SAT/ACT: Frequently Asked Questions

Exam questions

What is the SAT exam?


The College Board actually offers two SAT Exams: the SAT Exam and the SAT Subject Exams.The SAT Exam is one of the two traditional admissions exams used by colleges and universities to evaluate a student’s academic readiness for college/university level work (the ACT is the other exam).The SAT Exam is a 3-hour exam with four sections: Reading, Writing and Language, Math Test-No Calculator, and Math Test-Calculator. There is also an optional 50-minute essay. The SAT Subject Exams are lesser known content-based exams that allow students to demonstrate achievement in a subject area. Generally, these exams are required only by elite colleges. A student can choose from 20 one-hour exams offered in the areas of English, History, Math, Science and Foreign Language.




What is the ACT exam?


The ACT Exam is a nationally accepted college admissions exam and is similar to the SAT Exam as it also attempts to determine a student’s academic readiness for college/university level work. It is a multiple choice achievement test that is curriculum based. There are four sections: English, Math, Reading and Science. This exam takes about three and a half hours to complete with an additional optional 40-minute essay-writing section available.




What is the difference between the ACT and the SAT?


Both exams are evaluation tools used by universities and colleges to determine a student’s academic readiness for college/university level work. The scores are used in the admissions process as one of the deciding factors for acceptance to the school. Generally, the ACT is more widely accepted in the west, while the SAT Exam is preferred on the East Coast in the U.S. However, almost all universities accept both SAT and ACT scores for the purpose of admission and do not prefer one exam over the other.




Should one take both the SAT Exam and the ACT Exam?


At this point, with the exams in significant competition with one another, we recommend that students prepare for and take both exams. As the exams are similar in content but structured differently, individuals may receive a higher score on one over the other. Professional Tutoring’s test preparation classes prepare the student to take both the SAT and the ACT exam.




Why would my child need a class for the SAT and ACT exams?


The SAT and ACT examinations are one of college and university's deciding top admissions consideration. Many students walk into the exams unprepared and do not score anywhere near their full potential. At Professional Tutoring, LLC we use our own educationally conservative and knowledge-based curriculum that goes beyond just teaching the strategy of test taking. Our comprehensive program consistently generates improved scores from 250 – 450 SAT points and 5 ACT points per student, opening many more COLLEGE and SCHOLARSHIP doors!




What about SAT Subject Tests?


SAT Subject Tests are no longer offered by the College Board.




My student has really good grades and great extra-curricular activities, why should s/he take the SAT/ACT?


Almost all of the 4,000 colleges in the United States require or recomend the SAT or ACT exams, and consider them to be just as important as a student's GPA. These exams tests a student’s ability to think on their feet, reason through difficult reading, math and writing questions and apply the knowledge they have gained in their high school curriculum. "Score Optional" is not a guaranteed option on college admissions or scholarship applications.




These exams don’t seem fair. Shouldn’t colleges just look at grades?


This is a common argument. The SAT and ACT exams are the great equalizers. Let’s face it, high school curricula are not the same even in the same school districts. The SAT and ACT exams test everyone in an identical manner.




How many times should a student take the SAT/ACT?


1-2 times each for the SAT and ACT during the junior year and once during the senior year, if necessary. We work with your student to best determine the number of and best schedule for the exams.





Program questions

Why not take a weekend class:16 hours and poof, we are done?


This is like getting ready for a 26-mile marathon in a single weekend. It just does not work. Most colleges weigh grades and exam scores equally at the initial application stage. This means that if a student’s grades or SAT’s are lower than the college’s expectations, the student’s application will be denied. Remember that students generally apply with a Grade Point Average (GPA) comprised of 21-23 academic courses (at least three years of school work) and just one or two SAT scores. Shouldn’t you at least spend a significant amount of time preparing for this single exam?




What is special about Professional Tutoring’s curriculum?


In addition to having an excellent rapport with her students, Julia Ross’ exam curriculum begins with basics and works students through the most difficult of test questions. This comprehensive program allows the students to learn the curriculum from A to Z. The focus of our programs is increasing knowledge AND learning how to apply this knowledge to the SAT and ACT exam. Most of the short franchise (aka factory-learning) classes offered by our large competitors look to teach kids quick strategies to get through or cope with the SAT/ACT. In contrast, our deep learning supports the students through the entire grueling SAT exam as well as prepares them for the also challenging ACT exam. Additionally, many students immediately find that the Professional Tutoring SAT/ACT program is supporting them in their academic subjects. While most SAT or ACT programs “guarantee” a 100-point improvement or 2 points on the ACT, the majority of the Professional Tutoring students see a much greater improvement. Please see our testimonials.




What programs are available?


Junior Programs: We offer two Junior classes: a nine-month September to June SAT/ACT Course for Juniors and accelerated Sophomores and a six-month December to June program for Juniors. These students take the May and June SAT as well as April and June or June and July ACT in their Junior year of high school. Most never have to take another SAT or ACT exam! Tutoring Program: Sometimes students will elect to study for SAT’s and ACT’s with Professional Tutoring on a tutoring basis. We also offer SAT/ACT tutoring programs over the summer and into the fall for rising seniors.




