You’re applying to the college of your dreams. Your application requires your SAT scores. The higher your SAT scores, the higher your odds of being accepted into the college of your choice. To that end, an SAT test prep course is the best way to become a top scorer!
So here’s a pop quiz: What is the best SAT prep course? If you can’t answer this question, then take a rain check on that test day. You haven’t done the prep for prepping yet!
Here’s a hint: This is a trick question. There is no such thing as the best SAT prep course, and no course can guarantee a perfect score. A lot depends on your situation, schedule, budget, and aptitude. Some SAT prep courses offer private tutoring. Others are self-paced and can connect motivated test-takers to the resources they need. Still, others give you hybrid options — part self-paced, part online tutoring.
That’s why we’ve selected category winners for the best SAT prep courses–you have to start somewhere, afterall.
Stop now, pencils down, and listen up while we review the answers to the best SAT prep courses…
Whether you pick the self-paced package or 1400+, The Princeton Review might just offer the most well-rounded SAT curriculum. Each package zeroes in on your weaknesses and forces you to grow past your limitations — wherever they may reside! The workload is heavy, but the results are peerless.
Magoosh is the new kid on the block, but they’ve earned a reputation with their results and affordability. Magoosh keeps its prices low by placing everything online. They also promise a 4-point increase for ACT and a 100-point increase for the SAT. Their innovative platform means you can study from any device, anytime, and anywhere!
PrepScholar New SAT is a course with two components: an independent online prep program, and then some one-on-one tutoring. All packages include the former. They differ only by how many hours of tutoring you buy (4, 12, or 50). All of the tutors are knowledgeable and genuinely fun to work with.
Simple, elegant, and old-fashioned, Private Prep is traditional private tutoring for the online era. There is no pre-written curriculum. Everything is customized around the needs and aptitude of the student. This approach is completely personalized, challenging, and guaranteed for your score improvement!
Not all prep courses are created equal. For this ranking, we asked the pros to select their favorite SAT prep courses. Every option listed boasts a “seal of approval” by expert tutors. Read each one to find the option which best fits your needs!
The Princeton Review is one of the most well-known online test prep services for a reason. They’ve been around since 1981 and understand the college admissions game inside and out. They know the SAT. Their courses are effective. Plus, their instructors and tutors are knowledgeable and fun to work with.
Courses focus on core test concepts, but you will also be armed with effective test-taking strategies for those times when you don’t know an answer.
“What I like best about this course is how excited and passionate their instructors are about preparing students to get their best score,” says Jaynell McEntee, a high school teacher for English and College Prep Writing classes. “And there is always a personalized touch.”
The Princeton Review offers two different SAT programs:
Each of these programs has its own sub-programs. There are several options based on your budget and SAT goals. Here’s the breakdown of these packages:
This is Princeton Review’s most basic package. It includes…
And all of this is within an innovative, customized study plan that is tailored to your needs.
This package, so-called because it guarantees its graduates will make a score or 1,400 or higher on their next SAT, is pricey but still manages to be Princeton Review’s bestseller. The package includes…
If your goal is to get into a top-tiered college (or if you are seeking merit scholarships), this package is a must-have.
If you aren’t Ivy League-bound and work well on your own, the Self-Paced package might be for you. It offers excellent resources, including…
Self-paced programs tend to have a threshold where they stop being fruitful, but this program is one of the best of the best. Taking full-length proctored exams is one of the single most important elements to scoring in the 99th percentile on the SAT. Hence, this aspect of the course is extremely valuable.
For students aspiring to score in the top percentile on the exam, the Princeton Review SAT instructor-led course is highly recommended. This involves a greater time commitment and workload. This program is not for the faint of heart, but it guarantees the best results.
For those who need lots of flexibility, the self-paced SAT prep class is a good choice. The Princeton Review offers a one-stop-shop for all your test preparation. It is both economical and convenient, and you only pay for what you need.
Kaplan may win the prize for “best-all-around course offerings.” Kaplan has devoted itself to making test prep accessible to students all over the globe. They have created so many online resources that Kaplan is almost guaranteed to have options that will fit your SAT needs — no matter where you live or how hectic your schedule might be!
Kaplan stands out from its competitors with the sheer amount of study materials it provides students. They even have an archive of videos for prior live sessions you can work through!
The best feature of the Kaplan course is the ability to select exactly what you need and what you can afford. There are too many to review here, but courses start at $30 for a quick, last-minute review and go as high as $2,099 for lengthy, in-person tutoring.
