Frequently Asked Questions

 

ACT/SAT Prep Guide for Parents

Mindfish Services

Guide for Parents

How can Mindfish help my student?

Mindfish offers a variety of customizable programs to help guide parents and students to succeed in high school and in college.

1. Academic Instruction: not every student loves or excels at every subject. Our tutors have expertise in a variety of areas to help students with their day-to-day class work.

2. Study Skills Tutoring: studying can be a learned skill. Many students do not know how to approach studying for a test or how to organize their school work. Study Skills tutoring teaches students how to approach school in the most efficient manner to make sure they know how to tackle any test or class for the rest of their life.

3. Test Prep Tutoring: Mindfish offered a complete ACT/SAT prep guide for parents to ensure that they are making the best choices for their student. The reality is that a competitive SAT or ACT score can help students get into the college of their dreams or unlock necessary scholarship money. Mindfish offers two main programs for test prep tutoring: hybrid classes and 1-on-1 instruction.

  • Hybrid group classes: Mindfish hybrid courses include 16 hours of small group instruction and 8 hours of 1-on-1 instruction. Hybrid classes at capped at ten students. This allows us to ensure that each student is receiving individualized instruction. 
  • One-on-one instruction: We believe that each student is unique. For that reason, we offer customizable packages of private tutoring that focus each student’s strengths and weaknesses. These 1-on-1 sessions allow our instructors to focus their attention on the areas that will result in the greatest improvement for each student.
  • Timed practice tests: Taking authentic practice tests is a critical part of test prep. All of our students are welcome to come in and take as many practice tests as they would like. We suggest 3 to 4 tests per test prep cycle. Our exams are real SAT and ACT exams that have been administered in previous years. We proctor practice tests on most Saturday mornings in an environment that is designed to mimic the atmosphere of an official test day.

4. College Essay Writing: A solid essay can be fundamental to getting into a preferred college. Mindfish helps students construct their college admission essays from ideation to final editing.

What makes Mindfish different from other test prep companies?

There are three main types of test prep companies: the individual instructor who typically got a great score on the test and works from your home or a coffee shop, the name-brand company that runs large-scale seminars and works off a one-size-fits-all model, and the boutique test prep company.

Mindfish is a boutique test prep company that is small enough to offer superior personalized instruction but large enough to have developed all of its own curriculum and to offer bi-weekly proctored practice tests. When it comes to getting your student the individualized support they need along with highly trained instructors who are not only good at taking the test but great at teaching the test, Mindfish is an amazing resource. If you have any questions, please feel free to contact one of our Mindfish Founders, Bill or Ryan, to talk about how Mindfish can help you.

How does my student get started with test prep?

The first step for 99% of families is to have their student choose which test to focus on. The student should come in and take a full-length SAT, a full-length ACT, and then sit down with one of the Mindfish Directors through our Practice Test Program.

What are the advantages of small group instruction?

Small group instruction can be a fantastic way for students to prepare for the ACT or SAT. All Mindfish classes pair small group instruction with 1-on-1 instruction to ensure that students receive individual support in addition to general review and strategies. Students who are scoring between the 50th and the 80th percentiles are often a great fit for class instruction. These students typically benefit from other students asking questions and are motivated by working with their peers in this process. Given that test prep is not always the most fun process for students, completing a class with a friend can really help them complete homework, stay involved, and reach their goals.

What are the advantages of 1-on-1 test preparation?

1-on-1 tutoring is the most efficient, customizable, and flexible style of test prep.  1-on-1 instruction allows us to create an individualized program catered directly to one student’s  strengths and weaknesses. If a student needs significantly more attention on one area of the test over another, this model is a great fit. You can go over significantly more content in one hour of 1-on-1 instruction than you can in one hour of group instruction, and therefore, this is a great option for busy students who have very tight schedules. There is also a great deal of flexibility when you are scheduling 1-on-1 sessions . Mindfish tutors work 7 days a week at a variety of times, so you (or your student) can decide what days and times work best for them.

Students who should do 1-on-1 test prep over a small group class:

  1. Student who have a large split in their scores, i.e. Math is much higher than English or vice versa. This student will most likely do better with a program catered specifically to them rather than a class that will address the needs of all the students in the course.
  2. Students who are scoring in the highest and lowest quartiles should seriously consider 1-on-1 test prep over a small group class.
  3. Students who are hoping to improve their score more than the average score improvement (4 pts ACT, 160 pts SAT) may want to consider a 1-on-1 program rather than a small group class.

