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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 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.

What is on the ACT?

The ACT is made up of a variety of multi-choice questions under four main subject areas: English, mathematics, reading, and science. There is also the option for a written essay. For ACT prep, it’s important to study each subject. Each subject area is broken down into multiple parts to provide a comprehensive snapshot of the student’s understanding of the material. ACT prep provides an opportunity to prepare for the subject matter in each area.

ACT English:

  • Production of writing: 29 percent-32 percent of English score. These questions focus on topic development and organization, unity, and cohesion.
  • Knowledge of language: 13 percent-19 percent of English score. This section examines the student’s use of vocabulary and effective language use.
  • Conventions of standard English: 51 percent-56 percent of English score. These questions address sentence structure and formation, punctuation and grammar, and recognition of grammatical errors and how to improve.

 

ACT Math:

  • Preparing for higher math: 57 percent-60 percent of mathematics score. These questions cover number and quantity, algebra, functions, geometry, and statistics and probability.
  • Integrating essential skills: 40 percent-43 percent of mathematics score. These questions address comprehension of math learned prior to and after 8th grade.
  • Modeling: less than 25 percent of mathematics score. These questions examine how students use modeling skills in all math topics.

 

ACT Reading:

  • Key ideas and details: 55 percent-60 percent of reading score. The questions test students’ ability to summarize information, draw conclusions, and grasp central themes.
  • Craft and structure: 25-30 percent of reading score. These questions examine students’ ability to understand an author’s word choice and meaning and analyze various points of view.
  • Integration of knowledge and ideas: 13-18 percent of reading score. These questions examine students’ ability to understand facts and opinions and make connections between texts that share similar themes.

 

ACT Science:

  • Interpretation of data: 45–55 percent of science score. Students will need to analyze and manipulate scientific data presented in various formats.
  • Scientific investigation: 20–30 percent of science score. These questions will test students’ understanding of experimental tools, procedures and design.
  • Evaluation of models, inferences, and experimental results: 25–35 percent of science score.

 

ACT Writing:

  • This is a 40-minute written essay that examines students’ competence with ideas and analysis, development and support, organization, and language use and conventions.
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