ACT has typically used students’ most recent scores for reporting and research purposes. They found that students who retest on the ACT perform better than expected in college based on their test scores, and that traditionally underserved groups receive more fair consideration with the option of superscoring. Read the full blog to see how and why.

ACT/SAT Test Day Checklist

ACT/SAT Test Day Checklist

We all know that mindset is half the game when taking tests. And that Preparation + Opportunity = Success. Here is a list of expert tips for the night before the test—and the morning of—so that you can feel calm and confident walking in.

Top 10 Ways to Prepare for the SAT

Top 10 Ways to Prepare for the SAT

Take these 10 tips into consideration when studying for the SAT to improve your score and feel confident in your test-taking skills when the day comes.

Best Study Techniques for Your Learning Style

Best Study Techniques for Your Learning Style

All students learn through a combination of seeing, hearing, and experiencing. However, for most students, one learning style stands out. Research has shown that students who study in a way that supports their learning style can perform better on tests and improve their grades/scores.

Managing Time Wisely on the SAT

Managing Time Wisely on the SAT

The college admissions test is three hours long, or almost four if a student takes the optional essay. Learn more about the structure of the SAT Test and how to prepare for test day.

How to Find Scholarships

How to Find Scholarships

Some deadlines are as early as a year before college starts, so if you're in high school now, you should be researching and applying for scholarships during the summer between your junior and senior years. But if you've missed that window, don't give up!

Students: Find the Right College for You

Students: Find the Right College for You

Finding your college fit doesn’t have to be stressful. Both parents and students, read through these questions, tips and guidelines for students to consider. As you answer and perhaps even take notes, discuss your options with your parents and get clear on your desired college experience.

How to Help your High School Student Succeed this School Year

How to Help your High School Student Succeed this School Year

The DC region is full of overachievers and the pressure to succeed trickles down to our high school students. Here are the steps to help them succeed.

Get Back into the Flow of School Days

For many students the first weeks of school can be a big adjustment after the less structured days of summer, whether they were spent at home or on vacation. Think of this time of the year as an opportunity to establish new, positive patterns that will carry you into your future success during the school year. Here are some tips for getting back into the routine before school begins and beyond:

  • Set those alarms! Figure out when you’ll need to leave for school and work backward from there. Get up, take your shower and get dressed as if it were a school day. Then when the day comes, you will be awake and ready on time.

  • Read, Read, Read! Get the brain working while improving your vocabulary. Studies have shown that the best way to keep your brain functioning at its peak is by reading books.

  • Go to Bed Early! Once school starts you’ll need to be able to fall asleep in time to get at least the recommended seven and a half hours sleep, so train your body to fall asleep early starting NOW. Cut off screen time at least thirty minutes before you go to bed.

  • Clean Out Old School Supplies and Closets! Free up mind space by cleaning out your closets, your drawers, your backpack, and your desk. You’ll find the peace of mind it gives you is phenomenal. And you’ll have room to organize the new!

  • Eat Breakfast as Soon as You Wake Up! Whether it’s a granola bar, cereal, a piece of fruit, or eggs and toast, breakfast is still the most important meal of the day. So do your best to get something into your system right away. When you go to school you need brain power, energy, and a good attention span—all of which are fueled by your meals!

  • Get Curious! Smile, and look forward to all the new things you are going to learn at school!

Implementing these simple steps can ease the transition from lounging to learning, and help you make sure you’re ready to hop back into the school routine. Once you do, you’ll be amazed at how good you feel with what you accomplish each day, and how easy it is to embrace the challenges of your new schedule!



Vint Hill Educational Services offers mock tests for the ACT and SAT. These are taken in a group setting to simulate the testing environment. For the ACT and SAT, we will review the scores to see which test the student is scoring higher on. Since all colleges and universities accept both tests, it's beneficial to know if your child is scoring higher on the ACT or SAT. Check out our ACT versus SAT comparison chart for test differences. Sometimes the difference is like night and day, and for others, it may be a hairline higher on one versus the other. The student won't know which test is better, unless the individual takes one of each. We'll use our score concordance chart in order to make a test recommendation.



Click here to register for a mock ACT/SAT or click on a specific test date below

ACT - 7/27/2019, 10/12/2019, 1/18/2020, 3/7/2020, 5/16/2020

SAT - 8/3/2019, 9/28/2019, 11/30/2019, 2/15/2020, 5/23/2020 


Click here to register for a mock ACT/SAT or click on a specific test date below.  

ACT - 7/20/2019, 9/28/2019, 11/9/2019, 1/11/2020, 3/21/2020, 5/9/2020

SAT - 7/27/2019, 9/21/2019, 11/16/2019, 1/25/2020, 3/7/2020, 5/16/2020


Click here to register for a mock ACT/SAT or click on a specific test date below.

ACT - 7/27/2019, 10/12/2019, 1/18/2020, 3/7/2020, 5/16/2020

SAT - 8/3/2019, 9/28/2019, 11/30/2019, 2/15/2020, 5/23/2020 


Click here to register for a mock ACT/SAT or click on a specific test date below.