Can Mindfish help with college essays?

Yes, Mindfish works with students on their college essays from ideation to final editing. Please give us a call at 720-204-1041 to discuss your specific situation.

When are tutors available to meet?

We tutor 7 days a week at a variety of times. In general, tutors work anytime from 8am – 9pm.

Where are the sessions/tests conducted?

All Mindfish meetings and tests are held at our offices:

Mindfish Boulder
1320 Pearl St. #108
Boulder, CO 80302

Mindfish Denver Tech Center (DTC)
7950 E. Prentice Ave. #203
Greenwood Village, CO 80111

Mindfish Denver
1633 Fillmore St. #412
Denver, CO 80206

Mindfish Boise
913 S. Latah St. Unit A
Boise, ID 83705

How long is a normal tutoring session?

A typical 1-on-1 tutoring session is 1.5 hours. If you are completing your tutoring in conjunction with a small group class, those sessions are often just an hour. However, your tutoring time is completely customizable, so for certain students, depending on attention span and/or schedule, it may make more sense for a student to complete their sessions in one- or two-hour blocks.

When do you offer proctored practice tests?

Proctored SAT & ACT practice tests are held at a Mindfish office on Saturdays from 9 am – 1 pm. A complete list of practice test dates can be found on our website.  All Mindfish students are welcome to take any of these practice tests with us at no extra charge. To register for a practice test, contact the Mindfish office (email: info@mindfish.com, phone: 720-204-1041).

Can I switch my student's practice test date?

Practice test dates can be easily rescheduled. Please email info@mindfish.com with your preferred practice test date, and we’ll change your registration accordingly. For a complete list of practice test dates, please visit our website.

What does a student need to bring to the practice test?

Students should bring pencils, a calculator, a bottle of water, a sweater or sweatshirt, and a small snack like a granola bar if they wish.

How much homework will be assigned?

While the exact amount of homework will depend on the duration between sessions and the length of your tutoring program, in general, students completing test prep tutoring can expect 3 – 5 hours of homework per week. For students completing academic tutoring, they may be given supplemental homework by their tutor, but that is done on a case-by-case basis.

What happens if my student missed a small group session?

Mindfish offers Office Hours from 1:30 – 2:30pm after every practice test. This is a great time for students to make up missed lessons or classes. A complete list of practice test dates can be found on our website.

What are Mindfish’s office hours?

On the Saturdays that we hold practice tests, a Mindfish instructor will also hold an office hour following the test (1:30 p.m. to 2:30 p.m.) This is a great time for students to come in and ask questions or receive help on any test prep material or concepts.

Can my student miss the first class or sign up late?

Sometimes students have unavoidable schedule conflicts or register for a class after the first meeting. We encourage class attendance whenever possible, but for students who have missed the first class, our instructors can get them caught up quickly. Class material can be reviewed during the student’s first one-on-one meeting, and students can also attend Mindfish’s office hours for additional instruction.

Do you offer remote tutoring?

Mindfish provides remote tutoring for those who are not able to meet at a Mindfish office. If you are interested in remote tutoring, please contact info@mindfish.com and we’ll set you up with a tutor who can meet with you via the Zoom video conferencing platform. We’ll also send you a full set of materials by mail. This often includes the Mindfish ACT/SAT textbook(s), prep guides for SAT Subject Tests or AP exams, ACT/SAT prep guide for parents, and all relevant practice tests. 

Does Mindfish offer any discounts?

Yes, we offer a 10% off all 1-on-1 tutoring packages of 15 hours or more. Additionally  we offer a stackable discount to returning customers and military families. Please call our office at 720-204-1041 for more information.

What is your cancelation policy?

For individual sessions, we ask students and parents to provide us with as much notice as possible. If a family cancels less than 24 hours in advance, you may be charged for a 30-minute session. However, we know that students get sick and emergencies happen, so please contact us as soon as you can. As for practice tests and small group classes, there is no charge for missing a meeting.

ACT vs. SAT

ACT/SAT Prep Guide for Parents

Should my child take the SAT or ACT?

