Sharpen your pencils. It’s testing season.
Each year, hundreds of thousands of parents come to Thumbtack to hire skilled instructors to help get their students college-ready. Last year, Thumbtack’s Back-to-School Guide (a survey of 200,000 tutoring and after-school enrichment requests) ranked the 15 fastest-growing academic tutoring categories for students across the United States. At the top of that list: SAT Subject Tests and the ACT.
This month, with testing season in full flight, we took some time to revisit top testing trends on Thumbtack. Here’s what we found.
Most Popular Test Prep: SAT Tutoring
While the ACT continues to outpace the SAT as the most popular college aptitude test in the U.S., demand for SAT tutoring is significantly higher than demand for ACT tutoring this testing season.
Late summer is the peak time for SAT tutoring, with requests in July and August nearly doubling from October. The SAT is still 75 percent more popular than the ACT, and demand is growing year-over-year. Demand for ACT tutoring decreased from 108 percent growth between 2015 and 2016 to 60 percent growth between 2016 to 2017. At the same time, demand from SAT tutoring went from 60 percent growth increased 108 percent and SAT tutoring only 26 percent. From 2016 to 2017, there was a 60% increase in requests for ACT Tutoring and a 121% in requests for SAT Tutoring.
Not Adding Up: Why SAT Tutoring Remains More Popular
Historically, the ACT (which originated in Iowa) was the popular choice for students in the midwest. These days, its popularity has grown countrywide among students who prefer the ACT’s lack of a guessing penalty and more straightforward question style.
When the College Board announced an overhaul to the SAT’s structure, question style and scoring in 2016, cautious students (and their parents) often opted for the familiarity of the ACT. But since the test has been in use for more than a year now, it’s possible that some of that uncertainty has worn off.
One other explanation for the SAT’s renewed popularity: recent campaigns by the College Board (which administers the SAT) to expand early-grade testing and online test prep, have culminated in new state testing contracts and increasing popularity for the exam.
The January Test Prep Rush
Contrary to what you might expect, back-to-school isn’t actually the top moment for SAT and ACT tutoring. Interest in SAT tutoring more than doubled between December and January this year while interest in ACT tutoring grew by roughly 80 percent. Based on this trend, we expect to see a major bump in tutoring requests coming into January 2018.
Key takeaway: If you’re in the market for a test prep tutor, get ahead of the curve and hire your tutor in November. If you are a test prep tutor, clear the decks. January is going to be busy.