When should I start test prep?

The week after the PSAT scores come out, our phones ring off the hook!  Parents of both sophomores and juniors call us, wondering when they can get their kid started with test prep.  And while this may seem like a question with an obvious answer, the answer is actually quite specific to each individual. We’ve outlined a few scenarios to help you make an informed decision regarding test prep. However, when in doubt, it’s much better to inquire about starting with test prep early rather than too late.  

My sophomore just got his or her PSAT scores. Can we get started with test prep right now?

No! Unless your student plans to graduate high school two years early, we will not begin official test prep with any sophomore regardless of their PSAT score. But, we will recommend a few things. 

  1. If your student seems highly motivated to get started, we recommend that they get on our gamified test prep app, SmartyPrep.  SmartyPrep provides instant feedback and a steady stream of personalized content based on a student’s strengths and weaknesses.  Using SmartyPrep for 15 or 20 minutes a few times a week cultivates the conceptual backbone and critical thinking skills to identify patterns and tricks that will help them down the line. Best part is, consistent and diligent SmartyPrep work can seriously shorten the test prep timeline when a student comes to us to begin their test prep curriculum. 
  2. If your student’s score is much lower than you would have expected, now is the time for early intervention. Knowing the exact breakdown of your student’s score can help us uncover the true issue.  

Sometimes students have undiagnosed learning disabilities that can get in the way of them performing well on timed, standardized tests, even if these issues haven’t previously surfaced. We give all our test prep students a one-hour cognitive assessment that can help us determine if a student should seek a psych ed evaluation to see if they are a candidate for test day accomodations. 

However, low scores can also indicate large conceptual gaps.  Maybe your student really struggled in Algebra I. They made it through geometry and trig fine, but the SAT will really be a challenge for them if they don’t have a strong algebra background.  For students like this, we recommend getting started with subject tutoring. We offer subject tutoring in all school subjects. Most of our subject tutors are Johns Hopkins students studying the subject that they tutor in.  Getting ahead of conceptual gaps makes an immeasurable difference when it comes time to prep!

All sophomores who want to get started with prep as early as possible should give us a call so we can get them on a queue to start tutoring in June once their sophomore year is over!

My junior just got their PSAT and we know their score has to improve to go to the colleges they want to go to. Can we get started with test prep now?

Yes! Please give us a call. The new year is a perfect time to get started with test prep because your student will be able to finish prepping by the end of the junior year. We will also evaluate each student’s scores and cognitive abilities to determine which test (the SAT or ACT) is a better fit, so your student doesn’t waste time prepping for a test that doesn’t suit their strengths and style of thinking.

My junior needs to get started with SAT prep, but is SO BUSY! Can we get started in May?  

We seriously discourage students from pushing back test prep until the summer before their senior year. This puts undue pressure and stress on the student and tutor, since the timeline is forcibly shortened.  The student will have fewer opportunities to take the test, making each testing experience more anxiety-inducing. It’s also hard for a student to begin seriously considering colleges if they don’t even know what score they’re applying with!

For students with extremely packed schedules, like varsity athletes, we have just begun to offer virtual packages with on a point payment basis— you pay $20/point and you can buy points in 150 points or 200 point batches.  What this means is that you’ll have the flexibility of virtual tutoring— your student can get tutored on a Saturday morning will still in their pajamas— and your student’s tutoring will continue up until they’ve achieved a 150 or 200 point improvement (depending on the package you purchase).  This flexible, reliable option ensures your student can stay busy and you can relax knowing their score will improve, or your money back. Please read more about our score improvement packages here.


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