Frequently Asked Questions

  • Which test should my child take (the ACT or the SAT)?
    • ALL colleges take both tests, so the decision of which test is a matter of which test will the student achieve the highest score.   Fifteen years ago, most students in San Diego took the SAT first, and then, if disappointed in the results, turned to the ACT.   Ten years ago, I started to see a shift toward the ACT:  each year more students preferred the ACT to the SAT.  Then, the new SAT was released in the spring of 2016.  I was excited at the possibility of the new test offering students a real choice, but the new SAT has been a big disappointment for several reasons.  Since the release of the new SAT, I've only seen the trend toward the ACT accelerate.  
    • At the start of working together, I help my students make the choice between the two tests, so they can avoid preparing for both tests (which is extra work no matter what someone tells you).  In a busy junior year, you don't need to have a student bouncing back and forth between the two tests.  I've always been able to help a student select the right test up front, and I've never been wrong yet!!  
    • I usually ask my students to take a baseline test up front and we compare the scores.  I don't like to throw a student "cold" into taking a baseline test because that can give you a false indication of which test is a better fit.  I meet first with the student in one tutoring session and show them how to approach a particular test; then, within a few days the student will come in and take that test with a proctor.  That gives valid results from which we can make a decision.  Throwing students into the test cold not only can skew the results inaccurately but also can leave students with a bad impression of the test (thinking falsely that it's not a good fit for them and they don't like the test).
  • When should my child take the test?
    • Almost all students take the test for the first time in junior year of high school.  Many of my students prefer preparing for the test in the summer after sophomore year and take the test for the first time in the fall of junior year.  
    • Some students are academically very, very strong.  These students can often prepare during the summer prior to entering junior year, take the test early in the fall and be done.  Given that students may have multiple AP classes and often a Spring sport, this strategy is desirable for those who fit a certain readiness profile.
    • Many students will grow academically in a significant way during junior year.  In that case, it is wise to prepare a plan that allows them to "peak" toward the end of junior year.
    • One of the considerations in deciding when to take the test is to know that not all test dates offer a return of the test booklet.  By having the test booklet returned, you can review the exact questions you missed before taking the test again.  The ACT returns the test booklet in December, April, and June.  The SAT returns the test booklet in October, January, and May.  In 2018, the January SAT date is no longer offered, so expect to see another SAT test date offer the test booklet returned.
  • What standardized tests do you tutor?
    • The PSAT, the SAT, the ACT, and the ISEE.
  • How do we get started with you?
    • Call me and let's discuss your student.  I can answer any questions you might have about the tests and discuss how I might be able to help your student.  Gather any prior test scores from tests the student may have taken (Pre-ACT, PSAT, ACT, or SAT) and share those with me.  Depending upon what your student needs, I can create as limited or as comprehensive a plan as needed.  If we need to schedule a baseline proctored test to determine which test to focus on or what help the student will need, I can do that.  
  • My child has learning disabilities
    • I have significant experience with students who have diagnosed learning disabilities.  I also have significant experience knowing the requirements for approval of ACT and SAT accommodations.  I go above and beyond to assist in this process to the extend that I can make a difference.
    • I am very skilled at identifying a student who needs to be referred for neuropsych testing for a possible learning disability.  Every year, I refer a handful of juniors to be tested and the tests confirm my observations.  In all of these cases, the student was subsequently approved for accommodations.  Much to my surprise, a student can manage to get all the way to junior year, have decent grades, and actually have a rather profound learning disability in either reading or math.  I see this occur EVERY single year!!
    • I've noticed that the school districts are encouraged to push people off of IEP and 504 plans, even students who still would be at an obvious disadvantage without accommodations on the ACT or SAT.  Remember, what may seem to be good news,  "John or Sally is doing SO well, he or she doesn't need the plan anymore", may actually not be in your student's real best interests.  So, think down the road before you prematurely celebrate "the good news". Colleges often look to see if you had accommodations for the ACT and SAT before granting accommodations for test taking in college.    I've seen the local school district remove an obviously autistic child from having the accommodations he so deserved.  I had to work closely with the mother and contact someone I knew in the school district to intervene and put the plan back in place.  