If you are motivated to learn at your own pace, the basic package is a reasonably-priced course which includes…
You can also choose deluxe courses with live teachers and tutors. The scheduled courses — available either online or in-person — include…
A big difference between Kaplan and other SAT courses is the emphasis they place on live sessions. You can actually ask questions of the teacher in the online classroom format. And if you can’t afford the live sessions, there are over 40 hours of instructor-led videos from prior live sessions that are highly engaging and easy to follow.
“Kaplan is a wonderful option for students who want to prep for their SAT either on their own or with a tutor,” says Bronte D’Acquisto, who has worked with students all over the globe to help them reach their ACT, SAT, and GRE goals.
The benefits of Kaplan are the wide variety of online videos they have available for students and all of their practice SAT questions in the Qbank. Hence, if you are willing to put in the time to utilize these videos and answer the practice questions, Kaplan is the company for you.
Magoosh was founded in 2009. As far as test prep services go, they are the new kid in town (even if they are, technically, ten years old). But they have quickly built up a reputation with their results and affordability.
Magoosh keeps their prices low by placing everything online. They also offer a pretty remarkable test score improvement guarantee: a 4-point increase for ACT and a 100-point increase on the SAT. They’ll also give you a refund at any point for any reason.
Magoosh is wonderfully accessible. You can study from anywhere. All their videos, practice tests, and questions are available on their website and the Magoosh mobile app. You can study from your phone while you wait in line at the grocery store. Plus, the app has one of the highest customer review ratings in both the Play and App Store.
Once you register, you’ll get a personalized dashboard that is super user-friendly. It makes it easy to see exactly where you are and what you need to do next. The program teaches via well-produced video lessons. Each question also has its own explanatory video showing you how to answer the questions, along with tips on avoiding common pitfalls.
When you’re ready, you can use the optional “timed quiz mode” to practice your pace. At any time, you’re free to dip into the comprehensive video library covering every academic topic tested on the SAT.
When you miss a practice question, Magoosh customizes a written explanation and/or video lesson that targets your weak points. They have invested a lot into the quality of the online experience, and it shows.
Unlike Kaplan and The Princeton Review, there are no live classroom experiences for Magoosh. Their course offerings are entirely online. So if you want a more personal touch, look elsewhere. In any event, it will give you a higher score — or your money back.
Magoosh offers the best SAT test prep courses for test-takers on a budget. For the best results, we recommend this program to students who…
Although Barron does not offer scheduled SAT test prep courses, they have created a comprehensive, online, self-paced prep class. This class stands out from other prep options due to the program’s adaptive algorithms and the large number of practice questions.
Students will start the class by completing an SAT Diagnostic Test. The system will use this diagnostic to map out a program tailored to the students’ weaknesses in order to optimize their learning. The goal is simple: get the test-taker, at the very least, a slightly higher test score.
Barron’s SAT prep course includes…
The algorithm will continue to update student profiles as they proceed to take exercises and practice tests. Also, the Dashboard continuously updates to reflect a student’s projected SAT score. For self-motivated test-takers, this algorithmic approach holds a lot of promise.
Barron’s SAT online class is a great option if you need a prep course that is flexible and all-inclusive. It fits nicely into established study habits and Barron’s adaptive algorithms will be highly beneficial for students just starting out with their SAT prep, along with those who are unsure of their strengths or weaknesses.
PrepScholar New SAT is a course with two components: the “Automated Online Prep Program” for independent study, and one-on-one video tutoring. The independent study includes videos, drills, answer explanations, and tools for tracking progress.
PrepScholar is a great choice for test-takers with different scheduling needs. Everyone who enrolls gets access to the automated content. Depending on how much tutoring you want to add to that, you’ll choose one of these program options:
It’s also possible to add online group classes to your program and customize your number of tutoring sessions. The whole process can get a little confusing, so PrepScholar offers a free consultation to help you figure out which package is right for you.
The Automated Online Prep Program includes about 40 hours of drills with answer explanations. It tracks your progress and suggests appropriate practice topics as you build your skills. Your expert tutor will check in on your independent work to help them customize each of your coaching sessions.
PrepScholar is a good choice for students who want a course that balances online study with at least 4 hours of individual tutoring. It is an excellent hybrid choice, and balances the two nicely.
PrepScholar is also a good choice for students who want help with specific test-taking skills. This is different than mastering the academic content. It also requires skills such as using the process of elimination, skimming effectively, recognizing “trap” answers, and so on.
Magoosh and Shmoop have a reputation for being light-hearted and goofy. Veritas Prep was founded by MBA students at Yale in 2002, and it brings with it a culture of intensity and drive. While other test prep programs are warm and fuzzy, these guys are steely and competitive. They are interested in results.
