SAT, PSAT, and ACT Preparation Classes

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SAT and ACT preparation(6 responses)
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SAT / ACT Prep - class or private tutor?

Jan 2014

Our daughter is a motivated high school sophomore in a fairly academic public school. She would like to go to a UC system college or equivalent. What is your opinion on taking SAT and ACT prep classes such as Kaplan vs working with a private tutor? If you recommend the prep class route, I'd appreciate course recommendations. We have plenty of referrals on private tutors at this point. Thank you.

I suggest none of the above. What worked for my motivated, disciplined son in a very academic private school was to prep seriously on his own. We spent under $20 on a new copy of the Official SAT Study Guide. He read it cover-to-cover, did all the exercises, and timed himself on each of the full practice tests in the book. He spent several hours a week on this over the summer between his junior and senior years, probably comparable to the time required for a class. He took the SAT with no prep in May of his junior year and twice in the fall of his senior year. After prepping on his own, his superscore rose close to 300 points from his first attempt. He's now attending a very selective liberal arts college, his first choice. If your student is still a sophomore, there's still a lot of time to try self-study first. college junior's mom

SAT prep-courses

Nov 2013

I'm looking for recommendations/reviews of SAT-prep courses or tutors located in or near Berkeley. Also, when do you think is the best time to begin an SAT-prep class. Thanks BHS mom

You might try Revolution Prep. It's an on line SAT training course. Our son, a Junior in Mechanical Engineering at UCLA, recently started working for them as an on line Tutor. His comment was that if he'd known then what he knows now, he'd have gotten 3 800s instead of just 1. He seems pretty jazzed about the one-on-one on line training that he's doing. Malcolm

My daughter had a great experience with Homayoon over at Bay Area Tutoring on Rose and Shattuck in Berkeley. She took complete control of scheduling and attending the prep and she felt like it really helped. They also give free practice tests (with the results returned to you) of the SAT and ACT. It's good marketing of course, but also a great service. sat mom

There are lots of SAT prep options in the Bay Area. I would recommend starting by figuring out what you really need. Everyone wants a good score, but examining your student's goals is a good place to start. Are they shooting for Stanford? If so, that will require a different approach then someone who just needs a little score boost to help ensure a spot at a CSU. It also helps to know how far you have to go. Lots of different prep companies offer practice tests, but many are not actual SATs released by the College Board, and thus are less reliable when used as score predictors.

If you are looking for in-home one-on-one tutoring, I would recommend Compass Education in Larkspur. Their tutors are the best in the business and their one-on-one approach allows for completely customized lessons. They use College Board released practice tests to diagnose what each student needs, ensuring you aren't wasting time and money on stuff your student doesn't need any help with. They aren't cheap, but they are the only choice for students who want to see substantial score improvement. And they offer their practice tests for free so that you can figure out what you need.

In terms of timing, that too depends on the student and their goals. 3-4 months ahead of the test date is a good average, but some students need more, others less. SAT Professional

Don Christianson is really good. He's been doing it for about 13 years and has a really good system and has had a lot of success stories. This in one on one tutoring so it's very effective and tailored. His number is 510 230-9078 cell or home, 526-1423 sean

ACT Tutoring for 11th grader

March 2013

Hi, I was wondering if I should get tutor for my niece who is in the 11th grade and will be taking the ACT test this Spring and also in the Fall of her senior year. I just order the ACT Prep Guide book and she will also be doing on line study guides. While I can understand that a tutor would be helpful for the SAT I'm not sure if it is useful to employ one for the ACT. I may see how she does in the Spring first. Advise from parents of teens and/or tutors would be greatly appreciated.

For parents of teens who are flummoxed by the complexity and competitiveness of SAT prep and college application process, I have a recommendation: Gabrielle Glancy (415-637-1955) of New Vision Learning. Everything you need to know about the results is on her website,, but what really convinced us to find the money to get our two high schoolers tutoring with her was the woman herself. I was skeptical when I heard about the service and results she promised; my son was WAY behind on college prep; it was already October of his senior year and he hadn't begun to apply to schools, and though his grades were passable, his SAT scores were only 1530. My daughter, a hard-working Junior, wanted to get a head start on her SATs and needed help with writing and vocabulary in particular. Grudgingly, I scheduled a consult with Glancy in San Rafael. I was immediately taken by her intense passion, her ability to connect to my kids and motivate them with specific goals and the encouragement that only someone who has spent a good number of years in education could muster. Glancy is determined to help students find their own strengths and work with them to identify the possibilities without selling them pie in the sky. My son's SAT scores have risen to 1730. His math and writing have improved, and he's been motivated to apply to colleges and follow up like never before. He's already been accepted at Long Beach State and UC Riverside. We never thought we'd be promoting an SAT and college prep tutor, but Glancy has taken two concerned kids and their parents and given us all the tools and wherewithal to not only survive today's college application process, but even enjoy it. mh, north bay parent

