SAT, PSAT, and ACT Preparation
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SAT, PSAT, and ACT Preparation
Our daughter is a motivated high school sophomore in a fairly academic public
school. She would like to go to a UC system college or equivalent.
What is your opinion on taking SAT and ACT prep classes such as Kaplan vs working
with a private tutor?
If you recommend the prep class route, I'd appreciate course recommendations. We
have plenty of referrals on private tutors at this point.
I suggest none of the above. What worked for my motivated, disciplined son
in a very academic private school was to prep seriously on his own. We spent
under $20 on a new copy of the Official SAT Study Guide. He read it
cover-to-cover, did all the exercises, and timed himself on each of the full
practice tests in the book. He spent several hours a week on this over the
summer between his junior and senior years, probably comparable to the time
required for a class. He took the SAT with no prep in May of his junior year
and twice in the fall of his senior year. After prepping on his own, his
superscore rose close to 300 points from his first attempt. He's now
attending a very selective liberal arts college, his first choice. If your
student is still a sophomore, there's still a lot of time to try self-study
college junior's mom
I'm looking for recommendations/reviews of SAT-prep courses or tutors located in or
near Berkeley. Also, when do you think is the best time to begin an SAT-prep class.
You might try Revolution Prep. It's an on line SAT training course. Our son, a
Junior in Mechanical Engineering at UCLA, recently started working for them as an on
line Tutor. His comment was that if he'd known then what he knows now, he'd have
gotten 3 800s instead of just 1. He seems pretty jazzed about the one-on-one on
line training that he's doing.
My daughter had a great experience with Homayoon over at Bay Area Tutoring on Rose
and Shattuck in Berkeley. She took complete control of scheduling and attending the
prep and she felt like it really helped. They also give free practice tests (with
the results returned to you) of the SAT and ACT. It's good marketing of course, but
also a great service.
There are lots of SAT prep options in the Bay Area. I would recommend starting by
figuring out what you really need. Everyone wants a good score, but examining your
student's goals is a good place to start. Are they shooting for Stanford? If so,
that will require a different approach then someone who just needs a little score
boost to help ensure a spot at a CSU. It also helps to know how far you have to go.
Lots of different prep companies offer practice tests, but many are not actual SATs
released by the College Board, and thus are less reliable when used as score
If you are looking for in-home one-on-one tutoring, I would recommend Compass
Education in Larkspur. Their tutors are the best in the business and their
one-on-one approach allows for completely customized lessons. They use College Board
released practice tests to diagnose what each student needs, ensuring you aren't
wasting time and money on stuff your student doesn't need any help with. They aren't
cheap, but they are the only choice for students who want to see substantial score
improvement. And they offer their practice tests for free so that you can figure out
what you need.
In terms of timing, that too depends on the student and their goals. 3-4 months
ahead of the test date is a good average, but some students need more, others less.
Don Christianson is really good. He's been doing it for about 13 years and has a
really good system and has had a lot of success stories. This in one on one
tutoring so it's very effective and tailored. His number is 510 230-9078 cell
or home, 526-1423
Hi, I was wondering if I should get tutor for my niece who is in the 11th grade
and will be taking the ACT test this Spring and also in the Fall of her senior
year. I just order the ACT Prep Guide book and she will also be doing on line
study guides. While I can understand that a tutor would be helpful for the SAT
I'm not sure if it is useful to employ one for the ACT. I may see how she does
in the Spring first. Advise from parents of teens and/or tutors would be greatly
For parents of teens who are flummoxed by the complexity and competitiveness of SAT prep
and college application process, I have a recommendation: Gabrielle Glancy (415-637-1955)
of New Vision Learning. Everything you need to know about the results is on her website,
http://newvisionlearning.wordpress.com/, but what really convinced us to find the money to
get our two high schoolers tutoring with her was the woman herself. I was skeptical when I
heard about the service and results she promised; my son was WAY behind on college prep;
it was already October of his senior year and he hadn't begun to apply to schools, and
though his grades were passable, his SAT scores were only 1530. My daughter, a
hard-working Junior, wanted to get a head start on her SATs and needed help with writing
and vocabulary in particular. Grudgingly, I scheduled a consult with Glancy in San Rafael.