They’re best known for teaching the GMAT, but Veritas also offers training for the ACT, SAT, and GRE as well.
Veritas offers 3 online SAT packages:
This is a self-study program using video lessons and online progress-tracking tools. You get one year of access to everything. They’ll help you create a long-term study plan to keep yourself on track, and you can message instructors any time if you get stuck. Included are:
The On Demand package is high-quality, compatible with laptops, phones, and tablets, and gives back what you are willing to put into it.
Marketed as the best in the world, this package adds 25 hours of live online instructions to everything included with the SAT On Demand package. All online classrooms use a “film studio” platform. This means they have a large suite of teaching tools — they aren’t just a lecture imposed over PowerPoint slides. This makes SAT prep course sessions livelier, more engaging, and more like a traditional classroom.
Here, you get the final evolution of Veritas Prep. SAT Tutoring includes everything in the Live Courses package plus 12, 24, 36, or 48 hours of one-on-one tutoring. These one-on-one sessions can be either online or in-person, and you get to determine the time and place.
Veritas Prep writes its own practice material. All of the tutors are experts who…
Whatever package you choose, Veritas Prep offers students daily live online “office hours.” Think of it as a free tutor always on standby to answer any questions you might have or give advice on anything you’re unsure about.
Veritas is a top choice for students who…
Private Prep is exactly what it sounds like: completely personalized one-on-one tutoring via video. This program is highly innovative and feels a lot like private tutoring. Only it’s all online!
Unlike other test prep courses, Private Prep does not include any standardized test-prep packages. Private Prep will match you with a tutor (or a team of tutors) who fit your personality, academic needs, and schedule. Your tutor(s) then guides you through a diagnostic test and plans a customized curriculum just for you.
The two of you will work together for about 90 minutes each week, using a video conferencing platform with a digital whiteboard. Between sessions, you’ll do homework and practice tests to help consolidate your skills. You are charged by the hour.
If you’re interested in this type of highly individualized tutoring (with no automated elements), you may want to check out other reputable test-prep companies. These days, almost all of them offer online coaching in addition to their in-person services.
Private Prep is a great choice for test-takers who learn best through direct human interaction or have a limited time to prepare. Because billing is by the hour, you can decide how much (or how little) tutoring you want.
Many test-takers can achieve great success by working through a good SAT prep book. The advantage of this approach is there’s minimal financial investment. However, the best results rely on excellent study habits, strong self-discipline, and a motivation to supplement the prep book with other (free) online resources like forums and YouTube channels like Khan Academy.
The disadvantage is the feedback problem. Students are not given solid checkpoints charting their progress, nor do they have that oh-so-valuable expert eye that can identify their weaknesses and deliver the most fruitful challenges. The intrinsic problem with independent study is test-takers can’t push themselves beyond their current level — at least, they can only do so up to a certain level. Eventually, every independent student hits a threshold. Even for motivated and high-aptitude students, a prep book stops being fruitful after about 2 months. At that point, an outside tutor or teacher is required.
This problem hasn’t been solved even by innovative newcomers to the SAT prep market like Khan Academy. Khan Academy is totally free and offers a study program that mimics an online course. Khan Academy does not offer any books or physical learning materials. For some who prefer studying off-screen, this could be a difficulty. Finally, many users complain that the content becomes repetitive after a month or so. While this is a worthy supplement to any independent prep course, it doesn’t escape that threshold, even if it manages to extend it.
In conclusion, a course or a study program that involves live interaction with a tutor or teacher can push you beyond your limitations, make your study schedule more productive, and target and strengthen key weaknesses. A book-only approach, even when it takes advantage of free online study supplements, ceases to be beneficial after a month or so — even for self-disciplined and high-aptitude students.
An online SAT prep class imitates a traditional classroom setting. You are one student in a group. Most of the time, there are no students physically in the same room as the teacher. All are streaming online. An online tutor may also have multiple students, but he or she will meet with each one individually.
Tutoring is the oldest educator-student relationship in history. The pros are it is highly personalized. Both student and educator have each other’s full attention. The result is a highly productive, and timely, experience. The tutor can more effectively identify key weaknesses in the student–as well as gaps in knowledge or bad habits–than a traditional teacher. The con is tutors are more expensive.
An online course, on the other hand, takes place in a group setting. This limits the accessibility of the teacher’s expertise for the individual student, as well as that fruitful one-on-one attention. If you are having difficulty with a problem, or need more information on a topic, you might have no one to turn to. The teacher will inevitably be less cognizant of the student’s particular needs and preferences.
