PSAT, SAT and ACT FAQS
█►Our tutors can help you to raise your standardized test scores. For more details or to schedule your first session, please call 781-652-9649 or click here to send us an email.
How many sessions are usually needed for PSAT, SAT or ACT preparation?
Most of our PSAT / SAT / ACT prep tutors consider an eight week course of 2-hour sessions with four full-length practice tests and a diagnostic test (all taken between sessions) to complete the full course to be optimal. The tutor will provide emailed weekly summaries of what has been covered, which include suggestions as to what material to study and which tests to take between sessions. Our tutors' courses are designed to thoroughly review all sections of the test, instill confidence in the content areas, hone the student's writing skills and familiarize the student with test directions, types of questions, and test-taking strategies.
How are your sessions structured?
The format used by the tutor will vary depending on the needs of the student and the pace at which he/she can work (as well as the amount of effort the student puts in between sessions). Usually, each session will focus on techniques and strategies in all three sections; it is important that students get a chance to practice and master these techniques.
Our tutors teach a strategic, targeted approach to these tests where students focus on leaving as few points on the table as possible. Their approach uses an understanding of a student's strengths and weaknesses to determine the best method for maximizing the points in any given section, e.g. should a student focus on the complex figure problems in math? Or will he/she pick up more points by working on trap recognition? These are choices that become more clear as a student completes several practice tests/sections, so the more data the student provides in terms of completing between-session practice sections, the more effective the prep time will be.
Our son/daughter is highly motivated and responsible. Do you offer an abbrieviated course for such students?
If the student is highly motivated, the course can be restructured to 8 to 10 hours of total session time. This abbreviated course still covers all of the material, but places more responsibility on the student between sessions. There will be more between-session work done by the student, and introduces some time constraints in terms of addressing problem areas and ensuring mastery of the techniques. (Typically, the first 8 to 10 hours is spent introducing the material, and the remaining 8 to 10 hours is spent mastering it, with 2-3 additional practice tests taken between the sessions to help track progress and isolate areas that could use improvement.)
How does Lexington Tutoring’s approach differ from the approach of the national test prep franchises?
Our tutors' approaches differ from that of the national test prep franchises in that our tutors are able to focus on helping every student maximize his individual score. The franchise classroom-style programs are designed to help large groups of students overall, but they are less helpful in helping bright students excel, or in helping struggling students overcome their specific obstacles. Their teachers are not allowed to deviate from the material to help the motivated students push ahead, nor are they allowed to offer “non-approved” techniques to students who are struggling to understand a concept. Our tutors' one-on-one or small group approaches discover where each student needs the most help, and then target those specific areas to help students earn the score they want.
When should our daughter/son begin PSAT, SAT or ACT prep sessions?
We recommend getting started in the summer before junior year with a full SAT or ACT prep course. Now that students are allowed to send their best score from each section to college, many are using this as an opportunity to take the test two or three times.
What should our daughter/son bring (and not bring) on test day?
Please refer to this page of the College Board website for a complete list of what is needed and what is not allowed.
Should our son or daughter take the SAT, the ACT, or both?
Most schools accept both tests. At SAT II Subject Tests we've charted the SAT, SAT II and ACT requirements of most of the New England schools. The consensus seems to be that the ACT is a little easier than the SAT, but both tests are scored on a curve. A student’s final “scaled” score is always measured relative to all the other students’ scores for the same test.
We recommend this article and this one for information about how the two tests compare. Also, this comparision chart weighs the pros and cons of taking each.
According to this August, 2013 New York Times article, many applicants to the nation’s most selective colleges and universities are taking — and retaking — both the ACT and the SAT.
We recommend using this resource to decide whether your son/daughter should take the Writing section of the ACT. More information about the components of the ACT is available here .
Should our son or daughter retake the SAT or ACT?
There are 3 circumstances in which we think it makes sense to retake the SAT I , the ACT and/or the SAT II:
1. Your score falls below the average mark for your prospective colleges.
2. A higher score will qualify you for additional financial aid.
3. New coursework will enhance your ability to earn a competitive score.
How has the SAT changed?
- The scoring has returned to a composite of 1600.
- The new scoring elements include Test scores, Subscores, and Cross-Test scores.
- There is no longer a wrong answer penalty.
- The sections are longer with fewer breaks.
- The essay is optional and is being scored separately.
- The sections are Math and Evidence-Based Reading and Writing.
- The Math section is focused on fewer topics with a heavy emphasis on algebra.
Are the SAT and ACT going to be phased out by the competitive US colleges and universities?
We don't think so.
The National Center for Fair & Open Testing provides this list of colleges and universities that are ““test optional,” “test flexible” or otherwise de-emphasize the use of standardized tests by making admissions decisions about substantial numbers of applicants who recently graduated from U.S. high schools without using the SAT or ACT.”
This July 2015 NPR article discusses the “Top Tier” schools that deemphasize the ACT/SAT in admissions decisions and concludes that the SAT and ACT are not likely to be phased out “because most of the nation's best, most-selective institutions still rely on them.”
How should we factor SAT II Subject Tests into our planning?