Free/Low Cost SAT practice tests?

Dec 2011

Does anyone know where students can take free or low cost SAT practice tests? My teen will be studying from one of the SAT practice books and taking the tests that those offer, but is also hoping for a more closely simulated experience where she can go somewhere and actually take timed SAT tests. Many thanks!!!

I would start at the local library. They usually have all kids of resources for students, many of them online. They are all easily accessible from a home pc with a library card.

Another free resource for Math are the Khan Academy videos; they also include videos on CHASEE tests; their link: I hope that helps. mom of teens

There's a free SAT prep service called the People's Test Preparation Service. It offers free classes on campus and at area high schools. It is really great -- my children all liked it -- after the initial grousing. It's taught by CAL students who get to` volunteer.

SAT class during summer vacation for Junior in Fall

May 2010

Any recommendation for SAT prep class for a Junior in Fall? I don't think private lessons are necessary for my son, small group with an instructor or a class would be great for test taking skills and prep in general. We're in Upper Rockridge. Thanks! Kay

After investigating several SAT prep classes and interviewing several tutors, I hired Paul Gee to help my daughter prepare for the SAT over the summer. We are sure glad we chose Paul. The sessions really helped her to improve her score a whole lot. They met regularly for about 10 weeks. He gave her an assignment to do after every session. He was very good at identifying areas that she needed extra attention and helped her to focus her efforts mainly in those areas. My daughter thought that it was great to not waste time on subjects that she was already comfortable with, but instead to focus on subjects that she needed extra help. He was extremely patient and thoughtful. He was also very good at keeping me informed of her progress. I highly recommend Paul to help prepare your student for the Fall SAT exam. You can reach him at 510-502-8465. Good Luck!

SAT tutuoring - experience with Compass?

Feb 2010

Does anyone have experience with Compass Test Prep? My daughter is a gifted math/science student needing an edge up on her verbal score. A one-on-one with a qualified tutor seems ideal. They charge $140/hr which I realize is steep, but if they are good at what they do, I think a couple hours will be all she needs. Has anyone used them before? Parent of 16 yo girl

As a competing professional, I'm glad to report to you that I generally hear good things from Compass. They take their work seriously, a significant part of which is that they pay their people more than most otherwise-analogous companies. Hence, they get good people. For what its worth, $140/hr isn't really that steep among serious professionals in this realm. Consider the merit-based aid that this could hinge on, for starters. Also, don't expect a few hours to be enough before confirming that assumption with your tutor of choice. All best, -- Wes

Compass is fantastic. Our daughter was the reverse of yours: excellent in verbal, needed tutoring in math. Thanks in no small part to Compass, she scored 2370 (800 on both verbals and 770 on the math). She actually had a couple of verbal tutoring sessions as I recall, which were mainly aimed at the essay and which were very valuable as well. Do I think the money was worth it? Absolutely. And, they're very good at tailoring the tutoring (and the tutor) to exactly what your kid needs. email me if you want more info, but the tutors (very smart UC grad students in our experience) change so our faves from a couple of years ago may well have left the area by now. aboutthesame - at -


August 2008

Hello, I would like suggestions for a good route to go for SAT prep. I am trying to support my daughter in having the least stress as possible in her junior year of High School. She attends Berkeley High. Also, if anyone knows the advantage of taking SAT over ACT? Thanks very much Judy

