What to Ask and How to Choose a Test Prep Tutor or Program

       Will the program be personalized?

   Who will be doing the direct instruction for each subject?

      Is the tutor qualified to teach ALL content areas?

         What are the tutor's teaching experience and results?

            How recently has the tutor taken the test and what were their scores?

                Do lessons include remediation of subject-area knowledge if needed? 

                          Do lessons cover specific test-taking strategies and critical-thinking skills?

Comparisons of Types of Test Prep


Choose a program based on your goals, budget, strengths and weaknesses. Remember that nothing and no one can replace independent timed practice on official tests under actual test conditions!

What to Look Out For

  • Cookie-cutter franchises with generic programs based on group practice and lacking individualized attention.

  • Sales pitches by directors who do marketing, consulting or administration but who are not test experts or educators.

  • Long-term contracts, up-front fees or expensive materials.

  • Programs that use diagnostic tests and then use the identical tests to evaluate progress (this is surprisingly common!) 

  • Programs which use different tutors for different subjects and who have inconsistent or even contradictory approaches.

  • A "team of associates" or subcontractors without a high level of expertise or professionalism.

  • Subcontractors who are often paid a fraction of the fees that you pay and might not be reliable. 

  • Tutors with limited proficiency (often favoring either writing/reading vs math/science). 

  • Tutors who present easy-level problems or show the hard way to solve them using long textbook-style explanations.

  • Tutors who do not make students feel at ease in asking questions or who are not competent in answering them.

  • Tutors who don't have a deep understanding and can't offer further clarification or alternative approaches.

  • Tutors who are not familiar with current versions of the tests or variables of testing conditions.

  • Tutors who read from manuals, rely on answer keys or use traditional classroom methods.

  • Tutors who scored high on standardized tests but do not know how to teach or present the material effectively.

  • Experienced classroom teachers who do not have relevant expertise or recent success on standardized tests.

  • Tutors who claim that there are no strategies for certain subjects or that some sections are based wholly on prior knowledge or natural skills (This is especially relevant to ACT science and SAT/ACT essays).

  • Tutors who treat the SAT & ACT like traditional academic tests or other standardized tests (AP, IB, EOC or ACE).

All verbal content unless otherwise cited is original and was written by Susan Werb.

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