Frequently Asked Questions
Please click the category names below to find the answers to some of our most frequently asked questions.
Q: What does your SAT/ACT program cover, and how long does it run?
A: Our program covers all content and strategies of your selected exam including the essay sections. We also make sure that, if a particular area is a point of weakness, we take the time necessary to bolster basic skills to maximize each student’s scoring potential.
The time your student spends with A-List will depend on his or her strengths, weaknesses, and determination. For full preparation, most of our students stay with us an average of 24 one-hour sessions (not including practice exams). Our tutors are also equipped for shorter, more targeted preparation for students focused on specific sections and/or goals. Many of our students choose to spend the school year with us, take both the SAT and the ACT, and continue through to subject tests, AP exams, and college advising.
Q: Does A-List provide tutoring for other exams/subjects or college/essay advising?
A: Yes, yes, and yes! At A-List, our goal is to be your one stop shop for all academic needs. We offer support for practically any school subject (including college level subjects) and exam (including NYS regents, AP, and SAT Subject Test tutoring) as well as study skills. We can come in for a quick review before a test, support your child through his or her academic year, and anything in between, all year round!
A-List also offers fully-customizable college advising packages! From dotting your proverbial i’s to college selection and resume preparation, we can help with any aspect of your advising needs.
Q: What should we do if we’re concerned about our student’s progress or program?
A: If you are ever concerned about your student’s progress or think the program needs to change, please contact the A-List office immediately. We will always work with you to make sure progress is positive and effective.
Q: Do all of your tutors have teaching backgrounds? How do you select your tutors?
A: At A-List, we don’t believe that a teaching degree is the only qualifier for a skilled educator. While we always look for tutors that have a foundation of teaching, tutoring, and mentoring, we specifically look for college graduates who have a gift for conveying information to students. This gives us a broad spectrum of extremely talented educators that come from backgrounds that range from psychology to medieval literature and physics. Most often, our tutors come from our Ivy League alumni networks.
Q: How can one person have the skills to teach the entire test?
A: Our hiring process is rigorous—we have, on average, over 100 applicants for every tutoring position. If you’re hired to work for us, you must demonstrate a strong background in English (reading/writing) and math along with the skills necessary to convey that material to students.
Regardless of experience level, all of our new tutors must complete our 100 hour training program with our senior staff and founders. The program ensures that all of our tutors not only have full competency with the exams but also have the same strategies and lesson plans that have been used by our entire staff since our founding.
The ability to find an individual student’s strengths, adapt a course to a particular learning style, and push a student to their academic limits is rare. We make it our mission to find teachers that can do just that.
Q: What is your average score improvement? Do you offer guarantees?
A: Over the last 10 years, we’ve seen our hard-working students improve an average of 300 points on the old format SAT and 5 points on the ACT. Our newest SAT students have seen an average improvement of 180 points. This includes all of our students from all starting points and is by no means an upper limit. We’ve had extremely diligent students improve as much as 700 points on the old SAT and 16 points on the ACT!
Improvement on the SAT or ACT is highly dependent on the work put in by the student. Although we have proven results with our strategies, we can’t guarantee score improvements. Progress is heavily dependent on an individual student’s determination, ability, and work habits. Though we can push our students to achieve their goals, we can’t guarantee that they’ll apply what we’ve taught them during the real exam. Ultimately, each student is responsible for his or her score.
We should take this opportunity to caution you against score improvement guarantees offered by other companies. Many times this is not a money-back guarantee. It’s a promise that you can keep taking a course over and over again until you’re satisfied or jump ship. Our students typically don’t have to repeat the same course—they need specific work and review with targeted strategies and/or questions. We spend the time with our students to find those weaknesses and address them on an individual level.
Q: The SAT has changed!! What should we do?!
A: The SAT transitioned to its newest format in March 2016 and, according to the College Board, the test has changed to better reflect the high school curriculum and be a better indicator of college readiness. Just as before, the content of the test covers the essentials of reading, math and writing.
We always recommend students begin by taking a practice test in both the SAT and the ACT. We’ll use the indicators from both exams to help you and your family decide which test would be a better fit. Prior to the change, most students scored very comparably between the SAT and ACT and that still holds with the new exam.
We believe (as it was true before) that there are positive and negative aspects of both exams based on the individual strengths and weaknesses of a student. Most students will be able to take a practice exam to help determine which test will best suit their strengths.
Q: When should my student take the SAT or ACT?
