Frequently Asked Questions


Q: What is going on with the college application process and standardized tests in the age of COVID-19?

A: Kathryn's daughter is graduating from high school in 2021, so Kathryn has a vested interest in staying up-to-date on the latest developments. She will be happy to guide you through this process as well! Most colleges and universities are making the submission of ACT/SAT scores optional. Click here for a list of schools that are currently test-optional. Please note, however, that direct admission to certain programs (like the Kelley School of Business at Indiana University), the guaranteed asmission program offered by the University of California, and merit-based scholarships still REQUIRE these tests. Plus, with great scores, your application will certainly stand out! 

Q: Is the University of California system eliminating the ACT/SAT test requirement?

A: According to the Washington Post and the Times of San Diego, the UC system is now "test optional" for students graduating from high school in 2021 and 2022. For California graduates in the classes of '23 and '24, the admissions process will be "test blind," but the UC system has not yet determined what the plan will be for out-of-state applicants.  The UC system is planning to develop and administer its own test for the class of 2025.


Q:  Where will we meet?

A:  During this era of "social distancing," our meetings will be held virtually, using Zoom, Skype, or FaceTime.

A:  Whenever possible, your tutoring session will take place at our location off Carmel Creek Road in Carmel Valley (the westernmost exit off the 56 or Del Mar Heights Road off the 5, very close to the merge of the 5 and 805 freeways).   

Q:  How long are the sessions?

A:  We find that our most productive sessions last 2 hours, but because this is a personalized program, we will schedule your appointments to work into your schedule.

Q:  How many sessions will I need?

A:  Our students have been most successful after 20 hours of one-on-one tutoring. For each additional test, they find they need less time to prepare because they already know the basic strategies.

Q:  Which test should I take, the new SAT or the ACT?

A:  The ACT is currently the best test to take for college admissions. The new SAT is so new that even the colleges are not sure what score is a good score. It will take a few years before colleges will know what level they are looking for on the SAT from prospective students. The ACT is a known commodity and should be the test taken by members of the graduating classes of 2019, 2020, and probably 2021 as well. Please click here if you would like to see a great comparison between the ACT and the old SAT tests from an article in the U-T San Diego for which Kathryn was interviewed. Please click here to see a good explanation of the differences between the two current versions of the tests. Please click here for an article from "The New York Times" about the two tests from before the change (in case you're interested), their popularity, and differences. Many colleges and universities also require that their applicants take the SAT Subject Tests. You will need to take at least two if you are applying to a school in the UC system. For a thorough (Wikipedia) description of the SAT please click here and for the ACT, please click here.

Q: When did the SAT change?

A: The new SAT began with the March 2016 test date. 

Q: For how long are SAT scores good?  What if I take the SAT during my Sophomore year?

A: The College Board webpage notes that "Your test scores and your responses to the SAT Questionnaire are retained on active file until June of the year after the school year in which you tested. After that, only the test scores are archived.  Once you have left high school and have not tested for a year, we remove your test scores and your responses to the SAT Questionnaire from our active file. However, your test scores are placed in an archive and can be retrieved for reporting to you and to colleges, universities, and scholarship programs that you designate."

A: Kathryn's personal response from before the SAT changed its format: My ninth-grade son is going to prepare for the SAT with me this summer (2015) so that he can take the current SAT in October of his Sophomore year (with the opportunity for another sitting through the January test date, if he desires). As long as he takes a Subject Test (or even the new version of the SAT) during his Junior year, all his College Board scores will be "active"—with all the test scores and responses—when he applies to college in the fall of 2017 and until June of 2018. After that, the scores will be archived and available for decades (for an extra fee). Update: he did well on the SAT, but not well enough to be able to apply to top-tier schools. He prepared over the summer after his Sophomore year for the ACT and earned his goal scores on the September test of his Junior year.

Q: Should I take the SAT Subject Tests?

New Answer: Don't bother. Do your best work on your AP exams; there is no longer a need to double up and show that you can succeed on the SAT Subject Test as well.

Old Answer: Absolutely! Even if the colleges that interest you do not require Subject Test scores, you should take a Subject Test in May or June of any year in which you take an AP class. This is your chance to give colleges another data point that shows how brilliant you are! The AP exam is testing how well you learned college-level material. You will have prepared thoroughly for the May AP exam, so why not use that knowledge to do well on the SAT Subject Test that tests how well you learned the material at a high school level? The tests are slightly different, however, so it is a good idea to spend a few hours reviewing a Subject Test prep book or scheduling one or two sessions to work with us before the exam.

Q: Where can I find more information about preparing for the SAT and ACT?

A: Please click here to read the article Kathryn was interviewed for in the San Diego Union Tribune.

Q:  When is the next test?

A:  Please visit the College Board website to get the most up-to-date information for the PSAT, SAT, SAT Subject Tests, and AP Exams. To get information on the ACT, please go to the ACT website. GRE information can be found on the ETS website and GMAT information can be found on the GMAC website. Information about the ISEE (the exam applicants to most area private high schools need to take) is on the ERB website. The SSAT website has information about that test, as well as which schools use it for their application process. The LSAT test dates can be found on the LSAC website.

