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For Educators
ACT vs SAT for LD
LD Testing Accommodations
Tutoring for the SSAT
ACT vs SAT address to IECA
What Professional Students Figure Out Early About Success
Bring Ivy Bound to Your School
The Importance of Early Preparation
No Fly Zone
One educator's response to the NACAC report
Teens and Parents College Prep Suggestions
Why an Education Consortium is Brilliant?
An Open Letter to Principals / Administrators

An Open Letter to Principals and Administrators

Thank you for your interest in Ivy Bound/Rising Scores. We are dedicated to helping your students maximize their scores in all academic areas and in standardized testing. Our greatest expertise lies in PSAT, ACT and SAT prep, but we also offer a wide variety of academic tutoring and SAT II prep.

Our 2010 students report an average increase of 171.7 points from their previous SAT score. All of our tutors and classroom instructors scored in the top 1% on the SAT I and have taken the SAT within the last 18 months. They have expertise in the academic subjects they tutor. Whether for SAT or academics, our tutors and instructors bring clarity, enthusiasm, knowledge, and empathy to help students significantly raise scores.

Ivy Bound/ Rising Scores has the capacity to travel to your school, and to teach SAT and ACT classes using your facilities. Bringing us to your school would have many benefits for your students, including:

  1. Easy access to high quality test prep for your students
  2. Convenient times designed to fit your school's needs
  3. Inexpensive cost for students
  4. Supplemental Help offered to all Ivy Bound clients
  5. 150 points or $ comes back (50%) guarantee for diligent students.

We at Ivy Bound are willing to tailor a program that best fits your school's time, cost, and educational needs. Need-based scholarships are also available for families with limited means (In classes that have already reached our minimum, Ivy Bound offers scholarships of as much as 80%).

Our credentials are strong, and we invite you to call on your administrative counterparts at other schools that are successfully using Ivy Bound. We can most succinctly laud ourselves this way: no school has ever switched from Ivy Bound / Rising Scores to another external test prep provider.

Please call my office (877-975-1600) and ask to speak with one of our School Coordinators. My staff and I look forward to helping more of your students maximize their scores.

ACT vs SAT for Students with Learning Differences

Both the ACT and New SAT present both obstacles and opportunities for students with learning differences. This article attempts to let parents and counselors know what to expect of these two college entrance exams and concludes with recommendations for how to study and when. This article does not attempt to fit numerous strategies to students with specific learning disabilities.

The timing of the tests mentioned herein is as STANDARD regularly administered tests. I address added time for students who qualify in the final section of this article.

Summary of ACT vs New SAT
English Writing
Essay (30 min, optional) Essay (25 min)
Grammar (45 min) Grammar (35 min)
Math Math
60 min 70 min
Need Trig No Trig
Reading Critical Reading
35 min 70 min
4 passages 4 passages
19 sentence comp.
Science reasoning No science
35 min
No equating section Equating section
25 min
205 min + 30 min optional 225 min
3.25 or 3.75 hrs
+ 30 min extra time
3.75 hours
+ 40 min extra time
$28 + $14 if doing Writing $41.50
Score choice No score choice
but colleges don't hold the lower score against an applicant
Bottom Line: the tests have become similar. ACT remains a bit broader in content.

Description of the ACT

This is a 3 hr 25 min. multiple choice test in four sections: English, Math, Reading Comprehension, and Science Reasoning. A fifth section, a written essay, is optional and given at the end of the four multiple choice sections. Students wishing to impress colleges with their work on a 30-minute essay simply sign up to take the "ACT with Essay" and are assigned to different rooms.

The English section is more appropriately called "grammar". The ACT demands that students identify errors that include: lack of clarity, punctuation problems, subject/verb disagreement, misused pronouns, redundancy, parallelism, wrong tense, misplaced modifiers, and poor word choice. The test also asks students to improve sentences and evaluate whether hypothetical changes make for effective improvements. At 75 minutes, this is the longest of the sections and comes first.

The Math section is 60 minutes and contains 60 questions. The categories here are: arithmetic, geometry, algebra, data interpretation, and trigonometry. There is no calculus, no use of logarithms, no use of the quadratic formula, no measuring areas under curves, and no volumes other than simple cylinders and rectangular solids. Most students have covered all the topics except trigonometry by the middle of their sophomore year. The 3 or 4 trig questions are fairly easy to master by simply knowing two trig equations. Thus the math is not high level, and most juniors are able to take advantage of the ACT based on their math coursework in sophomore year and earlier.

The Reading Comprehension section comprises four passages of 700 - 900 words, each followed by 10 questions. The passages are excerpts from previously published articles, and the ACT includes one for each of the following topics: fiction, social science, humanities, and natural science. This section does NOT call upon students' prior knowledge; all answers can be reached using text material and inferences from the text. The section is 35 minutes, for 40 total questions, allowing on average 8.5 minutes for students to read, evaluate, answer, and bubble-in. For many students, Reading Comprehension is the section on which they are most pressed for time. Answer choices deserve scrutiny, for the difference between a right and wrong answer often turns on one word.

The Science Reasoning section, like the reading section, is 35 minutes and 40 questions. Here there are SEVEN passages, each describing an experiment or set of experiments, and the data resulting from those experiments. These 40 questions are testing data interpretation and reasoning; they do not test a student's biology, chemistry, or physics background. Thus, students should not be fearful of not having prior coursework to succeed on the ACT science, as prior knowledge here is ALMOST irrelevant. The exception is that students who know basic terminology, like "degrees Centigrade" or "joules / sec." have a comfort level that students not previously exposed to the terminology lack. Beyond this basic exposure, students are unlikely to begin with a coursework advantage. Indeed, the ACT goes out of its way NOT to present experiments that were likely given in a science textbook.

