About Our Test Preparation Programs
The precise length of a program depends on several factors:
- when the student begins working with us
- the student's goals
- student's tutoring needs, as demonstrated on the diagnostic test, on practice tests, and in related academic pursuits
- the number of meetings the student has with the tutor each week
- when the student plans to take the official test
Each tutoring program is designed to address the particular needs of the individual student. While there are no prescribed or mandatory programs, there are typical schedules that we have found to be efficient and productive. Our tutors usually meet with students weekly. For further details, please click on the Standardized Test Preparation link on the left side of this page.
Of course maturation and classroom education can help improve scores. But it is not true that scores will inevitably or significantly improve for all students. On PSAT score reports, for example, the College Board projects a likely SAT score range with numbers both slightly lower and slightly higher than the equivalent PSAT score. Standardized tests are designed to yield relatively consistent results not constantly improving results.
Nor does it seem to be in the student's best interest to encourage complacency when faced with an academic gauge. As the New York Times Magazine puts it, "Indeed, the best way to improve the SAT's might be to give up the pretense that students can't improve their scores through tutoring or coaching. 'It's ridiculous to view the SAT as a pristine measure that can't be affected,' Alagappan says. Indeed, that very idea undermines the value of a test as a motivating force."
About the SAT
Representing a substantial part of the student's SAT score, the Critical Reading portions of the SAT can help introduce students to ideas and modes of expression that they will encounter in college. Critical Reading passages from the SAT consistently deal with topics of academic or cultural importance, topics that students are likely to encounter both in their formal studies and in the world beyond. Here are just a few of the topics covered by reading passages from past exams:
- An analysis of the methods we use to classify living creatures, and the ways in which these classifications relate to our self-definition.
- A debate between neo-Marxist and humanist analyses of Defoe's RobinsonCrusoe.
- A passage that juxtaposes our culture's scientific positivism-our philosophy that science is omnipotent and infallible-with the actual, more ambiguous history of science.
- A pair of passages taken from Thucydides' History of the Peloponnesian War, the seminal historical narrative.
- An excerpt from an essay by Adrienne Rich, a contemporary American poet, on writing, motherhood, and the particular challenges of being a female writer.
- A study of the actual role that Gregor Mendel-considered the father of modern genetics-played in the development of contemporary genetic theory.
- A passage by Henry David Thoreau paired with a sharply critical appraisal of Thoreau's writings and motivation.
- An articulation of the evolutionary perspective prevalent in contemporary psychology.
- A study of forgery in the art world that addresses fundamental questions of contemporary art theory.
- Two studies of contemporary media culture in light of the Orwellian fantasy of media as the primary tool of totalitarian rule.
- An anthropological examination of the structure and dynamic of a particular culture: the American Indians of the Great Plains.
- An analysis of the role that technology-specifically cosmetic surgery-plays in our society by claiming that the individual can be freed from the form and identity with which he or she is born.
- An excerpt from The Madwoman in the Attic, a prominent text in contemporary gender and literary theory by Sandra Gilbert and Susan Gubar.
Yes. The SAT has for decades followed the official recommendations of advisory panels of leading educators. Lasting three hours and forty-five minutes, this multiple-choice and free-response exam tests:
- Critical reading skills and vocabulary in context
- Arithmetic, geometry, algebra, and a range of miscellaneous statistical and spatial reasoning concepts including modes, medians, and rotations
- Essay composition skills, grammatical principles, syntax, and usage
We believe that the SAT makes an earnest and successful effort to test concepts and skills useful for college. The vocabulary it tests is certainly the currency of a liberal arts education. Read Hawthorne, Joyce, Austen, Conrad, Dostoevsky, Wharton, and Melville, and you will encounter many of the words tested on the SAT. The SAT has incorporated material considered vital by a range of high school and university educators. We view the exam as fundamentally sound but, because no test is perfect, we would like to see the SAT serve an appropriate and unexaggerated role in college admissions.
Our course materials have been designed by systematically deconstructing every official SAT published in the last 25 years.
- Our Critical Reading materials emphasize the ability to read, digest, and extract essential information from a given text and the vocabulary essential to a student's ability to grasp college-level material. We have developed a series of vocabulary lists of the words most frequently tested on the SAT.
- Our Math materials identify recurrent tested terms and question types in Arithmetic, Algebra I and II, Geometry, and miscellaneous topics that have appeared on the official SAT. These terms and question types can be found, with levels of difficulty commensurate to those on the official test, in our extensive math materials.
