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Frequently Asked Questions

Common Questions:

  1. What is the SAT?
  2. Should I take the SAT or the ACT?
  3. Should I prepare for the SAT?
  4. Should I pay for SAT Prep or can I just use a book?
  5. Does it matter what company I pick?
  6. How important are the program guarantees?
  7. How important are free events?

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Answers:

  1. What is the SAT?
        The SAT is a standardized test required for admission to nearly all public and private universities but not required for community college admission. In the college admissions process, it counts for 25% of the decision!
        The college board says that this test is "designed to assess your academic readiness for college [...] in a way that is fair to all students." Practically, this means that the SAT tests the same very limited material in the same way every time.

        The test takes 4.5 hours, and it is administered at SAT centers (most often local high schools) around the country seven times a year. You can take this test as many times as you want (although there is a fee), and many students take it 2 or 3 times. At present, many colleges allow you to report only your best grades, and all colleges will consider all the scores you choose to send. This makes it more enticing to take more tests.

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  2. Should I take the SAT or the ACT?
        That depends on which one you are better at and on which colleges you want to apply to.
        Both the SAT and the ACT are accepted by most colleges, but some students tend to do better on one then the other. If you are trying to decide which one to take, I very much recommend trying one of each and seeing on which one you perform better. However, as there may be some colleges that only accept one, I also recommend checking each of the colleges you are applying to and making sure that it accepts the test you want to take.

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  3. Should I prepare for the SAT?
        Yes!
    The SAT is worth 25% of your college admissions decision, about half as much as your GPA (worth 50%). You and everyone else invest thousands of hours into your school work, but most people spend only a few hours preparing for the SAT. Since the SAT is graded on a curve (how you do depends on how everyone else does), preparing more than other people can be a huge advantage! Preparing for the SAT takes a fairly small of time, but it can dramatically change the caliber of college you are accepted to.
         One caveat: if you take several practice SATs, and you receive a 2350 or above consistently, you probably do not need to prepare. A perfect score is nice, but 50 points one way or another can be determined by just a couple of questions wrong, so I would not bother taking the time to prepare further.

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  4.  Should I pay for SAT prep or can I just use a book?
        In a majority of situations, paid SAT prep is the best option. Many of the strategies are better learned from a teacher. Furthermore, most students are more diligent and more likely to try the recommended ways of approaching the test when forced into classrooms and given homework assignments.
        There are, however, several situations in which self prep may be the better option:
         1.    If a student is extraordinarily diligent and a great self-starter. Such a student can go ahead and prepare from a book. If this is not effective, a classroom can always be tried as a second option. However, in many cases, this will make the process more painful and less effective.
       2.    If a student has a 2300+ and is chasing the perfect score. The classroom is not a great option for such students as they will likely be profoundly bored a reasonable portion of the time. However, this applies only to the highest scorers. I had a 2000 when I entered SAT prep and my score improved by 370 points! For such students, tutoring may also be a good choice.

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  5. Does it matter what company I pick?
        Yes. The companies have different offerings, and they also focus on different things. Ivy Bound prides itself on flexibility (and is more expensive), Excel gives you more practice tests, etc. The prices, similarly, are different. So are the guarantees, the average score improvements, etc.
        Precisely to help you compare them, I have created the Comparison page of this site!

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  6. How important are the program guarantees?
        In general, they are not. They are only important if you have ever redeemed anything on a guarantee before, because most people do not and that is why the guarantees are usually very good.

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  7. How important are free events?
         Very important! Most companies host free events, and they are a great way to find out about the teaching styles of the company AND get good quality free information. Of course, most of the time you will not have the same teacher for your workshop as for your class, but you can still get a good idea of the general feel of the company. I strongly recommend going to a free event any time you can!

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