ACT Prep Online: How One Tutor Got Started


Today’s featured author is Stena Schmitt.  Stena has been with us a few months and is an official Tutorpreneur and Reading Interventionist.  After finding out how much money people can make tutoring SAT and ACT prep, Meg Navarro was curious about learning more about this topic.  I asked Stena if she would be willing to write a blog post and she happily jumped at the opportunity.  I am grateful for members like Stena that want to support others.  We have so many amazing people in our group that offer feedback, encouragement, and advice.  Here is Stena’s post about ACT prep.

In the beginning

ACT Prep

ACT Prep, Stena Schmitt

I first got approached to teach ACT prep by my neighbor.  My neighbor had a senior who still needed to take the ACT. The mom was afraid that her child was so busy, that he/she was not taking the proper time to study for the ACT.

Getting Started


At first, I didn’t know where to start. But then I got an ACT prep book. The book was 3-4 inches thick, which was very intimidating. It was Kaplan’s ACT Test Prep 2016. Other resources that I used were Reading With Meaning, Painless Grammar,,, and Complete Fun ACT Prep Bundle (Teachers Pay Teachers).

Deciding Initial Test or Not????

I like to have a student complete an assessment to tell me where to start, but that didn’t happen for my first ACT student. Looking back, I should have insisted so that I could know where to start.

With my next student, I decided I would do things differently. I simply stated in the informational meeting that he/she would have to take a practice ACT to see where to begin.

The Kaplan book breaks down each question into the question type and category to identify where each student’s strengths and weaknesses are. I like this because it helps me focus on certain aspects of the test.

The first time I tested someone, he received a 15 on the test. After the class with me, he received a 19 overall, but 20s in both math and science which originally was a 13-14.

Deciding Class Length

I found that juniors and seniors that want to take the ACT seriously and study for it are already pretty good students. They are involved in many activities that keep them busy and out of trouble. So my first ACT student only had about 90 minutes per week to spare for ACT prep. However, 90 minutes just didn’t seem like enough time to get through the material.

I decided that since the ACT is 3 hours long; classes should also be the same length. This amount of time works on a student’s endurance for the test.  It also gives the right amount of time to get quickly through material they already know, or the formalities out of the way and focus and master skills they don’t know.

Individual or Small Groups

My goal is to work with a group of students for a discussion on ACT topics. The reasoning for a small group of students is so that students can bounce off examples of skills to each other. When students discuss with others, they learn the material better. The teacher also learns different tricks as well

Creating Lessons

I broke the lessons into several parts such as Basic Test Format, Grading, Insider Tips, Grammar, Punctuation, Inferring and Drawing Conclusions, Author’s Purpose, Main Idea and Details, Science, 100 Math Concepts, etc.

I give each of my students a workbook to work through so they can take notes as they go and have plenty of room for examples.

I like to use PowerPoint to present the information to my students because it is what they are used to in school. I am also able to give the important information from all of my sources rather than overwhelm them with books to read and sort through.


I treated every lesson like a normal classroom. First, I give an overview of the topic to see what they know and don’t know, and then go over the meat and potatoes of the skill giving several examples and homework to work on as well. We then go over the homework the next class to see how they did and decide if more work needs to be done.

Plenty of Examples

Since students are not with me all the time, I give them ideas of how to use the strategies in their everyday lives. For example, when they have to read Prose Fiction, Natural Science, Humanities, Social Science at home, I encourage them to read lots of short stories or magazine articles to help them apply the strategies. If students are applying the knowledge every day, then they will be better prepared for the ACT and college.

Practice, practice, practice!!!

Over the course of the class, I give at least three tests to prepare the students for the ACT. These tests are usually done as homework so the students can understand the process. Then we go over the questions and reiterate tricks to pass.

Individual Subjects


One of the books that works to teach strategies of reading is Strategies That Work. This book teaches students how to interact with what they read. Students can write in the test booklet, but they first have to understand how to do this. Strategies that Work is a perfect book for this.


Comparing science to their science classes and labs can be a good way to start helping them study for the science part. However, many of the science passages are beyond what they studied in high school.

I would recommend using articles that interest them and teach students how to find the hypothesis, process, and conclusion in each article. Then have the students apply what they’ve learned to the passages from the ACT prep book.

Also, teach them how to interact with their textbook more as well. Strategies that Work also works for this.


I feel you should go over the 100 math concepts that are on the test to weed out the concepts the students already know. Then focus on the concepts that they don’t.

I like to give students note cards to fill out for each concept. I have them put the cards on a ring, so it is portable, and they can study them whenever they need to.  These cards come in handy for normal school work help as well.


This subject can be broken down into several parts as well such as sentence or writing structure, grammar, and punctuation. Depending on the resources you use, the skills can be overwhelming at first. But if you break them down, it can be very easy to understand. This is where a pre-test can come in handy to figure out where the student struggles and where he/she doesn’t.

Taking it to the Next Level

Depending on where students are with the concepts of the ACT, you can take the studying to a whole new level. If students come back to retake the test, I try to dig a little deeper and allow students to apply their knowledge further.

For example, the reading test has certain types of questions that students can create on their own. The students get to pick articles that interest them and create questions based on the style we have already studied.

Students feel more prepared and confident after creating questions because they know where to look in the passage and how to answer them.

About the Author: Stena Schmitt is an online tutor in the Ultimate Support Group for Online Tutors.  You can learn more about her business by checking out her website.  Besides tutoring for the ACT, Stena also helps kids with reading, math, study skills, phonics.

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  1. Thanks for the great article! Excellent information. Do you do SAT as well? Would this really only be a good idea to get into if I wanted to tutor math and science? All I want to tutor is the reading and language arts portion

  2. Tutoring online can be easy once you figure out all the technical stuff. I used to meet at the library with one of my students. She was always focused on what everybody else was doing and wasn’t focused on her work. When we started online, she was more relaxed and worked more. You can also reach more students online because they can be far away and not have to worry about driving a long ways to get to you. For example, one person I talked to said they had to drive 2 1/2 hours one time weekly to get tutored and then figure out what to do for 3 hours while their child was tutored.

  3. Thank you for the fantastic article. I am going to begin tutoring test Prep because I see how important it is for students to understand the test and passing it. Not only does Stena give how she started with test prep, she gives us excellent resources on how to teach test prep. This is something that I needed!!! Thanks again. I am starting this immediately.

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