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PrepScholar SAT & ACT Review
Our in-depth review of the PrepScholar SAT & ACT prep courses
On paper, PrepScholar SAT and ACT prep sounds like any parent’s dream. Offering a 100% online course with hundreds of hours of content and adaptive technology built-in to maximize score gains, the course has a ton of curb appeal. And that’s before you even get to the generous score guarantees and ultra-competitive pricing. With all of these advantages, this naturally makes parents and students alike wonder just how effective this course really is. We take a close look at the strengths and weaknesses of the PrepScholar SAT and ACT prep program to answer just that question in this detailed review guide.
Since this is a lengthy, detailed review, we’ve added helpful jump-to links above for your convenience.
PrepScholar SAT/ACT Review Video
In the video above, John from the Test Prep Insight team covers the major pros and cons of the PrepScholar SAT and ACT prep courses. For more detailed information, be sure to continue reading our full written review below.
Whether you’re looking at SAT or ACT prep, or both, PrepScholar delivers a whopping 5 course options from which to choose. These course choices include the following:
Complete SAT / ACT Online Prep
Complete + Tutoring
Dual SAT + ACT
The Complete Prep option is PrepScholar’s most popular package by far, and generally serves as the basis of all their other offerings. This package includes interactive text and video instructional lessons, practice problems, practice tests and one year of access to their content. Priced at just under $400, this course is very competitive with larger test prep companies’ offerings. It is not as cheap as Magoosh’s crazy affordable packages, but still quite competitive.
From there, every other course is a slight variation of the Complete Prep package. The PrepScholar Classes package takes this offering, but builds on it by adding 9 live class hours. Students meet in limited size virtual classes with peers to engage in live classes taught by some of PrepScholar’s best instructors. This package costs roughly $895.
The Complete + Tutoring package also builds on the Complete Prep course by adding in private tutoring with one of PrepScholar’s SAT or ACT experts. You can select how many hours of tutoring you would like, and pricing starts at around $995.
The Complete Premium course is identical to its base level counterpart in every way, except it adds in 2 years of content access (for students that need longer prep periods) and expedited support. This package runs for right around $580.
Lastly, as is extremely common these days, for students that need to prep for both the SAT and the ACT, PrepScholar offers its Dual SAT + ACT package. This offering effectively combines the Complete Prep packages of both tests, and you can jump back and forth between the two from your PrepScholar online portal. Adding in the second exam’s prep materials will run an extra $200 or so, making the entire package a shade under $600.
Course options and pricing current as of date of publication.
Our Evaluation of PrepScholar’s Coursework
One of the first things that is evident when you log in to your PrepScholar account is that the focus of this course is test strategy. The PrepScholar program is not a collection of video lessons teaching you how to perform certain types of math or how to analyze proper grammar – they teach to the exam. And this is a very good thing.
As they point out, intelligent students often score poorly on their first attempt at the SAT or ACT, despite having 3.8+ GPA’s, because there is more to nailing the exam than just smarts. You need focused strategy for the unique question types of these entrance exams, and this is just what their materials provide. But before we get too far into the nature of the lessons, let’s start with the structure of the PrepScholar program.
I took the Dual SAT + ACT course option, which is designed for students taking both exams. This gave me easy access to both prep packages, which are nearly identical in structure and design. The only real difference between the primary Complete SAT Online Prep and Complete ACT Online Prep is the content of the questions. And even where the two exams overlap – mostly on the math side – PrepScholar uses the same content to teach to the exams.
The course starts with a brief, one-hour diagnostic test to set your baseline. This exam is 60 questions and you have 60 minutes to complete it, which sounds intense, but it goes by fast. Once done, PrepScholar’s adaptive software does its thing to analyze your strengths and weaknesses and give you a grade across every major test topic. Based on your performance, their adaptive tech creates a custom study plan based on your current skill level. As you later progress through the course, this study plan will consistently update and change to account for improvements and regressions.
Based on your diagnostic, you are assigned a score in every subject at one of three performance levels – core, advanced, or mastery. Core is the base level rating and generally means you have a lot of work to do in that area. You must first learn the fundamentals before moving onto harder material, and finally mastering the topic. Advanced means you are close to mastery of the subject, but need to work on some of the tougher, more complex problem types. Finally, once you have mastered the topic, you are done with that particular unit.
Overall, I really like this approach, though it can be frustrating at times. This method of preparation is extremely effective for building true mastery of a topic, which you need in just about every category to get an elite score. But with so many units, it can be grueling trying to master them all. It is a ton of work and feels like an uphill battle. But there is also something extremely satisfying about leveling up each time you jump up a rank and you can see yourself getting closer to the score you want.
Each unit, no matter what performance level you’re at, contains three components – learning, practice and review. Each component takes about 20 minutes to complete, and together make each unit about an hour long. Altogether, PrepScholar provides more than 100 hours of content across these study units and practice tests.