ACT - 7/20/2019, 9/28/2019, 11/9/2019, 1/11/2020, 3/21/2020, 5/9/2020

SAT - 7/27/2019, 9/21/2019, 11/16/2019, 1/25/2020, 3/7/2020, 5/16/2020


We also offer one-to-one mock testing at our offices. This consists of a full-length practice test for your child. Tests include: ACT, SAT, PSAT, SSAT, ISEEHSPT, and SAT Subject Tests. We provide the test booklet, essay booklet, answer sheet, testing timer, calculator, and pencils. 

We can send parents a practice test as well, to administer to their student in-home. We will send out a free practice test packet along with proctoring instructions. Parents must send the answer sheet back to us via email or mail. 

High School Students: 6 Ways to Get Motivated

Whether you're studying for exams, preparing for the ACT/SAT, or trying to get a few college applications done, getting motivated can be incredibly difficult. With summer vacation starting, every time you sit down to start your work, you end up daydreaming about swimming, camping, skating, and just hanging out in the sun.

So, how do you keep up with your work? How do you finish strong? Here are six things you can do to stay academically motivated:

1. Make a to-do list

The first thing you should do is make a to-do list. Just write down everything you need to get done and everything you need to do to make sure those things get done. For example, if you are trying to work up the motivation to study for an exam, your to-do list might look something like this:

Complete review packet

Re-read chapters as needed

Review past tests and quizzes

Make notecards of important material

Putting all these things under the larger umbrella of "studying" may lead you to feel overwhelmed with all the work you have to do. Making a list of smaller to-dos will help you digest your task more easily.

2. Set goals

Once you have made your to-do list, it is important to set goals. Goals remind you of what you are working toward and why. Try to set a goal for each of the following areas:



Deeper Desire

In the case of studying for an exam, your goals might look like this:

Preparation goal: Complete all items on my to-do list. Study for 1 hour every day during the two weeks leading up to the exam.

Result goal: Receive a 92% or higher on the exam. Achieve an A in the class.

Deeper desire goal: Be accepted into my desired college.

Your preparation goal should be directly related to the task you need to get motivated for. In the instance of studying for an exam, this would be the actual studying itself. So, your goal is to complete all the to-do list items and to study for 1 hour every day leading up to the exam.

Your result goal should be related to the consequences of your efforts. In this case, you are getting motivated and studying for the exam because you want to get a 92% or higher on the exam and receive an A in the class.

Lastly, the deeper desire goal should be your number one reason for being motivated. In this case, why do you want to study, and why do you want an A? The answer could be that you want to make sure you get into your top college.

If you set goals on all three of these levels, you should constantly be reminded of what you need to do and why you need to do it. With your "deeper desire" at the forefront of your mind, you should have no problem pushing through periods of discouragement.

3. Set rewards

A great way to boost your motivation is to set rewards for yourself. Tell yourself that if you study for an hour, you can watch 30 minutes of your favorite Netflix series (just don't end up binge watching it). Or if you finish three college applications during the week, you can treat yourself to something nice on the weekend.

If you need a little help with this, see if your parents will make a deal with you. That way, they are in charge of the reward and will hold you accountable for your actions.

4. Plot your progress

Sometimes it isn't the motivation to start that is the issue, but the motivation to keep going. How many times have you been midway through an assignment only to end up playing video games and having to finish it the next day?

If you want to make sure you stay motivated throughout your work, plot your progress. Being aware of how much you have done will give you a sense of accomplishment that may just be enough to push you through your work.

5. Make it fun

One of the easiest ways to get motivated is to find a way to make your work fun. It seems impossible to make filling out applications or studying for a test fun, but there are ways. For example, filling out college applications with friends makes the work go by a lot faster. Instead of dreading the work, you look forward to talking to your friends and getting their opinions. As for studying, instead of quizzing yourself, why not grab a few classmates and play trivia!

If you can find a way to enjoy your work, you won't need motivation – or, rather, your motivation will be the enjoyment you get from doing it.

One last tip...

Take a break! Remember that sometimes you don't need more motivation; you just need a little break! If you've been working for an hour or so, take twenty minutes to relax and recharge! Watch a YouTube video, get up and run around, take a weird Buzzfeed quiz, do whatever you feel like. You'll come back to your work with a new attitude and a refreshed mind.

Math Readiness Drops to 14-Year Low among US High School Graduates


Readiness in math is trending downward among ACT-tested US high school graduates, falling to its lowest mark in 14 years, according to The Condition of College and Career Readiness 2018, ACT’s annual score report. The report is based on 2018 graduates around the country who took the ACT test.

The percentage of ACT-tested graduates who met or surpassed the ACT College Readiness Benchmark in math—suggesting they are ready to succeed in a first-year college algebra class—fell to its lowest level since 2004; 40% of 2018 graduates met the math benchmark, down from a high of 46% in 2012.

In addition, students’ average score on the ACT math test dropped to its lowest level in more than 20 years—down to 20.5 (on a scale of 1 to 36), continuing a slide from 21.1 in 2012 to 20.7 last year. Student readiness in math was on an upswing from the early 2000s to 2012, but it has gradually declined since then.