No parents guide to the ACT/SAT would be complete without a conversation about the differences between the tests. This is the number one question parents have about their students test prep process. The best way to determine which test is right for your student is to take an official practice test for both the SAT and ACT. The Mindfish Practice Test Program allows students to take both a full-length practice ACT and SAT (on separate occasions) at one of the Mindfish offices. After your student has taken both tests, we will then contact you to schedule a 45-minute consultation meeting with one of our directors, who will sit down with you and your student to design a test preparation plan and timeline that is specific to your student’s skill set and practice test scores. You can also visit act.org to compare your student’s ACT and SAT scores. ACT/SAT Prep Guide for Parents

What are the differences between the ACT and SAT?

Below is a chart that summarizes the major differences between the SAT and ACT:

ACT SAT
Fast-paced, intuitive test that puts an emphasis on time management and reading comprehension. Problem-solving test with a slower pace and a heavy emphasis on critical thinking and mathematics.
Test Structure
English (75 questions, 45 minutes) Math (60 questions, 60 minutes) Reading (40 questions, 35 minutes) Science (40 questions, 35 minutes) Optional Essay (40 minutes) Reading (52 questions, 65 minutes) Writing (44 questions, 35 minutes) Math (20 questions, 25 minutes) Math (38 questions, 55 minutes) Optional Essay (50 minutes)
Composite Score
Average of the four subsection scores
(out of 36)
Sum of the Math and Verbal Scores
(out of 1600)
Official Exam Schedule
September
October
December
February
April
June
July
October
November
December
March
May
June
August

In addition, the chart below summarizes the differences between the SAT and ACT per section:

Section ACT SAT
English / Writing:
grammatical and contextual editing of a written passage.
25% English (75 questions, 45 min) 25% Writing (44 questions, 35 min)
Reading:
comprehension test.
25% Reading (40 questions, 35 min) 25% Reading (52 questions, 65 min)
Math:
traditional math exam covering material from general arithmetic to advanced mathematical concepts.
25% Math (60 questions, 60 min)
• Multiple Choice Questions
• Use of a Calculator
• Includes Precalculus and Trigonometry Curriculum
25% Section 3: Math – NO CALCULATOR (20 questions, 25 min)
25% Section 4: Math – CALCULATOR
(38 questions, 55 min)
• Multiple Choice & Grid-in Questions
• Non-Calculator section
• Includes Algebra II Curriculum

Science:
reading-based test with an emphasis on analyzing charts & graphs.
25% Science (40 questions, 35 min) None
The SAT Reading and Writing sections include analysis of charts and graphs.

Should my student take the SAT?

Below is a list of skills needed to excel on the SAT:

  • Attention to detail: your student is a critical thinker with an analytical mind
  • Problem-solving: your student can apply familiar concepts in new ways and can think “outside the box”
  • Strong reading skills: the SAT is a difficult test for weak readers. It is essential that your student have a solid and robust vocabulary.
  • Comfortable foundation in math: the math score is half of the total score on the SAT (compared to 25% on the ACT). In addition, one section prohibits calculator use, so it is essential that your student has solid arithmetic and algebra skills.

The SAT is a good option for students who:

  • Have solid skills but have trouble with time management: the SAT provides much more time per question than does the ACT (making it easier to finish each section in the time provided).
  • Don’t love charts or graphs: while the Reading and Writing sections involve some charts and graphs, there is not a complete section on them (unlike the ACT, which contains an entire Science section).

The aforementioned lists are general guidelines, not hard and fast rules. Students should always take a practice test of the ACT and SAT to determine which test is better for them. Please refer to the Mindfish Practice Test Program to learn more. ACT/SAT Prep Guide for Parents

Should my student take the ACT?

Below is a list of skills needed to excel on the ACT:

  • Good work ethic: your student is willing to put in time and energy to improve
  • Extra time accommodations: the ACT is generally a better fit for students  with accommodations.
  • Familiarity with more advanced math or far behind in their math curriculum: math concepts on the ACT go through precalculus & trigonometry; however, math is only worth 25% of the total score.
  • Comfort with charts & graphs: the science section tests students’ ability to interpret data and information presented in charts, tables and graphs; your student does not need a strong foundation in scientific content to do well on this section of the ACT.
  • Quick reading speed: The ACT is fast-paced, so students who can read and process material quickly are often well-suited to the ACT. However, your student can still do well on the ACT without answering every question on the test.