Q:  When should I start preparing for the tests?

A:  The short answer: The sooner the better.

A:  The long answer for students entering 10th grade: For the best preparation possible, we recommend that you start preparing for the PSAT during the summer after your Freshman year. That way, when you take the PSAT for the first time in the fall, you will have strong scores; this will build your test-taking confidence. (Parents, won't it be nice to have a child who believes he or she is great at taking standardized tests?) During the second semester of your Sophomore year, it is a good idea to prepare for the SAT IIs in the subjects you are taking in school (Science, History, and/or Language).  

A:  The long answer for students entering 11th grade and planing to take the ACT: Preparing over the summer after your Sophomore year is ideal. If we start your lessons in late June or early July, we can meet once a week over the summer and have you fully prepared to do your best work on the September ACT. (Our start date will be determined by how many weeks you will be in town over the summer.) If you do not achieve your goals on the September ACT, you can take the test again at the end of October or in mid-December.

A:  The long answer for students entering 11th grade and planning to take the SAT: The summer after your Sophomore year is a great time to prepare for the SAT as your preparation will help you with the PSAT which is used for the National Merit Scholarship competition for Juniors. This scholarship is worth thousands of dollars toward your college tuition and it is something a few of our students have earned! 

A: We feel that preparing over the summer is the best option for our students because they are not distracted by the pressures of schoolwork and extracurricular activities. This puts our Juniors in a great position to take the ACT or SAT early in the school year. The advantage is that if they feel like they want to take the test again to improve their scores, they still have the option of taking it again. (We recommend that you save the May or June test dates for your SAT II Subject Tests). Won't it be nice to spend the summer before your Senior year thinking about college and where you'll apply, rather than stressing over standardized tests and not knowing if your scores will be high enough to apply to your favorite college?

A:  For students entering 12th grade: all is not lost. It is not too late! We can still work this summer to improve your performance and you can take the ACT in September or the SAT in August, still leaving you time for your college applications (and one last try in October, if necessary).

Q:  There are so few materials available for me to prepare for the ISEE. Are there any practice tests I can use to prepare for my test?

A:  Please check out for access to practice tests that are just like the real ISEE. These tests will provide excellent feedback for us to use in your preparation. Plus, College Prep Tutoring students are entitled to significant discounts off the price of these excellent practice tests. Please contact us to learn more.

Q:  How can I get real LSAT questions to practice with, short of working through an entire test?

A:  Cambridge LSAT not only separates the questions into different question-types, but also presents each question/game/passage group in order of increasing difficulty.

Q:  What is a "good score"?

A:  That really depends on where you want to go to college/grad school. Ivy League schools, for example, are looking for ACT scores of 32 or higher. The next threshold level is 30, and the one below that is 28. Please check out the website of your dream college/university to see what the score range is for its entering Freshman class.

Q:  Can you help me with the College Admissions process?

A:  Yes. We will be happy to help you prepare your college applications and personal statements. Our students have been very happy with the revisions we have suggested for their personal statements. We can also help guide you through your college search process. We have articles about finding and choosing a college, college admissions, college rankings reports and the college admissions process. Please feel free to start here. Additionally, if you have questions about Financial Aid and/or College Visiting, please read this article as the information provided there is excellent!

Q:  I think I will have trouble coming up with examples to use on the essay section of my test. Is there an easy way to keep up with current events so I can sound sophisticated and educated in school and on my test?

A:  Yes! We read theSkimm every day! It is written by millenials in a very casual, user-friendly voice. The best part is that they fill you in on the background of every story and provide links you can use to get more in-depth detail if you would like. Click here to sign up for the daily (M-F) email. 

Q:  Is there a fun and philanthropic way to build my vocabulary?

A:  Yes. You will learn many fun and different ways to learn the vocabulary words you'll need to know for your test when you prepare with College Prep Tutoring. Our students love to practice their vocabulary, and in doing so, donate free rice to those in need. Check out the Free Rice website and see how well you do!

Q:  Can you recommend a summer program that will help me get ahead in life?

A:  The Leap Foundation hosts a 5-day, 6-night seminar at UCLA during the summer that equips students with the essential tools for academic, professional, and personal success. Be sure to mention you heard about the program from College Prep Tutoring! (Both of Kathryn's children have attended and absolutely loved it!)

Q:  Is the SAT a good predictor of academic success in college?

A:  This has been a much-debated question for many years. Interestingly, in an op-ed article that appeared in November 2008 in the New York Times, SUNY Stony Brook political science professor Peter D. Salins points out that the SUNY system (the State University of New York) served as a controlled experiment of sorts when 9 of 16 SUNYs decided to raise their SAT admission requirements after 1997. Salins concludes that based on the empirical evidence, students with better SAT scores are more likely to succeed in college and ultimately graduate.