Frequently asked questions
When should I start studying for the SAT/ACT?
It is better to start preparing for test prep as early as possible! We recommend starting around your freshman - sophomore year, and take at least one test by the end of your sophomore year.
Don't underestimate just how busy you will be during your junior year!
How do I know whether to take the SAT or the ACT?
The current SAT includes reading, math, writing and language, and an optional essay, and is designed to designed to measure your reasoning skills.
The ACT is composed of a total of five sections: mathematics, English, reading, science, and one essay. The ACT is designed to test the knowledge you have built throughout high school. Because of this, ACT already gives colleges an insight into a student's specific academic knowledge.
Some colleges ask that students submit with the SAT and two SAT Subject Tests or just the ACT. However, some schools may require SAT Subject Tests in addition to the ACT. Be sure to research the colleges of your choice to find out their requirements.
It is recommended to take a diagnostic test for the SAT and ACT, and figure out which one suits you better. We offer free diagnostic tests for all students -
contact us to schedule a time to come in.
What are SAT Subject tests?
SATs are designed to measure your reasoning skills, while SAT Subject Tests are designed to assess your knowledge in specific subject areas.
Why do I need to take SAT Subject test?
Some colleges require their applicants to take some SAT Subject tests while others require specific SAT subject tests. Some colleges may even require SAT Subject Tests only from students who took the SAT. This is because the SAT does not have a science section, so the colleges may require a science SAT Subject Test score.
The requirements for SAT Subject Tests have a huge range depending on which schools you’re applying to. Research these requirements ahead of time so that you're not squeezing them in at the last minute.
Even if your colleges of choice don't require the SAT Subject Test, it's best to take the tests! It can help you stand out from other applicants as well as establish to the admission officers your level of knowledge and dedication in a subject area. For example, if you want to apply as a history major, taking the US History and World History SAT Subject Tests is recommended.
When should I take the SAT Subject Tests?
You don't have to wait until your junior year to take the SAT Subject Test. Plan to take your test close to the end of your related high school classes, so that the knowledge is as fresh as possible.
Of course, you’ll also need to consider which dates you’ll be taking the SAT. You can’t take the SAT and SAT Subject Tests on the same day, but you can take up to three SAT Subject Tests at a time.
What is PSAT? Will it help or hurt my chances of college admissions?
The Preliminary SAT, shortened to PSAT, is a preparatory version of the SAT exam. The PSAT is only a qualifying test for the National Merit Scholarship, and won't add to your college admission applications.
You only take it once a year, and most students take it in school in October during their 10th and 11th grade year. If you score a high score on the 11th grade PSAT, you can become a National Merit Semifinalist and be qualified to receive a National Merit Scholarship.
What's more important - grades or activities?
Colleges list the following admission factors as most important, according to The National Association for College Admission Counseling (NACAC):
1. Grades in college prep courses.
Most colleges will consider your performance in college preparatory courses the strongest sign of your ability to do well in college. Even if you struggled early in high school, colleges will look favorably upon strong improvement in subsequent years.
2. Strength of curriculum
Colleges look for students who took the most challenging courses available to them. If your high school offers only a few college prep courses, admissions officers will take this into account.
3. Admission test scores.
Your SAT and/or ACT scores usually count highly if the college requires them. Scores from SAT Subject Tests, AP tests, and the International Baccalaureate (IB) exams may also be important, especially to more selective colleges.
4. Grades in all courses.
Your overall GPA also serves as an indicator of your academic success in high school. The college may also look over your transcript, which lists every class that you have taken in high school and the grade you received in each class.
Factors of Moderate Importance
What counts most to colleges is how long and how deeply you have been committed to one or two interests, how much time you allot to them, what leadership roles you have undertaken, and what you have accomplished.
Letters of recommendation.
Many colleges require recommendations from your teachers, high school counselor, and possibly your principal. Colleges are looking for an honest professional opinion of your abilities and personality.
Essay or writing sample.
Many colleges will ask you to submit an essay or personal statement. Here is your opportunity to put your personality into your application. A well-written essay can tip a decision in your favor. A poorly written one can do the opposite.
Going on a college visit, talking with admission officers, or doing an enthusiastic interview can call attention to how much you really want to attend. Applying for an early decision may also make a good impression.
Colleges that use this factor want to see how much competition you had to face to achieve your rank. However, fewer and fewer colleges are giving class rank much importance. In fact, fewer than half of high schools now track class rank.
As a parent, how can I help my child?
1. Help your student(s) see how HS lays groundwork for college
2. Strategize as early as possible - even in middle/elementary school
3. REALLY help student(s) set aside time for SAT/ACT/PSAT
4. Get more advice from experts who live and breathe admissions
What should I do for my 9th grade year?
This is the"get your bearings" year:
1. Take challenging classes, such as Pre-AP/IB courses
2. Manage your GPA -- i.e., get as many A's as possible
3. Sign up for extracurriculars and FIND your passion
What should I do for my 10th grade year?
This is the "refine your interests" year:
1. Keep taking most-advanced classes and managing GPA
2. REFINE your extracurriculars to match YOUR INTERESTS
3. Take on more leadership roles in extracurriculars
4. Start considering internships and research opportunities
5. Start preparing for PSAT/SAT/ACT/SAT Subject/AP/IB exams
What should I do for my 11th grade year?
This is your "major testing" year:
1. Take AP/IB/TAG/dual-credit classes and do well in them
2. Tackle PSAT/SAT/ACT/SAT Subject/AP/IB exams
3. Be in leadership roles and invest QUALITY time in extracurriculars
4. Conduct research and participate in internships
What should I do for my 12th grade year?
This is the "college applications" year:
1. Determine major based on your background and interests
2. Make a college list that includes reach, on-level, and safety schools
3. Work on your college applications ASAP - i.e., during summer
4. Continue to ace your classes so you actually go to your choice college