SAT/ACT test prep and coaching programs

Program basics

  • Provide coaching and classes focusing on standardized test materials and test-taking skills
  • Can be individual, small-group, or whole-class settings
  • In person or online options

Strength of evidence

Evidence level: Proven (highest tier)


Proven (highest tier)

Ranked as having the highest level of evidence by the U.S. Department of Education What Works Clearinghouse

Target population

High school-aged children

Program cost


Implementation locations

  • Nationwide

Dates active


Outcomes and impact

  • Increased academic achievement
  • Mixed effect on SAT/ACT scores, depending on the program

Keys to successful implementation

  • Set realistic expectations among participants that improvement is likely to be marginal – a slight but meaningful increase in performance – rather than dramatic.
  • The impact of the program depends on how it is administered: intensive, one-on-one tutoring may yield the greatest results, but may not be the most cost-effective option.
  • Pursue programs that prioritize familiarizing students with both the test format (time limits, filling out answer sheets, etc.) and training for the substantive content on the exam, rather than broader test-taking tactics.
  • Consider emerging delivery methods, such as Khan Academy’s free, online SAT prep program (which has not been evaluated independently), which has produced initially promising results and could be a viable, free alternative to traditional methods.
  • Encourage participants to take the PSAT in advance of enrollment, which will help program administrators to place them in the most appropriate prep course.

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