The Best Standardized Testing Preparation

Standardized test scores are an important part of applying for colleges. Discover how test courses prepare you for passing your SAT and ACT.

Standardized tests are one of the best metrics for tracking educational processes. This is because, as the name implies, standardized tests use the same formula for all students. The tests cover essential skills across all the major subjects, and are administered around the same time. Not only does this provide useful information for the state about how schools are doing, but the scores are helpful for college applications.

The majority of colleges, especially the higher ranked universities, require students to submit their standardized test scores. The most requested ones are SAT and ACT. Because of the importance of these tests, it is important to do everything possible to prepare for the exams. There are several general tips you can follow to make preparing and studying for the tests easier. There are also several types of standardized testing preparation classes you can take for further assistance.

Preparing for Standardized Tests

There is much more pressure taking a standardized test compared to a traditional exam. While it may seem like a basic tip, one of the most important parts of preparing for a standardized test is to take study breaks and get plenty of rest. If you panic when you are studying, it is harder to absorb information. This is also true if you are too tired. If you panic when you are studying, you are also likely to experience similar difficulties during the exam, which makes it difficult to focus on the tests. 

Another way to help stay calm during studying is to prioritize subjects. Do not try to cram for each individual section. There is too much material to cover in a single session, and you are more likely to forget the previous subjects whenever you move onto a new one. Give your brain time to adequately absorb information. Even if you are only studying a single subject, try to focus on specific areas. For example, do not switch between algebra and geometry when preparing for the math section. Pick one area and take a small break between sessions, so the information has time to sink in.

Keeping a level head is also important during the actual exam. Standardized tests have limited time to complete. A common mistake students make is spending too long on difficult questions. If you are hung up on a question, move on to an easier one. Complete all questions you know you can answer, then go back to the questions you were struggling on. This way, you ensure you do not run out of time and miss answering questions you know the answer to. It is also easier to remain calm and focused if you answer the questions you know instead of obsessing over the difficult questions you struggle with.


Kaplan is considered one of the best SAT prep courses, with options for both online and in-person classes. Kaplan has multiple prep classes to choose from. The live online course offers interactive classes taught in real-time by a team of Kaplan instructors. The teachers not only provide practice exams and walk students through all the subjects covered in the SATs, but they also take questions and work individually with students. An in-person variant is also available in most areas. Students who sign up for this course also gain access to the online SAT channel, which is filled with test prep resources and study guides.

Another option through Kaplan is the unlimited prep course. This is a longer class, which starts as early as the beginning of the school year. Students work with Kaplan instructors to schedule study sessions, allowing them to balance their current workload with studying.

Finally, there are on-demand courses. These are small, pre-recorded lessons on specific subjects, lasting around 20 to 30 minutes. In addition to instructional videos, there are also practice tests, lesson quizzes and instructional study videos.

The online and in-person live classes start at $699. The unlimited prep course is the most expensive option at $1,999. On-demand courses are the least expensive, only costing $199. Kaplan offers multiple payment plans with minimal interest rates. There are even plans available for lower-income families, with 0 percent interest rates.

Princeton Review

The Princeton Review SAT course primarily focuses on taking tests. The lessons are largely focused on practice questions, focusing on areas that frequently cause the most issues for students. However, there are private tutor lessons available. The course offers an in-depth look at the SAT exam, preparing students for the unique format of the test. 

As with Kaplan, there are several programs available. Two of the most popular courses are SAT 1400+ and 1500+. Both of these programs guarantee a score of 1400 and 1500 respectively. The 1400 program offers 36 hours of course time, with options for in-person and online tutoring. The 1500 training program includes additional interactive video lessons, test taking tips and personalized tutoring plans. If you want a general study course, you can sign up for the SAT essentials program.

Princeton’s high-quality lessons come with a steep price tag. The essentials program costs $949, while the SAT 1400 is $1,749. The 1500 course begins at $278 per hour. However, the Princeton Review offers frequent discounts and deals throughout the year, so you may be able to find lower pricing.


Testive not only has some of the most affordable standardized testing courses, but also the greatest customization. When you sign up for a course, you meet with an SAT coach to build a custom plan. All practice tests are made available to any Testive member, and you also gain access to online lessons. Your coach will make adjustments to your plan as needed, focusing on weaknesses you need to improve on while building up your strengths.  

Because each of the plans is customized, the cost varies based on your needs. On average, you can expect to pay between $399 to $799 for a Testive course. A 14-day free trial is available for new members.


As of writing, PrepScholar is only available online. While it is one of the newest standardized prep courses, it has a wide library of resources. There are ten different practice tests with over 7,000 questions. All students have access to the video library, which includes 100 hours of videos. These focus on specific lessons as well as studying and test taking tips. Most of the material is pre-recorded, but there are live tutoring sessions available for an additional fee. PrepScholar has multiple membership tiers to choose from, with the costs ranging between $400 to $1,000.


As of this writing Magoosh is the most affordable of any standardized testing courses. Magoosh offers both self-paced SAT test prep courses as well as guided study. The self paced study course starts at $129 for a 12 month subscription. Magoosh offers financing options as well, and you can get the self-paced course for 4 monthly payments of $32.25. If you want a guided test prep experience you can spring for Magoosh's Premium offering a guided study course with live classes. You are guaranteed 16 hours of live instruction. The guided study option runs at $399 or 4 monthly payments of $99.75. Magoosh's prices are some of the best around for standardized test prep courses.