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Q & A

Answers to commonly asked questions from the experts on Thumbtack.

How do you study for the SAT?

Your SAT prep strategy can mean the difference between a great score and a mediocre score, as well as the difference between being accepted to or rejected by your school of choice. The Scholastic Assessment Test (SAT) is a college entrance exam that measures a student’s knowledge and understanding of what they have learned up to this point in school and what they need to succeed in college. In addition to arming students with the knowledge they need to excel in the math, reading and writing components of the test, SAT prep can help improve scores by teaching students crucial strategies for taking the test itself. Professional SAT prep tutors can work with students one-on-one or in group sessions. Typically, tutors recommend that students who are comfortable and caught up with their regular schooling begin SAT prep at least three months before the test. If you’re targeting an elite school, six months before the test is a good time to begin. Students who are behind in school are advised to start early to ensure they’re caught up and feeling confident in all the relevant subjects. Suggestions for long-term SAT prep include taking challenging high school courses, completing all homework assignments, preparing for class tests and quizzes, and participating in class by asking and answering questions. There are free SAT prep training tools online; for those who’d like a one-on-one tutor to take them to the next level, the national average rate is $70 per hour.

What is ACT test prep?

The ACT is a college entrance exam taken by students (typically in their junior year of high school) to determine admission eligibility and merit-based scholarship eligibility. The test may be taken as many times as desired and is not limited to high school juniors. Originally the acronym stood for American College Testing, but now ACT is the stand-alone name. ACT prep is a way for students to strategically prepare for test-taking. ACT prep helps students improve scores, practice taking the test, learn test-taking strategies, and improve material comprehension. Students can get help with ACT prep tutors in one-on-one sessions, via group tutoring lessons, in online self-study programs, or online with a tutor in video calls. The ACT test covers:

  • English
  • Science understanding and reasoning
  • Math
  • Reading
  • Writing essay (optional)

How do you find a good math tutor?

Math home tutors are available for any age student, from elementary school to postgraduate studies. Rates will vary based on the tutor’s background, education and experience. To find a good math tutor, first determine your learning goals. Do you need help understanding and completing homework assignments? Are you preparing for the math portion of a standardized test? Next, read reviews from current and former students. Find someone with proven success helping students achieve their goals. If you want help on an ongoing basis, decide what your budget is and identify the tutors who fall within your range. Ask if there are additional fees for travel, as some home math tutors include travel costs in their rates and others charge extra. Ask about session length and the tutor’s teaching style, and whether they also offer online sessions or group sessions. Finally, schedule a single session with each of the math tutors you think are best to see who is the best fit.

How do I prepare for the GMAT?

If you’re thinking of enrolling in graduate school to earn your MBA, it’s time to start thinking about preparing for the Graduate Management Admissions Test (GMAT). Working with a GMAT tutor is for many people a wise investment to help you strengthen the academic areas you may be weak in and improving your overall test score. A GMAT prep tutor should teach you not only the kind of information you need to know for the test, but the best test-taking strategies. The GMAT tests you on four categories: quantitative, verbal, integrated reasoning, and an analytical writing assessment. Cramming is probably not going to give you good results for this standardized test; give yourself between two and six months to prepare, focusing on your most challenging areas first. Successful GMAT prep means planning ahead and studying thoroughly. Those students who reported studying under 75 hours were more likely to score 400 or lower on the test, while students who studied 121 hours or more were more likely to score 700 or higher on the test. Hiring a GMAT prep tutor can range in price from under $50 to over $200 per hour.

How do you prepare for the ACT?

The ACT is a universally accepted college readiness exam. There are multiple ways to prepare for the exam. One-on-one ACT prep tutoring is one of the most effective ways for students to ready themselves for the test. A tutor who specializes in ACT prep will coach the student on the type of material they can expect while also working specifically with topics that are more challenging for that particular student. Group tutoring sessions are a more cost-effective way to reap the benefits of an ACT prep instructor; a suggestion is to gather a group of four friends or classmates to share the cost. Professional tutors often recommend that test prep begin approximately three months prior to the exam. Cramming — unfortunately — doesn’t provide the same score results as consistent study, test-related homework, and practice exams do. Weekly two-hour learning sessions are what many pro tutors suggest for their college exam prep students. For top test-taking performance, tutors usually provide work throughout the week and the weekly session is used to cement knowledge and address weak areas. Math is a hard topic for most students, so plan accordingly.

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