The common wisdom is that the SAT requires you to be good at taking tests and the ACT tests mostly what you know. I'm sure that's way too general, but I'm not certain there's any way to know which test you'd do better at without actually taking them. My daughter who graduated from BHS last year did her SAT prep with the online College Board training, only. No private tutors. She liked it because it was self-paced, meaning she could do it whenever she had time, and had lots and lots of practice tests. I liked it because it was cheap (about $70, I think). She took the SAT only once and did well enough to not feel she needed to take it again. A few weeks after taking the SAT, she took the ACT, without any extra preparation and got a spectacularly high score. If we'd known ahead of time that she'd do so well on the ACT, she could have skipped the SAT, but as I said, I don't think you can really predict. By the way, because a lot of schools require both the SAT or ACT and some SAT II tests, if your child takes the ACT and wants to send the scores to colleges, you have double the scores to send (which is what we did) and you can't just send the SAT II scores. All SAT scores go. College Mom

The SAT and the ACT are equally recognized by college admissions committees these days. Some students, however, do consistently better on one test than the other. The best strategy is to take practice tests of each one to determine which test is better suited to the particular student and then to prepare for that test. Aspire Education Project is a nonprofit that does academic tutoring and test prep for both the SAT and the ACT. We have a strong track record of helping students choose between the tests and improving their scores on whichever test is best for them. Please visit our website for more information

I would recommend taking both the ACT and the SAT. There is very little downside to this approach (I can explain in detail by email), and your child may simply prefer one over the other. You can be strategic about which scores you send to schools. If you must choose one, go with the SAT. Most schools accept both. The ACT is more common in the midwest and south. The SAT is more common on the east and west coasts. Lots of info on the web too: Good luck! Andrew

The SAT and ACT are both accepted at most schools across the country, so it is often best to take a practice test to see if either test is better suited to your child's learning style. The ACT has a science section and often appeals to students who have difficulty focusing on tests. Also, because the ACT is considered a ''content-based'' test, there are some schools that waive their SAT Subject test requirements for ACT test takers. Both the College Board and ACT provide free sample tests on their websites

SAT Prep for Junior

June 2007

I'm searching for a good SAT prep course or tutor for my daughter who will be a junior in the fall. Also interested in suggestions about self-study guides on studying for the SAT. Any recommendations? Berkeley Mom

If you have a pretty self-motivated kid, the College Board's online tutorial works well. That's the only preparation my daughter did and she did very well on the test (after doing only so-so on the PSAT and initial practice tests). The tutorial costs $80 and the student just logs on and uses it whenever they want. SAT mom

There's of course the standard Kaplan or Princeton Review, but frankly I find them to be ''ok'' at best to poor at worst. Two of the very best in the area in my experience are Study Smarter (contact Joel Kosakoff, joel[at],, 510.350.8444) and Justin Sigars (justin[at],, 510.910.9003). They are different in terms of methodologies and costs, but I work with a lot of families that have fantastic experiences with them. Good luck! Rick Grisel

Regarding SAT prep for a junior, there are a number of possibilities. We offer 1-1 and private small-group instruction, as well as a 2-week intensive course. We often recommend self-prep to motivated students who are preparing for the SAT subject tests or the ACT, but find that SAT I students tend to demonstrate higher score improvements from working with an instructor. That being said however, not everyone needs to improve his/her SAT scores. Many students already have sufficiently high enough scores for the schools they are interested in attending. From our experience, SAT scores are an overrated aspect of the admissions process, and the average scores listed in most college guides are generally higher than students will actually need to get accepted into those schools. A first step therefore, might be to have your daughter take either the PSAT or a practice test (which we can email you for free) to determine whether her scores are in the necessary range for the schools she thinks she'll want to apply to. I would also suggest having her take a practice ACT to see which test she does better on. Let me know if you have any questions- Jennifer, 650.346.0410 SuccessLink Tutoring

Hello, I had Mo Rahmoun tutor my son for both the SAT! and SAT Math 2 and my son scored extremely well in both and will not be taking the tests again. I would highly recommend contacting Mo . More recommendations for Mo can be found on the recommendations page. His e-mail bcfcl[at] Deepa

Summer prep classes for SAT

June 2005

I read through prior referrals and couldn't find any recommendations for SAT prep classes for teens. I was hoping to find a good one in Berkeley for the summer. What experience do people have with good programs? Kaplan seems quite expensive and pushy. Are they worth it or are there better choices? melinda

I would like to recommend my son's SAT prep tutor to parents looking for an excellent and reliable SAT tutor. His name is Mo Rahmoun.