The ACT is a good option for students who:

  • Seek a huge score improvement: If you are looking for more than 160 pts improvement on the SAT or more than 4 points on the ACT, then the ACT is the test for you.
  • Aim for the highest score levels: today, prepping for a 35 or 36 is easier than a 1550 or 1600.

The aforementioned lists are general guidelines, not hard and fast rules. Students should always take a practice test of the ACT and SAT to determine which test is better for them. Please refer to the Mindfish Practice Test Program to learn more. ACT/SAT Prep Guide for Parents

Do all colleges accept both the ACT and the SAT?

Many parents and students receive faulty guidance about what schools accept ACT/SAT. All US institutions accept both the ACT and SAT. US institutions have no preference between either test. It is not necessary, nor recommended, to prepare for or take both the ACT and SAT. It is in your best interest to commit to one test at the onset of your test preparation. ACT/SAT Prep Guide for Parents

Should my student take both the ACT and SAT?

Most students should take a practice test for both the ACT & SAT and choose which one is better is a better fit for them. Few students should consider taking both.

Students who should consider taking both the SAT & ACT:

  • If you go to public school and have a free state-sponsored test
  • If you are going for a 99th percentile score or above
  • If you have hit a ceiling with your score improvement

ACT/SAT Prep Guide for Parents

Should my student take the essay portion of the test?

The essay is optional for both the ACT and SAT. Although many colleges do not require an ACT/SAT with the essay, we strongly recommend registering for the essay, just to be safe. Parents should look at the following list of colleges that require the essay to determine if their student should prep for the ACT/SAT essay. ACT/SAT Prep Guide for Parents

State-Sponsored Exams

ACT/SAT Prep Guide for Parents

Does my student have to take the state-sponsored exam (the exam offered at public highschools)?

While many states offer a free exam for public school students, it is usually encouraged but not usually required. You will want to double-check with your school to make sure that the student’s score from this exam is not automatically published on their transcript. In that case, taking this test could negatively affect your students chances of getting into a school. If a student’s scores are automatically published on his/her transcript, make sure that the student is properly prepared for the exam. For most students, this means completing 8 to 10 weeks of test prep prior to the exam. If a student is preparing for a different exam (ACT or SAT) than their school-sponsored one, and their score is automatically published on their transcript, you may want to opt your student out of the test. In some cases you can remove a student’s score from his/her transcript after the fact, but you have to contact your school directly to find our their policy. ACT/SAT Prep Guide for Parents

Should my student take the State-sponsored exam?

There is not a huge downside to taking this test to simply compare with the other test. If you end up doing well, you can always use those test scores for admissions. However, if you already have a great score on one test, make sure you can score similarly before taking the other test. School counselors often guide high-scoring students to take the state-sponsored ACT/SAT as their scores will reflect well on the school.  ACT/SAT Prep Guide for Parents

Accommodations

ACT/SAT Prep Guide for Parents

My student receives accommodations. Should they take the ACT, SAT, or both?

For a student with a learning disability, the ACT and SAT are drastically different. While both tests offer similar accommodations, how the exams are constructed and what they are looking to test makes one significantly easier than the other. The short answer: if your student has extra time accommodations on both the ACT and the SAT, they should take the ACT.

For additional details, please see our blog post on Everything you need to know about choosing the ACT vs the SAT for students with a learning disability.

How do students apply for accommodations on the ACT and the SAT?

In the spring of a student’s sophomore year, families should contact their high school to discuss the ACT and SAT’s policies and schedule additional evaluations if needed.

Make sure your student is eligible

ACT Policy for Documentation

SAT Documentation Guidelines

In general, students are eligible for accommodations if:

  • They have a disability that has been diagnosed and documented by a credentialed professional
  • Their disability directly impacts their performance on the ACT or SAT
  • Their documentation includes use of accommodations made in similar settings (mostly school testing)

How to apply for ACT Accommodations

The ACT website has the most up-to-date instructions on applying for accommodations.

Step 1: Start by registering for a specific ACT test date. When registering online, you can indicate a request for accommodations. You will specify which type of accommodations you’re requesting.

Step 2: After you submit your online registration, you’ll get an automated email informing you of how to communicate with your high school to submit the documentation. To begin the process, forward that email to your school along with the Consent to Release Information to ACT Form.

Step 3: Your school will submit your request and the documentation. ACT will review the request and then will notify your school. You should hear back from the school within two weeks.

