Wendy Segal Tutoring Answers Your Questions … Including Some You Probably Haven’t Thought of Yet!

Which test should my student take, the SAT or the ACT?

Colleges don’t have a preference.  Since each student is different, the best way to find out which is better for your student is to have her take one of each.  For many students, taking a sample ACT and a sample SAT at home works fine. Wendy can help you compare the scores and determine which test is a better fit for your student.  For the next year or two until the new SAT becomes established, it’s reasonable for most students to take only the ACT.

Do you think a class or private tutoring is better for my student?

In almost all cases, private tutoring is best.  If your student is fairly advanced, she’ll be bored listening to the teacher explain what she already knows – and you’ll be wasting your money.

If a student needs some remediation or test technique, she’s not likely to keep asking questions when others in the room seem to understand already.

A good private tutor can not only help your student improve on her weaknesses, but can increase her strengths to make a good score great!

This is our first child to take college admissions exams. Where do we begin?

You’ve come to the right place. First, I will ask a few questions about your student, which will let me suggest a schedule and a plan for testing.

I can suggest some colleges to explore based on your student’s interests and grades, and when she’s ready, I can even help her with the Common Application.  Once we start working together, you won’t have to rely on what one of the mothers in the parking lot told you. You’ll always have an expert available – me – to answer your questions.

When should my student start tutoring?

There’s a typical timeline that suits most students, but I can help you create the best schedule for your student based on his sports practice schedule or work schedule or any other concern.  Most students should not pay for PSAT preparation (but I can discuss your student’s individual situation with you).  Most students should begin tutoring as soon as the PSAT scores come back in December or January.  Most students take the March SAT and the April ACT in their Junior year to start, and then plan further based on the results of these two tests.

How many sessions will it take to be tutored for the SAT or ACT?

I will consult with you to prepare a tutoring schedule that works best for your student.  The number of sessions varies greatly from student to student, but I’ll make sure your student is well prepared!

Should my student take the PSAT in 10th grade?

No, a student should not be working on test technique in 10th grade, other than keeping up with math to make sure his skills are on grade level.

Is private tutoring much more expensive than classes?

Not necessarily.  I can assess your student’s strengths and weaknesses quickly and tailor his sessions to focus on exactly what he needs so that his test scores represent his true potential.  I won’t spend time on what he already knows, and I won’t charge you to supervise hours of practice tests that he can take at home for free!

Should my student start to prepare for the SAT or ACT in 10th grade?

No: a student shouldn’t be working on test technique in 10th grade.  However, a student should be making sure his basic math skills are on grade level.  Yes, a student should be reading outside of what’s assigned in class (let me know if you need help suggesting books, articles, and essays he might actually like).  And yes, a student should be actively improving his vocabulary now if he plans on taking the SAT (even the new SAT).

I heard the new SAT is easier.  Is that true?

Not at all!  Despite what the College Board has said, there will still be vocabulary on the SAT.  There will now be a math section where students may NOT use a calculator.  The essay is twice as long as it was.  Grammar now counts as much as reading or math.  The math now includes trig and pre-calculus.  And the reading selections are much longer than they were.

Do colleges prefer the SAT to ACT?

It’s true that colleges used to prefer the SAT.  But for the past 5–10 years, all colleges now accept the ACT, and don’t prefer one test to the other.

If my student takes the ACT, does he have to take SAT Subject tests?

Very often, colleges will accept the ACT instead of SAT Subject tests.  But each college makes its own rules, so it’s always best to check on the website of any college your student might be interested in to find out.

How many times is my student allowed to take the SAT or ACT?

There’s no maximum number of times your student can test, but most students take anywhere from two to four tests, usually a combination of SAT and ACT.

How much does the writing part count?

In the “old” SAT, the writing part (grammar and essay) didn’t really attract the attention of most colleges unless a student’s score was startlingly low.  But the grammar is part of the ACT composite, so it’s just as important as the math or reading.  It’s also now part of the SAT language arts (reading and writing) score.

By the way, I love teaching grammar and make it a snap for your student to learn.

Should my student sign up for the optional essay writing on the SAT or ACT?

Absolutely!  Many schools have said that they are not going to require the essay portion, but just as many schools of all levels have said that they will require the writing part.  To make sure your student has the widest choice of colleges, he must take the writing.  But don’t worry – I’ll help him achieve a great score on this section, even if he’s generally not a great writer.

I heard that a lot of schools don’t even require an SAT or ACT.  Is that true?

Yes and no.  More and more schools are becoming “test-optional.”  But don’t be fooled.  Many of those schools require additional SAT Subject tests in place of an SAT or ACT.  Or they want several graded research or analysis papers instead of an SAT or ACT.  Or they want several more essays.  Test optional seldom means an easier application.  In short, there just aren’t enough test optional schools to justify your student not taking the ACT or SAT.

What’s a good score on the SAT or ACT?

A score that’s at the top of one school’s range easily could be at the bottom of another school’s range.  A better question might be what score should my student get based on her abilities?  Or even more appropriate: Given my student’s grades, interests, activities, and intended major, what score will ensure that colleges will take a good look at her application?  Let me ask you a few questions about your student, and together we can prepare her to get her the best possible score.

Do you guarantee a certain score or a certain increase?

I never have made guarantees like that, and I never will.  A student who comes to me in the 90% percentile won’t increase as much as a student who starts out in the 40% percentile.  Students have different abilities and not all students are equally motivated.

Don’t be fooled by schools or tutors who will let your student take the course again if he doesn’t improve by a certain amount.  If the course wasn’t successful the first time, what’s the point of wasting time by repeating the same unproductive strategy?

When should my student start writing his Common App essay?

The Common App changes the essay topics most years.  I won’t know the topics your student must address until June or July following her Junior year. But don’t wait until school resumes in September to start the essay.  No matter how busy she is during the summer, she’ll be busier once school starts!

How many colleges should my student apply to?

It’s not unusual these days for students to apply to 12-14 schools!  I can help you evaluate which colleges should be on your student’s list. He should apply to some schools that are a dream but a stretch, some which are very likely to accept him, and some schools at which he’s got a good chance of being accepted – his good match schools.

If tuition costs are a concern, let me know and I’ll help you build a list of schools that are likely to offer your student a scholarship or which are already within your price range budget. (It may surprise you that a SUNY state school isn’t always your least expensive option.)

Which SAT Subject tests should my student take?

Because I’ve worked with hundreds of students over 29 years, I can advise you on which SAT Subject tests (if any) your student should take – and which tests she’s likely to do well on.  Math 1?  Math 2? US History?  Spanish?  Let me help you and your student decide how to show your student’s academic abilities to their best advantage.

My junior was thinking of taking a fall SAT or ACT to get it over with early in her junior year.  Is that a good idea?

It might be, depending on her high school classes and activity schedule.  Most students, though, should wait until late winter, early spring of Junior year to take SATs or ACTs, which are based on 11th grade learning.  Let’s talk about your student’s individual situation