How to Become a PSAT/SAT Tutor

10 minutes • 19 June 2021

“PSAT” stands for “Preliminary SAT,” representing three assessments: the PSAT/NMSQT (Preliminary SAT/National Merit Scholarship Qualifying Test), PSAT 10, and PSAT 8/9. SAT once stood for “Scholastic Aptitude Test,” but the acronym has since been dropped as the test evolved.

PSAT/SAT tutor using a whiteboard to teach a student

The PSAT is practice for the SAT and scores are also used to identify students deemed worthy of scholarship dollars based on academic merit.

The SAT came into use in 1926 as a tool for measuring a high school student’s readiness for college. In the years since, high scores on the SAT generally correlate into admission offers from more and better colleges and universities. In other words, an excellent SAT score increases the likelihood students get accepted into their schools of choice.

Because graduating from a good college is one of the foundations on which people build a professional career, and the available freshman seats are limited, students understand the critical need to perform well on these aptitude tests. Although the scores show academic strengths and readiness for college work, the test results are just one part of the college application, along with grades, course rigor, and written recommendations. Still, students recognize the importance of the SAT and many families are willing to pay good money for a tutor who can help a student post higher scores.

A PSAT/SAT tutor helps students prepare for these tests through focused study in math, science, reading and English comprehension. Tutors have deep experience taking multiple-choice and essay-based tests, with knowledge of the scoring methodology and how to study effectively.

To offer tutoring services you’ll need at least a bachelor’s degree in any field, as well as a proven track record of high scores on the SAT. This will be needed to show students and employers that you are highly skilled and can help students post higher scores.

You can work either independently or for a tutoring company. The main difference between working for an employer and running your own business is a tutoring company will find clients for you. As an entrepreneur, you’ll be responsible for your own marketing and recruiting. Benefits of working independently include setting your own work hours, fees and location.

We’ll go over all of that and more.

As a tutor to high school students you’ll enjoy the professional satisfaction of helping young people perform their best, which in turn helps them step closer to their dreams. You can also make a good living.

Ready to get started? Read on to learn how you can become a PSAT/SAT tutor.

In this article you’ll learn:

  • How much money you can make as a PSAT/SAT tutor
  • The required training and certifications
  • Professional groups to join
  • Employment opportunities for PSAT/SAT tutors
  • Finding clients
  • Plus helpful tips

How much money can you make?

Tutors typically work part-time, either self-employed or working for a tutoring company. Areas of expertise, years of experience, specialty training and location are all factors that contribute to your earnings potential.

A professional SAT Tutor makes an average $39,000 annually, according to the US Bureau of Labor Statistics. By working independently you can potentially earn much more since you are limited only by your ability to attract students and the hours you are willing to work.

Training and Certification

While no formal license is required to tutor students, without training, certification and proof of your own high test scores on the PSAT and SAT you’ll have a difficult time getting students to work with you.

PSAT/SAT tutors reviewing paperwork

A bachelor’s degree in any field is generally considered the minimum requirement. Training and certification in good tutoring methods will not only prepare you for the work but enhance your credibility as a professional.

A teaching license valid in the state where you wish to tutor can be an asset, but it is not essential.

If you choose to work for one of the major tutoring companies, such as Kaplan or the Princeton Review, you’ll go through an additional training program to learn their methods.

There are several tutor certification organizations. One of the best known is ACT .

Training programs for tutors focus both on proven teaching methods as well as understanding how the aptitude tests work, the methodology behind them and how to take the tests efficiently for maximum results.

Some of the core skills of a good PSAT/SAT Tutor:

  • Listening: Tutors must be good at listening and considering the thoughts and ideas of their students.
  • Observation: the insight to understand whether they are connecting with their students and if performance is improving.
  • Positive attitude: Students thrive best in an environment of encouragement and support.
  • Patience: Students do not learn at the same rate. Some may hit obstacles that others more easily overcome. A great tutor sets the pace to the needs of the student.
  • Creative approaches to teaching: As with patience, by understanding that no two students are alike, a great tutor is able to adapt and customize instruction to the unique needs of each student.

 Here is a list of training programs for tutors to help you get started.

