After grades, the SAT or ACT is the single most important piece of one’s college application.  Nowadays almost all applicants to competitive colleges engage in some type of preparation, but not all prep is equal.


There are many common mistakes people make when preparing for the SAT/ACT:

  • Beginning too early: Students who begin their prep too early often feel the process is dragging out and loose interest or burn out before they take the real test.
  • Beginning too late: Not only do students underestimate how long it will take for them to fully prepare and run out of time (a disaster in and of itself), but since the days students can take the actual tests are severely limited, students often run out of test dates and find themselves unable to retake tests or even worse can’t take all the tests they need in order to apply to colleges Early Action/Decision. Further, students who start too late find themselves buried under the stress of taking SAT/ACTs, Subject Tests, APs and finals all within one month during the junior year spring.
  • Wrong Test: While much of the content on the ACT and SAT is the same, the format is substantially different and some students do much better on one test than on the other. It is vitally important to determine which test to pursue early on in the process so that preparation can be properly tailored.
  • Wrong Program: If a student is in the wrong program, he/she could be wasting time learning material that he/she already knows or that isn’t essential to success on the test.  Alternatively, the material could be presented in a way that is not optimal to the student and learning is slow or non-existent.


To avoid the many common pitfalls and tailor students’ preparation programs to their unique needs, we recommend that all students begin their SAT/ACT prep with an assessment. During this assessment, the student will take an SAT and ACT and both the student and the parents will meet separately with a senior advisor. Through these tests and meetings, we look at the student’s goals, concerns, strengths and weaknesses, learning style and commitments (both in and out of school, including during the summer) and determine:

  • When students should begin test preparation
  • What type and roughly how much preparation will be required
  • Preliminary schedule of when to take real standardized tests
  • Whether the SAT or the ACT is a better fit
  • How to best customize a curriculum for the student


When the time is right to begin preparation, the student will be matched with a tutor who best fits the child’s personality and learning style. Since a plan for the preparation will already be in place and the tutor will already have a sense of the student’s learning style, the student will hit the ground running.

Lesson Phase

While each student’s program is different, most students spend the first 1-3 months receiving lessons on substantive material he or she doesn’t know. During this period, students typically meet with their tutors for 90 minutes/week and receive 2-3 hours of additional homework.

Testing Phase

After the student has covered about 75% of the substantive material on the exam, preparation begins to shift into the testing phase. Just as one preparing to play basketball must both drill and play scrimmages, a student preparing for the SAT or ACT must complete full length tests.  It is the only way to build stamina, reduce anxiety and prepare the student for what he/she will face on test day. Therefore, the student will begin taking full length proctored exams (generally 1-3/month).

During their weekly tutoring sessions (which generally continue to be 90 minutes/week), in addition to reviewing and learning more substantive material, the student will begin honing his or her test taking skills. The tutor will help the student create a personally crafted test strategy, including how to handle careless mistakes, testing anxiety, timing and which questions to skip, among many other things.

Most of our students take at least 10 full length proctored practice tests before taking the real SAT or ACT. They then usually take another 4 tests before taking the exam for the second time.

Length of Program

While the length of the program varies widely depending on the student’s starting point, goals and time commitments, most programs range from 5-10 months. This length really is just an average. Some students complete condensed programs over the summer and others need to spread the process out over a year or more. We work with the student and family to determine what is best in their unique situation.

We strongly recommend completing the assessment by the end of 10th grade, but can tailor our program to students at any point in the process.