In this PrepScholar review (ACT and SAT), we’ll dive into the advantages and disadvantages of this test prep company, compare it to leading competitors, and review the features of the course.
We’ll tackle some of your hard-hitting questions – is PrepScholar worth it and does it work to prepare you to ace the exam come test day? Read on to find out!
- More practice questions than most competing ACT/SAT study programs
- Option for dual SAT/ACT prep
- Coverage of critical test prep strategies (great benefit for anxious test-takers)
- User-friendly interface
- Option for 1:1 tutoring
- No physical books with the standard prep course
- No mobile app
Founded by a pair of Harvard grads, PrepScholar offers programs for multiple tests at the pre-college and post-graduate levels, not just for the ACT and the SAT. With a 3.2-5-star rating on BestCompany, PrepScholar falls in the mid-tier range in terms of reviews from actual students who have taken the course – in my estimation, a fair, if slightly underrated, ranking based on the course characteristics we’ll describe here.
PrepScholar Pricing Options
Basically, PrepScholar is within the mid-range for SAT and ACT prep with its flagship “Complete Prep” program (around $400) – higher than some of the bottom-rung, bare-bones DIY courses, but lower than the top-tier names like Kaplan, etc. With other options, you get extra perks but more cost (as these things in life often go).
To help you visualize your pricing options, here’s a super-handy chart we made for the basic online courses offered by PrepScholar for PSAT, SAT, and ACT:
Online PSAT Prep
SAT and ACT
- 100hrs lessons
- 150+ point guarantee
- 90+ online lessons
- 45+ lesson skill categories
- free 5-day trial
- 90+ online lessons
- 45+ lesson skill categories
- free 5-day trial
- Complete Prep Package for ACT AND SAT
As is the case for most prep offerings, the real premiums come with live instruction and one-on-one tutoring. Most ACT preppers don’t necessarily need these services to dramatically improve their scores but if you have the extra cash available the help offered by the testing experts at PrepScholar can likely bump your score up a few extra points, which may be worth the investment.
PrepScholar Tutoring Options
All of PrepScholar’s courses are online and completed at your own pace. That’s great for some, however, if you thrive off a bit of one-on-one time with a tutor, then you may want to consider their course + tutoring options:
PrepScholar Classes Package
Complete Prep + Tutoring
ACT or SAT
ACT or SAT
2,400 – 7,100
2,400 – 7,100
5 – 15
5 – 15
- Includes Complete Prep Course
- 9 hours live virtual instruction
- Includes Complete Prep Course
- 12 hours 1-on-1 tutoring with expert
PrepScholar Curriculum Review
One of the best features of PrepScholar is the personalized curriculum generated for each student based on a variety of factors like:
- Area of focus (math, reading or writing – or all three)
- Desired score improvement
- Time you can commit each week
Before you begin your test prep, PrepScholar is already customizing your prep strategy based on a series of questions when you sign up.
Some of the questions they ask include:
- Your dream school
- Your target score (1-36 on each section)
- Any extended time accommodations available to you (in the context of the ACT, these are only offered to students with documented disabilities that cause them to work more slowly than others; the vast majority of test-takers do not qualify for these provisions)
- The components of the test you struggle with most
They also ask (for marketing purposes, presumably) about how you discovered PrepScholar, how likely you are to recommend test prep services to a friend, etc.
Once you get registered and settled in for full-swing prep, it’s time to hit the books. Below, we’ll cover the actual lesson content, how the platform works, and pros and cons of the PrepScholar program versus competitors.
PrepScholar Lesson Content
As the company continuously reminds you before and after purchasing its courses, expert educational professionals design the lesson content. Accordingly, it’s very well-developed and well-structured.
PrepScholar really provides great graphics to accompany the text that illustrate the often-complex material (especially in the science section) that is otherwise difficult to explain using the limited medium of language alone.
At the end of each lesson, you’ll take a quiz to test how well you absorbed the presented material. After you finish, you can access detailed explanations for the correct answer as well as tips for how to reach the right one if you don’t necessarily know for sure (what your elementary teacher used to call an “educated guess”).
To summarize, the standout points of PrepScholar’s lesson content are:
- Well-partitioned subject matter
- Helpful visual aids to accompany verbal instruction
- End-of-lesson quizzes complete with thorough explanations for the correct answers
In addition to the lessons covering the actual material on the test, PrepScholar also offers a plethora of “strategy lessons” that cover various aspects of strategic test-taking from the basics like “Preparing for the Day of the Test” to more advanced ones like “Stress and Anxiety—Dealing with It.” You can even learn the best tips for applying to the school of your choice after you score high on the exam.
These strategy lessons are particularly helpful for those of us who struggle with test-taking more so than, perhaps, with the actual material. As work published in Psychology Research explains:
“Some students do poorly in tests because of the lack of test-taking strategies or the use of poor ones. These have both direct and indirect effects on students’ performance. Directly, these strategies help students increase their scores on tests through the effective use of their time, effort, and test conditions. Indirectly, using appropriate test-taking strategies affects other related but important factors such as reducing test anxiety and improving students’ attitudes toward tests.”
