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Frequently Asked Questions
SAT Test Preparation
"The Test Prep Experts Since 1995"
Q: Why should I take an SAT or an ACT prep course?
A: Most students take an SAT or ACT prep course in order to be familiar with the type of material that they will face on the actual test. The SAT is marked on a curve, so your score is based on how well you do in comparison to everyone else taking the test on the same day. Therefore, being familiar with the test is a huge advantage. For example, if you prepare with College Board material, as we do in all SAT prep courses, you will know the directions and sample questions in advance, as they are identical to the directions and practice questions in our course. You will also learn how the test is scored, whether to guess or to leave questions blank, how to manage your time, how to best navigate your way through the long (and often boring) reading passages, which areas of math are included on the SAT, and how to format your essay.
Likewise, in our ACT prep course we use the book with five official practice tests written by ACT, Inc., the company that writes the actual ACT exam. You will be guided through the five separate sections of the ACT: Math, English, Science, Reading Comprehension and Writing. By knowing the directions, word for word, reviewing all of the questions, and understanding all of the correct answers, on two full-length exams, you will be prepared and confident on the day of your real test!
Q: How do courses offered by SAT SMART differ from those offered by other test prep companies?
A: SAT SMART uses only official College Board and ACT, Inc. materials, so the materials with which you practice reflect the questions you will find on your actual test. For example, the box of Math formulas on the top of each Math section on the SAT is exactly the same as that on the practice material. The directions and practice questions are identical, as are the type of questions and level of difficulty. The same is true with the ACT practice materials.
In a 12 hour SAT SMART course, students are guided through a full length SAT or ACT exam, section by section, as they are taught the best strategies to optimize their score on each section. The answer to each test question is explained, and students get a score for each section and, ultimately, a score for the practice exam. By identifying the type of errors students are making on the practice exam, they are able to avoid the same mistakes on the actual tests.
Also, SAT SMART courses are only taught by extremely competent, highly-educated teachers who are experienced in training students to reach their maximum potential on these vital exams. Many other SAT/ACT prep programs use students as teachers who were able to personally achieve high scores, but cannot necessarily teach other students to do the same.
Q: When is the best time to take an SAT or ACT prep course?
A: The best time, to get the most advantage of an SAT prep course, is prior to the October PSAT exam which most students take in their junior year. The junior year PSAT exam is also the National Merit Scholarship Qualifying Exam (NMSQE) where the highest scoring students are named as National Merit Scholars and are often awarded substantial scholarship money by colleges. Since the PSAT is simply a shortened version of the SAT, students are simultaneously preparing for both exams.
The best time to take an ACT prep course, likewise, is just prior to the test. Many juniors choose to take the June ACT exam, as much of the material reflects their coursework. Seniors often choose to take the September, October or December ACT exam.
Q: What is the difference between the PSAT and the SAT exam?
A: The PSAT is offered only in October and is administered, for the most part, on a Saturday in public schools and a Wednesday in private schools. It is simply a shortened version of the SAT exam. Most students take the PSAT as juniors, when the test also serves as the National Merit Scholarship Qualifying Exam. Some students start taking the PSAT as sophomores, or even freshman, however these exams serve strictly as a practice run to show students how they would score if it were the real test.
Q: When is the SAT/ACT offered and when do most students start taking the exam?
A: The SAT is offered each year in October, November, December, January, March, May and June. Most students start taking the SAT in the winter or spring of their junior year, and usually take it again in the fall of their senior year.
The ACT is offered each year in September, October, December, February, April and June. Many juniors prepare to take the June ACT as the content on the test closely relates to their schoolwork. Seniors often prepare in the summer or early fall leading into their senior year and take the ACT in September, October or December.
Q: How many times should I take the SAT?
A: Students can take the SAT as many times as they want, and have the option of sending only their highest scores on to colleges. Colleges have no way of knowing how many times a student takes the SAT. So most students take the SAT twice in the winter/spring of their junior year. If they are thrilled with their scores, they can stop at that point. But most take the SAT again in the fall of their senior year. If their scores improve, then they send the newest, greatest scores. Otherwise, they can always use a set of previous scores. Some, but not all, colleges allow students to “Super Score,” when they send their highest Math score from one exam and their highest Evidence-Based Reading and Writing score from a separate exam.
Q: How is the SAT scored?
A: The new SAT is scored on a range of 200 to 800 points in each of two areas:
Evidence-Based Reading and Writing– a scoring chart converts the points earned on the Reading Test to a sub-score (in the range of 10-40) and the points earned on the Writing and Language Test to a sub-score (in the range of 10-40). These two sub-scores are added together and then multiplied by 10, giving each student an Evidence-Based Reading and Writing score in the range of 200 to 800. In order for a student to earn a median score of 500, for example, he/she needs to correctly answer approximately 48 of the 96 questions correctly on a combination of these two sections.
Math – a scoring chart converts the total number of points earned on a combination of the two Math Tests to a score in the range of 200 to 800. In order for a student to earn a median math score of 500, for example, he/she needs to correctly answer approximately 26 of the 58 questions on Sections 3 and 4 of the SAT.
A student receives one point for every correct answer on the SAT. There is no penalty for incorrect answers, so students should always guess rather than leave a question blank. Easy questions count just as much as hard questions, so students should not spend too much time on any one question. Rather, it is best to skip any questions that are particularly difficult and return to them later, if time allows. When the allotted time for a section is nearing, students should guess on any question that remains unanswered. Since there are four choices (A to D) for each multiple-choice question, random guessing provides a 25% chance of choosing the correct answer!