Of course, it is not only the SAT that leads students to feel junior year is the most stressful year. There are also the SAT II Subject tests to consider. Many (but not all) colleges require two (or more) subject tests to be included with a student's transcript during the application process. The SAT II Subject Tests are offered on the same days as the SAT. (Both are administered by College Board.) This means that there are only a handful of dates for a student to take all the subject tests they want/need, in addition to having several attempts to achieve their desired score on the SAT. If a student is not prepared, he/she could discover that there is not enough time to take all the tests, or that preparation for the tests has to occur during an inconvenient time of year. (Imagine trying to prepare for finals and the SAT at the same time, while knowing there is only time to take the test once.)
Do you offer preparation for the SAT II Subject Tests?
Yes. The best time to take an SAT II Subject Test is right after you’ve finished a year-long class in that subject. If, for example, you take U.S. History in eleventh grade, then you should take the SAT II U.S. History near the end of that year, when the material is still fresh in your mind. (This rule does not apply for the Writing, Literature, and Foreign Language SAT II tests; it’s best to take those after you’ve had as much study in the area as possible.) For more details or to schedule your first session, please refer to this page of our website, call 781-652-9649 or send us an email.
The Subject Tests are also quite difficult (mostly because of the time constraints), with the material at or close to the level of an AP exam in terms of knowledge required. The subject tests usually require focused prep work, as well. For the students with whom we are already working on a regular basis, the subject test prep can usually be worked into the normal sessions. However, there are always mid-term exams, projects, finals, AP exams, sports and other extra-curricular activities, all of which can make it difficult for a student to commit to prepping for an exam during the school year.
Please see SAT II Subject Tests for more information about our SAT II Subject Test prep.
In light of all there is to accomplish, here is a (general) schedule we have found to be successful for nearly all students, with a focus on minimizing the stress while maximizing the results:
Summer before junior year
Full SAT prep course
►The student is familiarized with the test, how its scored, the tricks and techniques used on this test (and on all standardized tests, including SAT II subject tests), as well as general test-taking strategies and section-specific concepts (e.g. knowing the special right triangles, identifying misplaced modifiers, etc.).
►The student begins the course with a baseline score from the diagnostic test, and we track progress through the full-length practice tests taken during the course.
►By the end of the course, the student will have seen every type of question and will have strategies for dealing with them.
►Our motto for students on Test Day is, “No Surprises.”
►Placing the full prep course during the summer allows students to focus on the SAT without having to juggle this prep with their other course work.
►It also gives them the opportunity to continue practicing throughout the year in preparation, instead of trying to cram all the prep work into a two-week course right before the exam.
October, junior year
►Most juniors take the PSAT in October of junior year, which is important for National Merit Scholarships and for becoming familiar with the SAT... but not much else
►We like to think of the PSAT as a bonus practice test, and a good barometer for how well the student has absorbed the material from the prep course.
January/March/May/June, junior year
►Between these four test dates, students should plan to take two SAT II subject tests and two official SAT tests, scheduling additional prep time and additional practice tests, as necessary.
►Two subject tests may be taken on one test day.
►As an example, a student could take his/her first official SAT in January, two subject tests in March, and his/her second official SAT in May.
►If the student is not pleased with his/her subject test score, the June test date could be used to re-take the exams.
Summer before senior year
►Full prep course for whichever October test(s) the student plans to take.
October, senior year
►“Last chance" for SAT or SAT II subject tests, boosting scores, if necessary.
|It is possible to build flexibility into this schedule, as well. We understand junior year and the rush to meet all of the requirements for the college application process can be stressful and seem overwhelming. Because of this, we try to help students and parents to head into junior year with a strong idea of what needs to be accomplished as well as path to maximize the chances of success.
Will these sessions benefit my son or daughter any more than if he or she uses self-help materials to prepare for the test?
If your son or daughter is going after the PSAT’s National Merit Scholarship, or wants to boost his/her SAT and ACT scores for that top-tier undergraduate school just out of reach, we can deliver experienced, patient, systematic instruction to maximize your results. Our students learn about tricks, traps, and common question types as well as multiple-choice test taking strategies. They enter the test with a mastery of the material and with zero anxiety about what they will find on the test. Students feel a lot of pressure to perform well on the SAT, and the confidence built during these sessions is almost as valuable as the concepts they learn. The practice tests offer an opportunity for the students to become used to test-like situations, and give an objective measure for tracking progress throughout the sessions. Our custom test prep package is cost-effective and thorough. We can focus on the critical reading, writing or math segments, or all three -- wherever participants need the most help. For more details or to schedule your first session, just call 781-652-9649 or email us.
What are your rates for test prep?
Our tutors' typical rates are posted here.Best value: our tutors' discounted group rates.
Please ask us about our discounted rates for SAT/ACT/SAT II small-group sessions.
Where and when do sessions take place?
We provide home visits throughout metro west, Cambridge and Boston.
Where can I find more information about the requirements for the SAT II Subject Tests?
Please click here for more information about SAT Subject testing descriptions and requirements for selected New England schools.
█►We can help you to raise your standardized test scores. For more details or to schedule your first session, please call 781-652-9649 or click here to send us an email.
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