How to apply for SAT Accommodations

The College Board’s website has the most up-to-date instructions on applying for accommodations.

Step 1: Start by choosing a target test date out of the official test dates posted on the College Board’s website. Do not register your student for this test date yet. You must apply for SAT accommodations before registering to take the test. The application and review process can take upwards of two months, so plan accordingly.

Step 2: Your student’s high school should be able to help you in applying for accomodations. Contact your student’s guidance counselor to get more information regarding who you should be working with.

Step 3: Sign the Parent Consent Form and make sure that the school has documentation of your child’s learning and attention issues on file. Ensure that the documentation explains how your child’s issues affect test-taking and provide the school with any missing documentation. Your counselor or other staff member must submit your child’s disability documentation along with the SAT Accommodations application.

Step 4: Once you receive an approval letter, you will be assigned an SSD number. Use the SSD number when applying online to take the SAT. This will ensure that your child gets the approved accommodations. Please note that some testing sites may or may not be able to accommodate certain requests, or may only have a specific number of seats for students with disabilities. Therefore, you should make sure to apply as early as possible.

ACT/SAT Prep Guide for Parents

Should my student apply for accommodations on the ACT and the SAT?

If your student has a learning disability, psychological disorder, or physical disability, you should apply for accommodations. These accommodations can be paramount to succeeding on these tests. The ACT and SAT are not written for individuals with language impairments or learning disabilities. Accommodations can make all the difference to a student’s testing experience and his or her score. Contact your student’s high school early to start this process as accommodations can take months to be approved by the testing agency. Lastly, no college or admissions officer can see that your student took the test with accommodations, and students should be encouraged to use the full extent of their accommodations. ACT/SAT Prep Guide for Parents

Typical Accommodations Details
Extended Time • Time and a half
• Double time
• Multi-day tests
Computer Use • Word processors for essay portion (typically spelling and grammar check must be disabled)
Extra and Extended Breaks • Extended breaks between sections
• Unlimited breaks as requested by the student
Reading and Seeing • Large print/ Braille test books
• Audio format test
• Reader
Separate Testing • Private room
• Small group setting
• Preferred seating
• Alternate testing site

Can a college see that my student took the ACT or SAT with accommodations?

No. It is illegal for testing agencies to divulge who receives accommodations on their exams. Therefore, colleges or admissions officers cannot see that your student took the test with accommodations. ACT/SAT Prep Guide for Parents

PSAT/NMSQT

ACT/SAT Prep Guide for Parents

What is the difference between the PSAT 9 & PSAT 10?

Both the PSAT 9 and PSAT 10 are practice tests. They each offer an opportunity to build confidence and familiarity with standardized tests, but they should not cause any student stress. Neither the PSAT 9 nor the PSAT 10 is used for National Merit. In addition, colleges do not and cannot see these scores. ACT/SAT Prep Guide for Parents

PSAT 9 PSAT 10
Two Sections:
Math & Evidence-Based Reading & Writing
Two Sections:
Math & Evidence-Based Reading & Writing
720 points per section
(1440 total)
760 points per section
(1520 total)

Khan Academy will create a custom SAT Study Plan based on your PSAT 9 & PSAT 10 results.

Should my student prep for the PSAT?

The PSAT is a practice test, and these scores cannot be used for college admissions purposes. Additionally, these scores do not affect your GPA or high school transcript. Therefore, in most cases, extensive preparation for the PSAT is not necessary, nor is it recommended. Many students do benefit from a small amount of test prep instruction to help them acclimate to the test and get a better understanding of how test content relates to their course materials. For these students, we typically suggest they come in for a practice test and meet for a small number of 1-on-1 hours, complete our fall PSAT class or our spring PSAT 10 seminar to prepare.  

A minority of students will be looking to prep to try and receive National Merit status. If a student receives this, they may be eligible to win scholarships, including a National Merit Scholarship, based on your performance on the National Merit Qualifying Test (NMSQT), the PSAT offered junior year of highschool. In order to qualify for National Merit, you will need to perform exceptionally well on the PSAT. If your goal is to qualify for National Merit Recognition, you should definitely consider preparing in advance for the NMSQT. For these students, we typically recommend a rigorous training program that will likely have students studying for 8 to 10 weeks prior to the PSAT. We often recommend that these students plan to take the official SAT in October as well. ACT/SAT Prep Guide for Parents

What is the NMSQT?