You always start with the lesson on a given topic, which provides instruction on both content review and testing strategies. As referenced above, PrepScholar places great emphasis on testing strategy, which I really liked. Oftentimes the biggest score increases are attributed to smart shortcuts and creative techniques for making answering more efficient.
In terms of the lesson format, most, but not all, lessons include both a text lesson and a video lesson. To be clear, there is always an interactive text-based lesson, but there isn’t always video. The text lessons are exceedingly detailed and go to great lengths to clearly explain the subject. PrepScholar utilizes graphics, equations, pictures and other rich content features to make it even more understandable. While this makes for an extremely informative experience, it isn’t always best for comprehension and retention.
In my opinion, these text lessons are very good in terms of explaining tough subjects and have tons of great detail; however, they are not perfect. They are lengthy, in the weeds, and just plain dry. If you are not a big text-based learner and prefer to learn visually or audibly, this may not be your favorite. That said, if you learn just fine via text, these written lessons are very thorough and very well-crafted.
The video lessons, on the other hand, provide a more visceral learning experience. The video lectures cover the same material as the text-based lesson (in large part), but do so in visual form. The video takes the form of a PowerPoint slideshow with instruction voiceover. Your instructor verbalizes their lesson as written notes, bullet lists of key points and practice problems roll across the screen in slide form. In addition, your instructor makes notes directly onscreen with a red pen to emphasize points and show how to work practice questions.
All of these audiovisual elements together make for a very effective lesson that I personally found to be better than the text lessons. That could just be my personal bias for video-based instruction over assigned reading, but I really do think this is where the true value lies in PrepScholar’s lesson work. In my opinion, these video lessons are not as good as those offered by test prep giants Kaplan and Princeton Review, but do hold their own and effectively communicate the necessary material. I just wish they had a video lesson for every single subject/unit.
After your 20 minutes or so of lesson work, you are directed to take a short quiz. These quizzes are generally comprised of 10 to 20 realistic test questions, and cover the material you just learned in the lesson. In other words, you get a bunch of very similar questions hammering the topic you just heard about for close to a half hour. These questions are pulled from PrepScholar’s bank of practice problems and will change if you retake a study unit later.
In total, PrepScholar boasts 7,100+ SAT practice questions and 2,400+ ACT practice questions. That is almost 10,000 practice problems across both exams. I will be the first to say that you will likely never see all of these questions. It is simply too much. Don’t get me wrong, I truly appreciate that PrepScholar provides this unreal volume of questions, but it is likely more than you’ll ever need.
Once done with the questions, you must review the problems. Each question has an accompanying text explanation which thoroughly breaks the problem down. I was very impressed with the level of detail that these explanations delve into. Many other SAT and ACT prep providers’ explanations are just a couple of sentences mentioning why the correct answer choice is correct. But the PrepScholar explanations are like mini-lessons in themselves, which I really liked.
Depending on how you perform in your quiz, you will either master the subject or still be stuck at the core or advanced level. Until you have mastered the topic, the unit gets placed back into the rotation to be studied again later. PrepScholar leaves nothing to chance and wants to make sure you have aced every unit before you’re done.
Once finished with the review of a particular topic, you move onto the next unit in your queue. And that is generally how the process goes until you master all of your modules. It is a lot of hard work, but also feels like it goes fast. With each study unit taking just an hour or so, if you spread your studies out into frequent, short study sessions, you can make significant progress in just a month or two without feeling overwhelmed.
After the first 8 lessons or so, PrepScholar will prompt you to take your first full-length practice exam. The practice test is taken under exam-like conditions, and once finished, you upload your score to get an instant score report. You can also optionally upload your essay and get written feedback on it from one of PrepScholar’s experts. If you don’t get the score you want, don’t be discouraged. PrepScholar purposefully places this test early on in your studies to start conditioning you for the rigors of the real exam and to show how much you progress you’re making as you continue with your studies.
Once finished with this practice test “mid-term,” there will be other practice tests assigned by your study plan from time to time. In total, SAT students get access to 10 full-length practice exams and ACT students get 5. I am not sure why there is such a discrepancy in practice test numbers, but in any event, this should be enough for most students. And these numbers are in line with other prep providers.
It should also be noted that as you study, PrepScholar’s adaptive software consistently updates your study plan to reflect your ever-changing strengths and weaknesses. If you master a subject, you’ll never see it again. If you regress in any area, expect to see that module again soon. In addition, within each area, as you progress, PrepScholar will match the difficulty level of the problems to your skills. This creates a very personalized study plan that you won’t get with every prep company.
I really like the PrepScholar study plan overall. Not only is it tailored to each student, but it also gives you step-by-step direction. This is different from other study plans I have seen where the prep company takes more a of a library-style approach to material, leaving it to the student to drive. If you’re the type of student that needs direction and guidance, this will be a nice perk.
In addition, if you want to visualize your progress directly, PrepScholar provides some pretty awesome analytics under your “progress” tab. In this section of the online portal, you’ll find a graphical representation of your performance with colored progress bars, charts and more. While I personally didn’t use this data a ton (other than to get a nice little confidence boost from time to time), if you’re a data driven person, this will be a huge benefit.
