Benefits of Online ACT/SAT Prep (Self-Paced & Instructor-Led) vs. In-person Classroom Courses

When it comes to ACT or SAT prep, most parents’ and students’ default option is an in-person course. In this article, I am not going to focus on the fundamental difference between private tutoring and group instruction (although I believe private ACT tutoring is a better choice for many students). Instead, I am going to focus more on the rationale for choosing an online ACT prep experience over an in-person course.


Benefits of Online ACT/SAT Prep (Self-Paced & Instructor-Led) vs. In-person Classroom Courses

By Mark Skoskiewicz


First, let’s define some terms and provide some examples. An online ACT prep experience could include:


  • An online course in a “webinar” format where, in real-time, an instructor reviews material and students follow along and ask questions (e.g., a typical Kaplan course)
  • Self-paced courses where students watch videos and complete practice problems and full-length practice tests on a computer (e.g., Magoosh ACT prep)
  • Mobile ACT/SAT prep solutions where information is reviewed, and problems completed primarily on a smartphone app (e.g., Khan Academy’s App)
  • Private online ACT tutoring (though not my focus in the remainder of the article) is also an example of an “online ACT prep experience


An in-person course is, by contrast, just as it sounds. A situation in which a student travels to a classroom environment and listens to an instructor review concepts, teach lessons and answer questions about the ACT.


Read: SAT and ACT Test Format, Syllabus, Test Dates and Preparation Tips


Here are five reasons to consider an online ACT prep experience instead of an in-person course:


  1. Convenience

This one might be obvious, but we believe students and parents often ascribe less importance to it than they should. Most of us have very busy lives. The ability to avoid getting in a car and traveling to a physical location for an ACT or SAT class should be highly valued. When you add in travel and preparation time each week, you might be able to study for an extra hour instead of spending the time in the car.

Studying for the ACT or SAT is almost always an incremental task (vs. the focus of someone’s week), layered on top of school work, extracurricular activities, and social life. The more convenient the preparation option is, the more likely the student will participate consistently throughout the course.


  1. Customization

You can raise your hand and ask questions in an in-person ACT or SAT class, and you can stop by after the hour to ask for help from the instructor. So yes, you can certainly ask specific questions related to your understanding of the material.  But the ability to customize the experience in a self-paced online course is generally superior. In a basic online course structure, you can re-watch videos you don’t understand. In a more advanced online course structure, there may literally be an algorithm at play that suggests specific practice problems for you to build skills in weaker areas.  This is called a “computer adaptive” prep environment. Many online courses also have some level of “expert support” whereby you can have specific questions answered via email or schedule time for 1-1 review via Skype.


  1. Opportunity for more real-time feedback

The key to learning new things and building new skills is deliberate practice, which put simply is about practicing any skill in a highly focused way, typically under the guidance of an expert coach, where mistakes are quickly identified and rectified.

Although an in-person SAT class instructor might pose questions and have students work them out in real-time, much of the class will be spent reviewing concepts. When you do your homework, you’ll probably be alone. If graded homework is a component of the course, you’ll see what you missed days after you worked on the problem (i.e., not in real-time, right after you made the mistake and can recall what you were thinking when working through he problem).

With an online course, you’ll see what you missed immediately while doing practice problems, and hopefully, the written and video explanations will provide the expert feedback you need to learn new skills rapidly.


  1. Opportunity for asynchronous review

If you miss an in-person class, you are likely out of luck unless it is occurring again at a different time and you can attend.

Many self-paced online courses are self-paced (or at a minimum, lessons are recorded and available for later review). The written and video lessons can be reviewed on your schedule, many times over if you need or want. You don’t have to worry about missing a class, because you can always review the material again at your own pace.


  1. Cost per hour/practice question

While many in-person classroom ACT or SAT prep courses are extremely affordable (oftentimes they are offered by school districts on campus property at subsidizes rates), some are not (e.g., a Kaplan or Princeton Review course is not cheap). And even relative to the more affordable options, a self-paced online course is packed with so much content and so much practice that the cost per hour of available practice becomes much, much lower than an in-person class.


In sum, there are several factors that make online prep options preferable to in-person courses: convenience, customization, real-time feedback, anytime, anywhere review, and cost per hour of available practice.  All that said, a mix of offline (in-person) and online preparation can be a good option to consider. Perhaps you take a low-cost classroom course through your high school, and supplement with a self-paced online course or an online ACT tutor.  Human to human communication is often the best way to understand when/if a student really is digesting the material. So, mixing in-person and online support can be useful.


Read: How Online Self-Paced Test-Prep Courses Can Help You to Score More in SAT and ACT


About the Author


Mark Skoskiewicz is the founder of MyGuru, an education company based in Chicago, IL offering in-person and online ACT tutoring.


Read: SAT vs ACT Diagnostic Test


Note: This is a Sponsored Post by MyGuruEdge.

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