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Prep Expert SAT & ACT Review
A comprehensive review and analysis of the Prep Expert SAT & ACT prep courses
Most people recognize the name Prep Expert from founder Shaan Patel’s appearance on ABC’s Shark Tank, where he landed an investment from billionaire Mark Cuban. Since that episode aired in 2016, Prep Expert has grown like wildfire and is now one of the most popular options among students and their parents for SAT and ACT prep. But does an appearance on a hit show and investment from a billionaire necessarily mean this is an effective prep course? We closely examine the Prep Expert SAT and ACT prep courses in this detailed review guide and rate this rising prep program.
Prep Expert offers students four different course formats from which to select. Their prep options generally vary by course length, total hours and format. These options include:
The 6-Week Flagship course is Prep Expert’s most popular course and runs for right around $1,000, though it can often be found on sale for less. This package includes 6 weeks of live online classes (meeting twice per week), video lessons, practice problems and more. This is Prep Expert’s most trusted choice for prepping and carries the biggest score increase guarantee (200+ points SAT and 4+ points ACT).
The 3-Week Fast-Track course is designed by Prep Expert for students who have less than a month to study. This offering includes all of the same resources and content as the 6-Week Flagship course, but condenses everything down to 3 weeks. This means you meet 4 times per week, and take two practice tests per week as well. This is a very short, but intense class that should not be taken lightly. Carrying a score guarantee of 100+ points SAT/ 2+ points ACT, this package runs for the same price as the 6-Week course – just a shade under $1,000.
The Weekend Reviewcourse is Prep Expert’s final live online course, but lasts for just two days. For students in a real time pinch before their exam date, this course meets from 9am to 4pm over a Saturday and Sunday. This course packs in roughly a third of the content from the 6-Week and 3-Week courses in just two days, making it a quick hit and high-impact session. This offering costs just under $500.
Lastly, for students who don’t have the schedule flexibility to attend live classes, Prep Expert offers its Self-Paced Course. This course revolves around a series of video lectures led by Prep Expert founder Shaan Patel. Across 30+ hours of video lessons, you learn most of the same material as is contained in the live classes. This course costs right around $700 (though like the other course options, can often be found on sale for less). This is more expensive than the value pricing offered by Magoosh for their comparable course, but also offers a more structured and well-developed curriculum, as discussed below.
Course options and pricing current as of date of publication.
Prep Expert’s Lessons and Coursework
Once you get into Prep Expert’s course materials, you quickly realize that Prep Expert is all about test strategy. As founder Shaan Patel found out during his first attempt at the SAT, it doesn’t matter how naturally intelligent you are, you need targeted exam strategies to handle the tricks and nuances of the exam. So in order to master the SAT, Shaan developed 100 testing strategies specifically designed to tackle the tricks the SAT (and ACT) will throw at you. These 100 techniques are now the basis of the Prep Expert course.
In this respect, Prep Expert it is very similar to the teachings of PrepScholar, another solid prep option which focuses on testing strategies and techniques. Though I will note that PrepScholar is a little heavier on the content review. In any event, whether you’re taking a Prep Expert course with a live class component (6-Week, 3-Week, or Weekend Review) or the Self-Paced Course, the core components and teachings of the course are generally the same across all formats.
The lessons revolve around these 100 strategies, and you learn roughly 6 to 10 different strategies per session if you’re in one of the live classes (except the Weekend Review course, as that is much more condensed). The lessons generally start with an overview of a way in which the SAT or ACT tries to trick you or is just plain difficult. You then cover the strategy for combatting that particular issue in detail. Across 36 hours of live instruction time, your instructor thoroughly breaks down how and why the strategy works, giving some excellent reasoning to support the strategy. You then work some practice problems that present the given issue and see how the technique plays out in reality.
This same lesson format and course structure generally applies to the Self-Paced Course as well – it is just on you to drive your learning. The videos lessons (which are available to 6-Week and 3-Week students if they wish) feature founder Shaan Patel breaking down his own strategies. The videos are broken up by strategy, and take the form of Shaan on one side of the screen via webcast, with the text portion of the lesson on the other side of the screen.