“The negative trend in math readiness is a red flag for our country, given the growing importance of math and science skills in the increasingly tech-driven US and global job market,” said ACT CEO Marten Roorda. “It is vital that we turn this trend around for the next generation and make sure students are learning the math skills they need for success in college and career.”

The results are based on the more than 1.9 million 2018 graduates—55 percent of the national graduating class—who took the ACT® test.


English Readiness Also Dropping

Readiness in English has also been trending down over the past several years, dropping from 64% in 2015 to 60% this year, the lowest level since the benchmarks were introduced.

Readiness levels in reading (46%) and science (36%) were both down one percentage point from last year but are showing no long-term trends either upward or downward. Science remains the subject area in which students are least likely to be prepared for college coursework.

More Students at Bottom of Readiness Scale

A growing percentage of students are falling at the bottom of the preparedness scale. Thirty-five percent of 2018 graduates met none of the four ACT College Readiness Benchmarks, up from 31% in 2014 and from 33% last year. These students are likely to struggle in first-year college coursework in all four core subject areas.

In addition, slightly fewer ACT-tested graduates were well prepared for college coursework overall this year than last year. Thirty-eight percent of 2018 graduates met at least three of the four ACT College Readiness Benchmarks in the core subject areas, down from 39% in 2017 but the same as in 2016.

“Innovation is important in improving educational outcomes,” said Roorda. “One big step we can take is to make sure that our learning resources are designed in a way that is more personalized and better fits this generation’s way of consuming information. ACT is committing significant research and resources to this effort.”

Average ACT Composite Score Drops Back Down

The national average ACT composite score for the 2018 graduating class was 20.8, down from 21.0 last year but the same as in 2016.

Hispanic, African American Students Lag Behind

Hispanic and African American students continue to lag behind their white and Asian-American counterparts in terms of college readiness. Asian Americans remain the best prepared group as a whole; their average composite score rose this year compared to last year, while scores for students in all other racial/ethnic groups went down slightly.

Underserved Learners Struggle

College readiness levels remain markedly low overall for underserved learners (low-income, minority, and/or first-generation college students—who make up 43% of all ACT-tested graduates). Once again, fewer than a fourth of underserved graduates were well prepared for college coursework overall compared to slightly more than half of students who were not considered underserved.

“Underserved students often face obstacles that their peers do not,” said Roorda. “We must work hard to ensure they have equal access to a quality education, including challenging courses that focus on college-readiness skills and planning resources to help them create a pathway to success. ACT is focused on improving equity through our Center for Equity in Learning and other efforts.”

During the 2017-2018 academic year, ACT awarded more than 500,000 fee waivers to low-income high school students across the nation, allowing them to take the ACT for free. Unfortunately, 28% of these fee waivers were not used, suggesting that over 150,000 eligible students missed out on an opportunity to take the ACT for free during the past year alone.

STEM Readiness Down Slightly

Twenty percent of graduates met or surpassed the ACT STEM (science, technology, engineering and math) Benchmark, which represents readiness for first-year courses typically required for a STEM major. The average national STEM score—a combination of the ACT math and science scores—was 20.9 in 2018, down from 21.1 in 2017.

College Aspirations High, but Often Not Realized

Student aspirations are high. Around three-fourths (76%) of 2018 ACT-tested graduates said they aspire to postsecondary education. Most of those students said they aspire to a four-year degree or higher.

A significant portion of students who hope to attend college, however, don’t actually enroll. While 82% of last year’s 2017 ACT-tested graduates said they aspired to attend college, only 66% actually ended up enrolling. If this “aspirations gap” were fully closed, an additional 322,526 of last year’s ACT-tested graduates would have enrolled in postsecondary education.

Once again this year, only 4 percent of ACT-tested graduates indicated they plan to pursue a career in education. These numbers point to no relief in sight for the US teacher shortage, which is projected to grow to over 100,000 educators by 2021.


ACT’s report provides specific recommendations to help meet its goal for all young people to have access to a high-quality, holistic education that will get them on target for college and career readiness by the time they graduate from high school:

  • Give educators the resources they need to help improve educational outcomes.

  • Assess student learning and implement improvement strategies starting early in students’ educational careers.

  • Provide equitable resources for underserved students.

  • Ensure that students’ education is holistic and addresses the needs of the “whole learner.”

  • Collect, handle, and use assessment data responsibly, with special attention to maintaining its security and quality.

About the Report

The report includes ACT score results from all 50 states and the District of Columbia, including 16 states that required all students to take the ACT as part of their statewide testing programs and another three states that funded ACT testing on an optional basis. It also includes the results from more than 1,100 individual school districts across the country that administered the ACT to all students.

ACT Introduces Recommendations and Diagnostics (RAD) Engine, a Breakthrough in Personalized Learning

RAD image .png

ACT announced a breakthrough software capability designed to guide students to education resources that address their individual learning needs.

The Recommendations and Diagnostics (RAD) engine, delivered through an application programming interface (API), was recently integrated into ACT Academy™, ACT’s free online learning tool. ACT Academy helps students improve their academic skills by giving them access to its collection of online learning resources. Each student receives a personalized study plan, based on ACT Academy’s diagnostics or scores on the ACT test, PreACT®, or an official ACT practice test.