All in all, I was very impressed with the design and execution of the PrepScholar SAT and ACT coursework. I particularly like the ‘repeat until mastered’ approach they employ, which you won’t find elsewhere and helps to turn students’ weaknesses into strengths. In addition, the informative text and video lessons, when combined with the crazy quantities of practice questions, make for a potent prep tool. All said and done, the PrepScholar SAT and ACT coursework packs a punch and I think will absolutely get the job done for most every student.
It’s imperative that prep courses which are 100% online have a good user interface, and fortunately for PrepScholar, theirs delivers. Utilizing a very simple layout with just three tabs on the top navigation bar, PrepScholar is the definition of simple. The layout is clean and intuitive. You are directed to your primary content lessons from the dashboard, strategy lessons on the strategy tab and progress trackers under the progress tab. That’s it. I really like this clean and simple design.
The aesthetics are also pleasing, with an academic font and appearance. In short, I really like the overall look and feel of this digital platform.
Tutoring with PrepScholar
For students seeking a top tier score or who are struggling with certain subjects and in need of more personal support, PrepScholar does offers tutoring. This private tutoring is carried out by one of PrepScholar’s SAT or ACT experts via video chat as a supplement to the course. The tutoring builds on the primary course materials and gives more tailored 1:1 guidance. Packages for tutoring start at around $995, but can go up to $2,000+ depending on how many hours you need.
While I personally didn’t utilize any PrepScholar tutoring (I just took the Dual SAT + ACT course), I would expect it to be very good. I was very impressed with the knowledge and communication skills of the PrepScholar experts through the video lessons, and assuming you’re getting your 1:1 private tutoring from the same folks, I would think the service would be excellent. But that is just my opinion having not used any tutoring myself. If tutoring is critical to your study plan, I would give Testive a good look. I did use their tutoring services and found them to be excellent.
Content Access Periods
Every PrepScholar package except the Complete Premium offering comes with one full year of access to PrepScholar’s course materials. Different than the rest, the Complete Premium package comes with two full years of access. This latter package is aimed at students that need the absolute maximum amount of time to study – whether because of busy schedules, planning for multiple exams takes or other reasons. But for the vast majority of students, one year should be more than enough.
No Mobile App
Unfortunately, PrepScholar does not offer a mobile app like many of its competitors do. Given that they are a 100% online course, it would be nice to see them provide a mobile-based application as many students like to study from their phone. And with how busy today’s high schoolers are, it would be beneficial to slip in some studying between school and extracurriculars. So this is a little disappointing.
The PrepScholar Score Guarantee
A major factor in determining our list of best SAT prep courses and best ACT prep courses is whether the prep provider offers a higher score or money back guarantee. Basically, we want to make sure these test prep companies are putting their money where their mouth is. And luckily for PrepScholar, they provide one of the most generous score guarantees for both their SAT and ACT prep programs.
Their SAT prep course carries a 160+ point increase guarantee, and their ACT program boasts a 4+ point increase guarantee. These figures are quite impressive, and perhaps bested only by Prep Expert’s guarantees. After setting your baseline score with PrepScholar and using their full prep package, if you don’t achieve at least these point increases, they will give you your money back. These are two of the larger score promises we have seen, and a nice insurance policy if you don’t get the results you want.
Verdict: PrepScholar SAT & ACT Prep Course
PrepScholar provides a robust and high-touch curriculum that should work well for most students. With hundreds of hours of lesson work, thousands of practice problems (7,100+ SAT and 2,400+ ACT), and 15 total practice tests (10 SAT and 5 ACT), PrepScholar definitely delivers on the prep volume front. But it is not just their quantity of prep material that impresses. The design and execution of their lesson work is also very strong.
While I found the written lessons to be dry and a bit lengthy, they are nonetheless extremely informative and cover every testable point on both the SAT and ACT. And in most cases, you do get some nice video-based lessons to supplement the text lessons, which offer a huge benefit to visual and auditory learners. Together with a bunch of top notch practice problems designed by PrepScholar’s in-house experts, the coursework as a whole is very comprehensive. All things considered, I think PrepScholar is a rock-solid prep program that will benefit students who are naturally bright, but need help with test strategies, as well as need some motivation and accountability.
How much does PrepScholar SAT & ACT prep cost?
PrepScholar is generally on the more affordable side of prep courses among SAT and ACT test prep providers. Their courses range in price from around $400 up to $1,000 depending on what level of resources you need.
Which PrepScholar course package is best?
For most students, PrepScholar’s entry-level Complete SAT Online Prep or Complete ACT Online Prep package will be just fine. This package includes video and text lessons, practice problems, problem explanations, practice tests and much more.
Will PrepScholar SAT & ACT prep raise my score?
If you complete the full PrepScholar prep program, you will very likely see a score increase. In fact, PrepScholar is so confident in this that they promise massive score increases (160+ for SAT and 4+ for ACT).