I was immediately taken by her intense passion, her ability to connect to my kids and
motivate them with specific goals and the encouragement that only someone who has spent a
good number of years in education could muster. Glancy is determined to help students find
their own strengths and work with them to identify the possibilities without selling them
pie in the sky. My son's SAT scores have risen to 1730. His math and writing have
improved, and he's been motivated to apply to colleges and follow up like never before.
He's already been accepted at Long Beach State and UC Riverside. We never thought we'd be
promoting an SAT and college prep tutor, but Glancy has taken two concerned kids and their
parents and given us all the tools and wherewithal to not only survive today's college
application process, but even enjoy it.
mh, north bay parent
Does anyone know where students can take free or low cost SAT practice
My teen will be studying from one of the SAT practice books and taking the
tests that those offer, but is also hoping for a more closely simulated
experience where she can go somewhere and actually take timed SAT tests.
I would start at the local library. They usually have all kids of
resources for students, many of them online. They are all easily
accessible from a home pc with a library card.
Another free resource for Math are the Khan Academy videos; they
also include videos on CHASEE tests; their link:
I hope that helps.
mom of teens
There's a free SAT prep service called the People's Test Preparation
Service. It offers free classes on campus and at area high schools.
It is really great -- my children all liked it -- after the initial
grousing. It's taught by CAL students who get to` volunteer.
Any recommendation for SAT prep class for a Junior in Fall? I don't think private lessons are
necessary for my son, small group with an instructor or a class would be great for test taking
skills and prep in general. We're in Upper Rockridge. Thanks!
After investigating several SAT prep classes and interviewing several
tutors, I hired Paul Gee to help my daughter prepare for the SAT over
the summer. We are sure glad we chose Paul. The sessions really
helped her to improve her score a whole lot. They met regularly for
about 10 weeks. He gave her an assignment to do after every session.
He was very good at identifying areas that she needed extra attention
and helped her to focus her efforts mainly in those areas. My daughter
thought that it was great to not waste time on subjects that she was
already comfortable with, but instead to focus on subjects that she
needed extra help. He was extremely patient and thoughtful. He was
also very good at keeping me informed of her progress. I highly
recommend Paul to help prepare your student for the Fall SAT exam. You
can reach him at 510-502-8465.
Does anyone have experience with Compass Test Prep? My daughter is a
gifted math/science student needing an edge up on her verbal score. A
one-on-one with a qualified tutor seems ideal. They charge $140/hr
which I realize is steep, but if they are good at what they do, I
think a couple hours will be all she needs. Has anyone used them before?
Parent of 16 yo girl
As a competing professional, I'm glad to report to you that I
generally hear good things from Compass. They take their work
seriously, a significant part of which is that they pay their people
more than most otherwise-analogous companies. Hence, they get good
For what its worth, $140/hr isn't really that steep among serious
professionals in this realm. Consider the merit-based aid that this
could hinge on, for starters.
Also, don't expect a few hours to be enough before confirming that
assumption with your tutor of choice.
Compass is fantastic. Our daughter was the reverse of yours:
excellent in verbal, needed tutoring in math. Thanks in no small part
to Compass, she scored 2370 (800 on both verbals and 770 on the math).
She actually had a couple of verbal tutoring sessions as I recall,
which were mainly aimed at the essay and which were very valuable as
well. Do I think the money was worth it? Absolutely. And, they're
very good at tailoring the tutoring (and the tutor) to exactly what
your kid needs. email me if you want more info, but the tutors (very
smart UC grad students in our experience) change so our faves from a
couple of years ago may well have left the area by now.
aboutthesame - at - gmail.com
I would like suggestions for a good route to go for SAT prep.
I am trying to support my daughter in having the least
stress as possible in her junior year of High School. She
attends Berkeley High.
Also, if anyone knows the advantage of taking SAT over ACT?
