Do I really need tutoring for the SAT or ACT?

Is tutoring really necessary?

My honest answer is: Probably.

Many students have succeeded on the SAT or ACT by studying on their own, and there are many resources out there for a driven young individual to use to improve their skills. Some of these include SAT/ACT Study Guide books and free study videos.

The benefit of tutoring is that it can make your tutoring experience much quicker and more effective by the minute. And if you find the right tutor, they can provide two very important things: motivational guidance and expert direction.


Studying for the SAT/ACT on your own

To be honest, I studied on my own too, and I ended up doing very well on the SAT. But I’ll tell you, it was a really tough experience, including some cancelled scores, two boxes of flashcards, and practice books that ended up tattered, looking like ancient scriptures.

I don’t want to sound like I’m bragging, but I had a great deal of drive and ambition as a teenager. And yes, I was quite a nerd. It took a lot of self-sacrifice in order to get the score I got. There are some geniuses out there who can do the same thing with minimal effort. I was not one of them. I’m hard-work guy, not a genius.

Likewise, if you’re going to study on your own, you need to have a really great work ethic. You have to be able to keep yourself disciplined.

The best way is to do practice tests. But just blindly doing practice tests will not help. Your goal should be to examine your mistakes and try to learn from them, whether they are math concepts, reading flubs, vocabulary, etc. The important thing is that you really need to want to improve every time.

If you can do this on your own, more power to you. Bravo, and be on your way.

How Tutoring can Help

What tutoring provides for a student is the following: motivation and guidance.

  1. Guidance: A tutor can help you stay motivated, stay focused while you’re working (to ignore your cellphone), to keep working beyond frustration, stay consistent in your work.
  2. Expert Direction: A tutor can help you to spend your time more wisely, tell you what weak points to focus on, help you find the most effective practice at each stage, interpret your results to tell you the significance of your results, and explain concepts that are hard for you.



There was an article released that found that tutoring did not help students get a better score on the SAT.

I believe their results are accurate on the broad scale. I would say that this is due to the fact that many tutoring places merely have their students do practice problems. Many tutoring places gather a bunch of students in a room and tell them to work. They are able to claim incredible results because they have offices throughout the nation, and they can claim the accomplishments of some of the small percentage of students that crop up. (Who may have been able to accomplish that with or without the help of the tutoring place)

I think the statistics hide the fact that the right tutor can truly make a difference. In the two ways mentioned above: through motivation and direction.


Do YOU need tutoring?

You may not need tutoring if…

  • You have strong self-motivation and discipline
  • You know how to improve your weak areas
  • You are already at or close to the score you need to get accepted into your school

You may need tutoring if…

  • You have low self-motivation, or get distracted easily by phone, computer, etc. or are discouraged easily by failure.
  • You’ve been stuck at the same score for a while, and you don’t know why. You may benefit from another set of eyes, especially those of an expert.
  • You need to spend your time wisely, because you are busy with a lot of different other obligations.

Finding the right tutor

But even if you feel you need a tutor, studying with an ineffective tutor can be a waste of your time and money. I recommend that you spend some time researching so that you can find a good, dedicated tutor who can truly make a difference.

A good tutor should be thinking constantly about your weaknesses–evaluating your skills, understanding what you do best, what it is that’s dragging you down. And then they need to come up with the best way to shore up that weakness. Some weaknesses, like math concepts, are a simple matter of addressing that issue, like by teaching that concept. Other weaknesses are more complex, like issues with time or reading comprehension. With these the right answer is harder to find. The issue may be more based on your mental approach. It takes a good tutor to help you frame things in a different light by saying just the right thing, to encourage a paradigm shift in the way you approach reading passages.


At Sky High

At Sky High tutoring, we want to make every minute count. We are tracking your progress down to the details. We are looking for your more straightforward weaknesses as well as the more complex ones. Our tutoring is based on years of research that is kept up-to-date with the latest developments. Our curriculum makes sure you know everything you need to know for the tests, including things you didn’t know you didn’t know. We choose tutors who not only have top-class credentials, but also have a great teacher’s intuition and skill.

We want to make your time with us count. Start with us today with a free trial class.


How seriously should you take the SAT and ACT?

Have you ever wondered how seriously you’re supposed to take the SAT and ACT? I mean, you have so many other things to worry about in high school, from the mountain of homework you’re supposed to do, sports practice, band practice, club activities, to who you’re going to ask to prom!

If you’re like me, maybe you’ve wondered the following:

  • Is it as big of a deal as other people make it out to be?
  • Why are so many parents spending so much money, time, and energy stressing out about this three letter test you’ve never heard of?
  • How can it be that big of a deal when people cease talking about it as soon they’re out of that 17-18 years of age time period?