  • English is a second language for my child
    • Starting in the Fall of 2018, if a student has been classified by the school district as an EL or ESL student, or if the student had the classification within the past 2 years, you may apply for extended time on the ACT.  In 2018, The State of California is changing the test used to make this classification.  The guidance from the ACT company is just being released to schools in April 2017, so we don't yet have all the details.  The College Board will likely follow suit but hasn't announced yet what it will offer.
  • What do you charge to administer a proctored SAT or ACT?
    • The practice tests, in their entirety, take over 3.5 hours the for the student to complete, and with breaks this extends to 4 hours.  I don't charge by the hour to administer the test; instead it's just a flat fee of either $50.00 (which includes the proctor's time + the practice test) for students testing with regular time or $75.00 if testing with extended time (accommodations).  Students testing with extended time require close to 6 hours.  
    • I only administer practice tests for our own students.  
    • I conveniently offer proctored practice tests almost every Saturday morning (just like the real tests) or Sunday morning during the school year and during the weekdays during the summer.
    • I can also schedule a proctored test for a single student on a date and time not on the regular schedule if one of my proctors is available.  Since this is a dedicated time for just one student, the fee for a proctored test with regular time is $80 and extended time is $120.
  • Some tutoring companies offer free proctored tests; why don't you offer free proctored tests?
    • Nothing in life is free.  If a company offers "free" practice tests, you are ultimately paying for them in the hourly tutoring rates or group class rates.  By not bundling other costs into the tutoring rate, I've been able to keep our tutoring rates the same for the previous five years.  My clients only pay for exactly what they need, not a bundled rate that includes what other people may need.  Some companies use "free practice tests" as a marketing tool to gain prospects; I don't.  Proctored tests require the time of an actual proctor (not just putting the student alone in a room), a leased commercial printer for printing 50 page proctored test materials, and administrative support for scheduling proctored tests and communicating with students and parents, not to mention a separate, quiet space for conducting the proctored tests.  So, it's an activity with lots of associated expenses.
    • I also am extremely flexible in scheduling proctored tests--any day of the week, most any time of the day that makes sense.  Also, not all students need to constantly take a full four hour test; some have already conquered certain test sections, so it makes more sense for them to do, perhaps, a weekly proctored test of 1 or 2 test sections instead of all 4-5.  You need to be careful not the burn out the student.
  • What are your tutoring rates?
    • My tutoring rate is $180 per hour.  The sessions are 1.5 hours, so each session is $270.00
    • If you call me with less than 45 days prior to a test date, my tutoring rate will be $250 per hour.   Most other companies will simply turn you away; I will attempt to use my weekends or days off to help in this situation.
  • What about material costs, such as workbooks and practice tests?
    • The ACT Real Prep Guide or the College Board Official Study Guide is provided at no cost.  If other specialized workbooks are needed (for example math or grammar specific) those are billed at the Amazon.com rate.
  • Do you accept credit cards?
    • Yes, all credit cards.   Visa, MasterCard, American Express, or Discover.
  • What if I need to cancel a session?
    • Sometimes students wake up sick or realize a bit late that they have more homework than they thought.  So, while I don't require 24 hours notice to cancel (as most other tutors do), I do require 12 hours notice so that I am able to offer the time slot to another student.  Given the more generous cancellation policy, I make no exceptions--if 12 hours notice is not provided, you will be charged for that missed session.  Obviously, if a student fails to show up for a session (for whatever reason), you will be charged for that missed session.
  • How do you work with students who don't perform well on standardized tests but get good grades?
    • I love to work with these students because obviously they work hard and are motivated to get good grades.  My first step with all students is to administer a full version of the standardized test they want to prepare for.  Then, I analyze in detail which answers were incorrect and do a root cause analysis with the student--what exactly caused the error?  Misread of the question, lack of patience in decision making, not knowing a formula, calculation error?  From that review, we can determine what type of tutoring activities will overcome their specific hurdles.  For some of these students, they simply over-analyze the reading comprehension questions and through specific direction and practice, they can develop the skills to narrow their analysis and identify the correct answer.  For other students, it is a matter of time pressure, which can be a significant obstacle on the ACT.  The student understands the material, and if they had more time would answer each math or reading or science question correctly.  But with the time constraints, a student can freeze.  Practice over a period of time, without attaching high stakes consequences to the outcome, can offset these challenges.  For example, allowing the student to take the test early in junior year before the student worries that time is running out!!