The NMSQT stands for the National Merit Scholarship Qualifying Test. This test is a PSAT that occurs in October of your junior year of high school. It is the only test the counts for National Merit. Most students do not need to prep for this exam: the PSAT cannot be sent to colleges and is not allowed to be used for college admissions purposes. However, students scoring a 1300 or above on practice exams should consider preparing in advance in order to try to qualify for National Merit. ACT/SAT Prep Guide for Parents

How can my student qualify for National Merit?

In order to qualify for National Merit, you will have to do exceptionally well on the NMSQT (the PSAT in October of your junior year). In most states, your score will need to be nearly perfect: you can only miss a handful of questions on the entire test (pay no attention to percentiles). To be a National Merit Semifinalist, you will need to score in the top 1% of your state, not the country.

The PSAT is scored from 320 to 1520. In addition to that composite score, your score report will include scores for Math, Reading, and Writing and Language. These scores fall between 8 and 38. These scores are added and multiplied by 2 to create a National Merit Index Score, which determines your National Merit eligibility. For example, if you scored a 32 on Reading, 33 on Math, and 34 on Writing & Language, this would amount to a National Merit Index Score of (32+33+34) x 2 =198. In order to be a National Merit Semifinalist, you’ll need a National Merit Index Score in the top 1% of the state. This will vary by state and from year to year. Historically, for Colorado this means that you will need an Index Score of greater that 220. ACT/SAT Prep Guide for Parents

How is the NMSQT scored?

Students receive a total score out of 1520. This score is the sum of the students’ scores on each of the two sections: (1) Reading & Writing, and (2) Math. Students receive scores in the range of 160 – 760 for each of these two sections. The Reading & Writing score combines scores from the Reading and Writing & Language sections. The Math section score combines scores from the calculator and non-calculator portions of the test. ACT/SAT Prep Guide for Parents

Scoring/Admissions

ACT/SAT Prep Guide for Parents

What’s a good score?

While there is no single definition of a “good score,” you can use the national average and percentile charts to rank a student’s score. The charts below summarize the national average and percentiles from the 2018 ACT and SATACT/SAT Prep Guide for Parents

Test Calculator Number of Questions Total Time (minutes)
Math I Yes 50 60
Math II Yes 50 60
Physics No 75 60
Chemistry No 85 60
Biology – Ecological No 80 60
Biology – Molecular No 80 60
World History No 95 60
US History No 90 60
Literature No 60 60
Language (Spanish, French, Chinese, Italian, German, Modern Hebrew, Latin, Japanese, Korean) No 85 60

It is also advised that you check the 25th, 50th and 75th percentile of the school you/your student is interested in.

Harvard
Test 25th 50th 75th
ACT 32 34 35
SAT 1460 1520 1590
University of Michigan
ACT 29 31 33
SAT 1330 1415 1500
Amherst College
ACT 32 33 34
SAT 1430 1492 1560
University of Illinois
ACT 26 28 31
SAT 1340 1420 1500
Creighton College
ACT 25 27 30
SAT 1070 1179 1290

What is the average ACT/SAT score improvement with test prep?

The degree of improvement possible on the ACT/SAT is specific to each student and depends on his/her starting score and length of test preparation. In addition, some score levels are easier to improve than others. In general, deliberate and consistent practice, self-awareness,  and completing regular practice tests will lead to consistent score improvement while lackluster effort with homework and cramming at the last minute will not. ACT/SAT Prep Guide for Parents

The table below summarizes the average score improvements for Mindfish Students for both the SAT and ACT:

 

ACT SAT
Average: 4 points Average: 150 points

Can my student choose which scores he/she sends to colleges?

A minority of schools require you to send in scores from every official ACT and/or SAT you have taken. Most colleges will only require you to send in one score. In this case, you can choose which test (your best score) you would like to send in. Some schools will allow you to super score, which means you can send in your highest subscores from multiple tests to create a higher total “composite” score, or “super score”. We recommend you look up the score reporting policy for the college(s) you are interested in. ACT/SAT Prep Guide for Parents

What is score choice?

Score choice means that you get to decide which score you send to colleges. This means that you can send in your highest score on the ACT and/or SAT. We recommend you look up the score reporting policy for the college(s) you are interested in. ACT/SAT Prep Guide for Parents

What is Superscoring?