The fearsome aspect of the Science Reasoning section is the time limitation. Understanding and interpreting seven experiments in 35 minutes is daunting, and for the student who is new to the task, it is almost impossible. However, a bit of coaching dramatically reduces time pressure here. While the experiments can be complex, most of the QUESTIONS here are remarkably simple, so the well-coached student learns WHERE to quickly find answers and where to avoid distractions. Students coached in "what to look for and what is likely to be irrelevant" usually find they can get through all seven passages with a high success rate on the questions. They may not truly understand the experiment, or its implications, but they can get the minutia that leads to right answers.

The Essay Writing section was added to the ACT in 2005. In 30 minutes, students are to respond to ONE open-ended question. Through June 2005, all sample prompts and actual prompts have been related to the school experience, such as "should teenagers be required to maintain a C average in school before receiving a driver's license?", "should high schools require students to complete a certain number of hours of community service?", "should schools start early in the morning?", and "are high school sports generally beneficial?". The essays are scored on a 0 - 6 basis by two individuals, typically current or retired school teachers enlisted by Pearson Management. Should the readers' grades differ by two points or more, a third reader is brought in to evaluate the essay and that reader's assessment carries extra weight. The essays are scored "holistically," meaning there are no specific attributes for which readers give or deny points. Logically supporting a position, writing with clarity, and using good grammar are the ostensible criteria. Readers are not supposed to evaluate spelling and length of essay. It remains to be seen whether readers would ever give perfect scores to a gem that's very brief and uses poor spelling.

Description of the New SAT

The "New SAT", inaugurated in March 2005, is 3 hrs 45 minutes of pure testing time, broken into 10 sections. Three sections are Math, three are Critical Reading, three are Writing, and one is an Equating section that mimics one of the other multiple choice sections but does not count towards a student's score.

The Math sections call upon students' coursework in arithmetic, algebra I, and geometry. Like the ACT, there is no calculus, no use of logarithms, no use of the quadratic formula, no measuring areas under curves, and no volumes other than simple cylinders and rectangular solids. Unlike ACT, the SAT does not test trigonometry. Since the New SAT does not test what most of us define as Algebra II, it is suitable for almost any student who has completed sophomore year. The Math sections also include some data interpretation and incorporate a few problems that are better classified as logical reasoning. It is from these data interpretation and logical reasoning problems that the SAT Math gets its reputation for not correlating with classroom math, but only about 1/3 of the questions come from outside traditional high school curricula. Ultimately, the SAT Math requires resourcefulness, asking students in one problem to call upon both geometry and algebra, for example.

The Critical Reading sections comprise 19 sentence completion questions and 48 reading comprehension questions. Success on the sentence completions is based mainly on a student's vocabulary, but somewhat upon reasoning using sentence structure. Success on the reading comprehension is presumed on a DECENT vocabulary, but the high level vocabulary that occurs is not directly testing in the questions that follow. Students who don't know a high level / scholarly word that occurs in a passage will find either:

  • no question is asked of that word, or
  • they can infer the word's meaning from the context.

As in the ACT, the SAT reading passages are selected from prior published works, but ones unlikely to have been read previously by students. Obscure journals and private reflections of lesser-known writers are the source for these passages. Answers to the questions posed by SAT require HIGH SCRUTINY, a bit more than on the ACT. The SAT has 5 answer choices (the ACT has 4), and sometimes one of the wrong answers is based upon a mere nuance of a word or phrase.

The Writing sections are a combination of a 25 minute required essay and 35 minutes of multiple choice asking students to identify errors, improve sentences, or improve paragraphs. The essays are also scored by two Pearson Management readers, also on a 0 - 6 scale, for a possible high of 12 points. SAT essay topics are more "macro" in nature than the ACT's thus far. For example, the March 2005 topics included:

  • Is the opinion of the majority - in government or in any other circumstances - a poor guide?
  • Is creativity needed more than ever in the world today?
  • Are people better at making observations, discoveries, and decisions if they remain impartial?
  • Is a person responsible, through the example he or she sets, for the behavior of other people?

The essay score comprises about 25% of the "weight" of the student's Writing score. The Essay score is combined with the 49 multiple choice questions to yield a 200 - 800 score. As with all SAT scores, 500 was the original median when the test was first introduced, but scores in actuality average slightly above 500. The Writing test is too new for the SAT to give actual averages, but I predict the first set of released average writing scores (due in January 2006) will show the Writing to be the highest of the three sections among students bound for four-year colleges.

ACT and SAT Accommodations for Students with Special Needs

While the scored content is no different, students granted extra time sit in different rooms for the testing. Both ACT and SAT offer rooms for students getting 50% additional time. The SAT omits the equating section for students granted additional time, saving approximately 40 minutes and making total test time exactly 5 hours.

Students granted more than 50% extra time arrange with their school to have an "unlimited" time ACT session. For SAT, the "unlimited" time is DOUBLE TIME, and students meet in regular test centers on successive days - a four hour session on Saturday and a four hour session on Sunday.

Both SAT and ACT will allow a reader for certain students, Braille tests for others, and electronic essay inputs for students whose limited motor skills keep them from writing legibly.

Students with extended time no longer have their scores "flagged". Until 2003, colleges could see which applicants had taken the test under non-standard conditions. Most colleges did not discriminate against those who were granted extended time, but some did. In an effort to protect the wishes of member colleges that wished to retain the "flagging", the College Board, publishers of the SAT, steadfastly litigated against parents demanding change. In 2002 The College Board settled a lawsuit brought by a Berkeley-based disability rights group and ended flagging in June 2003. The ACT soon followed and ended its flagging in October 2003. At the time just under 5% of SAT testers were granted special accommodation, but, as expected, that percentage has risen since then.