What is the difference between the six- and nine-month junior courses?


Both courses are effective exam preparation. The nine-month course, however, allows for a longer, more consistent time period for learning. The result is more opportunities to practice and demonstrate learned knowledge as well as to take more practice exams. In our experience, the length of time committed to the programs directly correlates to an increased exam score.




How much do scores typically increase?


Our average improvement from our 2018-19 prep classes was approximately 200 points on the SAT and 5 points on the ACT. Our highest improvement from last year's classes was 270 points on the SAT and 8 points on the ACT




Have you ever seen a perfect SAT or ACT score from a student?


Yes! We have seen perfect scores on the entire exam as well as on individual sections. We usually have several perfect or near-perfect scores each year.




Has anyone’s SAT score ever decreased after your course?


No.




Why don’t you have a shorter, less expensive option?


At Professional Tutoring, LLC we believe in a holistic approach to learning. Our curriculum is designed to increase the student’s knowledge for the exam as well as impart test-taking strategies. When our students take the exam, they do well because they know the material. Our comprehensive systematic instruction focuses on the contents of the exam, critical reading, math and writing over a period of time where they can understand and demonstrate the knowledge learned from the material.




I have seen other places use a one on one approach, isn’t that better?


We use a small group setting (usually no more than 4 to 5 students per instructor) that employs the Socratic approach to learning. To maintain this small student/instructor ratio, we always have at least two adult instructors in the classroom, as well as multiple Professional Tutoring Student Teaching Assistants. We encourage questions and discussion to support and enhance the learning environment. This collaborative approach benefits all the students as they are able to participate in the discovery processes and support each other.




My child is a high achiever; what if he/she is in the class with kids that are not at his/her level?


The curriculum is structured to elicit the best effort/results from the individual student at any level. The students are put into small groups with other kids who received similar scores, so that their group reviews the material at a pace that works for everyone. Furthermore, the collaborative environment encourages critical thinking and discussions from all students making for a rich and diverse learning environment.




My child has Attention Deficit Disorder (ADD), is this program right for them?


Our small group approach that focuses on individual results is very beneficial to students with ADD/ADHD.




My child is Learning Disabled (LD), is this program right for them?


Students with learning disabilities have benefited from our program; however, we would need to make that determination with the parent or guardian on a case-by-case basis.




Do you offer a guarantee?


We have never experienced a reduction in an SAT or ACT exam score for students who complete our program(s). While the learning environment is created to maximize a student’s success, it is also a responsibility of the student to put forth their best effort. When this combination occurs we can guarantee that learning is taking place and this will translate to a more successful exam experience. If student effort is not present and the program is not completed, we cannot guarantee a more successful exam experience.




Can I set up a special class for a private group?


Yes! Please contact us to discuss details.




This all sounds great, how do I register?


Please contact us and fill out the registration forms.





Class policy

Is there homework?


Yes, students can expect one to two hours of weekly homework that support and complement the classroom learning.




What if my student does not have time for class homework?


As a parent of two daughters who have completed the Professional Tutoring Exam Preparation Program for Juniors, we understand the competing demands that are on high school students. We encourage all of the students to keep up with our very manageable workload and expectations. We help students to learn to balance their workloads and meet with families when necessary.




What if my student wants to do well on the SAT/ACT without working?


Back to the marathon metaphor…taking the SAT/ACT without preparation will be like running a marathon without getting in shape first. Our legs hurt just thinking about it!




What happens when a student does not do the homework?


There are frequent informal progress reports given to parents on a regular as well as an as needed basis. The classroom environment is structured to promote a collaborative environment, including encouragement and support.




Who are the instructors for the SAT/ACT classes?


Classes are all led by full-time Professional Tutoring staff. Our lead instructors, Mrs. Ross and Ms. Knitzer, are supported by other full-time staff members and teaching assistants to ensure a low student/teacher ratio. You can read more about our staff and their qualifications here.




How long are the classes?


1 hour and 45 minutes. We also ask that students arrive 15 minutes early to give us time to check homework and take attendance.




Are there ever any makeup classes?


A full-course syllabus is given out at the beginning of each course. Any potential makeup classes are noted in the syllabus. In the event of extreme weather, the class will be re-scheduled or conducted via Zoom. Note, though, that Professional Tutoring does not follow the Fairfax County weather closing guidelines. The frequency of classes is integral to the learning and will only be changed in extreme cases. Should this occur, your student will be notified at least an hour prior to the start of class via e-mail and/or our text messaging system. Announcements about class cancellations and/or business closure due to weather will also be posted in the "Announcements" section of our website.




What curriculum is used?


Professional Tutoring LLC uses a proprietary curriculum developed through extensive research and refined by over 27 years of experience.





Checking students' SAT class homework