People ask me how to become an SAT tutor pretty regularly. After all, I’ve built my career around preparing students all over the world to succeed in college by way of tutoring them for the SAT and ACT.
But as much as we all genuinely love students, for me and many of my colleagues who have been in the industry for decades, becoming an SAT tutor wasn’t the original goal.
Personally, I was a year or two out of college and working as a professional actor when I decided to explore becoming an SAT tutor. If you do some digging you’ll find that this is an extremely common origin story for people who are professional SAT tutors for the long haul.
I needed a part time job to support my acting career with so many lessons to pay for and so many classes and auditions that required flexibility. I found a listing on Craigslist for entry-level tutors at a small, private tutoring company in my area.
I’m just one of those people who naturally excels at standardized tests. I did quite well on the SAT in high school, even though I’d never even seen the test before, so when I stumbled on that ad for SAT tutors on Craigslist, I applied.
The company I worked for had me do a complete sample SAT for them and show all my work. My score on their sample test was nearly perfect. Then, after an interview that proved I wasn’t a stick in the mud and had the potential to capture students’ attention (I was an actress, after all), I went through the tutoring center’s training materials and started tutoring students on my own.
That’s the abridged version of how I became an SAT tutor–and it’s probably very similar to how you will, too. Let’s look more at your next steps:
If you want to become an SAT tutor to pick up some extra cash, work with kids, or because you just can’t get enough of multiple choice tests, there are several ways to get into the industry. The process is very much like the one I went through in the early 2000s.
Many companies still advertise on Craigslist. Companies who offer local tutoring and online programs usually prioritize Craigslist.com because it’s where most students and freelancers keep an eye out for gigs. It is extremely unusual for SAT tutors to work full time at forty hours a week because they are often limited by when students can meet which, of course, is in turn limited by the students’ school schedules.
Franchises pay varying amounts, reflecting differences of sometimes twenty to thirty percent, even at the entry level. This is a bizarre secret, but many companies who highlight that they only work with certified teachers don’t actually pay their tutors the highest hourly rates. Even in entry-level positions when you’re probably earning $17 to $23 an hour, that difference adds up quickly.
The Princeton Review and Kaplan, two of the biggest names in the industry, have similar qualifications to become a tutor. Be sure to verify their application requirements on your own.
Here’s what the Princeton Review requires:
Kaplan’s requirements are pretty similar, but Kaplan also publicly shares its score minimum, which is the key detail to becoming an SAT tutor with them. Their website states, “To teach most exams, you should have scored in the 90th+ percentile—or retest to meet this requirement.”
As of the 2018 scores, that means you’d definitely need a 1340 composite on the SAT or a 29 on the ACT to become an SAT tutor at Kaplan and that the minimum scores are probably in the same neighborhood at similar franchise tutoring companies.
Let’s be candid: when most people ask me how to become an SAT tutor, they don’t actually want to know how to become a tutor just anywhere to pick up some spare cash.
They want to know how they can do what I did: publish books, grow a tutoring team, cater to a global clientele, and enjoy a more than comfortable free schedule.
When I look back on my career in tutoring, six main factors come to mind in regards to what led me down a very successful yellow brick road. I hope these tidbits below help guide you on your own tutoring endeavors.
When I was just starting out, I walked into the right tutoring company at the right time. I was afforded a lot of creative, intellectual freedom at my first job and earned a lot of trust that might not happen at larger, more regimented franchises. I was also assigned clients who came through for me. The kids I worked with back then performed well even when I was not anywhere near as immersed in the SAT and ACT as I am now. Working together, those kids made me look good while I helped them make their scores look good.
This is really a subtopic of luck, but it deserves its own line. Because I am one of those oddballs who has always been extremely good at standardized tests without any preparation, becoming an SAT tutor originally seemed like an obvious choice for me because it seemed easy. Trust that I’m laughing as I write that; it only would have been easy if I were the one taking the SAT–which, unlike certain recently outed public figures, I don’t do for my students. Still, learning the material and remastering it for the context of the SAT, ACT, and GRE was probably easier for me than it is for most people. If you’re naturally good at tests, you’re off on the right foot.
Not having any experience with test prep (I didn’t go through any myself in high school) also helped me. I didn’t have preconceived ideas about how tests needed to be approached, which made it easier for me to detect what worked and didn’t work when I was teaching rather than getting stuck in a script.
I’m also a natural chameleon and you should be, too. Remember how I said it’s typical for people who become SAT tutors, especially in New York and LA, to also be professional actors? That’s because the most successful SAT tutors are able to connect with any kind of student. I’m always myself when I teach, but I’m a different version of myself depending on what student I’m trying to reach and teach.
I have worked for some of the most impressive people in this industry all along the East Coast who pushed me because they respected me. Working in smaller firms also allows you to get rigorous feedback (especially because the perceived stakes are usually higher in those companies). My bosses in Florida and New York City connected me to other people in the industry out of kindness. If you want to go far as an SAT tutor, hitch your wagon to someone else’s star.
Just like in any industry, developing your own methodology and claim to expertise is incredibly useful. Publishing my books, Outsmarting the SAT and Acing the ACT, changed my life.
It takes time to learn how to tutor the SAT to different types of personalities with different socio-economic backgrounds and self-perceptions. If you want to learn how to become an SAT tutor, you have to learn how to teach complicated topics in extremely simple ways to people from all walks of life, learning abilities, and mental health situations.
Becoming an SAT tutor is incredibly stressful because, most of the time, the quality of your performance is measured by someone else’s performance on a test you have no control over. Most people are not up for the anxiety of letting their entire livelihoods rest on the performance of adolescents in high stress situations. When you read those profiles about high-fee tutors in the newspaper (and they regularly appear), go easy on the FOMO. You just may be sleeping more easily than they do.