The Ivy Coach Daily

May 29, 2024

SAT/ACT Tutor vs Self-Study: Is an SAT/ACT Tutor Worth It?

Steps lead up to a building at Harvard University.

One of the most important criteria that college admission officers use to evaluate applicants is standardized test scores. For Harvard University’s most recently admitted class, the interquartile range of scores on the SAT was 1500–1580, and for the ACT it was 34–36. These scores are formidable, leading many ambitious high schoolers to take it upon themselves to carry out extensive preparation for their testing date. An age-old question often arises at this juncture: to self-study, or to seek out professional tutoring.

Self-study may seem like the way to go from a cost-efficiency standpoint, but there are glaring problems with this approach. Self-study must be self-motivated, and even if a student has parents there to encourage them to hit the books (or the free online service), in the absence of motivation or an allotted time to focus on test prep, no major learning gains will take place. If a student struggles with a specific aspect of reading comprehension, or with remembering how to use certain math formulas, no amount of rereading and memorization will teach them the error in their ways. If the explanation on an online tutoring platform does not make sense to them, they hit a dead end, and there is no one there to provide an alternative approach to tackling the difficult question.

Professional Tutoring is the Proven Method for Improving Standardized Test Scores

For quite some time, The College Board denied that the SAT was coachable. They changed their tune in 2017 after releasing a study touting the benefits of tutoring. The same goes for the ACT — both tests use the same repetitive question formats, broach the same main topics, and test for the same fundamental strengths across tests. This means that specific test-taking strategies taught by professionals will not fail when employed by students on the big day. 

The coachability of standardized tests partially contributed to the decision across elite institutions in the United States to instate test-optional policies during the height of the pandemic. These schools feared that remote-school learning losses would solely impact low-income students if their more privileged counterparts were able to supplement any testing deficiencies with tutoring.

However, with remote schools in the rearview, many schools in the Ivy League and beyond have reawakened to the importance of standardized testing in bringing driven students to college campuses and have returned to test-mandatory policies. The tests, including the new digital SAT, are still as coachable as they always have been. With unprecedented competitiveness in the elite college admission game, now more than ever it is crucial to get highly selective college-bound students into top tutoring services!

Why One-on-One Tutoring is Superior to Group Sessions

According to the Regional Educational Laboratory Program, a subsidiary of the U.S. Department of Education, one-on-one tutoring is the “most effective” form of tutoring. The data bears this out, but so does common sense. Individual students have individual strengths, weaknesses, and learning styles. In a group setting, the tutor can only tailor a limited amount of their lessons to individual needs. Conversely, if some students in a group setting are fast learners, they may be held back by the needs of the group at large. One-on-one instruction increases motivation, accountability, and a student’s personal connection to the material. It’s beneficial for the same reasons that elite colleges tout low faculty-to-student ratios and one-on-one tutorial classes: students learn more in personalized settings!

Ivy Coach offers highly personalized one-on-one SAT and ACT tutoring via Zoom with Dr. Fran Bigman, a standardized test tutor with over 20 years of experience. Dr. Bigman brings a student’s interests into her instruction, motivating them and inspiring them to succeed through homework assignments that speak to their natural affinities and touch on their weaknesses. If you are interested in optimizing your child’s SAT or ACT performance, fill out our complimentary consultation form, and we’ll be in touch.

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