PSAT/SAT tutor showing a student how to solve a problem

Professional Groups to Join

Tutoring associations can be a tremendous resource for both new tutors and veterans alike. Benefits of membership include mentoring opportunities, industry newsletters, event news, networking opportunities and information about tutoring certificate courses. Some of the most popular professional groups in the field include the American Tutoring Association, the Association for the Coaching and Tutoring Profession and the National Tutoring Association.

This list of popular professional groups for PSAT/SAT tutors can help you get started.

Dozens of informal, online networking groups also cater to PSAT/SAT tutors. These are free to join and can expand your network of contacts and professional acquaintances. Here’s an extensive listing of these groups.


There are many companies that offer tutoring services throughout the United States. Some have a national presence, such as Kaplan, while others may be independent and locally owned.

A sign that reads "difficult roads lead to beautiful destinations"

You’ll want to prepare your resume, both printed copies and a digital version for online distribution. Sending job application materials via email or through the recruitment page of a company’s website is a fast and efficient way to reach many potential employers, compared to hitting the Post Office with a huge stack of thick, manila envelopes stuffed with your printed information. When sending resumes by email, the best way to attach this document and supporting materials is by creating .pdf files of the documents with Adobe Acrobat. These types of files are considered safe to send and are less likely to trigger a spam alert in the recipient’s mailbox. Follow this tip and you’ll have a much better chance that your online correspondence lands in front of a real person, not a spam folder.

Also make photocopies of your professional certifications and memberships in tutoring organizations. These extra materials can pull your application to the top of the pile and set you apart from competitors for the same job.

Finding Clients

Business cards and a basic website should be the core of your marketing toolkit as a professional PSAT/SAT tutor. The website can be as fancy as you like, so long as it is attractively designed, with photos of your office and a few images of you teaching students. Your business location and contact information should be clearly visible at the top of every page on your website. Search engines scan this information to match your website geographically with people searching for a tutor, either for themselves or their children.

In addition to your business website, the next thing to do is create an Instagram account to showcase your business. Instagram is the top online venue for professionals to promote their work. It’s a free marketing tool that’s always working on your behalf.

Now set up a Facebook page for your tutoring services. This is a great way to build a following, offer a few free test-prep tips and keep people up-to-date on your offerings.

PSAT/SAT tutor helping student with preparation in a shared community space

Be sure to create a Google My Business page, where you can add hours of operation, photos and an interactive map of your location. This helps people in your geographic area find you.

All of these services are free. Setting up a page on each site takes less than an hour.

Other strategies for attracting new business:

  • Create a referral program with discounts for people who send new students to you.
  • Ask students to review your tutoring services online. According to a recent survey, 90% of people say their buying decisions are influenced by positive online reviews.

Good to know

Tutors who’ve been helping students prepare for the PSAT/SAT have learned what works – and what doesn’t – in improving test scores. Here are some insider suggestions to bring you up to speed:

Motivating students

Raising scores on standards tests involves academic knowledge, yes, but is largely a matter of taking practice tests. Again and again. Make it clear to every student that higher test scores open more doors to the colleges and universities they wish to attend.

PSAT/SAT tutor talking a student through a lesson with a laptop

Study the Test

You cannot help students improve their PSAT/SAT test scores unless you have expert knowledge of the tests themselves. Students need to be mindful of the time limitations, the different sections being tested and the number of questions. This knowledge is part of the strategy behind taking standardized tests.

When students know what to expect they are prepared and primed to perform better.

Understand the SAT’s Design

Most of the test involves answering multiple-choice questions. Even if a student does not know the correct answer, there are techniques for eliminating wrong answers from the available choices. By narrowing down the options, the student has a greater chance of choosing the correct answer. This also means being aware of the “traps” hidden throughout the test. Carefully reading a question with tricky wording will reduce the chance of choosing the wrong answer.

Set goals

Students are often more motivated and focused when they have a target to hit. If the goal is to raise a student’s score by a certain number of points, focus on that. If the goal is improvement in math skill, that should be where you concentrate.

Work with official study guides and actual tests

Students will get the best practice by taking real sample tests, which can be downloaded from several online sites. The Official SAT Study Guide is an essential text and costs less than $20.

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