Getting special accommodations can be done through the school or though an MD. Not all who seek consideration are approved. Of the 50,000 who sought ACT special accommodation in 2004, 88% of the requests were honored, according to ACT spokesman Charles Parmalee. SAT approval rates seem similar, but the specific percentage is unavailable.

Which Test is Better for My Student?

Students with weak vocabulary will be hurt on the CR of the SAT. Someone unable or unwilling to absorb vocabulary who is also a good math person will do better on the ACT.

Students requiring double time test face a VERY arduous SAT. SAT and ACT length will be similar, but the ACT will be done in a student's school, on her/his schedule.

Students with no trig are slightly hurt on ACT. However a good coach can address this area fairly quickly, and with 2 - 4 hours of extra effort most students can be ready for the ACT trigonometry.

Students flustered by charts and data interpretation will be hurt on ACT.

Students who are not CAREFUL readers will be hurt more on the SAT.

"Good testers" have an advantage on the SAT. This includes students willing to undergo coaching to BECOME good testers. The SAT lends itself more to coaching. Just understanding the guessing advantage alone gives a student an advantage over a good portion of test-takers. And the forced essay on the SAT is likely to yield an advantage for students who can take a short class combined with individualized essay evaluations.

Finally, timing is an issue for more students on the SAT than the ACT. The discrepancy has been reduced somewhat by SAT's 2005 elimination of the "Quantitative Comparisons" section, but anecdotal evidence from my students shows that ACT yields fewer completion problems. The College Board expects 20% of testers not to finish the SAT. This figure is misleading though, for it masks the RUSHING and CARELESSNESS that attend students' meeting tight time restrictions. I estimate 30% - 40% of students rush to finish sections in the SAT. For uncoached students, that figure is probably over 50%. On the ACT, the estimate is that 10% do not finish on time, yet even ACT psychometricians admit this is hard to gauge because with no guessing penalty, virtually all students are filling in answers at the end. In the Science Reasoning section, I suspect that 60% of the students are rushing / not finishing.

A Suggestion on Test Choice

For students who have ten to fifteen hours to diagnose which test will be better, take two ACTs contained in The Real ACT PrepGuide and two SATs contained in The Official SAT Study Guide. Use the Equating table (which shows relative percentiles) to judge which test is better and then prep only for that one test. For students testing under regular conditions, I am not a big fan of the PLAN or the PSAT as good diagnostics because they are only 2/3 the length of the actual test. However, for students who will be granted extended time, the PLAN and PSAT are more sensible.

For students who don't have the time or inclination to make an ACT vs SAT Diagnosis, prep for the SAT. This allows students to avoid the Science Reasoning, though it foists on them the need for a strong vocabulary. The vocabulary building should be welcomed because it tends to help in other school endeavors and in life.

Finally, discern whether your student can afford to skip BOTH tests. Don't allow your student to be caught up in testing just because everyone else is. Students who are starting at community college almost certainly do not need to present SAT or ACT scores, and even among 4-year colleges, some have dropped the SAT / ACT requirement. To these colleges, three years of grades and recommendations are satisfactory and they do not discriminate against students who choose not to give standardized test scores.

Testing Accommodations for
Students with Disabilities

What types of accommodations are available?

Based on their individual needs, students with documented disabilities are eligible for testing accommodations on all standardized tests. Each assessment service (such as the PSAT, SAT, ACT, and AP Exam) has its own specific guidelines, but accommodations generally include:

  • Extended time (from 50% to 100% more than the standard allotted time)
  • Longer breaks between sections or more frequent breaks
  • Alternate formats (Braille, audiocassette, large print materials)
  • Readers, scribes, or computers to read and record responses
  • Small group settings or testing over multiple days

Who is eligible for accommodations?

To be considered for accommodations, a student must provide evidence of a disability which limits a life activity AND which requires testing accommodations. This would include conditions that impact the ability to hear, speak, read, write, concentrate, or sit for extended periods of time. Specific conditions might include physical impairments (such as impaired hearing or eyesight, arthritis, cerebral palsy, or loss of a limb), chronic health conditions (such as diabetes, cancer, ADHD, or asthma), or emotional difficulties (such as depression, bipolar disorder, or anxiety). There is no requirement that the disability be "life long," so students with temporary disabilities, such as a broken limb, may also qualify for accommodations. For example, a right-handed student with a broken right arm may be granted one-time or limited-time accommodations, based on the severity and duration of the impairment.

How do students apply for accommodations?

Students applying for testing accommodations should work with their school counselor to submit the appropriate paperwork. For the PSAT, SAT, and AP exams, a completed Student Eligibility Form must be submitted to The College Board at least two months prior to the test date. This form requests information about the nature of the disability and the use of accommodations within the regular school setting. Students with current IEP or 504 plans should submit the documentation with their applications. Educational testing is also required. Students who have not used accommodations in the past must include a detailed explanation describing their current need with the application. Additional information about these tests these tests is available at Students applying for accommodations for the ACT can find information online at or in the ACT registration booklet.

How is eligibility for accommodations determined?

