For twelve years I taught SAT and ACT prep to small and large groups as well as one-on-one. Test prep classes are fine and can help boost your score, but there's no comparison with one-on-one.
Working with a single student, the tutor doesn't waste time going over unnecessary material. A student needs to know four or five skills/subjects for the test: advanced reading comprehension, four dozen math problem types, two dozen grammar rules, basic reasoning, and, for the ACT, how to read science graphs and tables. That's it.
In any class, you'll spend time going over other people's questions or general material that is not helpful for your test.
Imagine having a conversation with one person in which you go into detail about every question you miss. What unit in math do you need to review? Learn that unit today, in detail, and get those problems on the test correct. Often, you will need to review a topic a few times in order to answer the most difficult questions, so follow-up and review is key.
Regarding the reading section, Why this evidence and not that? Why this word and not that? Teaching comprehension is done by asking a series of leading questions and this is best achieved one-on-one.
What kind of thinking do you cultivate for the test? (Being direct is the key: find the evidence in a passage, or the one piece of given information in the problem, and answer the question). What's the best way to improve on the reading test? Comprehension work, slowly at first and then according to the allotted time.
Specific information is crucial for doing well on the test: what are those four dozen math problems? The two dozen grammar rules?
The best way to teach these tests, I've found, is to focus on one skill at a time for each of the sections. Practice the skill, refine it, and your score goes up.
Good tutoring also means finding ways to motivate. A tutor pushes some students while helping others to relax. All the while, sessions have to be fun (at least some of the time). How does a tutor make the time go quickly? One strategy is to approach the test as if it were a puzzle or game. A student who relaxes learns faster.
Finally, test prep offers the opportunity to teach time management, for the test and for life, and to manage stress by visualizing test day, just as any speaker or performer would visualize a speech or performance. My approach then is to teach skills, a number of which are helpful beyond test day. Take a moment to read links here or call for a free consultation.
Bill Jackson, MFA