Thanks very much
The common wisdom is that the SAT requires you to be good at
taking tests and the ACT tests mostly what you know. I'm
sure that's way too general, but I'm not certain there's any
way to know which test you'd do better at without actually
taking them. My daughter who graduated from BHS last year
did her SAT prep with the online College Board training,
only. No private tutors. She liked it because it was
self-paced, meaning she could do it whenever she had time,
and had lots and lots of practice tests. I liked it because
it was cheap (about $70, I think). She took the SAT only
once and did well enough to not feel she needed to take it
again. A few weeks after taking the SAT, she took the ACT,
without any extra preparation and got a spectacularly high
score. If we'd known ahead of time that she'd do so well on
the ACT, she could have skipped the SAT, but as I said, I
don't think you can really predict. By the way, because a
lot of schools require both the SAT or ACT and some SAT II
tests, if your child takes the ACT and wants to send the
scores to colleges, you have double the scores to send
(which is what we did) and you can't just send the SAT II
scores. All SAT scores go.
The SAT and the ACT are equally recognized by college
admissions committees these days. Some students, however,
do consistently better on one test than the other. The
best strategy is to take practice tests of each one to
determine which test is better suited to the particular
student and then to prepare for that test.
Aspire Education Project is a nonprofit that does academic
tutoring and test prep for both the SAT and the ACT. We
have a strong track record of helping students choose
between the tests and improving their scores on whichever
test is best for them. Please visit our website for more
I would recommend taking both the ACT and the SAT. There is
very little downside to this approach (I can explain in
detail by email), and your child may simply prefer one over
the other. You can be strategic about which scores you send
to schools. If you must choose one, go with the SAT. Most
schools accept both. The ACT is more common in the midwest
and south. The SAT is more common on the east and west
coasts. Lots of info on the web too:
The SAT and ACT are both accepted at most schools across the country, so it is
often best to take a practice test to see if either test is better suited to your
child's learning style. The ACT has a science section and often appeals to
students who have difficulty focusing on tests. Also, because the ACT is
considered a ''content-based'' test, there are some schools that waive their SAT
Subject test requirements for ACT test takers.
Both the College Board and ACT provide free sample tests on their websites
I'm searching for a good SAT prep course or tutor for my
daughter who will be a junior in the fall. Also interested
in suggestions about self-study guides on studying for the
SAT. Any recommendations?
If you have a pretty self-motivated kid, the College Board's
online tutorial works well. That's the only preparation my
daughter did and she did very well on the test (after doing
only so-so on the PSAT and initial practice tests). The
tutorial costs $80 and the student just logs on and uses it
whenever they want.
There's of course the standard Kaplan or Princeton Review,
but frankly I find them to be ''ok'' at best to poor at worst.
Two of the very best in the area in my experience are Study
Smarter (contact Joel Kosakoff, joel[at]studysmarter.com,
www.studysmarter.com, 510.350.8444) and Justin Sigars
510.910.9003). They are different in terms of methodologies
and costs, but I work with a lot of families that have
fantastic experiences with them. Good luck!
Regarding SAT prep for a junior, there are a number of
possibilities. We offer 1-1 and private small-group
instruction, as well as a 2-week intensive course. We often
recommend self-prep to motivated students who are preparing
for the SAT subject tests or the ACT, but find that SAT I
students tend to demonstrate higher score improvements from
working with an instructor.
That being said however, not everyone needs to improve
his/her SAT scores. Many students already have sufficiently
high enough scores for the schools they are interested in
attending. From our experience, SAT scores are an overrated
aspect of the admissions process, and the average scores
listed in most college guides are generally higher than
students will actually need to get accepted into those
A first step therefore, might be to have your daughter take
either the PSAT or a practice test (which we can email you
for free) to determine whether her scores are in the
necessary range for the schools she thinks she'll want to
I would also suggest having her take a practice ACT to see
which test she does better on.
Let me know if you have any questions-
I had Mo Rahmoun tutor my son for both the SAT! and SAT Math
2 and my son scored extremely well in both and will not be
taking the tests again. I would highly recommend contacting
Mo . More recommendations for Mo can be found on the
His e-mail bcfcl[at]comcast.net.
I read through prior referrals and couldn't find any
recommendations for SAT prep classes for teens. I was
hoping to find a good one in Berkeley for the summer. What
experience do people have with good programs? Kaplan seems
quite expensive and pushy. Are they worth it or are there
I would like to recommend my son's SAT prep tutor to
parents looking for an excellent and reliable SAT tutor. His name is
Mo did an outstanding job helping my son. His overall
SAT score increased several hundred points, from
the time he took the PSAT in October to his SAT last
month (May 7), when he took the New SAT test for the
first time. He achieved excellent scores.
