SAT Tutoring In-Depth

What is the SAT?

The SAT (Scholastic Assessment Test) is a college entrance examination accepted by all college admissions offices throughout the United States and Canada as an alternative to the ACT. Because the SAT tests students in a different manner than the ACT, some students find it better suited to their aptitude and personality. Every school in the United States and Canada accepts the ACT on an equal par with the ACT, so the focus should be solely based on which test is a better fit for the student, and Next Level Learning provides professional SAT instructors who can help make that determination.

How can Next Level Instructors Help?

While Next Level’s highly trained SAT instructors are well versed in the structure, content, strategy, and timing of the SAT, our experience has shown that properly assessing a student’s unique learning style and aptitude while simultaneously building effective rapport allows our instructors to design a tutoring approach that will achieve the quickest and most desirable results. Next Level instructors know the SAT well and have considerable experience successfully supporting students.

Who takes it and when?

Students typically take the SAT two to three times, generally in the 11th grade and again in the 12th grade, allowing sufficient time between each test for additional practice and focused SAT preparation. The test is offered on 7 different dates throughout the school year. Please see our SAT Test Dates page for this year’s schedule.

How are the ACT and SAT different?

The recent changes to the SAT have brought it more in line with the ACT. However, there are still several meaningful differences. Because SAT questions require more processing and reasoning, the SAT grants more time per question. Conversely, ACT questions are more straightforward, and as a result the test can feel more like an achievement test that prioritizes ”what you know,” timing, and endurance. There are also significant differences in content and structure. Please see our ACT vs. SAT page for a chart of differences.

How do I know which test is better for my child?

As both tests are viewed equally in the eyes of college admissions staff, the deciding which test to take is an important one. At Next Level, our ACT and SAT instructors identify a student’s strengths and weaknesses, aptitude, and learning style to assess which test is the better fit. Typically, a student will work through sections of each test to gauge comfort and aptitude before a decision is made. After review and working through material from each test, students almost always express a strong preference or comfort level, which serves as a primary indicator of which direction to go.

When should preparation begin?

The amount of preparation required for the SAT varies with each student. Just as no two students are the same, preparation for every student is also different. The following factors should be considered:

  • Is the student working at grade level?
  • Are there concepts or material on the exam that require significant review?
  • Does the student typically perform well on standardized exams?
  • Is anxiety a factor in performance?
  • Does the student need to learn how to use extra time accommodation?
  • Is motivation an issue?
  • Is the student able to focus his or her full attention on preparation?
  • Does the student have time to complete homework assignments as part of preparation?
  • Is the student applying to highly competitive schools for which a higher score is essential?

Most students begin preparation early in their junior year, but that varies depending upon the starting point and comfort level of the student. However, it is never advisable for students to wait until a few weeks before their first attempt. Just as cramming for a test in school is rarely productive, waiting until right before the SAT exam can generate significant and sometimes even debilitating anxiety. The ideal approach is to spread out preparation over a longer period so the student doesn’t feel an intensifying pressure to put it all together quickly.

For many students, the SAT is the first time they are taking a standardized test that will have a substantial impact on their future, and that realization alone can generate substantial anxiety. Getting an early start can often help ameliorate anxiety and put students in a significantly better position to achieve their greatest potential.

As part of the preparation process we recommend students take a proctored ACT exam at Next Level Learning. Taking a practice exam provides a valuable opportunity for students to work on test-taking skills and to see how they perform under pressure. A practice exam also helps students develop better time management skills.

What’s on the SAT?

The test consists of four separate sections, plus an optional writing test. The total time is 2 hours 55 minutes, plus optional writing test (40 min.). There is no guessing penalty. Each question is multiple choice with four possible answer choices.

Reading Test | 65 minutes | 52 questions

  • Command of evidence
  • Words in context
  • Analysis in History/Social Studies and Science

Writing and Language Test | 35 minutes | 44 questions

  • Command of evidence
  • Words in context
  • Analysis in History/Social Studies and Science
  • Expression of ideas
  • Standard English conventions

Math (calculator and no-calculator) | 80 minutes | 58 questions

  • Two separate sections: calculator and no-calculator
  • Multiple choice and free response questions

Essay (optional) | 50 minutes
Task is to explain how the author builds an argument to persuade an audience, supporting your explanation with evidence from the passage.

Scoring

  • The composite score is reported in the range 400-1600.
  • The test is scored in two separate sections: Evidence based reading and writing, and Math. Each section is in the range 200-800.
  • The essay score is reported separately. It is scored over 3 areas (Reading, Analysis, and Writing) each on a scale of 2-8. The scores are not combined.

When are SAT scores released?

SAT results are typically available 3-4 weeks after the test date.

How are SAT scores reported?

Scores are reported separately for the two sections: math and reading/writing on a scale of 200-800. These two scores are added to get a ‘total score’ on the scale 400-1600. Furthermore, most colleges “superscore” the SAT, which means that they accept the highest sub-score across all the test sittings. For example, if a student takes the SAT twice and gets a 580 in the Reading/Writing and a 620 Math the first time, and a 650 Reading/Writing and a 580 Math the second time, most colleges will accept the 650 Reading/Writing and the 620 Math. Thus, a student can use superscoring to produce a higher composite score than the score they achieved in any single test. Note: Not all schools accept superscoring. Applicants should always check with the school’s admissions department to learn the school’s policy. Students who apply to colleges that allow superscoring should consider taking the SAT multiple times to take advantage of the opportunity to present the highest scores from each test.

The SAT uses a tool called Score Choice that allows students to manage which scores they send to colleges. More information can be found here (off-site link). (The tool also shows which scores each college requires the student to send.)

Contact Next Level Learning to find out how our SAT instructors can help your child achieve his or her greatest potential.

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