Why would a private tutor tell you that you don’t need a private tutor? I am telling you that you don’t need me to get an awesome score on the SAT. In this blog, we’re going to talk about what you can do instead of using a private tutor to get some of the same results that you would get with a private tutor.
I was walking around my Stanford reunion last October, and I got stopped by about ten people who recognized me and watched my YouTube channel, and several of them told me that they were under-resourced and didn’t have money for SAT prep, but they did it. They showed up, figured it out, and got into Stanford. And if they can do it, you can do it too. You don’t need to pay for a private tutor in order to get there.
The first thing we’re going to say is that private tutors do have incredible value. So how do you get that value without a private tutor? And here’s what I think the greatest value of a private tutor is: accountability. It’s true that private tutors have wonderful knowledge and know how to teach, but above all, I think the number one thing that they offer is accountability. And accountability is the idea that they make you feel guilty enough that you do your homework, show up every week, be disciplined, and do what you need to do. But even though we can have discipline from outside sources, we can also have discipline from within. And we’re going to talk about how you can instill that discipline in yourself and how you can get discipline from outside sources if you’re not getting it from a paid tutor.
It’s human nature to not want to commit to a plan that is not immediately gratifying. And studying is something that is not immediately gratifying. And it’s kind of like, to me, working out at the gym. Sixty-seven percent of gym memberships go completely unused, and in that sense, I would say there are probably over fifty percent of test prep books that are barely used. That’s why there are so many used copies of SAT books on Amazon.com. Because people bought them, thought they were going to use them, and then did absolutely nothing with them. That is not going to be a better prep solution than a private tutor. If you buy books and don’t do them, it doesn’t work.
But this accountability thing is hard, and it’s real. Two-thirds of you will fail if you try to go without a tutor, so how do you get into the one-third that doesn’t fail? One way that you can create accountability is with peers. And you can do that with a study group where you get together once a week and take a practice section together at the library. Or you can do a study group where you get together with a bunch of friends and go over the same practice test that you took on your own. That way, they can help you understand the questions you got wrong, and you can help them understand the questions they got wrong.
The second idea is that you can find an accountability partner. This partner could be someone who knows the test, or it could just be someone like your aunt, an older cousin, or a parent, who you can ask to call you once a week for thirty minutes and ask how your test prep is going.
The other way that you can help discipline yourself is by sharing your goals publicly. If you publicly announce what you’ve accomplished on a regular basis, that can help you feel motivated. I know that sharing your SAT or ACT scores all over your Instagram could make you lose lots of friends at school really quickly, so a better way might be on a more anonymous platform. It could be on something like the SupertutorTV videos’ chat: tell us how you’re doing in the comments below and update it every week. You could also do it on Reddit by posting every week and even asking for advice. So publicly posting goals and how you’re doing is another way to increase that accountability.
The other thing that can help you stay accountable to yourself is a consistent schedule. What I used to tell my students to do was have their mom drop them off at the library for an hour or two every Saturday and make sure all they had with them was their prep materials. Having a regular schedule or time that you go and study is another way to try to create that accountability.
The second thing you’re going to need if you don’t have a tutor is good materials. Tutors can recommend good materials, tell you what to buy, and kind of help you get set up. As I always say, the best stuff comes from the testmaker. For the digital SAT, I’m also going to recommend that you find digital practice resources. Digital SAT material is now up on Khan Academy, but my only complaint is that it’s really thin, and part of that might just be that it’s the early days and only offered internationally. My guess is that they might add material to it, but as of right now, it’s not quite enough practice for people who are really serious preppers.
But there are other ways that you can get materials too. Remember, your public library is always free, and you can check out books there. Our YouTube channel also has free videos, so that’s another source of material that you can use. If you do want some help with your SAT or ACT, we’re coming out with a digital SAT course, probably in the summer of 2023, which will also help you prepare for the PSAT. We also have courses for the paper-based SAT and ACT.
Expertise and Advice
And the third thing that private tutors bring to the mix is expertise and advice. This might be a little bit harder to come by, but again, if you’re buying books from independent tutors, they are going to weave that expertise into the book, so that’s one way you can get it. Another place you can get it is on Reddit, where all kinds of students and tutors are giving each other advice. I can’t vouch for everything that people say, but that’s another place that you can look. And you can look right here: if you have a question, put it in the comments!
The point of this blog is that the most important ingredient in your success on a test is you! It’s true that resources help you with things, but I want to cut through the lie that only the over-resourced and rich kids can do well on this test, because that is not true. And there’s so much stuff in the media right now telling you guys that this is only accessible to people who have resources and money, and I don’t believe it. I believe in people who work hard and in people who go above and beyond to be the best people that they can be.
I believe that you can do better than you are doing today, and if you dedicate your mind to it and figure out how to overcome the hurdles that you have because you don’t have this easier path, then you’re going to be stronger and better than maybe even people who have the resource of a private tutor. I still think a private tutor is a valuable resource, and if you can afford it, great, but if you can’t, don’t give up. You have to work smarter and harder, but it is something that I know you can do!