The upsides to classes are they usually are more affordable than private tutoring, materials tend to be included, and students will be exposed to — at the very least — most of what they will see on test day.
With these considerations in mind, the best approach is for test-takers to begin with a class or a self-paced program, and then afterward look into private tutoring to really hone their skills. In-person tutoring can be rewarding, but it is often less flexible.
If you can commit to taking the SAT multiple times, it is a good idea to complete an online course, take the SAT, and then assess your strengths and weaknesses when you get your scores back. A private tutor will be more effective at targeting your particular weaknesses than a teacher. After purchasing a few private lessons, retake the SAT.
If you have decided to take an online SAT prep course, you will (usually) have two options: a scheduled online class or a self-paced course that has no instructor.
SAT Online Classes
An online class functions in a similar way to traditional classrooms. Students simply log into a virtual classroom remotely. But, like a traditional classroom, you will share a session under a single instructor with multiple other students. The instructor will conduct a lesson and assign problems. Throughout the course, the instructor will engage with students in turn and offer opportunities to answer questions in real time.
There is a strong difference between someone who knows the right information and someone who can convey that information in a clear and engaging manner. Just because an instructor knows how to get a perfect score on the SAT does not mean he or she is a good instructor. For a student to progress, much depends on the latter.
It is important to learn an instructor’s teaching style as well as credentials. The best way to do this is to make a phone call for a quick chat. Prepare a series of questions in advance. What you are looking for are instructors who are generous with their time, passionate about their work, and value fun. Ask questions about the course: Is there a balance between content and test-taking strategies? What do you expect students to learn by the end of the course?
Curriculum will also be a priority in any class that is worth taking. Make sure you know what books or online resources are included in the course before enrolling. There should be a heavy emphasis on working through practice questions similar to those which will appear on the SAT. The curriculum should also feature at least one full-length SAT practice test.
SAT Self-Paced Courses
Self-paced courses do not include an instructor. However, they will feature a series of recorded lessons with accompanying assignments or tasks. There will probably also be a phone number or chat-box so you can talk to an expert tutor for the occasional question. Personal interaction will be severely limited.
Since these recorded lessons are the backbone of a self-paced course, they need to be high-quality. The information should be presented in an organized and clear way. Some programs offer interactive presentations. These are valuable and can keep you more engaged. A reputable test-prep company will allow you to get a sample of the lectures prior to purchasing the course.
You will want a self-paced SAT course that tracks your progress and gives you frequent notices on your level of mastery. This is essential, since a self-paced course is basically a glorified form of independent study. This makes feedback a rare (but vital) commodity. The best self-paced programs will continuously update and display a student’s strengths and weaknesses somewhere on the dashboard.
So you’ve decided to go beyond independent study. Whether you decide to enroll in an online SAT class or self-paced SAT program, there are a few things you should expect. That is, if the prep course or program is one of the best.
First, you should expect a large amount of practice materials. Most of these should be questions, problems, or tests that resemble the ones you will encounter on the actual SAT. For an online class, these practice materials will probably be assignments you will need to complete between classes. What form these take can depend on the style of the instructor. In a self-paced program, you will need to complete the practice material before moving into the next lecture. There will be less diversity here; practice materials will likely look the same lecture to lecture and take the form of a series of problems or a quiz.
If you choose to enroll in an SAT class, there will be a greater burden on your time. You will be completing practice materials at the pace of the class. There may also be a greater variety of work to be done. You should be willing to study between classes.
If you choose to enroll in a self-paced program, you still need to be prepared to study. More of this depends on strong study habits and self-discipline. It is up to you to make the most of your time. However, students who do not put in at least several hours of studying every week will not see their SAT score increase much.
The first order of business to make the most of your SAT prep course and maximize your test score is to establish excellent study habits. Set aside a non-negotiable time each day to study and complete practice materials. Sometimes, it helps to designate a single workspace (maybe your computer desk) and set a timer for 45 minutes or an hour and refuse to stop working until the timer goes off.
In any event, putting in a lot of time does not necessarily translate into mastery. It must be time spent well. 30 minutes of focused study is better than 1 hour of distracted study.
Be honest with yourself about what you don’t know. Be willing to rewatch videos or reach out to a tutor to get a question answered. Also, know what you do know. Conduct self-tests by reciting important information in your own words or memorizing formulas.
Finally, take advantage of full-length SAT practice tests. These are a critical component of your progress. In fact, it might help to think of a practice test, not as a test, but as just another homework assignment. Success on the SAT comes from doing SATs. Try to complete one a month. With an online course, there is no accountability to anyone but yourself. Don’t cheat yourself. Do those practice tests!