The SATs are such a panic-inducing experience. Depending on the college, it can make or break your college entry. Fortunately, there are a variety of resources that should aid you in your studies.
For the purpose of this article, I'm going to shed a little light on the best SAT prep course, as well as some additional resources that you should consider. But let's delve into the difference between the ACT and SAT.
In This Guide
ACT vs SAT
First, let's dive into both the ACT and SAT. It's a good idea to understand what separates the two tests. While colleges accept either test, the difference lies in the emphasis of subjects within the tests.
The SAT subjects contain reading, writing and language, math, and an optional essay. The ACT, on the other hand, contains English, Math, Reading, Science Reasoning and an optional essay.
The second difference? The length in the tests:
SATs last three hours without an essay, but with an essay, it can take up to three hours and 50 minutes. For the ACTs, the testing period is two hours and 55 minutes without the essay, and three hours and 40 minutes with the essay.
Here's a bit more information if you'd like to know the contrasting points between the two types of tests:
- The SAT contains five reading passages, whereas the ACT contains four reading passages.
- There is no science section within the SAT, but the ACT contains one science section that measures your critical thinking abilities, not your specific scientific knowledge.
- Regarding math, the SAT covers arithmetic, algebra I and II, geometry, trigonometry, and data analysis. The ACT tests you in arithmetic, algebra I and II, geometry, and trigonometry.
- In concerns to the calculator policy, the SAT allows you to use a calculator, but only on certain math questions. However, the ACT lets you use a calculator on all math questions.
- Essays within the SAT are optional, but they will test your comprehension of a source text. ACT essays, while also optional, will test how well you evaluate and analyze complex issues.
- Finally, the SAT score is based on a scale of between 400 and 1600. The ACTs are scored on a scale of 1 and 36.
Determining the Best SAT Prep Course
There are a variety of factors that helped single out the best SAT prep course available. Here are the factors that I've considered when ultimately deciding the best SAT prep courses:
The admissions process is lengthy. In fact, you need to achieve incredibly early in order to enter the top colleges. So how can you overcome the hurdles brought by the applications and the interviews? Well, only the best service should provide you with aid in the admissions process, whether through their blog, through a mock interview, or through any other guide.
SAT Practice Tests
Here are some questions that I've considered when researching the practice test sections of the major SAT prep providers:
- Are there free practice tests administered by the company?
- Does the service offer full proctored practice tests?
- Are the tests realistic?
- How in-depth are the explanations in the answer key?
How the courses are administered makes a big difference. Not everyone learns at the same pace. According to the Christa Mcauliffe School of Arts and Sciences, students are able to learn faster, master more material, and remember their coursework thanks to one-on-one sessions. In other words, many students benefit from one-on-one sessions, whereas others prefer a classroom setting. The best services provide the student with a multitude of study delivery options, including one-on-one, In Person, Live Online, and more.
SAT Prep Materials
Prep materials are important. Not only does the material need to be thorough, but they need to mold well with the student's studying habits. The service typically provides both free and paid prep material, ranging from flashcards to quiz banks.
Customer support is essential. Without customer support, the business cannot thrive. I rated the available prep course providers by the amount of care the providers place into its clients. Are the teachers at expert level? Top-rated, perhaps? What are the available options to contact the company? Can the company be contacted by phone, email, live chat or via social media? This is what I look for when determining the best SAT prep course provider.
Kaplan SAT Prep Course
I would have to go with Kaplan's SAT prep course as the best SAT prep course available to students. After all, Kaplan offers plenty of incentives and study aids to push you across the finish line of test success!
First of all, Kaplan offers both offsite and online prep courses, so if you happen to live in a rural area - or just too far away from an on-site center - you'll have access to tons of resources. According to the thousands of responses each year to an annual survey about Kaplan students who were admitted to college as of May 2012, May 2013, May 2014, and May 2015, 95 percent claim that those who relied on Kaplan's tools were able to get into one of their top-choice colleges.
Kaplan also boasts the following advantages:
- Personalization: Kaplan customizes your prep plan based on your strengths and weaknesses.
