Test Prep

Standardized testing can have a marked impact on college admissions. A student’s score on either the SAT or the ACT is often considered indicative of his or her readiness for college-level coursework. Also, since high schools and grading systems vary so widely across the country, many colleges find results from the SAT or the ACT helpful in understanding academic and reasoning differences among students.

The SAT and the ACT are very different tests, and it is therefore vital for each student to ascertain which test is the right fit. At Within Reach, we help students make wise testing choices by evaluating their testing options within the scope of their learning style, processing speed, collegiate goals, and high school achievements. We highly recommend that our students take a practice SAT and a practice ACT on separate days and under authentic testing conditions, and then we holistically analyze the results to customize the most effective testing and prepping schedule. Not only do your scores send a message to college admissions – so does the test you take, and we want to make sure you take the right test!

About the Tests

The SAT, which was redesigned in March 2016, requires abstract reasoning in each of four sections: Reading (52 passage-based, multiple-choice questions that ask students to understand words in context and find/analyze evidence), Writing and Language (44 passage-based, multiple-choice questions that ask students to identify sentence errors, improve grammar and word choice, and make organizational changes to the passages), Math-No Calculator (20 multiple-choice and student-produced response questions that test mastery of arithmetic, algebra, problem solving and data analysis, geometry, statistics, and probability), and Math-Calculator (38 multiple-choice and student-produced response questions about arithmetic, algebra, problem solving and data analysis, geometry, statistics, and probability). The SAT without the optional essay takes 3 hours to complete; the SAT with the optional essay (which we recommend) is 3 hours and 50 minutes. Unlike the old SAT, there is no penalty for incorrect answers, and the maximum score is 1600.

The ACT is a knowledge-based test of speed that covers information you’ve learned in school across the subjects of English (75 multiple-choice, passage-based questions that measure grammar, punctuation, sentence structure and rhetorical skills), Math (60 multiple-choice questions that test mastery of algebra 1 and 2, geometry, and trigonometry), Reading (40 multiple-choice questions about four reading passages), and Science (40-multiple choice questions that require interpretation and analysis of data and problem solving skills), plus an optional essay. The ACT without the optional writing section takes 2 hours and 55 minutes to complete; the ACT with the optional writing section (which we recommend) is 3 hours and 35 minutes. The ACT applies no penalty for incorrect answers, and the maximum score is a 36.

How We Prep

At Within Reach, we offer private, one-on-one tutoring as well as small-group tutoring (no more than six students to a group). Once a student chooses either the SAT or the ACT, we determine an optimal official test date and customize our tutoring schedule to best accommodate the active life of a junior or senior in high school. Ideally, we meet with our students twice per week in advance of a testing date; we are happy to meet on weekends and late in the evening to offer ultimate flexibility and availability to our busy students. Furthermore, we mimic authentic testing conditions during all diagnostic and practice testing to establish a reliable baseline and future testing goal. Through targeted practice of our proven strategies, students gain confidence in their testing acumen and shed much of their test anxiety, ultimately enabling them to intelligently apply the knowledge and tricks they’ve learned throughout tutoring to a successful testing day. To benefit most from our tutoring progress, we highly recommend that students sit for an official test within two weeks of their last tutoring session with us.