The Best Answer to "What's Your Average SAT Score Improvement?"


These days, parents have been exposed to so much marketing language from test prep giants that they have come to believe a few things about the industry that are simply not true. Namely, parents tend to believe some pretty outlandish claims about average score improvement. In reality, there is no standardized method of calculating standardized test score improvements. This can make promoting your test prep tutoring business pretty tricky.

How can you promote your tutoring company in an industry full of bogus claims?    

The best way to handle these conversations is to focus on the parent's primary objective. Put simply, parents want to feel confident that they're selecting the best possible SAT prep tutor for their child. Often a parent's criteria for evaluating tutors will include factors such as experience, affordability, scheduling flexibility, and location.  

In general, however, most parents' primary objective is to determine that the tutor they select is honest, competent, dependable, and engaging. When parents feel that they are incapable of assessing for themselves whether the above criteria has been met, they place greater emphasis on a tutor's average score improvement. 

In other words, with no other alternative, parents will often substitute the aggregate experience of others in place of their own direct impressions of a test prep tutor.

The obvious problem with this approach is that the parent still relies on the tutor to report the SAT score improvements honestly. Oddly, most parents seem willing to accept whatever score improvement data they're told at face value. It will not come as no shock to most of you reading this that some tutoring companies report this information in deliberately misleading or inaccurate ways. This tendency on the part of unscrupulous tutoring companies can put you, a principled tutor, in a difficult position, if you're not prepared to educate parents about the industry in general and your SAT prep or ACT prep system in particular. 

For example, let's say you receive a phone call from a parent who begins the call by asking about your average score improvement. It's safe to assume that this parent is in the early stages of the customer's life cycle. The parent has awareness of the need for test prep and has begun the process of discovery in order to later evaluate the available test prep options.

It's entirely likely that this parent has just googled "test prep", skimmed the text of ten or twenty competitors' home pages, and as many paragraphs of marketing language and bogus statistics. Consider the mindset of this parent. At this stage, the parent likely mistakenly believes that there is an industry-wide formula for calculating these statistics. Thus, the parent expects you to answer the average score improvement question with a simple number. In fact, you may worry that any reluctance on your part to do so will be perceived as defensiveness. 

The reality, as any tutor knows, is that score improvement statistics are easily manipulated. And in a market full of uninformed consumers, those tutoring companies that are willing to manipulate their statistics can claim virtually whatever they like. This is not a game you want to play. 

Accordingly, your goal should be to help parents properly understand what they're really asking. And you'll need to do so without appearing to be defensive or insecure about your results. The best way to address this challenge is to ask a few questions about the criteria they intend to use to evaluate tutoring providers.

First, if the parent mentions decision making criteria besides average score improvement, then use that to segue to a description of the related features and benefits of your SAT or ACT prep system. Remember, your goal is to conduct the conversation within the realm of features and benefits, where you have the advantage. Try to avoid the realm of unverifiable score improvement results, where you may appear to be at a disadvantage. 

If the parent remains singularly focused on score improvement stats, then begin by asking a few questions "to ensure that the numbers you provide will be directly comparable to that stats you've seen online."  

Here are a few questions you might consider asking: 

  • Are their score improvements measured using real SAT/ACT exams?
  • Were all of their tests administered under timed, simulated testing conditions? 
  • Are their score improvements measured from the first practice test to the last practice test?
  • Are their score improvements based on super-scored tests (i.e. taking the highest score for each section across multiple tests)?
  • Do their numbers include the scores from SAT or ACT tests taken following the SAT or ACT prep course?  
  • Do they include only one-on-one students or group students as well?  
  • Do they omit students below a minimum number of tutoring hours or a minimum number of  practice tests? 
  • Were any students omitted from the data for any other reasons (e.g. initial score too low/high)?  
  • Do these numbers include any scores that predate the redesigned SAT?

These are just suggestions. You won't need to ask all of these questions. After one or two of them, the parent should realize that the average score improvement "data" they thought they'd collected is completely invalid or at least highly suspect.