Eligibility is determined on a case-by-case basis through documentation review. Documentation may include psycho-educational evaluations, psychiatric evaluations, and neuropsychological or neurological testing. The testing must be current, completed within three years of submission for educational issues and within twelve months for psychiatric issues. All summaries must be on letterhead paper and written by a professional qualified to conduct assessments and to offer educational recommendations, such as an educational psychologist, neurologist, or psychiatrist. The documentation must also include the following six specific elements:

  1. a diagnostic statement identifying the disability, the date of the most recent evaluation, and the date of the original diagnosis, using the Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of the American Psychiatric Association (DSM-IV) or the International Statistical Classification of Diseases (ICD)
  2. a comprehensive description of the diagnostic tests, methods, and criteria used to make the diagnosis
  3. a description of the current functional impact of the disability, background information, test results reported as standard scores, and a narrative interpretation
  4. the treatments, medications, assistive technology, and accommodations currently being used by the student, their effectiveness, and recommendations for additional accommodations
  5. a description of the expected progression or stability of the disability over time
  6. the credentials of the diagnosing professional, such as their certification, licensure, or documentation of professional training

Remember: Students who have been granted accommodations for prior testing are not automatically guaranteed similar accommodations for different tests. The assessment services require ongoing verification of continued eligibility for accommodations at future administrations. Verification should be submitted at least one month prior to the test date.

What kind of testing is required to document a disability?

A comprehensive testing battery is necessary to document the student's strengths, weaknesses, and learning needs. Evaluations must include measures of broad cognitive functioning through intelligence tests such as the Wechsler or the Stanford-Binet. Processing tests are used to assess visual-spatial ability, memory, fine motor skills, executive functioning, and attention. Academic or cognitive testing includes such measures as the Woodcock Johnson or Wechsler Achievement to assess reading, writing, and math skills. Social-emotional measures investigate issues such as depression or anxiety, which could impact student performance. Instruments used in the evaluation must employ age-based norms and report results as standard scores or percentile ranks.

Where can I obtain additional information about educational assessments?

Educational testing is typically conducted in a single session of three to four hours, in an office or at the student's home. During this session, the student will be asked to solve academic questions, manipulate blocks, and complete rating scales. The evaluator will also review the student's academic history and may ask to see results from previous assessments, report cards, or school meetings. The cost of a comprehensive assessment ranges from $2000 - $4000. In addition to the test results, the evaluator will write a report documenting the nature and severity of the disability, recommendations for accommodations, and the rationale for each accommodation. This information can then be submitted to the testing companies to help determine eligibility.

For additional information about testing, accommodations, or student support, contact the authors, Marcia Rubinstien or Laura Seese, or ask your high school guidance counselor to explain the process used at your school.

Marcia Rubinstien M.A., CEP - - 860-233-3900
EDUFAX, 345 North Main Street, Suite 317, West Hartford, CT 06117

Laura Seese, Ph.D. - - 860-254-5451
Educational Advancement, 14 Old Farms Lane, West Suffield, CT 06093

Tutoring for the SSAT

Welcome to the Ivy Bound Program. We look forward to helping maximize your scores. We know that few students are “eager” to take an SSAT Prep course, but most teens know the importance of this one test, and how a few hours of diligent study each week really pay off.    Last year’s students reported over 170 point average improvements on the SAT.  For SSAT, we utilize many of the same materials that have brought success on the SAT.

 Our SAT tutors have trained with Ivy Bound to become masters at helping students apply every strategy we know for success in both the SSAT and SAT.  Our minimum instructor standard is a 1500, representing the top 1 percentile of SAT scores.  Beyond that, you will find our instructors possess a high level of energy, clarity, and empathy.  We keep sharp by taking the SAT once a year ourselves.  We license all available SSAT and ERB materials for students to use as practice tests.

Private tutoring allows you to have an instructor tailoring the curriculum to your needs, which means no time is spent on what OTHERS want - all the teacher time is devoted to YOU.  Successful improvement requires home study time – we recommend two to three hours between sessions to reinforce the skills we teach, plus 10 minutes a day drilling vocabulary.  

 To reinforce their learning, all IVY BOUND students are invited to join us for statewide conference calls one week before the test, and all students will receive e-mails to help build their vocabularies and reinforce their skills. 

 As you are probably well aware, the SSAT is for most students the single most important test for admission to prep schools of their choice. With the competition to top prep schools even more fierce, the SSAT has become a greater determinant of admissions and scholarship decisions than ever before.  We view this as an opportunity for any student willing to bring an open mind and a willingness to achieve. 

 My Staff and I look forward to helping your students maximize their SSAT scores.


What Professional Students
Figure Out Early About Success

Publication permission granted so long as the name and URL are included.

This is a heads-up to the many students and their parents, who might be complacent about college prospects.   Even in the past five years, admissions to the most competitive U.S. colleges have tightened further.  Many a strong students (good GPA, high SAT scores, good extra-curricular activities) is shocked when a guidance counselor looks at her/his record come 11th grade and puts the student’s longed-for college into the “distant-reach” category.  So while this IS meant to scare the people who’ve been complacent, its highest use is to give ALL students in 7th – 9th grade a start to putting their best credentials forward. 

First, why has college admission become even more competitive?   In short, it’s because the value of a college degree has never been higher.   America is now an economy that runs largely on “brainpower”.   Rightly or wrongly, the college experience is perceived as the best training ground for almost any job requiring intellect.  Top students know this.  Thus, even though the population of American 17 year-olds peaked in 2008, and even with the worst economy since the 1930s, applications to U.S. 4-year colleges continued to rise in 2009 and again 2010.

The very best students are the ones who prime themselves for admission to the top tier colleges.  They know that even within the “4-year” category, college rankings produce very stratified salaries.  I have come to call a salient group of strong students the “APT” students, for Already-Professional & Tenacious.  These are the students who have resumes at age 16; these are the students who bring laptops to school for more efficient note-taking.   These are the students who will often do after-school academic enrichment when they don’t have band, sports, theatre, or club meetings.

These are often the students of Indian-Americans, Chinese-Americans, and Korean-Americans, for whom education has been instilled as the right occupation for a majority of each youth’s day.  The U.S. school day from 7:30 – 2:25 is just HALF an education day for the APT student.   New York City hogwans (private Korean academies) offer middle-school students English, Math, Science, and SAT instruction up to 45 hours a week.

