SAT Prep Frequently Asked Questions

Answers to some of the most frequently asked questions (FAQ) regarding SAT prep and our Optimal SAT Prep Program are answered below.. These questions have been asked by our SAT, ACT and SAT II prep students over the past 21 years.

The questions below have been asked frequently by our prospective students and their parents over the past twenty years. The answered provided are based on experience since 1993. Please contact us if your specific question is not answered below.

Q. How Do I Select the Best SAT Prep Program?

A.The advice has been prepared based on my experience as an SAT Prep instructor for over twenty years as well as a father of four children. Your most important objective is to find the best suited program for your student's abilities and learning style. In general we suggest the following steps:

Conduct a survey of available SAT Prep Programs in your area.

Next, eliminate any program which does not provide a complimentary assessment and a trial class/lesson.

Next. eliminate any program which does not offer you a "pay as you option."  An SAT prep program which forces you to stay with it just because you have spent a lot of money may feel like a trap after some time if your child does not like the program. Your child should enjoy the learning environment as well as the content offered by the program. Finally, choose a program taught by a a dedicated and caring instructor who loves to teach and bring out the best in your child and who does not treat your child's education as secondary to any other objectives.

You and your student should be able to talk to the instructor and ask questions that are important to you. You should make sure that if your student does not understand material explained by the instructor, a back up plan is offered to help him understand it.

Q. Is the Optimal SAT Prep designed for only certain types of students (for example, very weak students or very strong students)?

A. No. Our students include a broad spectrum ranging from the very best to the weakest. We take pride in bringing out the best in each student. We do not teach students with different abilities in the same way. A method that is efficient and optimal for a highly capable student may be too fast for an "average" or a "weak" student. Similarly, a method suitable for an "average" student will be too slow and boring for a strong student. In fact, as a student makes good progress, I show him gradually more efficient methods. When a student appreciates the difference between different methods/approaches to solving the same problem, he begins to truly appreciate  the art of problem solving.

Q. How Do I Know If You are a Good Teacher for Me?

A. This is the easiest question to answer. Our program always begins with a complimentary diagnostic test followed by a trial lesson. The only difference between the trial lesson and the regular lesson is that the trial lesson is without cost. During the trial class, I will answer your questions and explain the questions you found most difficult on the test. If the questions, once difficult for you, become easy for you, you, you will know that I am a good teacher for you.

Q. I have Test Anxiety. Can you Help Me Do Well on the SAT?

A. I hear this often. You must understand the underlying causes behind test anxiety. Most students who suffer from test anxiety do  not feel any anxiety in eating a slice of pizza or in tying their shoelaces (because they have years of experience in these activities). We believe that a student feels test anxiety when he lacks confidence (or when he is not adept at) in solving problems he encounters on the test. As you learn new techniques of problem solving, as you practice the newly learned techniques outside the class so as to internalize and be able to use these techniques, you will be able to solve problems accurately and quickly; This improvement, in turn will enhance your performance and confidence, and reduce test anxiety.

Many students who suffer from excessive test anxiety need to take the SAT multiple times to reach their peak scores.

Q. How Many Classes are Required in Optimal SAT Prep Program?

A. Optimal SAT Prep does not believe that one size fits all. Therefore, Optimal SAT Prep does not have a set number of classes. The number of classes depends on your current state of knowledge and problem solving skills, desired score improvement, and most importantly, the level of effort applied by the student to review and apply newly learned techniques.Typically, most students, take their first SAT or ACT after 15-16 classes. Anecdotal examples of far few classes exist. My fir ACT student went from a 2 on the math section of the ACT to an 18. Another student went from 420 to 640 on the math section of the ACT. Yet another student increased his total score by 250 points after 7 classes. We do not recommend starting st the last minutes.

Q. How Much Homework Commitment Will Be Required to Succeed in the Optimal SAT Prep Program?

A. The level of commitment in terms of homework and review at home will strictly depend on your level of knowledge, speed of work, your score on the diagnostic test (or a prior official score)t, desired score improvement and available time. Naturally, the less time you have on your hand and bigger the score improvement you desire, the harder you will have to work.