- Care: Kaplan instructors care, meaning they place a focus on both you and the test.
- Convenience: There is a class for you, no matter where you are. There are a variety of prep options that we will discuss shortly.
- Realism: Kaplan strategies are applied to the official College Board practice tests to help you prepare for Test Day.
There are a couple of unique features that I would like to emphasize regarding Kaplan's service, which is why it is highly recommended:
SmartReports (or Smart Reports, as the spelling differs throughout the site for some reason) - With SmartReports, Kaplan updates students and parents. You'll be informed of your progress on each assignment, as well as your performance on every tested topic. Furthermore, you can also view your practice test performance, and you'll be able to analyze your strengths and weaknesses by topic area, question type, and more. The
SAT Channel - With The SAT Channel, you'll receive the modern prep experience whenever and wherever you'd like. The Kaplan course and The SAT Channel combined offers more hours of live instruction than any other major prep provider. You'll be able to watch episodes that are geared toward your learning level. You'll be able to browse by topic, instructor, or difficulty, which is taught by a top-rated teacher, i.e. the best in the country.
The Best SAT Prep - Kaplan Classroom Options
There are several types of prep options available to you. They fall into the categories of Classroom, Private Tutoring, and Other Prep Options. Let's run by them, one by one.
SAT Prep Classes
Here are the available Classroom preparation options:
Unlimited Prep - The Unlimited Prep course is expensive, running you $1599, but you'll receive a lot of content for this course. You'll be able to take and re-take both in person and live online PSAT, SAT, and ACT courses as many times as your heart desires until December of your senior year. Unlimited Prep also grants you the following benefits:
- Unlimited access to PSAT, SAT, and ACT Kaplan courses.
- Timed practice in class with an in-depth review of both answers and explanations, which allows you to learn more efficiently.
- 12 full-length practice tests with score analysis
- Access to The SAT Channel, live streaming, interactive prep from the best instructors. This is all Kaplan-exclusive.
- A Math Foundations course, in order to boost your skills right before your Test Day.
SAT Prep: In Person - You'll prepare with an expert teacher in a structured classroom setting. You'll receive over 48 hours of interactive teaching. There are six three-hour sessions. You'll also have access to The SAT Channel, which includes over 30 hours of interactive live teaching, as well as eight practice tests and 40 hours of additional on-demand instruction.
SAT Prep: In Person Plus - You'll have access to everything from the In Person SAT Prep, plus three hours of one-on-one tutoring and personal coaching, resources for the ACT, and the Math Foundations course.
SAT Prep: Live Online - This class offers the convenience of being accessible online. You'll receive over 48 hours of interactive teaching, scheduled into 3-hour sessions, access to The SAT Channel, eight practice tests, and 40 hours of additional on-demand instruction.
SAT Prep: Live Online Plus - You'll experience all that there is with Live Online but also three hours of one-on-one tutoring and personal coaching, resources for the ACT, and the ability to attend the Math Foundations course.
SAT Prep: Live Online Essentials - You'll have the essential prep tools to help you pass your test. You'll unlock access to The SAT Channel, the Kaplan Quiz Bank (over 300 questions), a personalized study plan, 40 hours of additional on-demand instruction available online in 5- to 15-minute lessons, eight full-length practice tests, and over 1000 online practice questions.
SAT Prep: Self-Paced - Strictly for tests taken in March 2016 and beyond, this course features hours of instructional lessons, proven strategies, and interactive coursework. You'll also have access to hundreds of practice questions. You can also prep whenever you'd like 24/7 thanks to mobile devices.
According to some people, it's best to avoid the ACT and SAT classroom settings and instead opt for one-on-one sessions. After all, they don't exactly cater to your needs, and you may learn at a completely different pace compared to another student. If anything, it is recommended to consider private tutoring or any other one-on-one option.
The Best SAT Prep Book
Fortunately, there are a lot of materials to help you study, in case you (or your parents) cannot afford these courses. The SAT prep books are far cheaper, and if you're tenacious, you'll be able to raise your score with these tools. Here are just some of the best SAT prep books available, though they are no complete substitute for a proper SAT online course.