The APT student is undaunted by taking classes with older students.  For middle-school APT students, it means learning among 15 – 17 year-olds; for high school APT students, it means taking college courses during the school day or on weekends.  For APT students of all ages, it typically means devoting most of the summer to expanding the mind, not loafing.

College thus becomes relatively easy for the APT student; the learning and the polishing that traditional students often begin in college is well under way for the APT student.  Getting into a choice college is much smoother for APT students, and their admissions offers often come with high scholarship awards. 

Finally, the APT student makes the college admissions process less difficult for her / himself.  Many immigrant children get through the college admissions process with zero help from parents.   They go about assessing colleges well before meeting with their assigned guidance counselors.  Traditionally, guidance counselors meet students in January or February of junior year (usually after the seniors have finished their January applications).  By this time many students have missed out on taking courses that could burnish their college resumes.  In those winter meetings, traditional students also find they missed out on taking an early SAT prep course, and totally missed the boat on the possibility of earning National Merit Scholarship recognition.   The APT students have worked for months at test prep and often come to these first meetings already holding an SAT score that ranks at National Merit levels.*

APT students know things about early college admissions planning that many high school guidance counselors don’t recognize, among them:

  1. Starting early means more chances for success.  The SAT is not a one-shot deal, and multiple chances mean on SOME occasion a student fires on all “24 cylinders” and gets a super-charged score. 
  2. The ACT may provide a more promising score.  The APT student figures out as a sophomore (or early in the junior year) which test is best for her or him, and studies for ACT, SAT or both.
  3. Being done early allows smart assessment of colleges.    When sitting on a solid SAT or ACT score by January of junior year, one can make intelligent college visits over the next few months (February and April breaks are the best times to visit colleges).
  4. A good SAT score means one need not visit so many “back-up” colleges.
  5. Being done early is a relief (APT students are human too).  The junior spring is often crowded with AP exams, SAT IIs, finals, sports banquets, proms, awards ceremonies, college visits, plays, driver education, spring fundraisers, volunteer events.  Keeping SAT study out of that mix is wise.
  6. Being done early means you can apply more strategically.  While colleges accept October and even November scores for ED (Early Decision), CHOOSING that one college for an ED application is best done based on knowing your SAT / ACT score rather than guessing what it will be.  ED continues to be advantageous in college admissions and EA (Early Action) helps with merit scholarship awards.
  7. Relying on your high school guidance counselor often means good input comes too late, if at all.  APT students seek out private counselors**, or use resources from students who have navigated successfully the channels to top colleges.

As I’ve written elsewhere, nothing in the junior year curriculum directly helps SAT success (unless your school gives a dedicated for-credit SAT course).  Thus early preparation has no downside.  And since SAT scores have never been more important, students choosing to wait should have a very good reason for the delay.   APT students know this (and are probably no longer reading this piece).

To the rest of you who seek success in the “brain-powered” world of modern America, please know that APT does not mean dissatisfaction.  My APT students enjoy life; they get more done and they simultaneously know they are going places.  Work hard; play hard; eschew frivolities.  That’s how any student can become an APT student.

*National Merit awards are based on the PSAT, but on a scale similar to the SAT.  Students can take the SAT for real or for practice well before the PSAT is given.  APT students will practice as sophomores in order to nail their junior year standardized tests.

Raise Money For Your School!

Host an Ivy Bound class at your school and Ivy Bound will give $500 - $1000 to the Student Fund or other PTO-approved organization.

Improvements we expect:

  • 100-200 point average score increase
  • Broader and better college admission offers
  • Become a better test-taker generally
  • Merit-based scholarship money
  • Versatility with time-saving shortcuts

Let Ivy Bound's experts help you:

  • Build your vocabulary
  • Become an active critical reader
  • Learn idea interpretation and probability
  • Improve your algebra & geometry skills
  • Write proficiently under time pressure

Pricing for Students When School Hosts Ivy Bound

When schools or community groups are able to host us, course pricing is significantly less. Price per student varies by class size as follows:

Full Class Essentials Class with Writing / ACT Prep
6 - 7 students $950 $750 add $400 - $550
8 - 15 students $750 $640 add $300 - $450
16 - 23 students $485* $380* add $200 - $350
24 or more students $360* $285* add $100 - $250

* Where the school prefers, we are able to split larger classes into classes of 8-15 students. We do this by incoming PSAT scores. Ivy Bound makes need-based scholarships available at every price point.

Course Content, Full Class

  • 14 lessons, 1.5 - 2 hours each, 7 Math & 7 Verbal
  • 4 Practice Test & Review sessions (4 hours)
  • 7 extra help sessions (30 min, following meetings)

Course Content, Essentials Class

  • 10 lessons, 1.5 - 2 hours each, 5 Math & 5 Verbal
  • 2 Practice Test & Review sessions (4 hours)
  • 5 extra help sessions (30 min, following meetings)

Course Content, Writing Addition

  • 10 added hours, typically in four 2.5 hour sessions
  • 4 essay evaluations each by 2 Ivy Bound staffers

Course Content, ACT Addition

  • 4 - 12 added hours to cover Science Reasoning, Trigonometry, and Writing (if not already covered)

Students receive Ivy Bound's 200-page Strategy Binder, The Official SAT Guide, test booklets for simulated Practice Tests, weekly Help Line calling, access to Math and Vocabulary quizzes, a 2500+-word SAT vocabulary list, and reinforcement exercises on

Some of the Benefits of Bringing Ivy Bound to You

Classes on location that are convenient for your students
Our teachers come to your school, at customized times for your school, reducing parent concerns about transport. We teach classes in a familiar environment. Practice Tests can be given in the same rooms as the actual SAT.
Free supplemental help
Classes are typically 2 hours long (3 hours if on weekends). Ivy Bound provides after-class help, phone assistance two nights a week, and monthly parent conference calls. Ivy Bound emails SAT vocabulary to your students daily.
Flexible class size and competitive pricing
We can bring a class to your school for as few as 6 students, and our average class size is 12 students.

