Frequently Asked Questions

How can I roll my 401(k) into a Roth IRA?

Um, we’re an SAT prep company. We don’t really offer financial advice. However, before considering any financial instruments, carefully evaluate each investment’s merits and risks, including risk of loss. Past performance is not necessarily a predictor of future performance. In other words—don’t get too attached to your kidneys or first-born.

Oh my Gosh. I’m so embarrassed! I can’t believe I just asked you for financial advice.

That’s okay! We realize parents of juniors have a lot on their minds these days.

Tell me about it. When I applied to college, we didn’t have any prep classes or college advisers. We just rolled out of bed one morning, took the SAT, and that was that. I don’t think any of us even prepared. Anyway… back to your course. Do we need any special equipment or software to participate?

No, no special equipment whatsoever. To participate, students simply need a laptop, desktop, or tablet.

How does your course differ from other prep programs and classes?

We may lose our business license for admitting this, but we don’t believe we have a unique patent on SAT or ACT prep. Don’t get us wrong—we’re incredibly proud of our track record, instructors, and curriculum—but the truth is there are several reputable providers who share our commitment to helping students maximize their potential. So, why us? First, we’re the only prep company whose instructors take the actual SAT and ACT multiple times per year to deepen our understanding of these tests. When students go through our program, our expertise becomes their expertise. We have the SAT and ACT down to a science, in part because we hire actual SAT and ACT writers to develop curriculum for us and share little-known exam secrets, such as the way the SAT and ACT construct their notorious trap answers. Second, we’re not boring! We realize 99% of teenagers would rather watch C-SPAN than take an SAT or ACT prep course, so we strive to make our lessons as engaging and entertaining as possible. Feel free to check out our testimonials to see what actual living, breathing, texting teenagers have said about our courses.

Can students ask questions and participate?

Absolutely! We strongly encourage participation and strive to create a welcoming, supportive class environment from the outset. All questions are private, so students can feel secure asking questions they might be too reluctant or self-conscious to pose in a traditional classroom setting.

Do you teach content or strategies or both?

Both. For example, when we cover the 10 Trickiest Types of Math Questions Guaranteed to be on the SAT and ACT, we begin by making sure students understand the algebra, geometry, and pre-calculus concepts underlying those questions. Then, once we’re confident students have fully grasped the core concepts, we teach strategies and shortcuts, including tips for spotting and eliminating sneaky trap answers. In our view, test preparation must address both content and strategy, with content always preceding strategy to ensure that students have a proper foundation upon which to build.

Is your course geared toward a specific grade level?

We have a wide range of students who participate in our Combo Course, from sophomores and juniors preparing for their first exam to seniors looking for a competitive edge right before their final attempt at the SAT or ACT.

OK, but my daughter is only taking the SAT—will this course help her, or it just for students taking both tests?

The SAT and ACT have been archenemies since 1959, when the ACT debuted and the SAT realized it wasn’t going to the only college admissions game in town. For most of the shared history of these exams, the SAT and ACT were quite dissimilar. In fact, strategies that made sense on the ACT (for example, guessing on questions for which a student had no idea) were often disadvantageous on the SAT, and of course vice versa.

However, starting in the mid-2000s, the SAT and ACT started becoming increasingly similar, which is a charitable way of saying “started blatantly copying each other.” It’s no wonder this trend began occurring. College admissions testing is a multi-billion dollar business, and although the College Board and the ACT are technically nonprofit organizations, they behave in much the same manner as any companies vying over the same set of consumers, such as Walmart and Target or Starbucks and Dunkin’ Donuts. (We, the frugal and down-to-earth members of The Playbook, prefer Dunkin’ Donuts, especially its Caramel Iced Coffee, which is way better and much cheaper than some other organization’s Caramel Macchiatos.)

But back to the SAT and ACT and their increasing overlap. The latest versions of these exams do have important distinction. For example, students need to move much more quickly on the ACT than they do on the SAT. But the differences between the rival exams are far outweighed by their overwhelming similarities—concordances in content, question type, even format. Students don’t need to plan to take both exams to benefit from our Combo Course. In fact, over 60% of our students only plan to take one of the two exams. If you wish to learn more about the SAT and ACT or discuss which exam may be a better fit for your student, we would be happy to set up a free phone consultation with you.

What about scores—what’s the average score improvement for this course?

We calculate score improvement data based on the difference between students’ starting scores (official exam scores that are shared with us) and students’ end scores (official exam scores after students complete our program). We segment score improvement data by exam (SAT and ACT) and starting score ranges since a student who starts at, say, a 1450 on the SAT can only improve up to 150 points, while a student who scores a 1200 initially can, at least in theory, gain up to 400 points. The following will give you a good idea of the magnitude of score improvement you can reasonably expect after completing our Combo Course:

Students whose starting SAT scores range from 1000 to 1150, inclusive, improve an average of 290 points.

Students whose starting SAT scores range from 1160 to 1300, inclusive, improve an average of 210 points.

Students whose starting SAT scores range from 1310 to 1450, inclusive, improve an average of 150 points.

And students whose starting SAT scores range from 1450 to 1550, inclusive, improve an average of 60 points.

Students whose starting ACT scores range from 20 to 23, inclusive, improve an average of 5 points.

Students whose starting ACT scores range from 24 to 27, inclusive, improve an average of 4 points.

Students whose starting ACT scores range from 28 to 31, inclusive, improve an average of 3 points.

And students whose starting ACT scores range from 32 to 35, inclusive, improve an average of 1 point.

Is your program intended for sophomores, juniors, or seniors? Do any 9th graders take the course?

The majority of our students intend to take the SAT, PSAT, or ACT sometime within the next year, if not the next few months. Although the majority of our participants are in 10th, 11th, and 12th grade, we do have a considerable number of 9th graders who participate, primarily students looking for an on-ramp to the overall test prep process and highly-academic students aiming for National Merit Scholarships and other distinctions.

What are your instructors’ qualifications?

We’re not a mill with hundreds of instructors of varying abilities and track records. We don’t charge a premium for gifted, experienced instructors because all of our instructors are subject matter experts with an abiding passion for teaching. The vast majority of our instructors have graduated from the sort of colleges people proudly post on the rear window of their cars: Princeton, Yale, Dartmouth, Stanford, Columbia, MIT—and many more. However—and this is a really important however—we don’t view sterling academic credentials as equivalent to teaching ability. We interview and decline to hire plenty of brilliant people who can’t seem to explain even the simplest of concepts. Therefore, the number one trait we seek in instructors is the ability to teach: that unique combination of communication skills, emotional intelligence, and empathy that separates mere tutors from teachers who inspire students to fulfill their potential.

What if my student misses one of the lessons?

We encourage students to participate in each session, but if a student has to miss a lesson, he or she will still be able to benefit. Every lesson is fully recorded, so students can always access the live recordings both during the course and after it has ended.

OK, well this all sounds good. I think I’m going to talk to my daughter and sign her up.

Great! We look forward to having her participate and to your feedback after the course.

Thank you. Also, I hate to ask, but… can you check out this thing I just noticed on my arm? I Googled “funny-looking spot on arm – sign of imminent death?” and now I’m a little worried.

Um, we’re an SAT prep company, not a team of dermatologists. But we recommend resisting the urge to type your symptoms into Dr. Google or WebMD.