What that means, basically, is that how you take the test may be just as important as what you know. Acing the ACT or SAT, accordingly, depends not just on a familiarity with the material but also on a strong strategy to approach the test.
This is where PrepScholar really delivers ahead of other test prep companies that either fail to emphasize the importance of well-developed test-taking strategies for success or neglect them altogether.
PrepScholar Questions Bank
All of PrepScholar’s programs, starting from the simplest to the fanciest, come with an enormous arsenal of over 7,000 practice questions.
One of the handiest features that I appreciated most during the process was the quiz generator.
How the quiz generator works:
- Select the topic area broken down by the four subjects of the test (English, math, reading, and science)
- Choose the number of questions (5 or 10)
- Answer the questions in the allotted timeframe (a counter in the corner keeps track of how you’re doing timewise)
- Review your performance
- Get detailed explanations for each answer which include both the reasons why the correct answer is, in fact, correct, as well as test-taking tips that will help you suss out the right answer when you aren’t sure (again, mastering the “educated guess” game)
As you work your way through the content, PrepScholar will index all the incorrect answers in, appropriately so, the “incorrect answers” tab on the platform. There, you can go back and review the questions you got wrong and, more importantly, why you got them wrong to avoid similar mistakes when the same types of queries pop up on the real test.
For the visually oriented among us, each lesson comes with its own video.
These are typically PowerPoint-style videos with text, diagrams, graphics, etc. narrated over by the instructor – which can become a bit dull and not super-stimulating over time, but they get the job done with tons of helpful examples of questions you’ll encounter on the actual test as well as detailed explanations for how to arrive at the correct answer.
Accompanying each lesson video, of course, is text below, so you don’t need to rely on the videos if you prefer to move through the lesson at your own pace.
PrepScholar does a decent job of customizing its approach to prepping you to ace the exam. As we discussed previously, incoming students must fill out a questionnaire covering the testing areas they are most interested in improving upon, their target score, etc.
In addition, the next step of the onboarding process is a diagnostic test to assess your current state of preparedness.
After finishing the timed 60-question diagnostic exam, you’ll select your planned real-life testing date, watch a brief intro video, and then key in how much time you specifically plan to devote to studying.
Although the volume of info that PrepScholar asks for can seem overwhelming (and, honestly, a little annoying; why do you need to know my planned study schedule for the week, mom?), it actually proves to be beneficial for keeping on target with your study goals if you are prone to procrastination (you know who you are). It’s especially helpful to get regular reminders via text message that it’s study time.
Of course, if self-discipline is a skill you’ve already mastered at a young age, you might not need the level of structure and customization that PrepScholar provides.
So, after you’ve jumped through all the hoops, PrepScholar generates a personalized study plan based on all the info you’ve provided as well as the results of your diagnostic test.
PrepScholar Platform Review
The platform is intuitive and user-friendly. When you log into the interface, you will notice it is broken up into the following sections:
- Incorrect Answers
- Quiz Generator
Under the “progress” tab, you can easily track all of the lessons you have completed, organized by both subject and topic – for example, “pronouns” under the “English” banner and “experimental design” under the “science” banner.
In the “progress” tab, you can also track your assessed skill level following the quiz at the end of each lesson and your scores on the practice tests.
We previously discussed the “strategies,” “progress,” “incorrect answers,” and “quiz generator” sections of the platform and their respective perks for getting fully prepped, all of which are useful.
When you’ve reviewed multiple online prep programs as I have, you develop a deep appreciation for usability. While perhaps not ranking as high on the usability scale as some of the elite prep programs out there, PrepScholar delivers on this front, coming in at least in the mid-range.
In addition to an intuitive layout, the platform comes with a “help” section chock full of virtually all the answers to commonly asked questions and troubleshooting issues that you may encounter during your prep.
If you can’t find the answers you’re looking for, you can submit a request for help and a human staff member will get back to you (usually in a fairly timely manner).
Aesthetics-wise, the platform is easy on the eyes. The designs are smooth and make for easy navigation, as we previously mentioned.
A big downside (for some) of PrepScholar is that, unlike many competitors, the company does not have a proprietary mobile app for studying on the go.
With that said, in my experience, the most engaging, stimulating, and effective test prep sessions occur when I’m laser-focused at a desk using a laptop, so it’s not a huge loss for me (and perhaps shouldn’t be for you).Nonetheless, this is the 21st century, and 21st-century digital boys and girls do love using their phones for anything and everything, so I understand the appeal of an app. If a mobile app is what you’re in the market for, you might want to look elsewhere.
PrepScholar Content Access Period
For all of the courses aside from the Complete Premium course, you will enjoy a full year of access. For an extra $200 on top of the standard $397 price tag, you can upgrade from the Complete Prep to the Complete Premium course for an extra year of content access (for two full years in total).
If you’ve got time to spare before your test day or just want extra time to fully prepare, the Complete Premium course might be worth it. However, the vast majority of preppers should have plenty of time with the standard year-long access period.
