Back to blog

SAT Prep Options: Self Study vs. SAT Tutoring vs. Group Classes

online tutoringWhen preparing for the SAT exam, you must decide pretty early on which study approach you will take. Although you can always switch strategies if something isn’t working for you or you don’t achieve the score you want, we’re hoping this article will help you make the right decision without unnecessarily wasting time and money on the wrong SAT prep method. Below you’ll find the three most prominent SAT prep options: self study, 1-1 tutoring, and SAT classes, as well as the pros and cons of each.   


Self-Study for the SAT

Choosing to self-study for the SAT is typically the cheapest option, but it’s also the option that requires you to be the most self-motivated and organized. Although there are a variety of free or low cost SAT prep materials out there that make self-study a viable choice, you’re still required to build your own SAT study plan, structure your schedule, take practice tests (hopefully you choose to take all of the official SAT practice tests freely available to you), and address your strengths and weaknesses all on your own. CollegeBoard has partnered with Khan Academy to provide up to eight free practice exams. These are full length, official tests that you can incorporate into your study time to assess your growth. Khan Academy SAT prep also does a good job of providing comprehensive supplementary help on all sections (math, reading, writing), as well as general test taking strategies and tips. 

The CollegeBoard provides a good example of an  SAT study plan that you can use as an outline to build your own. It is tailored to a 16 week time period, but you can adjust based on your schedule. For the most part, you want to stick to CollegeBoard and organizations associated or endorsed by it while looking for test prep materials. They administer the Official SAT, so we believe their materials are the most accurate representation of the actual test.

It is imperative that you start this self-study process by creating a study schedule and try your best to stick to it, otherwise, you may find it difficult to feel as though you’re making progress. It is also easier to waste time and energy if you’re figuring out what to do on a day-by-day basis. Building your own study plan allows you to see the bigger picture, set and maintain goals, and increase your time management and organizational skills.  Taking official SAT practice test at regular intervals is a time-tested way to measure and track progress.

In a future article, we’ll compare and contrast different online self-paced SAT prep options from SAT prep providers like Magoosh. Although these options are sometimes called self-paced SAT prep “courses” they are essentially a form of self-study.

Private SAT Tutoring

In-person or online one-on-one SAT tutoring provides a customized experienced focused on your unique strengths and weaknesses, and you have an expert guiding you along throughout the process. This can make the whole journey, but especially the initial start, much less overwhelming. However, 1-1 SAT prep is typically the most expensive option. If you struggle with test anxiety, need to see a large score improvement in a short amount of time, are applying to particularly competitive schools, and your budget allows for it, working with a 1-1 SAT tutor can provide the support and guidance necessary to get you the score you want.

It’s obviously important to choose an experienced SAT tutor. All of our private SAT instructors have multiple years of SAT tutoring experience and have achieved at least a 95th percentile SAT score themselves. We believe that, although it’s important for tutors to have impressive credentials, they must also be able to communicate complicated concepts and strategies in a way that’s simple and understandable. We recommend having a phone conversation with your tutor beforehand to chat about their specific approach and your unique needs in order to make sure it’s going to be a good fit. In most cases, we also recommend taking a diagnostic SAT practice test and bringing the results to your first session so that your tutor can review it with you and build an SAT study plan based on your strengths and weaknesses.  

Whether you’re starting from scratch or are taking the test for the second or third time because you’re stuck on a few specific concepts or question types, one-on-one tutoring can be a worthwhile investment. However, to ensure that you’re getting the most out of that investment, have an initial conversation with your tutor about what you’re struggling with and confirm they are tailoring sessions specifically to you. 

SAT Prep Classes

Here, we are primarily talking about your traditional in-person group SAT classes from Kaplan or Princeton Review.

With in-person SAT Classes/Group Instruction, this is the approach that simultaneously requires a bit of self-study but provides some of the expert support that you get with 1-1 prep. It is also typically less expensive than one-on-one tutoring. The drawback to prep classes is the fact that they are not customized to your situation. The SAT instructor must teach to the majority, and that can sometimes mean that you’re left wanting for a more in-depth explanation or more support (either because you are struggling and the instructor is going too fast, or you are far ahead of the class, and already understand what is being explained to the class).

If you’re looking for a general guide or overview to the test or are starting from scratch with your studying, SAT classes can be a good foundation. If you already know your strengths and weaknesses, prepping with a group can turn out to be a partial waste of time and money. 

You can talk with your school counselor to find out about classes in the area, or check out online options. With the use of screen sharing, video chatting, and the ability to record sessions, online 1-1 or group SAT instruction can oftentimes be just as effective as in-person. Remember to check out Groupon for deals on classes and read reviews before signing up.


In conclusion, you have various approaches to choose from when it comes to studying for the SAT exam, but the three main options are self-study, 1-1 tutoring, and classes. There are pros and cons to each and we’re hopeful that this article has helped you decide which may be the best fit for you and your SAT prep journey. In a future article, we’ll review a variety of online SAT prep options, from free help on Kahn academy to customized online SAT tutoring to the many self-paced SAT courses you may come across.

If you have additional questions, feel free to reach out here.