SAT Tutor

For someone who is a bad test taker, are SAT tutors worth the money?

It depends on why you think you’re a bad test taker. Do you need help with the reviewing concepts or is it more of an anxiety issue?

@ExamMasters Anxiety, but I have two huge SAT textbooks for help, but when I open them and I look at the practice tests and problems, it seems extremely confusing and unknown to me…

I am a tutor, so of course I will say yes it will help. I help students by first teaching big picture techniques then focusing on those specific details that a student needs to improve his or her score. The big books that are out there are designed to be a broad approach, but a private tutor will cut through the stuff you don’t need to see and help you focus on what is going to help YOU get better.

Anxiety for a test stems from two issues mainly:

  1. You don’t know the subject matter well and you feel it’s too hard for you.
  2. You can’t handle the stress of time on the test

The good news is that you can work on anxiety.

For the first part, all you have to do is force yourself to sit down everyday and study the material. There are plenty of amazing resources out there like Khan Academy that will actually teach you the material. Start with the basic stuff and once you get comfortable with that, move onto the harder stuff. Practice is key. The more you practice, the better you will get.

For time management, do timed practice tests or sets of questions. In the beginning, don’t stop when the allotted time runs out; work on accuracy rather than speed. Gradually, as you start getting better with the questions, start trying to do them quicker. After you’re comfortable with that, start trying to finish within the allotted time.

Eventually, if you keep working at it like this, you will see that your anxiety will come down to a more manageable level. Anxiety only gets worse the more you avoid things, so stop avoiding it and start practicing everyday. Also, remember to not overdo it and burn yourself out - in the beginning study a little bit at a time and do more once you get better. If you can, try working with a family member or friend to motivate yourself.

If you feel you still need a tutor, get yourself a good tutor who can help you not only with the subject matter, but also with test anxiety.


Khan is no different than any other big test book. It isn’t going to find the specifics that YOU need to improve.

@midtntutor How do I find a tutor out there though? (Other than knowing some through someone else).

Do you live in a more rural area, a small city, or a major urban area? That will help me guide your answer.

@midtntutor It’s a “small suburb city” I guess you could say (20K population), but a suburb of Greenville SC

Check with your guidance counselor and see if he/she has a list of resources. Also, many private schools put tutor lists on their websites, so check some of those in the Greenville vicinity for ideas. I’m just glad you’re out in the middle of nowhere where your closest neighbors are 2 miles down the road.

I use a tutor and feel as if it helps drastically. I am a good test taker and didn’t think there was much more I could do, but my tutor helped immensely. Just make sure you are using someone with great ratings and affordably priced.

I generally guide students through Khan Academy problems and questions. I have my own website too. Generally, I help students score higher in 1-2 months time. It also depends a lot on students.

absolutely not for ENGLISH seciton, TUTOR IS WORTH FOR MATHS ONLY

@Derpthulu You probably should have paid for the English tutor…

OP if you can afford it and it would make you more comfortable get the tutor. If you live near a university, there’s always someone willing to tutor you. Craigslist is an option, but make sure you are contacting someone in a safe manner.

I agree with @midtntutor . I am also a private tutor and I have seen marked increases in test scores. It is possible that these students could have improved their scores on their own, but because I am able to help pinpoint issues we can focus on what works for that student. I am quite sure that some of my students would simply not have been able to raise their scores as they did (17 up to 33R is my most recent student’s score) without my guidance.

Almost every student will benefit from a private tutor, of course, but the downside is that it tends to be expensive. And it may be hard to find private tutors in less built up areas away from major metropolitan centers, such as LA, NYC and Chicago. One somewhat more affordable option is Skype or FaceTime tutoring, and a number of professional test prep companies offer that option.

If that isn’t an option, I recommend giving yourself about three months from the test date and going through sections one by one to see where you need the most work. Take one test initially under timed conditions, grade yourself and see how you do. Then begin doing sections without timing, ensuring you understand what the question is asking before you try to answer. As you improve, start adding timing in again.