The text portion of the screen is very much like a PowerPoint slideshow. It contains bullets, key points and some fairly plain text. Shaan presents his lessons, and as he talks, the slides do change, though not very often. The focus is more on the verbal lesson from Shaan himself and less about the text. The only exception there is when you get to the practice problem portion of the lecture. Here, Shaan focuses in on the onscreen problem and makes notes in red. He walks you through step-by-step how to solve the question by applying the technique. He usually does this with 2 or 3 sample problems or drills before turning to an official question and showing you how it really works in the context of the exam.
I really liked this method of learning the strategy, then applying it in practice. This makes the flow of each lesson feel very natural and helps you to grasp the concept being taught. And the method of identifying the problem, presenting a technique to solve for the problem, and then practicing the technique through applying it to test questions is extremely effective for improving retention. It gives you a deeper understanding of the ways in which the exam makers test you.
I’ll also say I liked both the live version of the lesson, as well as Shaan’s video lectures. I took the 6-Week Flagship course with the live class sessions, but also watched the videos to evaluate them. Both are excellent in their own ways, though if put to it, I suppose I would opt for the live classes over the prerecorded lessons. Although Shaan is an excellent communicator and breaks the problems down very clearly, the ability to ask questions and interact in the live classes adds significant value. Plus, the live versions just go deeper, covering more material. I would say the Prep Expert classes are comparable to those of Kaplan and Princeton Review in terms of style and effectiveness in communicating content.
Between class sessions you are required to a take a practice exam. For 6-Week students, this means one test per week. For 3-Week students, this means two tests per week. I took the 6-Week course and it felt like a lot just attending two classes, doing homework and taking one exam, so I have to imagine the 3-Week course is very intense (but thankfully it’s over in just 3 weeks!). Anyway, you are prompted to take the practice test under exam-like conditions through self-proctoring.
Once finished, you then upload your answers and can see your results. Following this practice test, you review your incorrect questions and see where you went wrong in your answer choices. This is a big part of the learning experience. In fact, Prep Expert reserves part of each class session to cover some preselected questions from the previous practice test. Your instructor chooses some practice problems that are particularly tough or that do a good job exemplifying how one of the strategies could have easily solved the question. This is a big part of the learning process and a very worthwhile use of time.
In addition to the strategy lessons, practice tests and review, you are also assigned homework between class sessions. For the 6-Week Flagship course, this homework generally takes about 1 hour to complete between classes, or 2 hours in total per week. This means for the 3-Week course takers, you will have about 4 total hours of homework per week (1 hour between each class). It is a lot of work, but if you are serious about increasing your SAT or ACT score, it’s worth it.
The homework assignments are largely practice question sets to finish. These assigned practice questions generally cover the strategies and techniques you just learned in the previous lesson, giving you a good opportunity to practice what you just learned. You work these practice problems and review the solutions afterwards. In terms of quality, these practice questions, like the practice tests, are first-rate. They are all official, previously used SAT and ACT questions, which is a feature that many students and parents who are evaluating the best SAT prep courses and ACT prep courses specifically seek out. There is no better form of practice than the real deal, previously tested questions, so this is a huge benefit to Prep Expert students, and I was very happy to see this.
All in all, I really enjoyed my Prep Expert classes and the overall course. I was particularly impressed with the design and delivery of the lessons on strategy. The 100 strategies at the core of Prep Expert’s course are invaluable and are the true value-add for this prep package. Other prep providers teach you test strategy, but not with this level of focus or depth. And the assigned homework and practice tests add that much needed “learn by doing” element, all with official, top shelf questions. In short, I really liked this prep package and do not hesitate to give it top marks.
User Experience and Interface
The Prep Expert interface is not my favorite, but it gets the job done. It is fairly clean and simple, but also has a sort of dated feel to it. It is just a little clunky and the design isn’t the sharpest. That said, all of your study resources, including homework assignments, practice questions, video lessons, e-books and more, are very easy to find. The clunky and outdated digital platform isn’t an impediment at all to getting what you need to do done, but it would be nice to see a slight update of this portal.
