December 8, 2018

On Big Companies and Free Practice Tests

Big test prep companies offer free practice tests because it's a great way for them to make money.

They pay marketers, proctors, graders, administrative staff, bondholders, and shareholders - not to mention real estate costs - so you can get a score for free.

In exchange, you've become what salesmen call a warm lead: someone who's demonstrated interest in their product.

There's nothing wrong with this as long as you understand how the process works. Test prep companies offer practice tests, which are valuable to you, so they can get your attention, which is valuable to them.

They pay for this by charging $125-250 an hour for tutoring, ten sessions at a time, paid up front. Their tutors typically make $25-40 an hour, and the difference ($100/hour or more) is used to pay administrative costs and provide investors with a profit.

The breakeven point between teaching at a public school and working as an independent tutor is around $90/hour. Tutors who accept less than half of that amount typically have SAT scores of around 1400-1500. Those are good scores, but if you're paying $150/hour, your score target is probably already at or higher than 1500.

This is not going to change, as these tutors aren't being exploited. Test prep companies have large expenses every month that aren't going to go away if there's a recession. Most workers, including tutors, accept lower pay in order to have their employers shoulder that burden.

If you have time, it's best to take responsibility for your own education. Practice taking the SAT and ACT yourself, then compare the two scores. You can then choose SAT or ACT prep books and study on your own.

If you need a tutor, you have lots of options, including highly qualified independent tutors like myself. Go in with your eyes open, and you'll make a great choice.


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