Superscoring means that you get to cherry-pick the highest section scores (ACT: English, Math, Reading, Science; SAT: Evidence Based Reading and Writing, Math) from different testing dates to create your highest composite score. We recommend you look up the score reporting policy for the college(s) you are interested in. ACT/SAT Prep Guide for Parents

What does All Scores Required mean?

A minority of schools will require you to send all of your scores from every official test you have taken (you do not need to send in scores from official practice tests). For these schools, be careful about taking the test more than 2 or 3 times. We recommend you look up the score reporting policy for the college(s) you are interested in. ACT/SAT Prep Guide for Parents

What does Test Optional mean?

Test Optional means that the school does not require an SAT or ACT score as part of your application. You can search and find a list of these schools at www.fairtest.org. Certain students are a great fit for test-optional schools: if your scores are drastically different than your academic record and scores don’t represent you well, consider going test-optional.

Even test-optional schools might want your score (especially if they’re at the 75th percentile or higher.) We recommend you call the admissions office and ask if they want your score.  ACT/SAT Prep Guide for Parents

What if my student gets good grades but struggles with test taking?

Good grades do not automatically ensure high standardized test scores. School classes and standardized tests require different skill sets. Test taking is a skill that is related to, but distinct from, the skills taught in school. Moreover, your standardized test scores say nothing about you or your intelligence: your score only reflects how well you take these tests. Additionally, grade inflation in schools is becoming more prevalent and is motivating a need for standardized exams such as the ACT and SAT. The good news: ACT & SAT skills are learnable and coachable. Some other good news: GPAs and transcripts are generally weighted more heavily than test scores when it comes to admissions decisions. ACT/SAT Prep Guide for Parents

What if my student's scores are better than his/her grades?

School classes and standardized tests require different skills. While they do cover the same material, the format and logic of the SAT/ACT are unique. If you do well on these exams, but don’t have great grades, it typically means you have great problem-solving skills. You may be lacking subject matter expertise that will help you do even better on these tests, and your score will typically improve dramatically with test preparation. In addition, the SAT may be a better fit for students that test well but have poor grades.

Although your ACT/SAT scores are important, GPAs and transcripts are weighted more heavily than test scores. For this reason, we recommend that you work on improving your GPA: a little bit of studying can go a long way to help improve your grades in classes. Improving your GPA during your junior and senior years can give you a boost when it comes to college applications. ACT/SAT Prep Guide for Parents

What if my student is a “bad” test taker?

There is no such thing as a “good” or “bad” test taker. People are not naturally good test takers: test taking is a learned skill.  Familiarity with the test is key. Many students think they’re “bad” test takers because they don’t have much experience with these tests. A little bit of test prep goes a long way. ACT/SAT Prep Guide for Parents

Test Prep

ACT/SAT Prep Guide for Parents

When should a student start preparing for the SAT/ACT?

Junior year is the best time for most students to begin preparing for the SAT and ACT. Taking these tests during your junior year allows you to take the test more than once, if necessary, before college applications are due in fall/winter of your senior year. We recommend you begin by taking both a full-length SAT and ACT the summer before your junior year to determine which test you prefer.

To determine the specific date to begin your test preparation, first choose a target test date. You should start preparing 2-3 months prior to your chosen test date. Depending on your specific goals, you may want to consider either starting in the fall or spring of your junior year:

Summer/Fall Start Fall/Spring Start
• Recruited student athletes
• Students aiming for / capable of 99%+ scores
• Advanced math track
• Students interested in taking state tests
• Regular math track

Note: SAT subject tests are best taken at the end of your junior year. In addition, you may want to consider taking the ACT/SAT one last time to improve your score for scholarships or waitlist applications.

It is important to keep in mind that prepping too early can be detrimental for a lot of students. Too much pressure too early on can lead to burnout on testing and test preparation. ACT/SAT Prep Guide for Parents

How many times should someone take the ACT/SAT?

It is rare for a student to take the SAT or ACT only once (this is because you can improve your scores with test prep, and most people want a higher score). Most students will take the test 2-3 times. We recommend you take your first official test in your junior year, 2-3 months after starting your test preparation. This allows you to take the test two more times before you send your score to your colleges in the fall of your senior year. You may also want to take the test one last time your senior to improve your score for scholarships or waitlist applications. ACT/SAT Prep Guide for Parents

What to avoid when taking the ACT/SAT:

  • Do not take the test cold: this is unnecessary. Take an official practice test instead so you have at least some experience before taking the real thing.
  • Do not wait too long between official tests. A break of more than a month or two causes most students to lose momentum.

