video-based lessons (much more on these below), the Kaplan study plan guides students through everything they must learn to properly prepare for the SAT. The study plan staggers lessons and practice work by exam section topics, and orders them in a way that allows the student’s knowledge base to build on itself. In this respect, it is much like Princeton Review’s curriculum, which is a very good thing in our book. Students are guided step-by-step through lessons (live and recorded), homework assignments, practice tests and more. The entire course just has a cohesive and detailed design that makes you really feel like you’re working in a streamlined fashion towards a successful end point.
For most Kaplan students, the coursework is carried out primarily through Kaplan’s live lessons, but also with video lessons for those students in the self-paced program. The live classes are led by some top tier instructors, who are all vetted as much for their teaching and communications skills as they are for their expertise. Our team found Kaplan’s live lectures to be particularly effective in terms of both structure and execution. Additionally, the instructional work is complemented by some truly top-notch practice material. While Kaplan only offers 1,000 or so practice problems, which is less than just about every competitor, we had no qualms with the quality and found the practice work to be smartly written. In short, while other courses are about quantity, Kaplan is all about quality, with a first-rate curriculum led by some awesome instructional tools.
Superb Video Lessons
Kaplan, like Princeton Review (in many ways), offers some superb video-based lessons. Where the two test prep giants differ, however, is the delivery of these lessons. Whereas Princeton Review uses their cool invisible whiteboard approach, Kaplan takes a more conversational approach to teaching. This is clearly aimed at teaching to teenagers, and intelligently takes the cool, casual approach. Your instructor is often onscreen, sitting on a couch with a Starbucks coffee in hand, just talking to the camera. I know that sounds informal, but is very purposeful and well-designed. He or she just chats with you like a friend and breaks down what you need to learn with stories, jokes and mnemonics.
And when it comes time to demonstrate a point, your instructor will grab a tablet and stylus, and work problems right onscreen through a digital whiteboard. The high production value and frequent segment changes in these video lessons really ups the engagement level and keeps your attention. Not to mention these clips are only 5 to 12 minutes long.
Moreover, your instructor will often pull in a high school student to help present the lesson through use of examples. This creates a slightly corny presentation at points, but it is extremely relevant and effective. In short, our team loved this casual, conversational approach to teaching SAT subjects. While we don’t think it would necessarily jive with teaching an MCAT course, for the SAT, it works perfectly.
PrepScholar makes our best list for a number of reasons, but most notably for its insane volume of practice work. Offering over 7,100 practice questions and 10 practice exams, PrepScholar blows the competition out the water when it comes to practice material (more on this below). But PrepScholar is much more than an accumulation of practice questions – they also offer one of the more comprehensive SAT prep curriculums on the market and a set of very detailed lessons. Their lesson plans, which cover just about every testable subject on the SAT, are a mix of text-based instruction and video lectures. The text-based lessons are extremely informative and provide more than enough information to master a given topic. That said, we did find them to be a little lengthy and dry – which can be an issue when trying to hold a high schooler’s attention.
The video lessons, on the other hand, are quite good and we wish they had these video-based lectures for every lesson topic (they only have them for most). Our team was also very impressed with the structure of PrepScholar’s coursework, using a classic “learn, practice, review” pattern. You start by reviewing necessary content and learning a strategy, then test your knowledge with a quiz. Following this set of practice questions, you then review your answers to learn from your mistakes. This is a classic and proven learning process that we were happy to see. And one final point worth noting is PrepScholar’s clear step-by-step guidance through their lesson work and practice tests. Students are given clear direction on what to study and when, which is directed by PrepScholar’s smart, adaptive software. All in all, PrepScholar is a formidable prep course with competitive pricing that should work well for students that learn well through reading and aren’t 100% reliant on visuals.
Mountains of Practice Material
The most eye-popping feature of the PrepScholar package is their level of practice work. PrepScholar provides an astounding 7,100+ practice problems and 10 full-length tests. To put things in perspective, the next closest competitor offers only 3,000 practice problems – less than half of what PrepScholar boasts. In addition, their volume of practice exams is bested only by Princeton Review. These are some extremely impressive numbers that our team could not believe at first (particularly their practice questions figure). This is a huge benefit to students that should not be overlooked. And to be clear, the quality of these practice problems does not suffer because of the high quantity – they are all still high-quality and we appreciated their thoughtful substance and feel. So, for students who thrive on “learning by doing” through practice work, or just want to maximize their amount of practice material for long term study, PrepScholar will likely be your best option.
Among SAT prep courses, Testive is quite unique. Instead of taking the traditional approach of classroom instruction or prerecorded lectures, Testive builds their course around personalized tutoring. Every Testive SAT student is assigned a dedicated “coach” who serves as their tutor, mentor and cheerleader from beginning to end. More on this coaching below, but this is the highlight of the Testive package. In addition to this unique element of tutoring, Testive backs it up with a solid curriculum and set of practice work. Second only to PrepScholar, Testive provides a very generous quantity of practice questions, with around 3,000 in their test bank. While these are worthy of recognition in their own right, the more impressive aspect of the practice work is the text and video solutions that accompany each and every problem.