As students take quizzes or tests on ACT Academy, RAD continuously tracks their mastery of specific academic skills. Then, based upon the results, it recommends education resources—including lessons, videos, games and other content—that address key skills the student has not yet mastered. It’s all done in real time.

RAD was developed by ACTNext™, ACT’s multidisciplinary innovation unit, using the principles of computational psychometrics (AI-based algorithms fused with psychometric theory).

“The RAD engine makes it easy for students to identify their own particular academic deficiencies and address them,” said Alina von Davier, senior vice president of ACTNext. “It’s the first of its kind, and it’s a huge step in providing students with personalized learning, one of ACT’s key goals as it transforms into a learning, measurement, and navigation organization.”

While ACT Academy is the first online learning platform to integrate the power of the RAD engine, it will not be the last. ACT envisions many more potential uses of the capability in the future. RAD can be integrated into any system that has a set of learning standards underlying its instructional content, and it was developed in such a way to make it adaptable by assessment and learning programs with ease and efficiency.

For example, in addition to ACT Academy and the ACT Holistic Framework®, the RAD engine may interface with other measurement resources based on skills hierarchies, such as specific state learning standards, Next Generation Science Standards, and the Common Core State Standards.

ACT is also partnering with Smart Sparrow, a courseware design platform provider, in order to deliver RAD in an easy-to-configure way to thousands of courseware design teams worldwide.

More information about the RAD engine can be found on the ACTNext website.


Improving Your ACT Math Score

math image 3.jpg


ACT Math is a real challenge for some test-takers. Sometimes, even students who pride themselves on their math skills can be caught off-guard by the ACT. Below are five tips to help you improve your ACT Math score, whether you’re a “math person” or not.




Noticing small details is essential to scoring well in ACT Math. So many ACT students will say they missed math questions due to “stupid mistakes.” In these so-called “stupid” mistakes, test-takers see all the information in a math problem, but they fail to properly recognize certain details.


ACT Math loves to test your ability to notice and correctly interpret every number, symbol, word, or graphic in a math problem. As you practice for the test, teach yourself to scan ACT Math questions for small-but-important-details, such as decimal points, math signs, the wording of story problems, and the components of graphs and charts.




There is no numeric entry in ACT Math, just multiple choice. The correct answer to each math problem will be right in front of you, among the answer choices. When you’re not sure of the right answer, you can always find the correct response by thinking logically and strategically. Learn how to eliminate incorrect answers, and learn the different ways in which ACT Math likes to trick you with tempting-but-wrong choices.




Not all ACT prep materials are created equal. A good set of prep materials for ACT Math is important—think helpful tutorials, good advice, and useful practice materials. Check the official ACT website for helpful advice, tools, and resources.  




Yes, the ACT lets you use a calculator on the test, yet excessive reliance on a calculator can be a trap! Sometimes mental math or estimation can get you to the right answer almost instantly—much faster than you could if you keyed every step into your calculator. Also remember that writing a few problem steps on scrap paper increases your accuracy. It’s pretty easy to hit the wrong number on a calculator keypad, but much harder to actually write down the incorrect number (and reread it a few times without catching it). Always think carefully about whether you really need that calculator, and look for ways to avoid calculator use.




The #1 mistake students make is not dedicating enough time to all the math topics tested on the ACT. Don’t make this mistake! Especially when there are so many resources guiding you in the right direction.

The five most frequently tested ACT math topics are Pre-algebra, Elementary Algebra, Intermediate Algebra, Plane Geometry, and Coordinate Geometry. Prioritize topics that give you problems, and give the ones that come easily to you a break. With the right preparation, you’ll be that much closer to reaching your target ACT score.

Should you need any help raising your ACT math score, please contact us and send a message!


New ACT and SAT Concordance Tables - Released Summer 2018

SAT and ACT - New Concordance Chart

SAT scores versus ACT scores - concordance chart displaying how scores compare to each other. Which test is better for you to take? ACT or SAT? Find out by taking one of each test!

Concordance tables bridge the gap between the ACT and SAT scales, providing a guide to link equivalent scores. They’re not only essential for admissions staff, but also for students and families to help decide which test is the best choice. The newest concordance tables were released this summer, replacing the contested tables that were posted by the College Board, without input from ACT, in 2016.

The range of possible SAT scores that a student can achieve is much wider than the range of possible ACT scores. There are only 36 distinct score possibilities on the ACT, whereas there are 120 possibilities for the SAT, a test which increments its scores by 10 points between 400 and 1600. This means that the concordance table needs to assign a range of SAT scores that match a given ACT score.

The official 2018 ACT/SAT concordance tables can be viewed here.

How Different Are the 2016 vs. 2018 Concordance Tables?  

The truth is, when comparing the 2016 and 2018 concordances, the adjustments are not very dramatic. Yet there are some important implications for students:

·         For the highest scores on the scale, the top SAT scores have become more valuable in comparison to ACT scores. For instance, a 1540 on the SAT is now considered equal to a 35 on the ACT. Previously, concordance charts had linked the SAT’s 1540 with a 34 on the ACT.