Prep Expert Tutoring Options
For a number of students, private tutoring may be a good idea. Whether you’re trying to get into a top-25 university, earn merit-based financial aid, or maybe just need help with a section or two on the SAT or ACT, Prep Expert offers targeted, private tutoring packages. While I didn’t personally use their tutoring services (I just took the 6-Week Flagship course), I would think that their tutoring would be top shelf if your tutor is anything like my class instructor, Clay Cooper.
Clay was an incredible communicator and crazy smart when it comes to test prep. He knew the SAT and Shaan’s strategies like the back of his hand. I was super impressed with him and would recommend him as an instructor to anybody. So, if the other instructors at Prep Expert are anything like Clay, I think you’d be in fine hands. And just as a note – all Prep expert instructors have either received a perfect score or are in the top 1% of all scorers, so these are people that know what they’re doing.
For reference, Testive also offers some first-rate tutoring services, which I personally have used before and can vouch for.
How Long is Prep Expert’s Content Access Period?
If you register for the 6-Week Flagship, 3-Week Fast-Track, or Weekend Review course, you will get access to your course materials for the length of the class plus 60 additional days. This is a fairly short fuse compared to content duration periods of other test prep providers. Most test prep companies give you 1 year, or at least 6 months, access to their SAT and ACT materials. As such, make sure you plan your exam date accordingly with Prep Expert so you’re well within the 60-day window after your course finishes. You’ll want access to those materials to cram right up until the end.
That said, the Prep Expert Self-Paced Course does provide 1 full year of access, like most other prep providers. This is nice to see, but I just wish they did this with the live courses as well.
No Prep Expert Mobile App
Whether for better or worse, Prep Expert does not provide a mobile app. To some students, this may be a huge bummer. A lot of high schoolers like to watch video lessons and work practice problems from their phones, so this is kind of a disappointment. But for others like me who prefer to work on a laptop with a full-size screen anyway, this is no major loss. Whether or not this affects your decision will depend on how you like to study.
Prep Expert’s Massive Score Guarantees
One of the biggest selling points of the Prep Expert SAT and ACT course is their set of massive score guarantees. If you take their entire prep course and don’t get results, you can get your money back. To be specific, the score guarantees are as follows:
Now, there is a bunch of fine print around these score guarantees which I suggest you peruse first, but these are some huge promises. These score guarantees, which are an industry-best, offer a really nice insurance policy for those students and parents who might be on the fence about committing to a prep course.
Verdict: Prep Expert SAT & ACT Prep Course
The Prep Expert SAT and ACT prep course is the real deal. Revolving around founder Shaan Patel’s self-designed 100 exam strategies, this course focuses on beating the test, not just feeding you content review. I love this aspect of the Prep Expert curriculum – the focus on test strategy is where most students generally see their biggest score increases, and this course provides test taking techniques in spades. You do get content review along the way, but the emphasis on strategy, working practice problems and reviewing your mistakes, makes for a powerful prep experience.
I also really appreciated the quality of the Prep Expert practice tests and questions. They use only official, previously used practice materials and there is no better source of practice than real deal past exam questions. If I had to nitpick this prep course though, it would be that the video lesson quality isn’t the best. To be clear, the content is on point, it is just the clunky and slightly dated video production delivery that I would update. The rest of this course is otherwise stellar and is more than capable of prepping even the most unready student. All in all, Mark Cuban made a wise decision investing here – this is great prep option.
How much does Prep Expert SAT & ACT prep cost?
Prep Expert offers a nice menu of course options, which generally range in price from around $500 up to $1,000.
What is Prep Expert’s best feature?
The most valuable aspect of the Prep Expert course is access to founder Shaan Patel’s 100 test strategies. These self-designed exam strategies are cleverly crafted and they absolutely work.
Is Prep Expert SAT and ACT prep worth it?
After a full review, our team of test experts believes so. Between the 36 hours of live class time, additional video lessons, official practice problems, and access to some of the best SAT and ACT instructors, this is a pretty surefire prep selection.