    • "My child doesn't test well"
      Sometimes this is a matter of anxiety, and sometimes experience with the test will reduce anxiety. However, sometimes when I have heard a parent give that description of his or her student, what I discover is that the student has some major gaps in fundamental skills, despite the good grades on the report card.
  • Do you offer discounts for committing to multiple sessions or paying in advance?
    • No, I do not.  The policy established is designed to require no up front or ongoing financial commitment for families, so I don't offer discounts for paying multiple sessions in advance.
    • This gives you maximum flexibility.  What if your student doesn't like a tutoring company or the tutor it selected for them?  If you pay in advance, you are stuck trying to make it work or out the money you invested.  With me, if for some reason we aren't a good match, you aren't out thousands of dollars like you would be with other large tutoring companies.
  • My child wants to prepare independently for the SAT or the ACT.  Can we hire you to guide this independent study project?
    • Yes, as long as the student can actually complete work and learn independently.
  • I heard from another tutoring company that the ACT and the SAT are now "95% the same". What do you think? Hogwash: a ludicrously false statement!! That is a ridiculous claim for which I can only speculate on the motivation of someone making it ( perhaps convenience when offering group classes or an attractive marketing gimmick).
    • If the tests were 95% the same, then students' scores would be the same on both tests for the vast majority of students, but they are NOT.
    • One section in both tests is 95% similar in structure and content: ACT English is almost identical to SAT Writing. That's it.
    • The essays are quite different. The SAT essay gives you piece of writing and asks you to analyze how the writer gets the job done, requiring you to point out the rhetorical strategies. The ACT essay gives you a prompt with three perspectives and asks you to write a persuasive essay. Does that sound 95% the same? NO!  
    • The SAT doesn't have a Science section; instead, it sprinkles a few science oriented questions in its other sections. The ACT has a separate 40 question fast-paced Science section. Does that description sound 95% similar? NO!  
    • The SAT Reading test is in EVERY respect a more challenging reading test than the ACT. Students find the questions and selecting among the answers more challenging on the SAT than the ACT. The SAT Reading test contains 1 or 2 pre-20th century passages. The ACT contains none. The test taking strategies for the SAT Reading test can differ significantly from those used on the ACT Reading test, so you would prepare and practice differently. Does that sound 95% the same?  NO!
    •  The ACT Math test allows a calculator for the entire test. The SAT only allows a calculator for one of its math sections.  You can't use a calculator for 35% of the SAT math questions. The ACT Math test is 100% multiple choice. The SAT Math test is only partially multiple choice. In both of its math sections, the SAT has for 25% of its math questions what it calls "student produced responses" (no multiple choice answers provided).  According to the ACT standards, 30% of its math test involves Plane Geometry + Trigonometry.  According to the SAT standards, only 10% of its math test involves those topics.  When the test structure and content varies that much, does it look 95% similar to you?
  • What organizations do you support that support students?
    • I currently support three organizations that support student achievement.  I am a member of the National Council of Teachers of Mathematics.   I also support the Just In Time for Foster Youth organization, a group that aims for a smooth transition from the foster care system in high school to independence in college.  I am a member of Students First California (now part of 50Can).  Students First was originally started by  Michelle Rhee's, a national activist for education reform.  The goal is to make students the focus of decision making not the adults in the system.  For example, I support eliminating tenure for teachers.  I support linking teacher pay to student achievement.  I want principals to be able to reasonably, in a timely fashion, terminate poorly performing teachers.  I want lay-off decisions due to school budget cuts to be based on teacher performance not seniority.  Having said all of that, I think teachers are underpaid!  To recruit the best and the brightest in our society to be teachers, we are going to have to pay to attract graduates from our top universities.  I think this communicates part of my education philosophy.