·         For the lowest scores on the scale, the bottom SAT scale scores have become less valuable in comparison to ACT scores. A clear example of this is at the SAT score of 590. While this was previously equated to an 11 on the ACT, this score is now linked to a 9, dropping its value by two points.

·         Near the middle of the score ranges, (21-24 for ACT, 1060-1190 for SAT) the concordances did not change at all.

What Does This Mean for Students? 

The new concordances do not change much for students when it comes to college admission, so this minor adjustment will not make waves.
However, the new concordance information does have the potential to affect minimum scores for merit scholarships or programs that require clear-cut SAT or ACT score ranges. It is likely that the response will be mixed: some institutions will adjust their required ranges, while others will just stick with their established status quo.
Our advice for students starting test prep does not change: if you are deciding between the ACT and SAT, it is still important to take a full-length practice test for each. When you have completed both tests, compare your scores against the 2018 concordance chart. If your SAT and ACT scores are comparable, you should choose whichever test you preferred. If one score is significantly higher, opt for that test instead. The new concordance tables do not change the process of selecting a test; however, they do help to standardize how students, guidance counselors, and admissions committees compare test scores.
If you would like to take a practice ACT or SAT to compare the exams and assess your testing skills, Vint Hill Educational Services offers mock tests in group, individual, and at-home formats. Along with the test booklets, you will receive testing instructions and full diagnostic reports showing score breakdowns in each of the test sections. For more information, please read on, or visit our Mock Testing webpage.

Preparing for the New School Year

With the new school year just around the corner, it’s time to start back-to-school prep. Shopping for new school supplies and clothes helps kids to start thinking about the return to the classroom, but that’s just the beginning. There are many more ways to prep kids for school year success so they can start the new school year with a fresh and ready mind.

The habits and routines that are implemented at home right now go a long way to helping students prepare not only for back-to-school success, but for success that lasts the whole school year—much longer than new pencils or running shoes will! Wondering how to help your child get a jump start on a great school year? Here are some ideas to prep the entire household for success in the 2018-2019 school year:


Poor sleeping habits can have an impact on student performance, so the sooner you get your child on a regular sleep schedule, the better. Starting the school year will be easier for you and your child, and will help avoid morning—and evening—rushes.

Reading and writing helps get children’s minds working and helps keep their brains sharp. Getting back into the habit of reading and writing a bit each day will help maintain school skills like penmanship and vocabulary so your child can start the school year strong.

During the school year, after-school hours should be reserved for homework and extra-curricular activities. Start getting into this routine in the weeks leading up to school. The sooner kids turn off the TV and turn on their minds during this timeframe, the less of a hassle homework will be during the school year.

Use TV-free time to play board games with kids during what will become the homework hour. This will help kids get into the habit of doing engaging their mind during this time, so when homework starts coming home again, they already have a routine in place.

An alarm clock can help children develop time management and organization skills they’ll need during the school year. This will help kids take ownership of their activities and help avoid rushed mornings.

A wall calendar makes a great organization tool. Have kids write down their commitments like soccer, dance class, birthday parties, etc. When school starts, use the calendar to note the due dates of big projects, standardized testing dates, and vacation days.

Picking out clothes is a great way for children to develop organizational habits. Having everything picked out and ready the day before also helps cut down on school-day morning rushes and last-minute scrambles.

Start counting down the days together. Preparation can help make the transition back to class much less stressful and difficult for students. Talking about the upcoming school year can help kids manage expectations, set goals, and prepare.

If your child is starting at a new school, it can be intimidating. Getting to know the way around helps lessen school-related anxiety and boost confidence. Take a tour of the new school, find out teachers’ names, the location of classrooms, and where the bathrooms are located.

Unless problems were addressed over the summer, it’s likely they may return again this year. Remind yourself of weak areas so you can make a plan to address problem areas early on.

Being prepared with the right supplies is an important part of performing well in school. New supplies also hold a certain magic for getting kids excited about hearing the school bell ring again.

Learning how to have a successful school year starts with the right preparation and a positive attitude. It’s never too early to start thinking about getting back into the school-year routine—getting started now will help make the back-to-school transition easier on both you and your child.

Contact us for an end of summer tutor and get ahead before school starts!  

5 Must-Know SAT Math Tips

Your SAT Test Day is approaching, and you need SAT Math tips and strategies to maximize your score. Remember that your SAT Math subscores will reflect how you perform on specific questions tied to The Heart of Algebra, Passport to Advanced Math, and Problem Solving and Data Analysis concepts.  

SAT Math Tip #1: Use this approach to answer every SAT math question 

Step 1: Read the question, identifying and organizing important information as you go

• What information am I given?

• Separate the question from the context.

• How are the answer choices different?

• Should I label or draw a diagram? 

Step 2: Choose the best strategy to answer the SAT Math question

• Look for Patterns.

• Pick numbers or use straightforward math.

Step 3: Check that you answered the right question

• Review the question stem.

• Check units of measurement.

• Double-check your work.

SAT Math Tip #2: Use this method for multi-part Math questions

Step 1: Read the first question in the set, looking for clues.