It depends

The SAT and ACT are said to be the second thing that colleges will look at when making their decision on whether to let you attend their college, after your GPA.

That being said, how seriously you should take the SAT/ACT depends on what kind of score you want to get on the test. And that depends on the kind of school you want to get into.

  • For some community colleges, you generally do not need any sort of standardized test score.
  • For less competitive schools, it’s recommended to get above a 1000 on the SAT and 21 on the ACT.
  • For more competitive schools that are ranked 50 or above, you want to get above a 1250 on the SAT and 29 on the ACT.
  • For Ivy league schools—the top of the line, you should get above a 1450 on the SAT or 33 on the ACT.

Keep in mind that these are just general guidelines, since there are no hard cutline for scores. There is no SAT or ACT score that will guarantee that you will get accepted to school XYZ, since colleges look at more than just your SAT or ACT score, but your whole application. Colleges nowadays look for well rounded students who do more than get good grades.

But you can find trends in statistics! If you look at the data from people who were accepted or denied, you can have a good idea of the likelihood of you getting accepted. Try websites like, which include scatterplots of real SAT scores vs. GPAs and whether they were accepted or denied. This will give you a good idea of what kinds of GPAs and SAT/ACT scores you will need to bet on a safe acceptance.


Ultimately, I think an important question for yourself is, what level of school do you aspire to? Consider your priorities. Future salary? Future comfort of life? Prestige? Quality education? Challenge? Fulfillment?

If you’re someone who aspires to challenge themselves, and aims to get into a state school, higher tier school, or Ivy League school, then the answer is, absolutely, YES! The SAT and ACT matter very much.


Next: Do I really need tutoring for the SAT or ACT?

What are the SAT and ACT?

At the risk of seeming to sell you short, this post is going to assume you know nothing at all about the SAT, the ACT, and how to prepare for college. I just want to lay a baseline of knowledge for our future articles, just to make sure we’re all on the same page. If you are just starting out learning about the SAT and ACT, this may be a good place to start. So bear with me if I start with some information that is a little too basic.

Let’s start by talking about why we need to take the SAT and ACT in the first place.

College is different from elementary ~ high school

From elementary, middle, to high school, children are steered toward the school they must attend by their location, by county or city. However, when it comes to college, the government stops telling you what to do. As far as they’re concerned, you can stop going to school after 12th grade if you want. College is the bonus round. (Although nowadays, they say “college is the new high school.” It seems like you need a college degree to get any decent job.) It’s up to you if you want to go, and it’s up to the colleges whether they want to let you go to their college.

Colleges at different “levels”

There are many colleges in every state. But there are varying “levels” of colleges. Certain colleges have more prestige than others due to:

  1. how sophisticated their courses are
  2. how well their campus is designed
  3. how famous their staff is
  4. historical fame of the college
  5. manufactured prestige of the school due to selectivity and reputation

The better colleges tend to want to smartest students. But to pick their students that way, they needed some way to tell how smart each student was.

Why not just use the GPA? The birth of the SAT

You might say, why not just look at their GPA? They did for some time, but, at some point, colleges decided it wasn’t good enough of a measure of a student’s abilities. And to fill that need, a company called the College Board created the SAT test. For some time, the SAT reigned supreme as the test you needed to take to go to college.

The birth of the contender: the ACT

At some point, the ACT came up as a contender in the area of college entrance exams, providing you with two choices of tests to take when applying to college. While the SAT was the dominant test for many decades, the ACT has gradually increased its influence and has overtaken the SAT “the test to take” as of 2009.

College Admissions Today

Today, colleges mainly look at three factors when deciding whether you are good enough for their college. First, they look at your GPA, then your SAT and ACT scores. They also look at your extracurricular activities, teacher recommendations, and your college essay. For more detailed information about the College Admissions decision process, read our article here.

For most colleges, one of these tests is required before they can make the decision. When you finally receive the decision, you are either DENIED, APPROVED, or WAITLISTED.

Next: What’s the difference between the SAT and the ACT?

or How seriously should you take the SAT and ACT?

SAT vs. ACT: Which one should you take?

So you’re getting ready to face one of the biggest challenges in high school–college entrance exams, the SAT and the ACT. Except, you know there are 2 choices. Well, which one are you supposed to take?

Depending on where you’re from, you might have heard that the SAT to be the test you’re “supposed” to take, or you might have heard that the ACT is the one.