My son is a bright kid and, with Mo's help, was able
to clarify concepts that (maybe) were not clear to him
from the beginning of his schooling. In that respect,
my son's experience with Mo preparing for the SAT test
has helped him in more ways than one.
Mo is a warm, patient, and knowledgeable teacher. A
one of a kind person. The sessions were two hours long,
once a week, at our house.
I recommend Mo Rahmoun highly.
You can contact Mo by phone at: 510-367-5829 or by
email at: bcfcl [at] comcast.net
I want to highly recommend the SAT tutoring service,
SuccessLink Tutoring, 650-346-0410. The most impressive thing about the
service is the time and care taken to match students up
with a tutor who shares their interests and is sympathetic
to their needs. My son is a slightly above average student
whose PSAT scores were not promising. Michael, of
SuccessLink, spent at least 30 minutes on the phone with
me, asking all sorts of questions about my son, his
interests, his strengths and weaknesses, etc., then matched
him with a tutor who was a great fit, a great teacher, and
a thoughtful and compassionate fellow, who bolstered not
only my son's confidence but his performance as well.
Although the hourly rate sounds high, in all the total cost
was less than many test preparation courses, and
immeasurably more effective, personal, and pleasant. I
cannot recommend these folks too highly.
I heard from the People's Test Prep Service at UCB about the
SAT workshops that they offer. Here is the email response I
got from them.
Thanks for your interest in our program. We actually have
two kinds of services, the main one being an 8-week SAT 1
prep class which is scheduled to start on the first week of
various sites (and end in May). We are working on finalizing
our sites but we usually have several sites at UC Berkeley
on the weekends (4 hours total, 2 math and 2 verbal on one
day, either Saturday or Sunday) and one at BHS on Tuesdays
and Wednesdays (2 hours each day). We are also looking at
some possible sites in Richmond and Oakland. The other
service is one-time workshops (usually lasting around 3
hours), usually one on College Admissions and Financial Aid
and one on SAT 2 material, though we may add some more this
semester. If you are interested in enrolling in the 8-week
class simply call 510-642-4951 and
leave your name, your child's name, your child's high
phone number and which site you prefer. If you are
interested in the one day workshops, we will probably post
more info on the website when it
becomes available (the workshops will likely me in March and
I had my daughter go to AMES seminars for SATs because she
needed to raise her math scores and she learns well in a classroom
setting. She was a Merit finalist. My son is currently with
a private tutor because he needs to bring up his English. The
owner of AMES told me that it's most difficult to raise the
English scores if you aren't constantly reading and increasing
your vocabulary. My son is doing well with the private tutor and
because of all his sports commitments he would not be able or want to
go to a classroom. I think either works depending on your child.
AMES is good about letting the kids take refresher courses or make
up classes and they offer many options. I was pleased with them and
so was my daughter.
Albany Adult School offers a $15 Math prep class this Saturday, 1/22
from 10a-12p at the site. Call for number and registration. I took my
freshman daughter to the Verbal prep class on 1/15 to expose her to
the ideal learning skills needed and magnitude of the test. She used
the TAKING THE SAT 1: REASONING TEST, a free sample test with tips,
offered free at high schools or by writing College Board SAT program,
P.O. Box 6200, Princeton, NJ 08541-6200. Instructor Rachel Salzman
also offers private tutoring and small group workshops for test prep.
My son consulted a book called "Up Your Scores" after taking his PSATs
with no prior review or practice. It's written by 6 kids who scored
1600 on their SATs, with a lot of tongue and cheek humor and comments in
the margins by other teens reviewing the guide. He LOVED it and found
it extremely helpful with the verbal section, particularly in the areas
of interpreting tricky questions, how to guess, etc. While the were
undoubtedly a number of things that helped his scores on the SATs
(including a third year of Latin...), he raised his scores by 270 points
from PSATs to SATs, so I would think the bookd was useful.
My son used the Princeton Review software. It was entertaining enough to
use and it was helpful, particularly so that he could take many practice
tests and have them easily scored. The key to these programs is that
the kids have to be self motivated- 1 or 2 hours trying to cram in 500
vocabulary words doesn't cut it. That's why classes are better- they
force you to put in the hours. But if they use it it's got great time
saving tips and strategies for managing the whole test so by the time
they actually take their SAT they're pretty comfortable. My son's score
went up @200 points. He used the program for a year off and on.