Ivy Bound Instructors are Professionals

Ivy Bound teachers are highly trained experts in SAT prep, all having scored in the top 1% on the SAT (1500 or higher). Teachers regularly retake the SAT or ACT (at least once every 18 months) to ensure their proficiency. Our instructors are punctual and reliable, and are respectful of the facilities in which they teach. We guarantee that any facilities used by Ivy Bound personnel will be left in the condition in which they were found.

Why Early Preparation is
More Important than Ever

By Mark Greenstein, Founder and Lead Instructor, Ivy Bound Test Prep

Publication permission granted so long as the name and URL are included.

The benefit of early preparation has never been higher. Students who get down to the business of college planning well before the traditional start have a heaping advantage in the college admissions game. Traditionally, guidance counselors meet students in January or February of junior year (usually after the seniors have finished their January applications). By this time many students have missed out on taking courses that could burnish their college resumes. In those winter meetings, students also find they missed out on taking an early SAT prep course, and totally missed the boat on the possibility of earning National Merit Scholarship recognition.

I believe the time to consult with a good counselor is fall or winter of sophomore year. That's when the counselor can help structure the spring schedule, help steer towards a meaningful summer, and help assess which, if any, SAT II (a.k.a. SAT Subject Tests) or AP exams should be taken that spring.

Sophomore year college counseling allows students who face momentous decisions on extracurricular activities to gain wisdom from the track records of hundreds of students before them. Sophomore year is also the last good chance for a student to take up an activity. By junior year, colleges want to see that you have delved passionately into your extracurricular activities

Some of the best private schools force students to devote a week or more to “experiential learning”. I would like public school students to have this opportunity as well.

If your counselor cannot do an in-depth assessment and start planning with you by winter of sophomore year, get an independent consultant. One good source for consultants across North America is . I have long said that a good consultant gives the admissions value of attending a Prep School.

Though you don’t need a college counselor in 8th or 9th grade, you still can be aided by good planning. For example, entering a science competition for the first time is best done as a freshman. You will not likely place high as a freshman, but by the third year, you’ll have learned how to do it doubly better and triply better, and likely place high then. The same goes for artistic competitions: situational experience matters.

Now, let’s say you do place high in a competition as a freshman. Your sophomore year entry has an even better chance because of your “pedigree”. “She placed third last year…she MUST be good” is nearuniversal thinking among judges

Now, among the advantages of early SAT preparation:

  1. Studying for the SAT tangentially helps one’s academics. The grammar, the essay writing, and the vocabulary that a good SAT course provides are likely to help a student improve her/his English grade. The regimented independence that many SAT study courses provide creates a good foundation for studying when electives pre-dominate an upperclassman’s agenda.
  2. Starting early means more chances for success. The SAT is not a one-shot deal, and multiple chances mean on SOME occasion a student fires on all “24 cylinders” and gets a turbocharged score.
  3. Being done early allows smart assessment of colleges. When sitting on a solid SAT score by February, you can make intelligent college visits over the next few months (February and April breaks are my favorite times to visit colleges). A good SAT score means you need not visit so many “back-up” colleges.
  4. Being done early is a relief. The junior spring is often crowded with AP exams, SAT IIs, finals, sports banquets, proms, awards ceremonies, college visits, plays, girlfriends, driver education, spring fundraisers, volunteer events. To keep the SAT out of that mix is wise
  5. Being done early means you can apply more strategically. While colleges accept October and even November score for ED (Early Decision), CHOOSING that one college for an ED application is best done based on knowing your SAT score rather than guessing what it will be. ED continues to be advantageous in college admissions and EA (Early Action) helps with merit scholarship awards.

As I’ve written elsewhere, nothing in the junior year curriculum directly helps SAT success (unless you attend a school with a dedicated for-credit SAT course). Thus early preparation has no downside. And since SAT scores have never been more important, students choosing to wait should have a very good reason for the delay.

Ivy Bound offers a “New Year’s Boot Camp” in Connecticut. This is to get students to build SAT reading skills, to build SAT essay skills, to perfect their grammar, and to begin “reasoning” the SAT way. Each four day “Boot Camp” is open to students in grades 6 – 10. They include 7 hours of daily teaching and a mandatory 2 hours of daily self-study (except on New Year’s Eve, when we have a supervised party). Parents who lack a private admissions counselor have the option to have a two hour “Understanding College Admissions” consultation during the Boot Camp. Parents seeking to enroll their 6 th – 10 th grader for Dec 26 – 29 or Dec 30 – Jan 2 may contact Ivy Bound

No Fly Zone

If you haven’t noticed, summer is over. For many students, it was shorter than ever.

I revisited this article, first written in 2000. My sentiments about summer ring even more true today. My office gets calls from frenzied parents every spring: “my kid has two weeks away here, then has to do her volunteer work there, and then fall sports practice starts up in early she'll be free for 9 days this summer”.

Too little freedom; too much obligation. For the sake of teens and their parents, my proposal is more pressing now than ever.