Step 2: Identify and organize the information you need.

Step 3: Based on what you know, plan your steps to navigate the first question.

Step 4: Solve, step-by-step, checking units as you go.

Step 5: Did I answer the right question?

Step 6: Repeat for remaining questions, incorporating results from the previous question if possible. 

SAT Math Tip #3: Translate words into math

Translate the words in the question into math so you can solve.

SAT Math Tip #4: Review number properties and SAT math relationships

Recognizing number properties will save you time on Test Day. Number properties rules include odds and evens, prime numbers, and the order of operations. You can pick numbers to help you remember the rules.

For SAT math relationships, knowing the difference between ratios, proportions, and percents can save valuable time. Being able to move easily among percents, fractions, and decimals will also save time. 

SAT Math Tip #5: Make sure your calculator is allowed and bring it with you on Test Day. 

Check the official SAT website to make sure the calculator you plan to use on the SAT math section is allowed.


Contact us to learn how we can help increase your SAT math score! 

The SSAT: Planning, Preparation, and Practice

If you're interested in attending an independent school, you may have heard the term SSAT and may now be wondering how to study for the test. In this article, we'll briefly cover the basics of what the SSAT is and does and offer key SSAT prep strategies and tips. 

What Is the SSAT?

The SSAT, or Secondary School Admission Test, is a standardized test required by a number of independent schools worldwide as a part of any hopeful student's application.
It's offered at three levels:

  • Elementary, for students currently enrolled in Grades 3 or 4
  • Middle, for students currently enrolled in Grades 5 through 7
  • Upper, for students currently enrolled in Grades 8 through 11

What Does the SSAT Test?

The SSAT measures verbal, quantitative, and reading skills, all the while emphasizing critical thinking and problem solving.
The quantitative section tests things like basic operations, basic fractions, and ordering numbers (for the elementary-level students) and algebra, geometry, and data analysis (for the upper-level students). 

The verbal section consists of responding to synonym and analogy questions at an appropriate level for the student's age.

The reading section is focused on answering comprehension and analysis questions related to short passages from a variety of genres.

The test is almost entirely multiple-choice, with the exception of one 15-25 minute free-response writing exercise. Younger students will be asked to write a short story, while older students will have the choice of constructing an essay if they prefer.

The SSAT is designed to measures skills rather than achievement; in other words, it's not intended to rely on your mastery of specific material. This is supposed to help keep the test fair across all different backgrounds from which a student might originate.

How Is the SSAT Scored?

The SSAT is norm-referenced, meaning your final score is based on how well you do compared to other test takers. You will receive a scaled score and a percentile ranking. The scaled score's range will depend on the student's grade level:

  • For Elementary, the range is 300-600 per section, or 1200-1800.
  • For Middle, the range is 440-710 per section, or 1320-2130.
  • For Upper, the range is 500-800 per section, or 1500-2400.

The percentile ranking is always on a scale of 1-99, and it represents your performance as compared to students of the same grade who tested on the SSAT for the first time within the past three years in the US or Canada.

While the test is designed to be of "middle difficulty," this is a very competitive group of students against which you're being scored—these are the select students applying to the finest independent schools. 

SSAT Practice Tests

Use practice tests to familiarize yourself with the format, instructions, time constraints, and content. They're a great opportunity to practice as well as to ease the uncertainty you are likely to feel when facing a test of unknown characteristics.

Practice tests also provide the perfect opportunity to assess your own strengths and weaknesses. From there, you can ask a tutor, teacher, or parent for help on the specific areas where you struggle.

VHES offers a free in-home baseline practice test to help students familiarize themselves with the SSAT and prepare for the official exam. Click here for more information about our SSAT Prep service and diagnostic reports.  

How to Study for the SSAT: 5 Steps

#1: Take an Official Practice Test 

You should start prepping at least three months before you plan to take the SSAT. The first step is to take a practice test and then analyze your performance: what are your strengths and weaknesses, and what growth will you need to see in order to reach your goal? Quantify where you are and where you want to be. Note your performance in each of the three scored content areas. 

#2: Study Regularly

Having a regular study schedule is vital to raising your score, since you need to put in real time and effort to improve. 

Are you way behind your goal—say, more than 200 points? Think about scheduling at least an hour or two a week for Elementary students or up to three or four hours a week for Upper students. 

Are you looking to make a more moderate score increase of 100 - 200 points? You'll still want to study regularly, but can cut down to an hour or less per week for Elementary-level or roughly two hours per week for Upper-level.

Are you right about where you need to be in your score? You don't need to put in quite the same level of sustained SSAT prep, but we still recommend taking one or two more practice tests to keep your scores stable (or even improve them!).

#3: Focus on Your Weaknesses

In your prep, focus in on the topics that were hardest for you, but don't forget to dust the ones you've mastered off pretty routinely, too.

For the quantitative section, pay close attention in your math class; especially review/practice the topics that are slated to come up on the test, according to the Official Guide.

For the verbal section, make a game of playing with synonyms and analogies in everyday life. Get your friends and family in on it, too, if you can!