Get one official test prep guide, and one other well recommended guide, and read through them before launching into the testing. There are also some really great posts on CC about how testers raised their scores a lot. I have read some myself and they can be really useful. Good luck.

ETAS: please ignore the inane advice of the person above who says you should only get a tutor for math. I am a verbal-only tutor. I have just as many students as the math tutors do. Plenty of people need help in reading comprehension and English.

@Hamlon i think you are kidna right. i didnt really have nice tutor ,thats why i skipped last month. however i self learnt grammar rules and blablabla and stuff and improved my english score by 90 in 1 MONTH. however i had no progress on reading, i focused on writing.

hamlon could you tell me how could tutor help me with READING section? i just cant imgaine how can tutor teach me how to do better on reading , i get it on writing tho…

Some tutors help some people some of the time to varying degrees. No other answer is valid. @ryanalexander116

Reading comprehension and the old SAT essay were the hardest sections of the test to coach. They both require a deep base of general prior knowledge and experience as an active reader. Vocabulary development is an obvious example of what I mean. Last-minute panic cramming of vocabulary words does very little to improve your score, while at the same time, a well-developed vocabulary is essential to get top scores on the test. Developing a functional understanding of a wide range of words takes time. The same is true about developing skill as an active reader. (The emphasis should be put on the word ‘active’.)

Active reading means the reader is engaged in a deliberate search for certain kinds of information. An active reader knows what kinds of information to expect from various kinds of writing, asks questions and searches for the answers, is concerned first to understand what writers are saying before criticizing their ideas, knows about the art and craft of expressing ideas and has a working understanding of logic and the tactics of persuasion. An active reader is also constantly comparing an individual writer’s message with the reader’s own knowledge and understanding of the topic.

Of course, writing requires the same knowledge and skill as reading. They are two sides of the same coin. In that sense, you are lucky. The old SAT pretty much tossed you into the pool at the deep end and watched to see how well you could swim. The new SAT is a bit easier in that the changes to the essay have helped to focus your attention on the art of rhetoric. That gives you a specific body of knowledge upon which you can focus your attention as you study. Like math and grammar, there are specific lessons you can learn to help you improve both your reading comprehension and your writing skill at the same time.

I have always argued that test prep, if done properly, is nowhere near the pointless waste of time that the SAT critics say it is. Sure, there are ‘testwise’ tricks that don’t have much application beyond multiple choice testing, and for purposes of the SAT they are worth knowing, but they should not be the proper focus of tutoring. Learning the intellectual skills that the test was designed to measure is what really makes the money spent on tutoring worthwhile. Those reading and writing skills are essential in any professional occupation. and, except in incredibly rare cases, anyone who lacks them is not likely to go very far.

For students who have already acquired a strong vocabulary and active reading skills, test prep requires little more than to learn the testwise tricks, review math concepts they haven’t studied recently, and become familiar with the format and idiosyncrasies of the test. For students who have not gained those skills, test prep is an opportunity to develop them now to make the rest of their lives easier and more productive.

Ha! This was the easiest part to coach. It was totally solvable with a basic “MadLibs” template. “Some people claim [antithesis]. In other words [antithesis paraphrased]. I disagree. I believe [thesis]. We can turn to [Example A] and [Example B] to affirm that [thesis paraphrased].” &c. A well produced batch of 5-7 examples could prep kids for literally any prompt (they’re easily categorizable, too!), and even the worst-educated kid could master it in a week or two–it was a glorified TOEFL essay and a good template and enough practice could guarantee a 10 or higher with a margin of error so small as to be negligible.

(which is why I’m overjoyed that the CB got rid of it. The new one is also totally coachable, but it does require students to make a few more choices and maybe even learn a few basics about rhetorical analysis (maybe. maybe.), but good tutors already have fool-proof templates.)