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Frequently Asked Questions

 

  How many hours of tutoring will my child/I need?

How do I know which test my child needs to take when
    applying to an NYC school?

How early should my child start preparing for these
    tests?

What if my child has a learning disability?

What is the PSAT good for?

How many times should I take the SAT? The ACT? 

What are the differences between the SAT and the ACT?

Which test should I take? The SAT and the ACT?

What is a good SAT score? ACT?

Will colleges see all my scores?

What about SAT IIs? Do I have to take them? Which ones?

       

How many hours of tutoring will my child/I need?
At AtoZ, the focus is always on the individual, so there is no one answer. Most standardized test students sign up for 10 to 30 sessions (1 to 1.5 hours each) to achieve their desired “bump” in scores. Academic tutoring is different, as that spans an entire school year.  The question then is about whether to meet once or twice a week, which depends more on the student's schedule and workload than anything else.

How do I know which test my child needs to take when applying to an NYC school?
That depends on the schools he or she is applying to. There are different tests for private schools, catholic schools and specialized schools (see Subjects Covered). Check the admissions information on the schools’ websites, and you should find which test is required in the application criteria.

How early should my child start preparing for these tests?
For the NYC school exams, sometime in the summer is best to start preparing for test given in the late fall.  Keep in mind that the the time frame and lesson plan for a 4th grader is not the same as that for an 8th grader.

Snapshots at jasonlove.comFor the SAT or ACT, somewhere between 4 to 6 months is good. The earliest anyone should start is the summer before Junior year, as it will not be until the following spring (9 months later) that the student will take the test for the first time. Any sooner and there is a risk of burn out or loss of momentum. Starting too late doesn’t work either; cramming for 1 month, on top of schoolwork and extracurriculars, is usually a recipe for a meltdown.

There is, however, hope. If you have limited time, like 1 month, or limited access, as in no room in your schedule for tutoring, there is Alex’s 1-3-6 plan (1 month, 3 months, 6 months) for helping yourself – or your child – prepare for a standardized test.

What if my child has a learning disability?
ALL the tests provide special accommodations for students with documented learning and/or behavioral issues. Go to their websites and look under “Special Needs” or “Accommodations” to find out what kind of adjustments are provided and how to apply for them.

What is the PSAT good for?
The PSAT gives the student a (shorter, easier) preview of the SAT without having the score count.  If the score is high enough, however, the student can qualify for a National Merit Scholarship, which is a prestigious national award -  and something that looks good on a college application.

How many times should I take the SAT? The ACT? 
You can take the SAT and/or the ACT as many times as you want, but don’t go overboard. First, there are the registration fees every time you take a test.  Second, students statistically show improvement between the first, second and, if necessary, third time they take the test - but plateau after that.

What are the differences between the SAT and the ACT?
The ACT is structured differently, with four longer section (instead of 10 short ones): English (grammar), Math (more difficult than the SAT), SAT vs ACT ChartReading (reading comprehension), and Science (data interpretation - NOT scientific memorization); and the essay is optional. It is also scored differently than the SAT, with a maximum of 36 points instead of 2400. Most importantly, the ACT does NOT take points off for wrong answers, so the basic test-taking strategy is one of "answer everything" instead of skip what you don't know." For a detailed breakdown, click here.

Which test should I take?  The SAT or ACT?
That depends on you – and the colleges you apply to. Each admissions office has its own set of requirements and may tell you which test you have to take. If you have a choice, you need to find out which format/question style works better for you. The only way to do that is to take diagnostic tests for both the ACT and SAT Though most students do equally well on both, they may find they have a personal preference.

What is a good SAT score? ACT?
Once again, that depends on where you are applying. Any comprehensive college profile book will tell you what individual schools look for. In general, state schools require scores of 500-550 in each section of the SAT (for a total of 1500-1650) and a 20 or above on the ACT; the more competitive schools look for 600s (totaling 1800+) on the SAT and a 25 on the ACT; the Ivy League wants 700s (or 2100+) on the SAT and a 30 or above on the ACT.

Will colleges see all my scores?
Only if you want them to – you get to choose which tests to send to colleges, so you can take it as many times as you want and only send your best scores. For the ACT, you can indicate you want to Superscore your test results, meaning colleges will accept the best scores from each section of the ACT, even if tWhat is SAT Score Choice?hey come from different tests/test-dates! For the SAT, there is a method called Score Choice, where you can pick which SAT tests you want to submit to schools. It has proven controversial and for a full breakdown (and Alex’s opinion) click  here.

What about SAT IIs? Do I have to take them? Which ones?
Many colleges do not require SAT IIs, but some do. The good news is that you can pick which Subject Tests to take – so pick those that cover material you excel in, or that you are already studying for other tests like the AP exams.  The exception is if you are applying for a specific academic track:  if you know you are going Pre-Med, you have to take one of the Science tests. Engineering?  Math Level 1C or IIC. International Politics or Law? World History and a Language would be good. There is an SAT II for Chinese, you know…

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