June and early July are the best times to get a good chunk of the test prep out of the way. As soon as school is out, it makes sense to get started on SAT/ACT prep because the students are not overwhelmed with other schoolwork at the same time.
Taking a break in August before school starts is fine because Ivy Bound’s prep is largely skills based. Skills take a while to master, but once learned, they rarely fade. A four to six-week break does not mean having to start over from scratch. Ten minutes of vocabulary work a day is all we ask, and only for students taking the SAT. The ACT does not directly test vocabulary.
If you are unsure whether to get started on ACT or SAT prep first, consider using four consecutive mornings to practice both. Two ACT practice tests and two SAT, under timed conditions, reveal what to expect of yourself and of the test. The tests are available from The College Board’s online site or The Official SAT Prep Guide, published by The College Board (ISBN 978-1-4573-0430-9 and The Real ACT Prep Guide 3rd Ed. ISBN 978-1-119-23641-2).
The College Board site is free and reasonably easy to navigate. The book has the same four Practice SATs currently on the College Board site. If choosing the free site, be sure to print out the tests. You want to take them under realistic, with paper conditions. You also want to be in the same room each time you test, ideally with similar food intake and prior night’s sleep. That makes your experiment semi-scientific!
Now, we are not strongly pushing students to take this four practice tests route. A year ago, we did, but the ACT and SAT are now fairly similar tests, so these four 3 1/4 -hour blocks are not necessarily as worthwhile anymore. Nor is a “pretend” one-test ACT-vs.-SAT comparison. In 2017, the SAT will revise its scales and students will have better guidance.
Since there is little to no guidance now, choosing to only take the ACT is a reasonable choice. The ACT’s material encompasses that of the SAT, except for vocabulary and a unique essay. However, there is little study beyond the ACT to cover the material of the SAT well.
Also, there is no extra tutoring needed because at Ivy Bound:
1) The SAT Practice Tests are free to ACT clients;
2) The Essay prep is available on phone conferences;
3) The vocabulary prep does not require a tutor, except to show you how to use our vocab spreadsheets effectively.
So, parents simply pay a $250 add-on for materials and licensing. The cost reduces to $200 if enlisting simultaneously with ACT, but no extra tutor hours.
ACT Prep typically ranges from 35 to 50 tutor hours. Home Study, Help Line and Practice Testing typically doubles that time. Add another 10-20 study hours for the SAT Practice Tests, Writing Prep and Reviews. Our tutors typically do 2.5-hour sessions in the summer. Whether two, three or four times a week is apt depends on the student’s other activities. When done via Skype, tutoring sessions typically run 90-120 minutes.
Please recognize that SAT study time is inherently longer than it was one year ago. The new SAT is significantly harder to study for the math section. The SAT eliminated its sentence completions, but replaced them with a grammar section that’s more time consuming than what was lost. So, students should plan on 25-40 SAT prep hours.
SAT students adding ACT tutoring should plan on 15-20 extra tutor hours.
The advantage of taking both tests is that colleges take the best score they see. That can come from multiple ACTs or SATs – you never hurt yourself with multiple tests. Generally, we target two of the same tests a month in succession (September and October for ACT; October and November for SAT), then add the other test if needed.
Overall, Ivy Bound’s tutoring time is relatively low because of home study, Help Line and Practice Tests that are done outside of the tutoring session. Reviewing the Practice Tests can be done in a group phone session, but ideally it’s one-on-one, with the tutor targeting each troublesome question to fit the individual student’s needs.