A: Over the last few years, the timeframe for students taking their standardized exams has shifted earlier and earlier. We’ve seen many sophomores take practice tests as early as December to determine when they should start. Getting a head start on prep can be hugely beneficial for many students. In particular, if your son or daughter is advanced in his or her schoolwork and knows that junior year is going to be both demanding and busy, it might be worthwhile to try to take tests before junior year begins. Additionally, if your student struggles and will need to review and solidify his or her academic foundations, starting early can alleviate a lot of stress and give students ample time to shore up their basic skill set. Most typically, our students begin work in the fall of their junior year, targeting their first SAT or ACT between December and March. For students beginning work in the middle of their junior year, we prepare students to be ready to take their first SAT in March or May, or the ACT in April or June. For our students who join us at the end of their junior year, we’ll target the first SAT or ACT in June, with many students taking their second or third exams in September or October (if needed).
We make decisions together based on your specific goals in combination with your student’s practice test scores. Your tutor will keep you informed about your student’s progress to help you make the right decision about the appropriate test dates.
Q: Should my student take the ACT or the SAT?
A: Though most of our students score comparably on the two exams, every once in a while we find that a particular test will align better with a student’s strengths. If you would like to get a sense of whether or not the SAT or ACT would be more appropriate for your son or daughter, we can have your student take both diagnostics and have one of our staff members review the scores with you to help decide on the best possible course.
Of course, you don’t have to choose; you can target both exams. The strategies and content that we teach are applicable to both the SAT and the ACT, and all of our tutors are trained to teach both exams. Many of our students work with us for one exam in through the fall and winter and make a seamless transition to prepare for the other exam in the spring.
As with all things that concern admissions, it’s important to check the websites of the colleges your student is considering to check their individual admissions policies.
Q: What’s the difference between the two, anyhow?
A: I’m sure you’ve heard all sorts of things about this—things like: The ACT is more like the stuff you learn in school, and the SAT tries to trick you! Or, the ACT is easier! Or, the SAT is easier!
Here is the truth: The SAT and ACT are very similar exams. Both exams combine content learned in school with natural reasoning abilities. Each sets out to assess a student’s ability to read and interpret data using the knowledge acquired during a student’s academic career.
Parents and students are often told that the ACT is more geared towards classroom learning than the SAT. The fact that the ACT contains a separate “science” section contributes to a good portion of misinformation. The section itself is approximately 99% data interpretation and requires little knowledge of classroom science subjects. A test-taker might encounter 1-2 questions on the science section that won’t be answered in the passages and require outside knowledge, but the majority of the information is right in the test. With the 2016 SAT re-design, this type of data interpretation is now tested in both exams. Overall, the truth is that the tests are incredibly similar and generally test the same skill sets while varying most in timing and format.
Here are major format differences between the two tests:
New 2016 SAT
1600 Total Points:
Evidence-Based Reading & Writing section will be worth 800 points and the Math section will be worth 800 points
36 total composite points:
English, Math, Reading, and Science scores will each range from 1-36. Composite ACT score is the average of your scores on the four sections; ranges between 1-36
|Differences in Format||5 sections total, (including optional essay):
||5 sections total, (including optional essay):
|Is there a penalty for wrong answers?||Nope.||Nope.|
|Do you get Score Choice?||The College Board offers score choice. However, many colleges will request all of your scores. It’s always best to check the college websites to be sure.||The ACT offers score choice but many colleges will request all of your scores. You may remove an entire test date from your record.|
|Difficulty Levels||The math section questions are in order of difficulty; the other sections are more randomized.||The math section questions are in order of difficulty; the other sections are more randomized.|
Arithmetic, algebra I and II, data analysis, functions, geometry, trigonometry
**Some Formulas Provided**
Arithmetic, algebra I and II, functions, geometry, trigonometry
**No formulas provided upfront, some may be included in the questions**
Q: I’ve heard the test is easier than the test. Is this true?
A: Nope. No matter what month or test date you fill in to this question, the answer is still no. Both the ACT and the SAT go to painstaking lengths to ensure that each test is of the same measured difficulty. The number of seniors vs. juniors also makes no difference—the curve isn’t a normal curve like the tests you take in school. The test makers do everything they can to make sure that your scores are as accurate as possible.
Q: What is the PSAT/NMSQT? Do I have to take it? Does it count for anything?
A: The PSAT/NMSQT is essentially a shorter version of the SAT. The PSAT is comprised of two Math sections (a calculator and no-calculator section), and two Evidence-Based Reading and Writing sections. It is given only once a year, in October.
Though some high schools require it, the PSAT is typically optional. However, even though it’s optional, taking the PSAT is a great idea. It gives all students the opportunity to practice in a real testing situation and provides an accurate sense of a starting score. You’ll also receive detailed feedback on your student’s strengths and weaknesses. And, there’s no pressure: if you do poorly, it doesn’t matter—colleges never see these scores.
