Brad and I recently had the opportunity to review a new SAT prep book. Let’s be honest. No one likes to study for the SAT, much less read 1000+ pages of material. Christian Heath, author of the newly released SAT Math Mastery Ed. 2 Volume 1 and 2, will change your mind. In these books, Heath includes clear and thorough answer explanations that teach students how to understand and solve a variety of math topics on the SAT. His explanations are honest and unexpectedly funny, with real life connections thrown in to make the book especially relevant.
Heath starts each book with a breakdown of topics by importance for both the no-calculator and calculator section. This breakdown lists the likelihood that a certain topic will appear on the test. If a student’s study time is limited, this list provides a perfect screenshot of where to start and focus preparation. In addition, each section contains a quick reference guide for the topic being discussed. This includes the incorporation of clear definitions to remind readers about math terms they may have forgotten over the years. There is even an entire section that discusses common mistakes students make and how to prevent making them on test day.
The thing that truly sets this book a part is that Heath wrote all of the questions himself, including both pre and post tests. He has modeled both multiple choice and free response questions after real SAT questions, which makes this the perfect supplemental text for real tests.
The positive vibe of this book is contagious, as evidenced through Heath’s “Review and Encouragement” sections. It’s incredibly important for students to build and sustain confidence in themselves and these books do just that. Our biggest takeaway is that this book feels much more approachable than other SAT books we have used. As someone who has tutored the SAT for the past five years, we found new and helpful hints that we will use with students moving forward. Studying for the SAT isn’t always fun, but this book makes it leaps and bounds more bearable.
Below, you will find our action plan for preparing for the ACT. If you're a newcomer to the test, the following information will be invaluable to you.
Step 1: Take a mock ACT for a baseline measure. If you would like a mock test, please use this link to download and print it, if you like. You should expect to spend about 3.5 hours working on this test, and it should be taken all at once. You can also download four more practice tests here, here, here, and here. I would also point you towards a comprehensive book that can be found here, which includes three full-length practice tests, answers, and explanations.
Also, feel free to visit the Reddit page here. It contains 77 full-length ACT tests, too. It also has robust discussion around the ACT for you to read through and gain further understanding of the test.
Step 2: Now that you have taken your mock test, reflect on how it went by identifying strengths and weaknesses. You should also identify a target score. This is important because it gives you something to work towards. Typically, most ACT scores improve five points given sufficient time in preparation and depending on the starting score. The lower the score, the more opportunity for growth.
Step 3: Start attacking your weaknesses based on the score breakdown from the mock test. I will list a plethora of resources below for you.
English - The Complete Guide to ACT English, College Panda's ACT English, and Complete SAT and ACT Grammar and Punctuation Rules.
Math - College Panda ACT Math Guide, College Panda ACT Math Workbook, The Guide to ACT Math: Skip the Prep Classes, Quantum ACT Prep, The Ultimate Guide to ACT Math, Cliff Notes Math Review to Standardized Tests.
Reading - The Complete Guide to ACT Reading
Science - For the Love of ACT Science, Understanding the ACT Scientific Reasoning
Writing - Mighty Oak Guide to Mastering the 2016 ACT Essay, Free Practice ACT Essays
General ACT Strategy Guides: Ivy Global, Barron's, Princeton Review, McGraw Hill
In addition to this, you must keep reading challenging text. Please use the list of non-fiction recommendations here or fiction recommendations here. If you don't enjoy reading novels, you're welcome to check out other literary resources, such as The Atlantic, The New Yorker, The Economist, and Grantland (if you enjoy sports).
Also, if you're self-motivated and want to track your progress, use UWorld. It's a wonderful online platform that will track your progress, in addition to challenging you and tracking time.
Step 4: As you begin studying, if you find yourself getting frustrated or further confused, please consider using private tutoring to get you on track. You're welcome to call, text, or email me any time. Tutoring can help boost your confidence, make you more comfortable with the strategies, and provide an action plan to move forward with once you're ready to move on from tutoring. Most students need between 15 - 25 hours of tutoring to reach the score they desire. This allows for personalized time to focus on the opportunities for growth, as well as going question-by-question in extreme depth. Also, a skilled tutor will be a friend that keeps you accountable and provide specific problems that target continued weaknesses. Simply talking with a tutor helps you understand the questions and strategies.
Homework: Generally, you should expect to spend about an hour on homework for every one hour you work with a tutor. The usual homework assigned would be two or three sections of an ACT test depending on the progress the student makes during tutoring. The goal would be to eventually complete five full ACT tests before the test date. However, most of our students take upwards of ten full tests before the test date.
Step 5: If you haven't done so already, please sign up for the ACT here. The ACT is administered seven times per year in September, October, December, February, April, June, and July.
VERY IMPORTANT: The ACT offers Test Information Release three times per year. This allows you to receive a copy of your test questions and answers. Sign up for this in advance of your test date if you can. It does cost a little bit more, and it takes about six weeks to receive your results, but it is so worth it. Currently this service is offered for the December, April, and June tests. For more information about this service, please click here.
After completing this plan, you should be ready to perform at your best ability. If you have any questions or would like to discuss tutoring options, please reach out to me.
We get a lot of questions asking us if we will meet with students in small groups for the SAT or ACT. This is something we have never considered due to each student's unique strengths and weaknesses. To maximize your investment and cut down on preparation time, we will only meet with students individually.
Recently, we have had a lot of students leave ACT and SAT group classes to meet with us for preparation. In these classes there are typically 30 students that sit in a group for three hours on a Saturday to learn about these test. Not only is that a tremendous amount of time to sit in a class, especially for a teenager and on the weekend, these classes are not catered to a student's own strengths and weaknesses. They are a "one size fits all" approach to tutoring students, which simply cannot be done on these tests. Not to mention, these classes are typically the same price as meeting ten individual sessions with us. It seem you're paying for a name rather than results, which is what these tests are all about.
Yes, we are a "mom and pop" tutoring service; however, we invest valuable time learning about your student to understand their motivations. We use these to ur advantage when creating an individualized preparation plan. Additionally, Rebekah and I have tutored the ACT and SAT over 2,000 hours in the past three years, in addition to keeping abreast of changes on the SAT and ACT and taking it ourselves. We only use real practice tests released from Collegeboard, which we use to create custom plans for your student to maximize growth. To this point, our students have shown an average growth of 4 to 6 points on their composite score. Our prices are less than half that of our local competitors, and we still show the same or better growth. If you're contemplating a large group class as a budget friendly option, please consider giving us 15 minutes of your time to explain our approach and how we could benefit your student. Individualized tutoring is the only way to prepare for these students. Let us explain to you why that's the case.
If you would like to arrange a 15-minute phone consultation, do not hesitate contacting us at (770) 262-7859.
We look forward to speaking with you soon.
Brad and Rebekah
As we seek to continue honing our test preparation skills, we will begin a weekly blog discussing the context of the SAT and ACT.
As many of you may know, Rebekah and I have been tutoring this test for four years now. Throughout the experience, we have grown academically and professionally, while finding new ways to help our students grow academically. We started off tutoring a small number of students on these tests, but that has grown into our main business now. Indeed, we have seem many students perform above expectations, which has led to new business, and we are very thankful for that.
You may have noticed, but Audra Anders of the Aha Connection! recently gave us a big compliment, which are extremely grateful for! If you would like to read the response, please visit this link