Official SAT Practice Tests
What better way to actually practice than with realistic questions that follow the same format as the SAT? Well, the Official SAT Practice Tests, which is distributed by The College Board or more or less essential for this very reason. These questions have been on previous SAT tests, which should give you a good idea of the questions you should expect on the SAT. The best part is that these tests are absolutely free, and you can download them as a PDF.
Kaplan SAT Total Prep: Online, Book, and DVD (Kaplan Test Prep)
SAT: Total Prep is a decent general study guide, as it includes all the practice questions students will find in the new SAT - not the exact questions, but similar. You'll find 1,000 pages of informative tips, strategies, and realistic practice. Overall, the guide is designed to increase your speed and accuracy during the test.
Within the guide, you'll find five full-length practice SAT exams - three online and two in the book - over 1500 practice questions, full answers and explanations for each test, a DVD with expert video tutorials, information, strategies, and myths regarding the SAT, content review, strategies, and practice for the reading, writing and language, essay, and math sections, and a year's worth of access to the online center.
The Critical Reader 2nd Edition
This book provides you thorough strategies to deploy on the Reading section. You'll find not only realistic passages and questions but it's been updated for the New SAT. 28 New SAT Math Lessons brought to you by Steve Warner, this book provides you with tips and feedback on how to improve your problem-solving speed. The practice questions you'll find are quite realistic, complete with thorough explanations.
Barron's New SAT
For those who want to score as high as possible, this Barron's New SAT is recommended. This provides you with all the content you'll ever need for practice, complete with detailed lessons and examples.
SAT Practice Tests
Of course, you should always be on the lookout for practice tests. Fortunately, the internet is a gateway to all sorts of interesting practice tests, and here are just some of them that you should examine:
Online Kaplan Practice Tests
You'll be able to practice online with Kaplan, but you'll need to enroll in a SAT prep course to do so. Unfortunately, they can be a bit expensive. However, Kaplan offers plenty of practice questions through its books.
Eight Practice Tests for the SAT 2017 (Kaplan Test Prep)
Okay, I'm not exactly referring to the year, but that's the current version. You'll receive exactly as what the title states: eight full practice tests, complete with detailed answer explanations. In total, you'll be able to practice with over 450 grid-ins and multiple choice math questions, over 400 evidence-based reading questions, over 350 writing and language questions, and eight essay prompts. This is perfect for those looking for more practice.
Official SAT Practice Tests
Alright, so I know I've already listed this in the aforementioned section, but technically, the official SAT practice tests can be a book - you have to print them out, after all. Nevertheless, this is also a brilliant way to practice your SATs, as it features all the questions that belonged to previous SATs.
Remember, Don't Fret Too Much Over Your SATs
That's right, in case you are a poor test-taker (and lots of people are, including myself), you may find relief in the idea that A) depending on the college, the SAT score doesn't make or break your entrance and B) plenty of schools don't even require the SATs. For instance, the college I attended, the University of Maine at Farmington, didn't care what score I received on the SAT (and it wasn't a glorious score, as I had a panic attack during the test).
So don't think it's the end of the world if you happen to fail the test. Admissions officers also place emphasis on the following:
- Your grades in college prep courses
- The overall strength of your curriculum
- The grades of all schools
- Your essay or writing sample (some students have been accepted simply based on a potent essay)
- Your enthusiasm
- Your class rank
- Your extracurricular commitment
- Your letters of recommendation
Overall, Kaplan offers a myriad of options to help you prep and ace your SATs. While the services are expensive, you have to consider the price of tutoring in and of itself (hint: it's not cheap). However, if you cannot afford the pricey courses, you can instead rely on Kaplan's books and other tools. Whether you need to brush up with SAT prep questions or with a full SAT prep course, Kaplan has you covered.
The SATs is just one such key into the entry doorway of the college experience that may be plagued with student loans. You should consider reading our review of the best scholarship websites if you want to lessen your student debt.