SAT VS. ACT

Should my child take the SAT or the ACT? What’s the difference?

The current SAT, which debuted in March 2016, bears a much greater similarity to the ACT than did previous versions of the SAT. As such, the differences in content are minimal, though the ACT has a Science section (which mostly involves reading graphs and summaries of experiments but does at times require some basic science knowledge) and contains a few more advanced Math concepts than does the SAT. Virtually every college accepts either test for admission, so there is very little point in taking both. We highly recommend picking one test and sticking with it (turning to the other only as a last resort), rather than spreading yourself thin across two tests that serve the exact same purpose.

 

Why do you focus primarily on the SAT?

As stated above, the SAT and ACT are quite similar these days, but two main reasons speak to focusing on the SAT. First, students have already been primed for the SAT by taking the PSAT junior year (and, in many cases, sophomore year and even freshman year). As such, they have already been exposed to its format, timing, and scoring, so there’s less unfamiliarity to overcome. Second, and perhaps more important, the timing on the SAT is far more generous than the timing on the ACT. For example, the two tests feature nearly-identical Writing sections, but the SAT gives 35 minutes to answer 44 questions, whereas the ACT gives 45 minutes to answer 75 questions—only 10 more minutes for an additional 31 questions (forcing students to work 25% faster than on the SAT). Similarly, the SAT Math portion affords students 38% more time per question than the ACT Math portion. Because speed is a great problem for many anxious test-takers, we highly recommend starting with the SAT.

 

Do you offer any ACT preparation?

Yes, in certain locations! Our “ACT Booster Course” is offered to students who have already completed our SAT program and still wish to pursue the ACT. Because the two exams test many of the same concepts and are vulnerable to many of the same techniques, our SAT course effectively prepares students for roughly 75% of what they will see on the ACT. To cover the additional 25%, we offer a 4-week ACT Booster Course designed to catch students up to speed on the extra material, including the Science section and the more advanced Math concepts.

We do not run ACT courses for new students, as our philosophy is that it makes more sense to start with the SAT, which covers less material and offers more generous timing. (See “Why do you focus primarily on the SAT?” above.

OUR CLASSES

What is the maximum class size?

Twelve is the maximum class size, but classes usually have closer to 10 students.
 

How many class sessions are included in your SAT course?

The SAT course includes seven 4-hour instructional seminars, four full-length practice tests, six optional 3-hour “Spotlight” review sessions, and make-up sessions for students who miss class or a practice test. To get more specific dates and times for particular courses, please give us a call at one of the numbers at the bottom of the page.
 

What is a typical class day like for a TestTakers student?

Each 4-hour session consists of two separate classes: Math and English. Each class is roughly two hours long, with a short break in between. Students are occasionally quizzed on the material covered in the prior session and in the TestTakers Study Buddy flashcards. Classes are emphatically not dull lectures—they include many drills, activities, and time for questions to ensure that students are mentally engaged throughout the period.

WHAT WE DO

Do you offer PSAT preparation?

Yes! The PSAT is merely a shortened version of the SAT, which is our specialty. While some other organizations claim to offer "expert" preparation for dozens of tests, we focus primarily on SAT preparation, giving us an unparalleled depth of expertise on the exam. Our fall courses are specially arranged to cover all of the material on the PSAT before juniors take the test, and continue further to cover all material on the SAT.

Is your program comprehensive?

Yes! The PSAT is merely a shortened version of the SAT, which is our specialty. While some other organizations claim to offer "expert" preparation for dozens of tests, we focus primarily on SAT preparation, giving us an unparalleled depth of expertise on the exam. Our fall courses are specially arranged to cover all of the material on the PSAT before juniors take the test, and continue further to cover all material on the SAT.

Are there opportunities for extra help? 

There are many ways to receive extra help during and after the course. First, every course includes optional "Spotlight" sessions at no additional fee to reinforce skills learned in the regular classes. Second, all teachers provide their contact information during the first class and are available by phone or email to answer any specific questions your student may have. Additionally, teachers are often available to meet one-on-one with students for short review sessions before class starts. Finally, students have extensive access to their Site Directors, each a master of every section of the SAT. 

What are your teachers like?

Brilliant, funny, articulate, inspirational, zany, caring—no single adjective captures everything that makes our teachers special. They have diverse backgrounds, skills, and styles, but all share three critical qualities. First, they are expertly trained masters of the test. Not only can they instantly see the right answer, but they can also see the common mistakes and helpful insights within each question. Second, they have the energy and personality to make every class interesting. A math genius who puts her class to sleep or a grammar master with the personality of a fern will never make it past the first round of our hiring process. Our teachers must be adept enough to understand and explain everything about the test and interesting enough to make class fun. Third, and most important, our teachers care deeply about helping students reach their goals. We keep our classes small so teachers can get to know every student and give every student the attention and help he or she needs. We love helping our students reach their goals!