Do not take the test more than 5 or 6 times: it’s exhausting, unnecessary, and can lead to burn out.

When should a student athlete take the test?

Recruited student athletes should aim to take the test earlier rather than later. The sooner you have a score, the easier it is for a coach to determine if he or she can you get you on the team. The NCAA specifies that coaches can start contacting you via phone on September 1st of your junior year (you can reach out earlier via social media if you wish). Therefore, you should aim to take your first official test the fall of your Junior year or even the summer before. This means you should start preparing in the summer or even spring before your junior year.

A coach can typically give you a fixed number for a target score (e.g. “If you get X on the SAT, I can get you on the team”). In addition, coaches do not care how many times you take the test, so you can take the test as many times as necessary to get the target score. ACT/SAT Prep Guide for Parents

What is the best independent studying a student can do on their own?

Students are encouraged to try and prepare on their own for these exams. There are some fantastic resources out there to help students identify areas of weakness and work on practice problems. The SAT has worked with Khan Academy to develop a self-study curriculum that can be incredibly beneficial to students.  Additionally, the ACT has developed ACT Academy to help students prepare on their own. The best thing you can do to self-study is to start by taking a practice test, identify your areas of weakness, work on specific curricula and strategies to target those areas, and then repeat the process. ACT/SAT Prep Guide for Parents

What are the SAT Subject Tests?

SAT subject tests are subject-specific standardized tests offered by the College Board. There are 20 SAT Subject Tests. Each test is one hour long and scored on a 200-800 scale. Unlike the SAT, there is a penalty for incorrect answers on these tests. You lose 0.25 points for every wrong answer on the test.

Test Calculator Number of Questions Total Time (minutes)
Math I Yes 50 60
Math II Yes 50 60
Physics No 75 60
Chemistry No 85 60
Biology – Ecological No 80 60
Biology – Molecular No 80 60
World History No 95 60
US History No 90 60
Literature No 60 60
Language (Spanish, French, Chinese, Italian, German, Modern Hebrew, Latin, Japanese, Korean) No 85 60

When are the SAT Subject Tests offered?

SAT subject tests are generally offered six times each year, and they are held on the same test dates and at the same testing locations as the regular SAT. However, not all 20 subject tests are offered on every test date. You can find a list of dates for each specific test on the College Board website.

When should the SAT Subject Tests be taken?

We recommend you take subject tests at the end of your junior year and as close to your final exams as possible. AP/IB courses will do a good job of preparing you for a 700+ level, and your score can improve with some supplemental instruction. In contrast, honors/CP courses typically require extensive additional prep.

Does my student have to take the SAT Subject Tests?

Whether you need to take any SAT subject tests will depend on the schools you are applying to. Some schools require 2-3 Subject Tests. Many schools recommend Subject Tests, which you should treat as required. In a few cases, colleges will accept the ACT + Writing in lieu of SAT subject tests. Click here to look up Subject Test policies by school.

If you’re in advanced classes (honors, AP, IB), you should consider taking Subject Tests in these subject areas. AP/IB courses will do a good job of preparing you for a 700+ level, and your score can improve with some supplemental instruction. In contrast, honors/CP courses typically require extensive additional prep. Make sure you take the SAT Subject test directly after you have finished the curriculum for that given subject.

How is working with a tutor different from studying on your own?

There are more test prep materials available to students than ever before, but working with a tutor can provide a few additional benefits:

  • Guided structure: the questions on the ACT and the SAT cover a broad range of topics, and it can be overwhelming for a student to know where to start. A tutor who is an expert on the test can sequence a course of study so that the most important skills are covered early and often.
  • Testing strategies: content knowledge is only part of improving your ACT or SAT score. While many students can bolster their content knowledge independently, learning the strategies and processes of the test is very difficult without a tutor.
  • Consistency and motivation: working one-on-one with another person can foster student accountability in terms of completing their homework. A tutor can also provide encouragement in moments of frustration or self-doubt.

Enhancing self-awareness: a tutor can observe what a student is doing and reflect it back, helping the student to understand his or her own test-taking instincts. Gaining an awareness of one’s current process is often the first step to making positive changes or adjustments. ACT/SAT Prep Guide for Parents