- Our Writing materials lay out grammatical and syntactical principles in a pragmatic and user-friendly manner, training students to develop a critical eye for editing what they read and what they write. In preparing students for the Essay component, we emphasize the fundamental structure and fluidity of expression inherent in strong written composition.
In addition, our tutors are educators dedicated to their students' success. From literally thousands of applicants nationwide, we have assembled a group of 200 extraordinary "teachers with impressive credentials," as the New York Times Magazine wrote. (For specific information about our faculty, please select a location or visit our list of New York Tutors as an example.) Students and supervisors independently evaluate the work of our tutors several times a year. To the best of our knowledge, our group represents the most highly evaluated team of educators of any teaching enterprise or educational institution in the country. For a summary of student evaluations of our tutors, please click here.
We also provide repeated opportunities for students to practice on realistic materials under timed conditions in proctored, test-taking environments. As well as learning concepts and skills, students are thus able to refine the performance elements necessary to succeed on the SAT.
About the SAT versus the ACT
The ACT Assessment has already increased in prominence, especially in areas such as the Northeast and the West Coast, where students have traditionally taken the SAT. Several reasons account for this development:
- Virtually all colleges and universities in the United States now accept the ACT Assessment in addition to the SAT.
- The College Board has released concordance tables comparing ACT Assessment and SAT scores, making it easier for colleges to compare test results.
- The changes made to the SAT in 2005 have raised new concerns about the test among some students, parents, and educators. Consequently, some of these individuals are considering alternative test regimens, including the ACT Assessment.
- In January, 2006, the Graduate Management Admission Council (GMAC) engaged ACT, Inc., and Pearson VUE, an electronic testing service, to develop and administer the Graduate Management Admissions Test (GMAT), the admissions test for business school. This new partnership strengthened ACT, Inc.'s national reputation and enhanced its profile throughout the Northeast and other areas where, historically, students have been less likely to take the ACT.
The ACT and the SAT are sound tests. Both assess the educational development of high school students and the ability to perform college level work. However, the ACT and the SAT are different educational instruments with different emphases.
The ACT Assessment, which tests skills in English, Mathematics, Reading, Science, and Essay writing (optional), is designed to assess primarily curriculum-based content and analytical reasoning skills. Results on this test are reported on a scale from 1-36 for each subject area and are averaged together for a composite score.
The SAT is designed to measure a student's verbal, quantitative reasoning, and writing abilities. Students taking this test currently receive Critical Reading, Math, and Writing scores ranging from 200-800.
To see an ACT and SAT score correspondence table, please click here.
Other notable differences include:
- The ACT includes a science reasoning test; the SAT does not.
- The Essay writing component of the ACT is optional for test-takers; the Essay component of the SAT is mandatory for all test-takers.
- The SAT tests vocabulary more directly than does the ACT.
- The SAT deducts a fraction of a point for incorrect answers on multiple-choice questions, while the ACT does not.
- The SAT has an unscored experimental section; all of the sections on the ACT count toward the student's score.
There are certainly students for whom it makes more sense to take the ACT than it does to take the SAT. Of course, which test a student should take depends, in part, upon the admissions requirements of the colleges to which he or she is interested in applying. We encourage students to follow the recommendations of their high schools in determining an appropriate and specific test regimen. Advantage Testing is able to help these students and their families make more informed decisions through our diagnostic process whenever appropriate; however, we discourage any attempts to "outwit" the college admissions process. Our students' improved performances invariably come out of hard work and determination.
In the past, schools in the Midwest often encouraged students to take the ACT, while East and West Coast schools often favored the SAT. Given that virtually all colleges and universities now accept ACT results, the testing demographic for each of the testshas changed.
Virtually all schools that accept the SAT also accept the ACT. We have not known schools that accept both tests to discriminate against the ACT in favor of the SAT. The implication that students from certain geographic areas may send up a red flag by taking the ACT erroneously implies that the ACT is an inferior test. The ACT is simply another sound educational assessment tool produced by ACT, Inc., a test research organization less familiar in certain areas than is the Educational Testing Service, which produces the SAT.
We encourage each student to take seriously the opportunity to demonstrate his or her academic merit through hard work and determination, focused preparation, studying, and consolidating and integrating new academic material. Standardized tests-whether the ACT, the SAT, or other educational assessment tools-provide such an opportunity. However, standardized tests are just one part of a students application. High school grades, the rigor of the chosen curriculum, extracurricular activities, letters of recommendation, a personal interview, and the application itself are also important.