Articles often ask “should the school year be lengthened?”. I believe that for teens, it should be SHORTENED, but be made more meaningful”. Schools can engender academic intensity, indeed even scholarship, with a 155 day year; (esteemed universities do it in 130). I think 20 – 25 days of a “life enrichment” activity is more valuable than a 10th month of more school, provided the nine real months are made more fulfilling. An extra month off, meant for structured work, volunteering, or non-academic enrichment, would help teens and give more opportunities for their teachers.

Some of the best private schools force students to devote a week or more to “experiential learning”. I would like public school students to have this opportunity as well.

Mark G

A "No-Fly Zone" on college admissions
by Mark Greenstein

The pressures that have swamped many college students could be reduced with one sensible change. Admissions committees at competitive colleges ought to remove summer activities from evaluation. "Should our child go to Spain for the summer? No, that's not different enough to impress colleges; we'll send her to Ecuador! No, that might appear too elitist; we should send her to help clean up the squalor in Sudan!". This wrangling may be especially fitful for families whose teens ought to be earning money in the summer, not spending it. The perception that a vast array of widespread experiences is important to colleges could be lessened in one stroke if Ivy League schools would firmly pronounce "we will not evaluate your summer experiences".

College admissions officers have ample opportunity to evaluate applicants based on their schoolyear extracurricular activities, their grades, and their test scores. Year-round scrutiny is nearly an invasion of privacy. A kid who needs to take a retail job should not be evaluated against another kid who spends the summer in music camp and trying to start a business. Colleges understandably want to know how directed and assertive an applicant is. But colleges can discern direction and assertiveness by the level of academic challenge and success the applicant shows during the school year..

What of "volunteer experience", and "diversity of experience"? These criteria put unfair pressure on lower income families, who need to work over the summer to help support their families. Admissions officers should remember that colleges themselves all have a mission to foster diversity and volunteerism once the students matriculate. If a strong applicant lacks these experiences in his teenage years, the college itself has four years to help develop them. Teens often volunteer for superficial college acceptance-oriented reasons anyhow.

Summer can and should be a time where achievement is not the most pressing issue. Students who want to take academic enrichment courses should do it for their own growth, and their own interests. The knowledge and skills gained therein may show up in an improved school transcript, which should be the only academic period the colleges evaluate. Students who want to develop their athleticism should do so for their passion, or even their potential career interests, but not as a "college credential". Students whose summer school grades are put on a transcript should not receive any advantage from having attended summer school.

Dartmouth's Former Dean of Admissions Karl Furstenburg used the metaphor "Strategic Admissions Limitations Talks" in signaling a desire to have colleges collectively agree to lessen the pressures. The Ivy League has the triple advantage of having an association that already works cooperatively on academics, of instantaneously gaining national attention, and of having the clout for others to follow. Consider summers off the record as a meaningful first proposal, a "No-Fly Zone" if you will.

Almost all of us could use 10 weeks of reduced pressure each year; let's begin with the kids.

One educator's response to the NACAC report

Among less competitive colleges, the National Association of College Admission Counseling’s report is right on. In fact I think colleges that have never cared much for the SAT should drop it as a requirement altogether. It puts unnecessary stress on certain students.

But for students eying "Top 100" colleges, the SAT over the last 20 years has RISEN in importance. Even a part of the NACAC report admits to that -- how a 20 - 30 point increase makes an admissions difference at many schools.

30 points makes a SCHOLARSHIP difference at many schools as well.

Thus we like parents to know the facts and to categorize according to their child's aspirations. If applying to:

Non-Competitive College: consider dispensing with SAT prep

Fairly Competitive College: do SAT prep if you need to climb above a certain threshold for likely admission OR if you are seeking to maximize your merit scholarship awards.

Highly Competitive College: do SAT prep until you have achieved a score that's at or above the 75%ile of the colleges you aspire to attend.

Fairly Competitive College, as an Athletic Recruit: do SAT prep to the extent that you can assure a GPA and SAT combination that will surpass NCAA minimums.

Highly Competitive College, as an Athletic Recruit: do SAT prep to the extent that you can assure a GPA and SAT combination that will surpass standards that the school’s coaches AND admissions officers say you need.

As for whether prep helps -- there the NACAC report didn't divide as it should: between diligent and less diligent students. Ivy Bound’s courses help all students to some degree; among the diligent students -- the results have been dramatic -- 171 points (Math + CR vs. a prior SAT or PSAT). Unfortunately, nobody included Ivy Bound in this NACAC survey.

SAT Prep is not for everybody. We candidly discuss this in our seminars. We wish NACAC would parse in a way that aids families instead of taking a broad brush.

We invite all parents to telephone seminars on 218-844-0850 x 429601, the first Sunday of each month at 9:15pm eastern. I think many will find it illuminating.


Why an Education Consortium is Brilliant?

I am privileged to work with a group of schools that coalesce for certain activities. To my knowledge, the Middlesex Consortium, based in central Connecticut, is the only one of its kind. More parents deserve a consortium in their towns

In an era when many public schools are reducing their extra-curricular offerings, Middlesex has expanded its offerings. By funding two administrators, Superintendents in seven Connecticut districts save money on many activities. Moreover, Middlesex students receive activities can’t be had at all when a single school tries to undertake them. Latin, chess, public speaking, and high level computer programming, are middle school activities that typically need 15 or more students to justify a good instructor, and 50 or more students to justify a really strong instructor (who can teach varied sections). Similarly, in high school, Chinese, entrepreneurship, anatomy, geology, economics, SAT prep, and speed reading also require a critical mass that many high schools lack.

College preparation is the activity with which I am most familiar. My firm provides private tutoring and on-campus SAT prep classes. Schools that enlist Ivy Bound save money for their participating students. We can give a top tier course at a reduced price. It’s typically 20 – 30% reduced. With a consortium providing many more students, we can reduce the rate 60 – 70%. The high number of students also means the SAT classes can be split into slower and faster paced classes, and in some cases it allows us to offer weekend and weekday classes. Students have more choices, lower cost, and a more honed learning experience.