For the reading section, the best thing you can do is actively engage with reading on a daily basis. Draw from multiple genres, and force yourself to answer questions (your own or someone else's) about the text you've read.

For all sections, complete practice problems as often as you can. 

#4: Take Another Practice Test—In Fact, Take a Few

Take a practice test every four weeks or so—more often if you are uncomfortable with the test and want a greater improvement, less often if you feel at ease testing and are near your goal score.

Use these practice tests as a time to increase your familiarity with the format and feel of the test. Also perform a check-in to see how your trouble areas are progressing. Ask where your focus needs to be at this point in time.

#5: Slow Down About a Week Before the Test

Give yourself plenty of time to relax; cut down on your study time, and get plenty of rest. Stop studying altogether a day or two before the test. You need to start storing up sleep for the big day!


Please let us know if you have any questions about the SSAT.

Email us at for a free SSAT diagnostic report. 


Preparing for AP Exams

Are you ready for your AP Exams? May is a hectic month with tests, finals, and school events, so prepping for your APs early and often will ensure you’ll do your best on these important tests. Here are tips to help you put together your perfect review strategy.

When should I start studying for AP Exams?

Many students start shifting to AP prep mode 1 to 3 months before test day, usually ramping up by spring break. The goal is it give yourself enough time to get used to AP question types, take a few practice tests, review content, and hone your test-taking strategy.

The good news is that all your hard work for your AP classes is setting a great foundation for the AP test. Use your old tests and quizzes to track where you need to strengthen your knowledge and what topics you already know well.

How to study for multiple APs at once:

If you are taking more than one AP test this May, it’s important that you start early and make a schedule to map out your time. To come up with your study plan, ask yourself:

  • How many days/weeks/months away are my exams?
  • What time of day is my best, most focused study time?
  • How much time per day/week/month will I devote to preparing for each exam?
  • When will I prep? (Be as specific as possible: "Mondays & Wednesdays from 3 to 4 p.m. I will study for AP Bio," for example.)

Studying in small chunks keeps the workload manageable, so try to stick to one AP subject per night.

How to Study for AP Exams:

1. Start with old material. Begin by reviewing the material you have already completed in class. Set aside 15 minutes or so each evening to review past work. Refreshing your memory on a regular basis is the best strategy for effective learning.

2. Approach new material with the AP test in mind. You can’t just forget the material once you’ve been graded on it! The AP exam will be the culmination of the entire year. As you master new material, take a few minutes to make notes that you’ll use later for AP Exam review. Highlight the important points of each lesson while it’s still fresh in your mind, and note the areas where you struggled.

3. Don’t overly rely on your high school teacher. Your teacher’s job is to ensure all the subject material is covered—not to help you study. There often isn’t enough time during class to teach the material AND do a thorough review by May.

4. Invest in an AP prep book. A great test prep book will help you review essential content, introduce you to test format and question types, and help you practice for the big day.



SAT Writing and Language Test Breakdown

•    35 minutes 

•    44 questions
•    4 passages
•    Multiple-choice

•    You receive 1 raw point for a correct answer
•    You lose nothing for answering incorrectly
•    Your raw score is calculated by tallying the raw points
•    The raw score is converted to a scale score from 10-40, known as the Writing and Language test score
•    The Writing and Language test score is combined with your Reading test score to produce an overall Evidence-Based Reading and Writing section score from 200-800
•    Sub-scores are also included on a 1-15 scale for the following: Words in Context, Command of Evidence, Expression of Ideas, and Standard English Conventions
•    Some of the sub-scores will actually count for two cross-test scores: Analysis in Science and Analysis in History/Social Studies
•    In the end, college admissions offices will put a greater emphasis on the 200-800 Evidence-Based Reading and Writing section score

Standard English Conventions
•    Conventions of usage
•    Sentence structure
•    Conventions of punctuation
Expression of Ideas
•    Development
•    Organization
•    Effective language use

Two Content Areas
Standard English Conventions
•    20 questions
•    Conventions of usage: pronoun clarity, possessive determiners, agreement, frequently confused words, logical comparison
•    Sentence structure: sentence boundaries, subordination and coordination, parallel structure, modifier placement, shifts in verb tense, mood, voice, pronoun person and number
•    Conventions of punctuation: end-of-sentence, within-sentence, possessive, items in series, nonrestrictive and parenthetical, unnecessary
Expression of Ideas
•    24 questions
•    Development: proposition, support, focus, quantitative information
•    Organization: logical sequence, introduction, conclusions, transitions
•    Effective language use: precision, concision, style and tone, syntax
•    Questions will follow the order of the passage
•    Unlike the SAT math section, the questions do not progress in level of difficulty
•    The student must read 4 essays that are about the same length
•    Every essay has 11 questions about style, grammar, and strategy
•    The essays range in topic and understanding: from 9th grade to college-level essays
•    One passage in each of the following: careers, history, humanities, and science
•    Types of passages: 1 nonfiction, 1-2 explanatory, 1-2 argumentative


SAT Writing Tips

  1. Focus on one passage at a time
  2. Each passage of 11 questions should be finished within 8 minutes
  3. Answer the easier questions first and focus on one question at a time
  4. Patience is what allows you to work more quickly and accurately
  5. Use the two-pass approach for each passage
  6. Use the process of elimination
  7. Once you’ve eliminated an answer, cross it out in the test booklet
  8. Shorter is always better! The SAT prefers writing that is precise and concise
  9. A question will never test more than two errors
  10. “No Change” is usually the answer ¼ of the time it appears as an answer choice
  11. Don’t find errors where none exist
  12. The keys to the correct answer often lie within the question
  13. Anticipate the answer and come up with it on your own
  14. Questions about the main idea, author’s intent, or purpose, will often require reading the entire paragraph or beyond it

Do you need some help with the SAT writing section? Call us to find out how we can help! 