Q. How Will You Know If I am Doing Adequate Amount of Homework and Review?

Most students want to do well and try their best to study and bring questions to class. A few students, at least initially, may feel that they if they don't practice the newly learned material and just pretend to do homework, I (the instructor) will not know. Fortunately, Optimal SAT Prep classes are not one way lectures; instead our classes involve interaction with the students, so I will know whether a student's knowledge, problem solving speed and  abilities are improving. If I find that a student is not devoting sufficient time to review and homework, the parents will be contacted and every effort will be made to convince the student to make the best possible use of the Optimal SAT Prep program.

Q. Will Optimal SAT Prep Help me if I Choose Not to Do Any Homework?

A. Optimal SAT Prep program's foundation requires that, for each student, I recommend appropriate level of review and practice at home.  The recommendations are based on an individual student's needs and specific weaknesses. To derive the maximum benefit from the program, our students must do recommended amount of homework. If you do little or no homework, you will forget what you learn and in all likelihood your score improvement will be minimal.

Q. I have taken the ACT and Done Well on all the Sections Except the Science Reasoning Section. Can you Help Me With the Science Section?

A. Yes. The ACT Science Reasoning section is mainly a test of your critical reading and logical reasoning abilities which are tested on short to medium passages (on science related topics) often accompanied by graphs. No prior knowledge on one or more science topics is required. Having some knowledge of science facts can be helpful, though.

Q. Can You Help Decide Whether the SAT or the ACT will be better for Me?

A. Yes. Most students who approach us come for either the SAT or the ACT prep. A few others come after taking SAT or the ACT both. We look at each situation to analyze a student's unique strengths and weaknesses and advise the best test for him or her. While it is true that, with adequate preparation, most students can achieve a respectable score on either test, many students find the ACT or the SAT easier.  To a small percentage of our students we recommend that they take both tests.

Q. Do You Guarantee A Certain Amount of Score Improvement?

A. The primary guarantees we offer are that we make the material easy to understand previously difficult problems easy to solve for each of our students. We can't guarantee a certain number of points only because we have no control over the effort applied by the student.

Q. Where and in What Format,  Optimal SAT Prep Classes are Offered?

A. The Classes are offered in our office in McLean. The vast majority of our students (> 95%) attend group classes and do very well. A few students prefer individual lessons. On line individual lessons are available for students located more than 50-60 miles from McLean. Individual online lessons can be arranged for close-in students, if mutually convenient times can be found.

Q. How Can I Prepare for the SAT On My Own?

A. Before you can answer this question, you must understand your strengths and weaknesses on macro and micro scales. If you have already taken the SAT, you know your macro performance (what is your strength and weakness in general terms). If you have not taken the SAT officially, you should a full test from the Official SAT Guide under timed, test-like conditions and calculate your score. Next you should consider your GPA, any other strengths (sports, academics, etc.) and the colleges you are considering to set your score goals.

Next, before you can chart your path and make a plan for raising your scores to desired levels, you must analyze and establish the following:

  • What is the reason for your scores (whatever they are) at micro scale. You will have to answer questions such as "Why did I skip so many questions?", "Why did I get so many wrong answers?", "Why did I skip so many question?", etc.
  • How is vocabulary and is it affecting your scores?
  • How is your writing score? Is it low because you consistently fail to identify and correct erroneous word usage, sentence structure, etc.
  • Is your reading score low because you are unable to critically analyze a passage, or is it low because, your reading speed is too slow, or is score low because you narrow down to two similar sounding choices and select the wrong one?
  • Is your math score low because you just can't solve problems, or because you take too long to solve problems? Or, is your math score low because you often guess wrong answers choice as your answer?

Different weaknesses require different strategies. Whatever the reasons for your low scores, you will need to deploy proper strategies use suitable techniques to overcome them. If you are able to develop adequate strategies to overcome your weaknesses, you will reach your goals.

If at anytime you fee that you are putting a lot of effort but you are not going anywhere, or you feel otherwise l overwhelmed, please contact us at SAT@tripathi.com and we will immediately put over 20 years of our experience to help you reach your goals in an efficient manner.