The Essay is scored separately, and does not impact the Evidence-Based Reading and Writing Score.
Q: How does the ACT differ from the SAT?
A: The new SAT exam is quite similar to the ACT exam. Each has one section of Reading, one section of English, and an optional Essay. The main difference is that the SAT has two Math sections, while the ACT has one Math and one Science section.
On the SAT, while the Reading and the Writing & Language tests are scored separately, the scores are combined to provide an “Evidence-Based Reading and Writing score in the range of 200-800 points. Likewise, each of the two Math sections are scored separately and the scores are then combined to provide a Math score, also in the range of 200-800 points. The optional Essay is scored separately by two readers on a scale of 1 to 4 points, and these scores are added together to award the student an essay score in the range of 2 to 8 points.
On the ACT, students earn a score for each area of the test (English, Mathematics, Reading and Science) in the range of 1-36 points. The scores from these four sections are averaged to provide a Composite Score. The optional essay is scored separately by two readers on a scale of 1 to 6 points, and these scores are added together to award the student an essay score in the range of 2 to 12 points.
Since these two tests are written by two different testing companies, many students choose to prepare for, and take, both exams. They then use, for their college applications, the scores from the test on which they performed the best. Other students look over sample questions from both the SAT and the ACT, and then choose to put all of their efforts into maximizing their score on one of these tests alone. There is no college in the country that requires both SAT and ACT scores.
Q: What is the best way to prepare for the ACT exam?
A: The best way to prepare for the ACT is to work through official practice tests prepared by ACT, Inc., the company that writes the actual ACT exam. In our courses, we provide students with the official text that contains five full length exams and we then guide students through a full length exams and explain every question. The ACT exam is separated into five sections: Math, English, Science, Reading Comprehension and Writing (optional). By gaining familiarity with the directions, format, and type of material tested on each section, the students are able to optimize their score on the actual test.
Q: Since the Writing section is optional, how should I decide whether or not to do it?
A: Our recommendation is that all students spend the extra 50 minutes to do the “optional” essay. Many colleges require the essay in order to consider a student for admission, and it is unwise to greatly limit one’s college options simply by not writing the essay.
Q: How is the ACT scored?
A: The highest possible score on the ACT is a 36. A student earns points based on the number of questions answered correctly, with no penalty for wrong answers. In other words, there is no “guessing penalty.” Each section of the ACT is graded separately, and the scores are then averaged to create a “composite score” for the entire test. The national average score is approximately 21. There are 215 multiple choice questions on the entire test, in additional to one optional writing prompt.
Q: When is the ACT offered and how do I register?
A: The ACT is offered in September, October, December, February, April and June of each year. Registration is available at www.actstudent.org/start and costs $38.00 for the basic test and $54.50 for the test with the Writing option.
Q: What are SAT Smart's Satisfaction Guarantee?
SAT Smart is dedicated to helping students maximize their potential on standardized exams. We have over 20 years of experience teaching students the most effective strategies to significantly increase their scores while utilizing official College Board and ACT Inc. materials that mirror exactly what students face on the actual test.
Any student who enrolls in an SAT Smart 24 hour prep program (total cost of $649) is guaranteed to be satisfied with his/her SAT scores (no questions asked) or is welcome to attend any additional SAT Smart prep program at no cost.
Q: Where are SAT SMART courses offered to prepare students for the PSAT, SAT and ACT tests?
A: SAT SMART courses are currently being offered in New Jersey at Immaculata High School in Somerville, the Hillsborough Municipal Building, St. Mary's Church - Stony Hill in Watchung, and Rider University in Lawrenceville. Courses are also held in Pennsylvania at LaSalle University in Newtown.
Q: How long has SAT SMART been in business?
A: SAT SMART has been in business since 1995 and has prepared over 5,000 local students for their PSAT, SAT and ACT exams. (Please refer to articles on this website.)
Q: Who teaches the SAT SMART courses?
A: SAT SMART courses are taught by highly qualified teachers with years of experience and degrees from America's most elite colleges and universities. Please see the instructors’ page for teacher accolades.
Q: How do I register for an SAT SMART course?
A: Click the “register” prompt on the top of the home page (www.SATsmart.com), and then click the session that you would like to attend. A selection of courses are offered each summer to prepare students for the September ACT, and the October PSAT and SAT exams. Courses are likewise offered each fall to prepare students for the October, November and December tests. And courses are offered again in the winter and spring to prepare students for the March, May and June SAT exams as well as the June ACT exam.
Q: What happens if I miss a class? Are make-up classes available?
A: Make-up classes are available. If you need to miss a class, you can make up the class at one of the other SAT SMART locations during the same session, or you can attend that same class during a subsequent session at no charge.
Q: What materials are used in the course and what do I need to bring with me?
A: Each student taking a PSAT/SAT prep course is given a copy of the 700+ page book, “The Official SAT Study Guide,” by College Board, which is used throughout the course. Likewise, students preparing for the ACT are each given a copy of the 900+ page book, “The Real ACT Prep Guide,” by ACT, Inc. Students are guided through official practice tests whichmirror exactly what they will face on the actual test. All students need to bring a pencil and a calculator, and are welcome to bring a snack for their ten minute break mid-way through each class.
Q: Other questions?
A: Please feel free to call or email SAT SMART with any questions you may have. Call us at: 908-369-5362 or Email us at: info@SATsmart.com