SAT/ACT test prep and coaching programs

Local governments can invest in this strategy using State and Local Fiscal Recovery Funds (SLFRF) from the American Rescue Plan Act (ARPA).

  • This strategy can help address educational disparities. The U.S. Department of Treasury has indicated that strategies that help achieve this outcome are eligible for the use of Fiscal Recovery Funds.
  • Investments in this strategy are SLFRF-eligible as long as they are made in qualified census tracts or are designed to assist populations or communities disproportionately impacted by COVID-19.

Program overview

  • 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
Target Population
High school-aged children
Cost per Participant

Evidence and impacts


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

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

Best practices in 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.