Standardized Testing Tutors: The Hidden Socioeconomic Divide

Updated: Nov 9, 2018

While there is no secret or bubble-filling technique to obtaining a perfect score on a standardized test, private tutors have grown in popularity by familiarizing students on tips and tricks for improvement and increasing individuals’ scores.

But tutors are expensive, and it can be difficult to put into perspective the New England prep school norm compared to the average United States population. In a poll of Nobles students, 42.5% surveyed have an ACT or SAT tutor. This reflects the majority of upper school students preparing for standardized tests since the survey included all classes I - VI. In fact, 23.5% of students without a standardized test tutor said they plan on working with one in the future, and 20.9% are considering.

On average, one tutor costs $70 an hour. But at Nobles, the majority of surveyed students said their tutors cost between $100-199 per hour, a price many American families cannot afford (

Nobles families are often more financially able to hire private standardized testing tutors, but the school also offers less expensive group tutoring sessions after the academic day for students receiving financial aid. These students have the option to attend 10 standardized prep courses for $200, providing more people from various economic backgrounds with helpful practice for the ACT and SAT.

Furthermore, with resources such as Peer Help Program and the Academic Support Center, Nobles has a wide variety of preparation options available to students. Still, many students continue to meet with private tutors outside of school.

Yet at such a high cost, are tutors really worth it? Cici Henderson (Class I) said that tutors can only help to an extent and that learning tips and tricks is not the deciding factor between a good or bad score. “I had my best scores when I didn’t have a tutor. The tutor isn’t going to do the studying for you. That’s up to you,” Henderson said. However, some students disagree. Dan Donahue (Class II) attributes his improved scores entirely to his tutor.

For Shirley Hu (Class I), tutors are another example of Nobles’ high matriculation rates and students’ heightened socioeconomic advantages at school. As someone who has been taking standardized tests since seventh grade, Hu said that the ACT and SAT are not accurate portrayals of a student’s intelligence, but rather a reflection of a student’s ability to hire a tutor or have access to enough practice material. “Nobles students are doing significantly better on the ACT and SAT than the rest of the country, and I do think tutors play a huge role in that,” Hu said.

While she doesn’t use one, Hu encourages students to hire tutors if they are able to, since there are statistics that show how beneficial a tutor can be in terms of motivation, confidence, and practice. However, there is no one way to study for standardized tests; what works for some won’t work for others.

By Hannah Lawry, Staff Writer, October 2018

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