SAT Prep is the tip of the extra-curricular iceberg. SAT study is for many students the end of a long learning process. Students who can have myriad activities start their enrichment well beforehand.

To superintendents who want to really make mark on the education world, I suggest starting a consortium. Offer private educators the chance to bid for services; you’ll be impressed at how many replies you will get. My firm for one would come running (we prefer dealing with truly outside-the-box superintendents than entrenched bureaucracies).

Your students will be the main beneficiaries. Fund the consortium at first with volunteers; there are plenty of capable, eager parents who can administer a few appealing class offerings to start. The district can earn money for future administrators by using a portion of the funds parents pay for the classes. Our experience is that 15% - 20% of course fees supports robust administration and marketing.

ACT and SAT: Eight Major Differences

1)   ACT includes trigonometry; SAT does not.

2)   ACT includes “science reasoning”, which is logical reasoning based on data and scientific terms, but not based on classroom science.

3)   SAT deducts points for wrong answers.  However with coaching, students can actually use this to their ADVANTAGE.

4)   SAT Math demands scrutinizing the English aspect of math questions.  ACT is more straightforward, making it a more comfortable test, but not necessarily easier.  ACT math can include logarithms, high level exponent problems, and matrices; SAT does not.

5)   SAT directly tests vocabulary.  This rewards students who are big readers or good vocabulary absorbers.

6)   SAT Reading is generally less interesting and the answers rely more on nuance.

 7)   SAT requires a 25 minute essay.  ACT’s  essay (30 min.) is optional now.

 7A)   Optional essays typically mean a student with high aims must do them or look like a laggard.  The optional ACT essay  will typically ask about familiar “school-related”  things that American teens are familiar with: “should dress codes be used in school?”,  “ should students receive academic credit for community service?” , and “should varsity athletes be allowed a less-demanding class load?” are among the recent ACT topics.

SAT essay topics are typically philosophical: “Are there heroes in the modern world?”, “is effort involved in pursuing any goal valuable?”, “should people prefer new ideas or values to those of the past?”, and “is there value for people to belong only to groups in which they have something in common?” were recent SAT prompts.

8)   One difference that could be considered “major” is colleges’ USE of the SAT vs ACT: Almost all colleges “cherry-pick” SAT sub-scores, meaning they consider the best combination of Math, CR and Writing earned on different dates.  Only a minority of the “most competitive” colleges do this with the four ACT sub-scores.  Thus, a student who does not ping strong scores on all ACT sections on the same day, is being dragged down by one or more weaker sections, whereas cherry-picking SAT scores means one weak section on one day does not hurt.

Our suggestions:

Make an early comparison. Buy The Official SAT Study Guide ISBN # 087447-7182 and take any two of the first three full length tests under timed conditions. Buy The Real ACT Prep Guide ISBN # 076891-9754 and take any two of the three tests therein under timed conditions. Score them and use the accompanying table to compare the non-Writing sections (1600 SAT scale) with one another.

If you really need to save time, you need not do the Writing sections for either (they compare almost the same). SAT's two multiple choice Writing Sections and ACT's first section ("English") are almost the same. And the Essay (Section 1 on an SAT and the last section on the ACT) are almost the same. Students may skip these sections and thereby save time. SAT thus becomes a six-section test (2.5 hours) and ACT becomes a three section test (2.25 hours).

Absent a comparison (or if the comparison shows nearly identical scores): most students seeking admission to competitive colleges who are capable of absorbing vocabulary should study for SAT and disregard ACT if scores are strong. Add ACT prep if after two post-tutoring SATs the scores are unlikely to impress your target colleges.

Our equally important suggestion: START EARLY. Colleges credit the best score, so it’s important to have three or more opportunities to take these tests. With vacations, proms, and graduations, that means the students who plan in advance will have the best opportunities. This is especially true for families that want to take advantage of Early Decision. For students who’ve had a semester each of Algebra and Geometry by the end of sophomore year, the summer before junior year and/or the fall of junior year are usually the best times to prep.

ACT                                         vs.                  SAT                          

  “English”                                                         “Writing”

Essay  30 min (optional, at end)                          Essay 25 min (required, at beginning)

Grammar                                                           Grammar

60 min              75 questions                              35 min              49 questions

 Math                                                                 Math

60 min              60 questions                              70 min              54 questions

Need trigonometry, matrices                               No trigonometry, logs, matrices, or complex numbers

matrices and Complex numbers

 Reading                                                           Critical Reading 

35 min              40 questions                              70 min                          67 questions

4 passages                                                       4 passages + 19 Sentence Completion questions.

 Science reasoning 

35 min              40 questions                              no science

7 experiments

 Equating Section                                             Equating section

No equating section                                           25 min              Math, Reading, or Writing

 3 hrs 10 min + 30min optional writing                   3 hrs 45 min

Approx 25 min extraneous time                           Approx 45 min extraneous time

$35 + $15 if doing Writing                                   $49

 Superscoring – still a minority of the                  Superscoring – by almost all colleges; Univ of Calif are

most competitive colleges.                                 10 of the 12 exceptions

 “Score Choice” - yes                                       “Score Choice” – yes

 Score Choice is not being adhered to by many colleges, which are asking to see all scores.  However, all these colleges claim to assess students on their best scores.

 Bottom Line:  the tests are similar.  No college requires one over the other, and to our knowledge, no college has a preference. ACT remains a bit broader in content.  ACT to a slight degree tests knowledge a bit more than resourcefulness.  Knowledge AND resourcefulness are “coach-able”.