 

How long have you been doing this?

TestTakers was founded in 1983 and has grown (almost exclusively through word-of-mouth recommendations) every year since then. We focus primarily on the SAT—though we also offer ACT booster programs in certain locations—and have used our decades of teaching experience and exhaustive study of every released exam to ensure our teaching methods are as effective as possible.


WHAT WE DON'T DO

Do you offer a guarantee?

Although guarantees are a common marketing tool, they are often rife with asterisks and fine print that render them less effective than they may seem. Rather than hide behind a gimmick, we stand by the rigors of our program and the exceptional results we’ve helped students attain over the past 30 years. Of course, we are never content to leave any student unsatisfied, so we take great pains to make ourselves available for additional help for any student who needs more work after completing the course.

 

Do you offer shortened or "turbo" courses?

We do not because we have found that they do not help students achieve their full potential. There is a vast amount of material covered on the SAT and ACT, and any truncated or "turbo" course is likely to cram too much information into a student's head at once and prevent him or her from retaining enough. We have found that repetition and familiarity with the techniques are necessary for students to feel comfortable and perform well on the exam, so we offer only full-length, comprehensive courses.

 

Do you offer courses for the SAT II Subject Tests/Regents Tests/ISEE, etc.? Do you provide college-counseling services?

No, we focus on SAT and PSAT preparation, with ACT booster courses available in certain locations.

 

Do you provide private tutoring?

We do not provide private tutoring because we have found that our targeted, personalized classroom approach is the most effective way to impart the broad knowledge necessary to master the test. Covering all of the material included in the over 60-hour long program would be impractical to do in a one-on-one setting. However, we do provide a great deal of extra assistance and one-on-one help at no additional charge when necessary. Please feel free to give one of our Site Directors a call to learn more about why personalized, classroom-based learning is the most effective approach.

 

Can I just take the practice tests without taking the course? Can I have the TestTakers vocabulary cards without taking the course?

No, our tests and materials are reserved exclusively for TestTakers students.

AFTER THE COURSE

How much should I expect my student to improve?

Obviously, score improvements differ drastically from student to student. The student who attends every class and comes to every Spotlight session can expect to go up more than the student who never opens his flashcards and misses all the practice tests. Additionally, a student starting with a 950 will have an easier time going up 300 points than a student starting at a 1300. A good goal is to improve 150 points, and the average improvement among all TestTakers students (even including those who have missed classes, tests, and failed quizzes) is close to 200 points. Students who take our program twice improve nearly 300 points on average. Feel free to call us for more details.

 

Can I take the course more than once?

Of course! Students are invited to retake the entire course a second time for a significantly reduced price. TestTakers alumni can also take more practice tests in our proctored environments and receive detailed score reports for no additional charge. We generally do not recommend taking the course a third time, but decisions should be made on a case-by-case basis in consultation with your Site Director.

GENERAL SAT QUESTIONS

When is the best time to start preparing for the SAT/PSAT?

The best time will vary depending on the student, the student's schedule, the student's testing profile and tendencies, and many other factors. The earliest we recommend beginning to prepare is the summer before junior year. All students should take the SAT by May or June of their junior year, so the latest we recommend starting preparation is February of junior year. We also provide courses for seniors taking the November SAT. Please give us a call so we can discuss your unique situation and find the best time for your student.

 

I must take the October SAT if I'm a senior, right?

No. If you’re applying for regular decision (for which applications are usually due in early January), you can take the October, November, or December SATs. If you’re applying for early decision, there’s a good chance your school accepts the November SAT, even if the test is after the deadline, because the results are typically sent to schools before they’re ready to make their decisions. (Different schools have different policies, though, so be sure to call the schools your student is considering to get a definitive answer.) This is fortunate for students, because it is exceedingly difficult (if not impossible) to prepare fully for the SAT in the five weeks between the end of summer vacation and the October SAT. Accordingly, our fall programs prepare seniors for the November SAT. We believe it is much more valuable for a student to be completely prepared for the November test than to rush through an abbreviated course and perform poorly on the October test.

 

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

The optional essay is a separate component of the exam, and as such has no bearing on your student’s score on the 1600-point scale for the SAT or the 36-point scale for the ACT. That said, certain colleges require the essay, so we recommend taking it to ensure students are not locked out of applying to those schools. (Of course, if your student knows exactly which schools he or she is applying to and is certain the essay is not required, the essay can certainly be skipped.) Our course does provide instruction on how to write the essay.


How do i register?

How do I register? 

Please either fill out our “Contact Us” form or call us at one of the numbers displayed at the bottom of the page. You can speak to one of our Site Directors in person and enroll by credit card or request an enrollment card and course schedules by mail. We currently do not accept enrollment online.