Why Students Shouldn’t Need Standardized Test Tutors


Seth Melamed '20

Every year, a new class of juniors gets ready to take their SATs and ACTs and, every year juniors end up wasting thousands of dollars on pointless tutors. Students will pay nearly $100/ hour or more for the help of a tutor in preparing for these tests.

Unsurprisingly, one of the main things tutors do during these tutoring sessions is give students practice tests. Students will legitimately pay to sit in a cubicle and fill out a practice test they could have found online. Think about that. You can take the same test for free from the comfort of your own home. While some people cite that they are able to replicate testing conditions at the tutor offices, why can’t students replicate the same conditions at home or at the local library?

Students say tutors provide them with strategies on how to approach each question. A student may not know how to approach questions asking about probability during the math section, for instance. However, if you look at the answer key for most practice tests, it will provide you not only the explanation as to why the answer is right, but also how to get to the correct answer.

Another common reason students say their tutors are worth the high fees is that they help address a student’s weaknesses. While tutors do spend the time to identify the common areas that a student is missing, a student can do this just as easily. I know this because I have. All you have to do is create an excel document and every time you miss a question, mark it. Identify the type of problem, and write down why you got it wrong. Early on, I noticed I was missing questions on how to transition from one paragraph to another the most effectively. After identifying this, I was able to teach myself how to do it correctly—for free.

Yet some students say they’re bad testers, a trait that tutors can supposedly cure. That is like saying you are a lousy golfer when you only golf once a year. Of course, you will be bad in the beginning. But if you begin to take tests more frequently, you’ll improve. You don’t need to have a tutor watching you over your shoulder. And if you think you do, I’ll take $25 per hour and lock you in a room until you finish your test.

I am not saying that studying for standardized tests are pointless. In fact, I’m saying the opposite. Study, but on your own. I wish everyone at US was a 99th percentile scorer; however, you do not need an overpriced tutor to achieve this. Just go on Khan Academy or PrepScholar and download practice tests and take them. Go to the store and buy a Barron’s or Princeton Review book. Do enough practice tests, and they will become like free throws. When it comes down to it, performance on these tests is a metric of quantity. “How much practice have you done?” is the most essential question you should be asking yourself as you look to conquer this daunting period of your high school career.