The PSAT can count for one thing, though: the National Merit Scholarship program. Juniors scoring around the 97th percentile of the PSAT scores in their state will get a National Merit Letter of Commendation. Those students scoring in the 99th percentile of PSAT scores in their state will qualify as National Merit Semifinalists. These are great things–they look wonderful on college applications and may help your student get scholarships. Just a quick note: only juniors can qualify for a National Merit commendation.
As of 2016, the PSAT is offered in grade-specific iterations. Sophomores will be offered the PSAT 10 and students in both grades 8 and 9 will be offered the PSAT 8/9. Scores for these exams are not entered into consideration for National Merit.
As students start with A-List, they will spend most of their time working through The Book of Knowledge in order to learn the content and our strategies for the test. If your student begins before the PSAT in October and might be a good candidate for National Merit, we’ll be able to help him or her prepare with the practice materials that have already been released by College Board.
Q: Do you offer practice tests?
A: Yes—and lots of them! We feel that in order to truly improve, students must practice our strategies and techniques on real test questions. Practice tests are offered frequently in Manhasset, Plainview, Manhattan, and Westchester, and Tenafly, NJ during the entire school year and scheduled on an as-needed basis over the summer. We also offer the option of taking tests at home for our online students or students who have difficulties making it to our testing site. We provide online proctoring for any students who cannot make it to our regularly-scheduled exams.
In order to simulate the real test as closely as possible, we only give practice exams supplied by the College Board or the ACT organization—the only trustworthy sources for testing materials.
Q: Do we have to pay for practice tests?
A: The cost of testing is included in your program. As long as you’re working with us weekly you may take our exams. You’re not limited to the number of practice tests you can take while you work with us but we ask our students to take one approximately every 3-4 weeks in the beginning of tutoring to help us monitor progress and build your student’s endurance for the exam. Testing becomes more frequent as your student approaches her real testing dates. Your tutor will help you decide when and how frequently to take practice exams.
It’s important to note that A-List does not use in-house written practice tests. Instead, we use the free resources available from both the College Board and the ACT and we purchase additional ACT exams to provide our students with as much practice as possible.
For supplemental homework assignments for the ACT, we ask our students to purchase access to the ACT’s online course and The Real ACT Prep Guide “The Red Book” for additional practice tests/homework problems.
Q: Do we have to sign up for the practice tests?
A: Yes. In order to get an accurate count for our proctors, we have a convenient, on-line registration form on our practice test schedule. Please register for all of our dates no later than 5pm on the Friday before the practice exam. Your student will need #2 pencils and calculator for each exam, and we recommend that he or she bring a drink and snack for the exam breaks.
A full schedule can be found on our website here.
If you have not yet signed up with a tutor and would like your student to take a free diagnostic exam, please call the A-List office to schedule a free diagnostic.
Q: When will the results of the tests be ready and how can I see them?
A: For our normally scheduled exams—Saturdays and Sundays—the tests are brought in Monday morning to be scored. Since we have hundreds of scantrons and essays to grade, it will generally take us a full day to get through them. The scores will be available to you through your parent platform by the Tuesday morning following the exam.
If your appointment typically falls on a Monday, the scores may not be available during your session. When they are, your tutor can forward an electronic copy to you via email. If you have not yet been assigned a tutor or do not have access to your account, please call the office to receive your scores.
While you are working with A-List, please do not hesitate to contact any of us. Below are a few helpful names and numbers for your convenience:
|Questions about…||Contact Person||Number|
|Getting Started||The Tutoring Team||(646) 889-1613 x201|
|Invoices or Billing||The Tutoring Team||(646) 889-1613|
|Testing questions||The Tutoring Team||(646) 889-1613|
|Your Tutor’s Performance||The Tutoring Team||(646) 889-1613|
|Issues or Complaints||The Tutoring Team||(646) 889-1613|
|Fax Number||It’s a machine…||(212) 661-0487|
I think A-List is a great organization. My tutor was positive and tailored the material to my learning style. She made learning each subject fun and presented new topics in an engaging fashion. Thank you so much to A-List for helping me achieve my personal best!
A-List gave me more than just practice tests and test-taking tips, though these were invaluable. My tutor connected with me on a personal level and helped me understand that I was capable of getting the score I wanted. Suddenly, I viewed my test-taking experience as a challenge, not a burden. I walked into my ACT with the confidence that I knew exactly how to conquer every aspect of the test.”
Mother of Phoebe C.
Both my children had an amazing experience with A-List! Steadily, she worked hard to improve her test scores. Taking the practice tests allowed her to gain confidence and learn to manage her time during the tests. Then a college advisor helped her write her college essays. She was an amazing guide who helped Phoebe focus and streamline her supplements and essays. Now she will be attending her dream college, Rice University, School of Architecture!