Mo did an outstanding job helping my son. His overall SAT score increased several hundred points, from the time he took the PSAT in October to his SAT last month (May 7), when he took the New SAT test for the first time. He achieved excellent scores.

My son is a bright kid and, with Mo's help, was able to clarify concepts that (maybe) were not clear to him from the beginning of his schooling. In that respect, my son's experience with Mo preparing for the SAT test has helped him in more ways than one.

Mo is a warm, patient, and knowledgeable teacher. A one of a kind person. The sessions were two hours long, once a week, at our house.

I recommend Mo Rahmoun highly. You can contact Mo by phone at: 510-367-5829 or by email at: bcfcl [at]


June 2004

I want to highly recommend the SAT tutoring service, SuccessLink Tutoring, 650-346-0410. The most impressive thing about the service is the time and care taken to match students up with a tutor who shares their interests and is sympathetic to their needs. My son is a slightly above average student whose PSAT scores were not promising. Michael, of SuccessLink, spent at least 30 minutes on the phone with me, asking all sorts of questions about my son, his interests, his strengths and weaknesses, etc., then matched him with a tutor who was a great fit, a great teacher, and a thoughtful and compassionate fellow, who bolstered not only my son's confidence but his performance as well. Although the hourly rate sounds high, in all the total cost was less than many test preparation courses, and immeasurably more effective, personal, and pleasant. I cannot recommend these folks too highly. SuccessLink Tutoring 650-346-0410

Jan. 2003

I heard from the People's Test Prep Service at UCB about the SAT workshops that they offer. Here is the email response I got from them.

Thanks for your interest in our program. We actually have two kinds of services, the main one being an 8-week SAT 1 prep class which is scheduled to start on the first week of March at various sites (and end in May). We are working on finalizing our sites but we usually have several sites at UC Berkeley on the weekends (4 hours total, 2 math and 2 verbal on one day, either Saturday or Sunday) and one at BHS on Tuesdays and Wednesdays (2 hours each day). We are also looking at some possible sites in Richmond and Oakland. The other service is one-time workshops (usually lasting around 3 hours), usually one on College Admissions and Financial Aid and one on SAT 2 material, though we may add some more this semester. If you are interested in enrolling in the 8-week class simply call 510-642-4951 and leave your name, your child's name, your child's high school, your phone number and which site you prefer. If you are interested in the one day workshops, we will probably post more info on the website when it becomes available (the workshops will likely me in March and April).
Chris Koh


October 2000

I had my daughter go to AMES seminars for SATs because she needed to raise her math scores and she learns well in a classroom setting. She was a Merit finalist. My son is currently with a private tutor because he needs to bring up his English. The owner of AMES told me that it's most difficult to raise the English scores if you aren't constantly reading and increasing your vocabulary. My son is doing well with the private tutor and because of all his sports commitments he would not be able or want to go to a classroom. I think either works depending on your child. AMES is good about letting the kids take refresher courses or make up classes and they offer many options. I was pleased with them and so was my daughter. Jan

Albany Adult School offers a $15 Math prep class this Saturday, 1/22 from 10a-12p at the site. Call for number and registration. I took my freshman daughter to the Verbal prep class on 1/15 to expose her to the ideal learning skills needed and magnitude of the test. She used the TAKING THE SAT 1: REASONING TEST, a free sample test with tips, offered free at high schools or by writing College Board SAT program, P.O. Box 6200, Princeton, NJ 08541-6200. Instructor Rachel Salzman also offers private tutoring and small group workshops for test prep.

Older Recommendations

Sep 1999

My son consulted a book called Up Your Scores after taking his PSATs with no prior review or practice. It's written by 6 kids who scored 1600 on their SATs, with a lot of tongue and cheek humor and comments in the margins by other teens reviewing the guide. He LOVED it and found it extremely helpful with the verbal section, particularly in the areas of interpreting tricky questions, how to guess, etc. While the were undoubtedly a number of things that helped his scores on the SATs (including a third year of Latin...), he raised his scores by 270 points from PSATs to SATs, so I would think the bookd was useful.