Every practice question comes with a detailed text-based explanation that provides an overview of the problem and breaks down why the correct answer choice was correct and the incorrect answer choices were incorrect. Testive then goes even further by providing a video solution that shows you in detail just how you should have solved the problem step-by-step. The two explanation types together provide one of the premier review functions in the SAT prep space and gives students an excellent opportunity to learn from their mistakes on every practice problem. Between the personalized coaching and excellent practice material with thorough solutions, Testive was a lock for our best SAT prep courses list.
Next Level Personalized Coaching
As mentioned, Testive’s entire course revolves around their personal coaching. Each week you meet with your coach for a jam-packed 30-minute session of SAT prep and guidance (twice weekly if you go with the Plus course). The sessions start by reviewing your homework and performance from the previous week. Your coach generally tracks your progress throughout the week, as they have access to all of your data and can review your work down to the individual question level. Their evaluation of your performance, along with the output from the adaptive software’s analysis, is the centerpiece of discussion.
You focus on your strengths, weaknesses and how to improve. This usually takes up the lion’s share of each call, after which you plan for the coming week. You and your coach together create a study plan that addresses your study needs to maximize gains and works with your personal schedule. As the student, you must commit to and agree with this schedule, as your coach will hold you accountable. In fact, if you slack off on your work mid-week, your coach will text you and provide a gentle reminder. Essentially, your coach acts as a tutor, mentor, cheerleader and friend all in one. It is a truly unique and beneficial feature that you just can’t get anywhere else.
Used by many colleges and universities as a determining factor for decisions on admissions, the SAT is an entrance exam administered by the College Board, and is typically taken by high school students in their junior or senior year. The SAT is a standardized test, measuring skills in Reading, Writing and Math.
How the SAT is Structured
The SAT comprises three main sections: (1) Math (divided into two parts – one allowing the use of a calculator and one without calculators), (2) Evidence-Based Reading, and (3) Writing. Examinees can choose whether or not to complete an optional 50-minute essay. The total testing time, including the essay, is 3 hours and 50 minutes.
This portion of the SAT is divided into two parts – Calculator and No Calculator.
Calculator: This section has 38 questions (30 multiple-choice and 8 gridded response) with a testing time of 55 minutes.
No Calculator: Without using your calculator, you will answer 20 questions (15 multiple-choice and 5 gridded response) with a testing time of 25 minutes.
Evidence Based Reading Section
Based on reading passages covering content in the areas of literature, history, social studies, and science, this section is made up of 52 multiple-choice questions. The passages may be accompanied by tables, graphs and charts. Answers to test questions are based on stated content or inferences in the passage. The reading section has a testing time of 65 minutes.
As with the reading section, the Writing Section of the SAT is based on reading passages. Evaluating grammar and usage skills, this section has 44 multiple-choice questions, and a testing time of 35 minutes.
How Often is the SAT Offered?
The SAT is administered seven times each year, once each during the months of March, May, June, August, October, November and December. It is recommended that you register with the College Board at least three weeks prior to your desired test date.
Preparing for the SAT
Take a practice test early in your study schedule. This will allow you to become familiar with the format of the test. You will see how test questions are asked, as well as understanding the instructions given on the test. Furthermore, taking a practice test early on will help you decide which areas you need to focus your study time on.
Practice, practice, practice. Utilize a prep course and sample questions available from the College Board. Be sure to take at least one practice test with the use of a timer to simulate the real test. This will give you a sense of timing so you can learn to pace yourself accordingly. Bottom line, practice makes perfect.
Increase the time you spend reading and brush up your grammar skills. There is a lot of reading and writing on the SAT, so get yourself prepared to read, understand and answer questions effectively.
Practice self-care. Studying for the SAT exam can be stressful, but it will be far more daunting if you don’t take care of yourself. Make sure to stay hydrated, eat healthy meals and take time for physical exercise daily. Don’t skimp on sleep. Practice mindfulness daily, and stay connected with friends and family.
Do I need an SAT prep course?
The answer here is very likely yes. With college admissions being more competitive than ever, you’ll likely need a top tier SAT score to stand out from the crowd. And in order to get the score, you will almost certainly need a prep course of some kind.
How much does a typical SAT prep course cost?
SAT prep courses can cost anywhere from $100 up to $2,000 or more depending on what features and level of support you need. On average though, most families spend between $400 and $1,000 on a course.
Will an SAT prep course raise my score?
As compared to self-studying or no studying at all, a prep course will very likely raise your score. The SAT is a tricky and difficult exam that you need test-specific strategies to master, and a prep course will provide the necessary material.