As an outfit founded by Harvard grads, PrepScholar sells its top-notch tutors hard. Among the many standout characteristics of its tutors are:
- Experienced test prep teachers with actual teaching experience under their belts
- Unique instruction material developed in-house
- Up-to-date on the latest SAT changes, trends, etc. for accurate, targeted lessons
Is There a Score Guarantee?
PrepScholar does offer a legitimately impressive score guarantee – good news for those who expect a test prep company to put its money where its mouth is when it comes to making promises (as they all should). After all, what good is a prep program if it doesn’t produce the results you hope to see in a higher score?
PrepScholar’s score guarantees, for the SAT and ACT respectively, are:
- 160+ point increase guarantee on the SAT
- 4+ point increase guarantee on the ACT
PrepScholar Reviews by REAL Students
As with most user-generated reviews on the web, whether positive or negative, you would be wise to take these PrepScholar reviews with a grain of salt: it’s simply impossible to get the full back-story.
These PrepScholar reviews, by definition, are subjective based on the individual reviewer’s experiences. The best way to get a realistic impression of the quality of any online product, including test prep programs, is to take a wide survey of feedback from a range of sources.
With that caveat aside, here are a few samples of PrepScholar reviews from the web – the good, the bad, and the ugly.
Hong Fowler is a big fan:
Reem E from Newark, New Jersey made a favorable comparison to Princeton’s SAT course, a leading competitor of PrepScholar’s:
Ann Pittman, on the other hand, has had some issues with communication from the company as well as getting her book delivered and is seconded in her criticism by another disgruntled customer/commenter (note: physical books not necessary for the online coursework, though, so you don’t need to worry about shipping issues).
Another parent apparently enlisted his daughter in PrepScholar’s tutoring program with less-than-stellar results.
Who Needs This Course?
The PrepScholar program is ideal for students who:
- Need to develop their test-taking strategies in addition to enriching their knowledge base
- Do best with visual learning (all lessons have video and graphic components)
- Want a score guarantee backed by a solid money-back promise
- Are new to SAT prep and need a baseline assessment (to assess strengths and weaknesses)
PrepScholar Course Alternatives
PrepScholar Vs Princeton Review
Princeton Review’s videos are a bit more polished and better-produced (perhaps due to greater financial resources) and you get a handful of hardcopy books with each online course.
However, PrepScholar’s deep question bank, both in terms of quality and quantity (and accompanying explanations), is hands-down superior to Princeton Review’s.
Finally, the money issue: at a price point of nearly $1,000 compared to PrepScholar’s price tag of $397 for its online course, Princeton Review is significantly pricier – a premium which is not justified given the rival quality of each program.
PrepScholar Vs Kaplan
Again, PrepScholar shines in this matchup in the quantity and quality of practice questions (7,100+ vs Kaplan’s 1,000+). You also get a longer access period with PrepScholar (1 year vs Kaplan’s 6 months).
However, with Kaplan you also get a series of hardcopy physical books with the course, which may be attractive to some preppers who prefer the touch and feel of traditional paper. Kaplan creates high-quality prep books which have also made our list of the best ACT prep books for 2021.
As in the previous matchup, PrepScholar is significantly more affordable than Kaplan’s almost-double $699 price tag.
PrepScholar Vs Khan Academy
In 2016, Khan Academy set the test prep world ablaze by partnering with the College Board to create a free SAT course complete with 8 practice tests. If you want a high-quality free SAT prep resource, Khan Academy is definitely your go-to.
That said, unlike PrepScholar’s program, Khan Academy’s lacks any testing strategies whatsoever – a huge black hole given the importance of such skills that we discussed earlier. Also, the reading and writing sections leave a lot to be desired and don’t stack well against PrepScholar.
PrepScholar Vs Magoosh
Again, compared to Magoosh’s 1,750+ question bank, PrepScholar’s shines. Also, you get 10 practice tests with PrepScholar compared to 3 with Magoosh.
At $129, Magoosh is much cheaper than PrepScholar. Also, Magoosh has a legit mobile app whereas PrepScholar has none.
PrepScholar Reviews FAQ
Let’s run down a few frequently asked questions (FAQs) regarding PrepScholar that interested preppers often have.
Is the PrepScholar ACT program worth it?
Coming in at the lower end of the price scale but still a reputable, high-quality program, PrepScholar is absolutely worth the money compared to competitors.
How much does PrepScholar ACT cost?
The online Complete Prep (either SAT or ACT) course costs $397.
Which PrepScholar course is the best?
For its value, the Complete Prep course is best. More expensive options including tutoring are available.
Is PrepScholar worth the money?
Given the strong money-back guarantee, PrepScholar is a great investment.
The Bottom Line on PrepScholar
Include PrepScholar as a centerpiece in your ACT/SAT/PSAT prep if you:
- Have anxiety about test-taking or generally have issues with taking tests (PrepScholar provides excellent remedies in its “strategy lessons”)
- Want a customized approach to your prep based on your current proficiency level as assessed in the diagnostic exam (as opposed to a “one-size-fits-all” program)
- Place a premium on high-quality prep questions with richly elaborated explanations
- Don’t care about physical, hardcopy books
- Are looking for more affordable alternatives to pricier competitors like Princeton Review or Kaplan