Here's a strategy for helping your student prepare for taking the SAT I.
1. Buy the book 10 Real SATs
2. On three different days have your student take one of the SATs from
For each section of the test (provide them with scratch paper and a
a. use a timer to let your student know when the test would have
b. have them mark where they were.
c. Let them finish the section - However much time it takes.
d. Ask them to use a special mark for guessing - to allow better
Score the test - both the timed and untimed results.
Hopefully you will see improvement in the timed results with each
3. After each test work through all of the problems that the student
missed or guessed with them.
Have the student explain to you how they go the answer they put
If you can't figure them out with the student don't be embarassed to
admit it, just set that one aside
for an expert - perhaps the student's teacher. Copy down the
problems and take them to the teacher for help.
4. If your student gets good enough scores with unlimited time -
a. Just practicing taking the the tests may help speed them up. You
can use the rest of the tests for that purpose.
b. IF your student needs Lots of extra time, consider getting them
tested for that purpose. If they test out - then they will be allowed
to take the test without time limits-
5. If the scores are too low even with unlimited time, then look at the
subject matter of the questions that are being missed/guessed at and
try to figure out why the student is missing them.
Are these careless arithmetic errors/ vocabulary problems, or is the
problem that they don't understand the question correctly, or is the
subject matter beyond their level of mastery?
If it is the level of mastery, a subject matter specific tutor (or
software) is in order.
6. Practice on the remaining tests after remediation.
Roger (May 2000)
I run a small but mighty tutoring business here in Berkeley. A number of
parents of teens are already familiar with my program: I work with and
instruct several tutors as well as conduct tutoring sessions. You can read
about all of us by going to my web site: www.classroommatters.com
We can provide private SAT sessions throughout this summer as well as
during the school year. In addition, we are conducting a special summer
book club for teens. I hope this is helpful to you. There are lots of
recommendations (probably from some folks that you know) on the web site as
well, but feel free to contact me for any additional information.
Best of luck with your teen's studies!
Molly Gales (mgales[at]mindspring.com) (5/00)
(see also Classroom Matters recommendations.)
We used Testakers. I believe their number is 415-665-0800. They are
expensive (about $600), but they teach lots of test taking strategies, do
individual trouble shooting, and have a series of classes. My daughter's
SAT score was over 100 points higher than her PSAT. Good luck.
My son chose to take the PSATs only once. We learned
afterwards that PSAT scores are the trigger for National Merit
scholarships. With a score of 1320 on PSAT's, my son did not qualify as
a NM Scholar, despite then getting 1590 on his SATs. So my advice is
for those with kids with potentially good scores is to take the PSATs in
the spring of the sophomore year, then again in the fall of their junior
year. Most kids see their scores increase with improved understanding
of testing methods, and the PSATs turn out to be more important than you
Correction re the PSAT: This test is only given once a year, in October.
If students want to take it for practice (a good idea!), they need to take
it in October of the sophomore year. Students should listen for
announcements in the Daily Bulletin (whenever that finally starts up); test
signup is through BHS and instructions about when and where to sign up for
the test should be forthcoming in the Daily Bulletin within the next few
weeks. I repeat that students should listen carefully for announcements
about the PSAT. A small sample test booklet is available a few days before
the PSAT but last year many students did not get to review the booklet in
advance of the test. One other tip: arrive early for the test and don't
be surprised by a chaotic method of signing test-takers in.
To clarify- one parent wrote that they wished their child took the PSAT more
than once. THe PSAT is offered only once each year, in October. It is the
test that makes 11th graders eligible to compete for Nat'l Merit
Scholarships. (They take approximately 15,000 students- those who score in
the highest percentile of PSAT takers- though it's actually a score devised
by doubling your english score and adding your math score to that- and invite
them to "apply".) If you want your child to take a PSAT before they do in
11th grade, that leaves October of 10th grade. 10th graders are not viewed
as Nat'l Merit applicants so the score is purely for practice. It will never
be reported to anyone except you. It's a no loss situation. This year's
PSAT is Oct 16th. The college counselor has applications and there should be
an announcement in the bulletin any time now.- WR
this page was last updated: Mar 2, 2014
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