Tips for Academic Success

Finding the right routine:

Allowing enough time to get ready for class, study for an exam, or complete an assignment can be tricky.  The key is to always do what must be done first. This usually involves studying, reading, projects, and weekly homework assignments. Worry about what can be done later, after completing what needs to be done now. If you’re getting ready for a test, don’t check text messages, Snapchat, Instagram, YouTube, or start any Google internet searches. Enjoy the entertainment side of things after the task at hand is completed.  This strategy reduces a lot of stress that comes with doing things last minute: waiting to study the night before, starting your paper the week it’s due, working on your presentation the morning of, etc. 

Try to stick to a routine or tentative schedule.  This is because time management can be tough for some students. Mainly, because students overestimate the amount of time they have for a task and underestimate how much time it will take for them to do it. All of the student's professional meetings, such as counseling or tutoring, should be pre-arranged.  Most students do well with structure, so meeting at the same time and on the same day works best.


Staying focused:

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Students usually retain more information when they study in different locations. If possible, change the studying location from time to time. There are students that do better in a busy area – think of your local public library, the school’s library, Panera Bread, Starbucks, Barnes N Noble, worship center, community center, etc.  Then, there are other students that know they must have silence. These students may prefer a bedroom, basement, home office, private study room, even their home patio, or sun-room.  In case you didn't know, the best place to study is outside. So, try to change the study location when you can!  

You can put your phone across the room or in another room and leave it there.  If you want to check your messages from your friends, you have to get up and walk to it.  Students say that this significantly limits the amount of phone distractions.  If this is too hard for you, set the timer for 15  minutes, and work as hard as you can during that time.  When the timer goes off, get up, check your messages for one minute, and then get back to work.

Playing songs by your favorite artist is fine for routine assignments that do not require too much. However, music should not be played when intensely studying for a big exam. Playing music can negatively impact long-term retrieval.  

When students are having a tough time getting started with homework, it’s always a good idea to begin with an easy task, followed by a difficult one, and then an easy assignment again.  


Being organized:

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Record all school assignments on a calendar. You can use a tablet, laptop, smart phone, desktop, or a wall calendar. Record the final due date and then set incremental due dates and associated tasks to get it done on time. By week one, perhaps your topic and introduction should be completed. Then, going into the second week, start doing research on supporting points and arguments.  When large tasks, like a final paper or studying for a mid-term, are broken down into direct, manageable chunks, they are more likely to be completed on time. For instance, if a test is coming up on Friday, the student should record tasks like “complete 1-10 review problems on page 19” and “create flashcards for math steps,” etc. on Monday or Tuesday.  Being specific with your tasks can be far superior to simply jotting down a vague reminder like “study for my math test.”

Tasks that you record should be no more than 30-35 minutes.  When tasks end up taking longer, students are far more likely to procrastinate and avoid doing it altogether.  

Every student should schedule a “binder and backpack sweep” session to help stay organized. Set aside 30 minutes each week and conduct a clean out.  Sundays are perfect for doing this. This also lets the student plan ahead for the week – what’s due and when, starting a long-term assignment, and planning what to work on.  Enter the 30-minute clean sweep on your phone calendar, monthly planner, room calendar, or make sticky notes to remind yourself.


Reading and studying:

Active reading should be utilized when preparing for an exam.  Active reading includes writing notes in the margins and highlighting pertinent information.  As reading becomes more complex, these strategies help students to understand more advanced topics. 

Read one section at a time.  After you’re done, go back and highlight the important information. The color of the highlighter does not matter at all. Yellow, blue, green, pink, or orange - just pick one!    

Use margin notes. Margin notes are another interactive way of studying. It’s better than just reading the information and moving along. In short phrases, summarize the main points in the margins of text books. Doing so, will help with retaining the information that was read.  

Engage in “self chat” at the end of each section.  The student should ask, “What did I just read here?” or “What’s the takeaway from this section?”  Self chat helps students comprehend what they are reading better.

If you are reading, try the SCAN strategy.  Simply put, before reading do the following:

S = Survey Headings and Turn Them into Questions
Find each heading, and change it into a question.
C = Capture the Captions and Visuals
Review pictures or charts and read the captions beside them.
A = Attack Boldface Words
Hone in on the terms in bold; read these words to gain an understanding of the main idea.
N = Note and Read the Chapter Questions
Check out the questions at the end of the chapter.

Looking for an Academic Coach? Contact us for in-home tutoring support!