Sep 1999

My son used the Princeton Review software. It was entertaining enough to use and it was helpful, particularly so that he could take many practice tests and have them easily scored. The key to these programs is that the kids have to be self motivated- 1 or 2 hours trying to cram in 500 vocabulary words doesn't cut it. That's why classes are better- they force you to put in the hours. But if they use it it's got great time saving tips and strategies for managing the whole test so by the time they actually take their SAT they're pretty comfortable. My son's score went up @200 points. He used the program for a year off and on.

Self Help

Here's a strategy for helping your student prepare for taking the SAT I. 1. Buy the book 10 Real SATs 2. On three different days have your student take one of the SATs from the book. For each section of the test (provide them with scratch paper and a calculator): a. use a timer to let your student know when the test would have ended. b. have them mark where they were. c. Let them finish the section - However much time it takes. d. Ask them to use a special mark for guessing - to allow better review. Score the test - both the timed and untimed results. Hopefully you will see improvement in the timed results with each successive testing 3. After each test work through all of the problems that the student missed or guessed with them. Have the student explain to you how they go the answer they put down. If you can't figure them out with the student don't be embarassed to admit it, just set that one aside for an expert - perhaps the student's teacher. Copy down the problems and take them to the teacher for help. 4. If your student gets good enough scores with unlimited time - a. Just practicing taking the the tests may help speed them up. You can use the rest of the tests for that purpose. b. IF your student needs Lots of extra time, consider getting them tested for that purpose. If they test out - then they will be allowed to take the test without time limits- 5. If the scores are too low even with unlimited time, then look at the subject matter of the questions that are being missed/guessed at and try to figure out why the student is missing them. Are these careless arithmetic errors/ vocabulary problems, or is the problem that they don't understand the question correctly, or is the subject matter beyond their level of mastery? If it is the level of mastery, a subject matter specific tutor (or software) is in order. 6. Practice on the remaining tests after remediation. Roger (May 2000)

Classroom Matters

I run a small but mighty tutoring business here in Berkeley. A number of parents of teens are already familiar with my program: I work with and instruct several tutors as well as conduct tutoring sessions. You can read about all of us by going to my web site: We can provide private SAT sessions throughout this summer as well as during the school year. In addition, we are conducting a special summer book club for teens. I hope this is helpful to you. There are lots of recommendations (probably from some folks that you know) on the web site as well, but feel free to contact me for any additional information. Best of luck with your teen's studies! Molly Gales (mgales[at] (5/00)

(see also Classroom Matters recommendations .)

We used Testakers. I believe their number is 415-665-0800. They are expensive (about $600), but they teach lots of test taking strategies, do individual trouble shooting, and have a series of classes. My daughter's SAT score was over 100 points higher than her PSAT. Good luck. Louise (7/00)

PSAT Advice

My son chose to take the PSATs only once. We learned afterwards that PSAT scores are the trigger for National Merit scholarships. With a score of 1320 on PSAT's, my son did not qualify as a NM Scholar, despite then getting 1590 on his SATs. So my advice is for those with kids with potentially good scores is to take the PSATs in the spring of the sophomore year, then again in the fall of their junior year. Most kids see their scores increase with improved understanding of testing methods, and the PSATs turn out to be more important than you might think.

Correction re the PSAT: This test is only given once a year, in October. If students want to take it for practice (a good idea!), they need to take it in October of the sophomore year. Students should listen for announcements in the Daily Bulletin (whenever that finally starts up); test signup is through BHS and instructions about when and where to sign up for the test should be forthcoming in the Daily Bulletin within the next few weeks. I repeat that students should listen carefully for announcements about the PSAT. A small sample test booklet is available a few days before the PSAT but last year many students did not get to review the booklet in advance of the test. One other tip: arrive early for the test and don't be surprised by a chaotic method of signing test-takers in.

To clarify- one parent wrote that they wished their child took the PSAT more than once. THe PSAT is offered only once each year, in October. It is the test that makes 11th graders eligible to compete for Nat'l Merit Scholarships. (They take approximately 15,000 students- those who score in the highest percentile of PSAT takers- though it's actually a score devised by doubling your english score and adding your math score to that- and invite them to apply.) If you want your child to take a PSAT before they do in 11th grade, that leaves October of 10th grade. 10th graders are not viewed as Nat'l Merit applicants so the score is purely for practice. It will never be reported to anyone except you. It's a no loss situation. This year's PSAT is Oct 16th. The college counselor has applications and there should be an announcement in the bulletin any time now.- WR