This is effective for the same reason that car owners appreciate the second opinion of a straight-talking car mechanic who tells them, "I don't know what the other guy told you, but there's nothing here to suggest that you need a new transmission. Honestly, you just need transmission fluid." And while it's wonderful that this approach is effective, the best reason to do business honestly and directly is always that it's the right thing to do.     

So the next time you get a phone call from a parent who demands score improvement stats, don't be tempted to throw out an impressive number just to appease the request. Instead, respond by gently pulling back the curtain to educate the consumer about the industry.

Obviously, it's important that you do not badmouth the competition. In truth, it's not even beneficial to do so, as it will reflect poorly on you and your business. Instead, simply point out that these unverifiable claims are pretty prevalent in the industry as a whole.

Then, steer the conversation toward the concrete benefits of your tutoring system. For tutors and tutoring companies using the Clear Choice Test Prep system that's easy.

They begin by describing the proprietary curriculum and the value of working through concept-centric workbooks rather than jumping from concept to concept on real tests.

Next, they describe the many ways that they're able to deliver more value because students have access to instant feedback and support, detailed score reports, more than 100 hours of video solutions, and 100% custom quizzes between sessions. 

That same system makes tutoring sessions up to 20% more efficient because tutors don't have to waste time grading homework during tutoring sessions.

Most of our partners close with the fact that parents can monitor the course for themselves because they'll receive detailed weekly progress reports via email.

And because Clear Choice Test Prep offers the ONLY 100% custom branded test prep software and materials for tutors, our partners can confidently say that their system is the best around. They don't have to explain that their tutoring is built around the Kaplan Book or Khan Academy or any materials the parent could easily buy on Amazon or from another tutoring company.  

Once you have successfully communicated the value of your SAT tutoring, the parents will no longer feel it necessary to substitute the experiences of others (i.e. average improvements) for their own direct evaluation of the features and benefits of your SAT/ACT tutoring system.

If you'd like to perform your own direct evaluation of Clear Choice Test Prep's 100% white label resources for tutors, including our custom branded materials for tutors, SAT and ACT software for tutors, and full test prep training course for tutors, then contact us today!     

One more thing...

Occasionally, a parent will press you for numbers despite everything you've done to explain nature of score improvement stats. First of all, know that this customer is probably committed to choosing a tutoring company based on these numbers alone. Thus, they're likely to choose the tutoring company with the most inflated statistics. This is not your ideal customer. It's up to you whether you choose to provide them with statistics. If you do, be sure to follow these best practices: make sure that your numbers are 100% true and clearly articulated in context. For our part, we encourage tutoring companies to calculate score improvement statistics as transparently as possible. 

You might say something like "Among one-on-one students who completed a minimum of 18-hours of tutoring, the average score improvement from the first authentic practice test to the last authentic test is 240 points."

Remember that whatever number you provide, it won't be the biggest number that parent has seen online that day. Thus, we strongly encourage you to quickly shift the conversation back to the features and benefits of your test prep system and the personal care that you put into your tutoring.

That might sound something like like, "If you can tell me a bit more about your daughter, I'll be able to give you a better idea of how we can help her reach her college admission goals, including her target test score. Has she taken an authentic practice test yet? No, well that would be a great next step. We've got one scheduled for this Saturday at 8:00AM at the local library. There's no charge to take the test. In fact, we also include a FREE 30-minute score consultation. Sounds great! Let me just get an email address, and I'll send you all the information."

As the only provider of a 100% custom branded test prep system for tutors, Clear Choice Test Prep has spoken with hundreds of independent tutors and tutoring companies from across the country and around the world. This blog is our opportunity to bring you the insights we've gathered through those interactions.

Thanks again for reading our blog! We strive to put together interesting, actionable advice for professional tutors. We hope that you've enjoyed this post, and we encourage you to check out the other free resources for tutors at the Clear Choice Test Prep Blog.

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Each week we examine ways to help you become a better tutor, increase test prep score improvements, drive more tutoring referrals, and grow your tutoring business. And from time to time, we'll even share links to free resources we've developed for tutors and test prep professionals.

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