Truth is, almost all colleges in the US today accept scores from either test. It is true that the SAT is the original test, but the SAT’s monopoly over the college exam industry has been over for several decades. In fact, as of 2009, slightly more students take the ACT than the SAT. (50.5% to 49.5%)

That means the decision on which test to take relies more on your unique skills. You should pick the test that’s right for you. You can figure out which one is better for you by looking at the characteristics of the two tests.

Basics of SAT vs. ACT

 Overall Structure
  • Reading
  • Writing (Grammar)
  • Math
  • Optional Essay
  • English (Grammar)
  • Math
  • Reading
  • Science
  • Optional Essay
 Length 3 hours & 50 minutes 3 hrs & 35 minutes
 Scoring System Full Score: 1600

Sum of two scores in “Reading & Writing” and “Math”, each scored out of 800

Full Score: 36

Averaged from individual section scores in English, Math, Reading, and Science, each scored out of 36.

Both tests are essentially the same at the core. Colleges want to see two things the most: your Reading ability and Math ability, so both the SAT and ACT have a Reading portion and a Math portion. They also both have a Grammar portion and an Essay. The ACT is different in that it also has a separate Science section, whereas the SAT has Science questions blended into the other three sections.


Meaningful differences between the SAT & ACT

But what are the differences that really matter when it comes to choosing the right test for you? There are many things to consider, but you can think about this on a few different levels.

General Differences Based on your reasoning ability

Favors deep, creative thinkers

Based on content and speed

Favors quick, straightforward thinkers

Reading Has more difficult passages, including 19th century literature, historical documents and scientific research summaries. Favors those who read higher level material.

Time: 13 minutes to read an 80 line passage and answer 10-11 questions.

Has easier passages at the 9th grade reading level, but you need to be able to read much more quickly.

Time: 8 minutes 45 seconds to read an 80 line passage and answer 10 questions.

Math Problems are more puzzle-like

Has more real-world application problems and conceptual questions.

Has a no-calculator math section. Favors those who are good at doing math by hand.

Problems are more straightforward

More advanced level concepts (ex. matrices, trig identities, logarithms)

More time pressure. Favors those who know how to use time-saving math tricks.

 Writing/English Slightly more emphasis on “rhetoric” (relevance of information, word choice, sentence order) Passages are easier. More emphasis on grammar.
Science No Science section.

However, you will see difficult scientific passages in the reading section.

Has a Science section.

Tests your ability to interpret data from tables and charts.

No background knowledge is necessary, but does help.

Essay (Optional) Similar to literature papers at school

Analysis of an author’s writing

Similar to persuasive essays

You must argue and support your opinion.


1. Do you have a Math brain or a Verbal brain?

If are fond of reading and writing–words just come easily to you–I recommend the SAT. The Reading passages on the SAT are now more difficult than before, and students will be faced with more historical documents (which means old-style English, which is hard for many to crack). Even when it comes to math, the SAT now features much more wordy problems, so it takes even more verbal ability. You have to interpret a whole situation before you get to the soft math hidden in the shell.

If you have more of a math brain–numbers and logic just make sense to you–I recommend the ACT. (If you preferred looking at the infographics than reading the insights in the written parts of this post, that may be an indication!) The ACT does test you on harder topics on the math section, going further into Trigonometry than the SAT does. Furthermore, there is an entire section dedicated to Science, which is easier if you have a good general foundation in science subjects. In the reading section, the given passages are generally at a 9th grade reading level, easier than those on the SAT. On the other hand, you trade the difficulty on the reading passages for an extremely demanding time limit. Which brings us to…

2. Are you a quick and straightforward thinker, or a slow and deep thinker?

On the SAT, the Math section covers more wordy problems and involve more conceptual questions. The Reading section has more difficult passages. The ACT, on the other hand, covers slightly easier math problems and slightly easier passages, but gives you much less time to complete them. (SAT: 13 minutes per passage. ACT: 8 minutes and 45 seconds!)

In general, I can say that the SAT is harder than the SAT, but there are fewer problems to solve. Each problem counts for more, whereas the ACT gives you a lot of problems to solve in a shorter amount of time. This means that if you’re a student who can solve problems very quickly, you might be better off on the ACT than on the SAT. On the other hand, if you are a student who is able to sit with a complicated problem and figure it out eventually in a puzzle-like way, (and maybe you even enjoy it) then you might be meant for the SAT.

In conclusion…

There are no such things as hard and fast rules in this arena. It all depends on you. For example, you might be a student who is better at math, but you read very slowly. What are you to do? The best way to tell is the same as it always has been: to try it out! Try taking a full-length SAT and a full-length ACT if you can (try to find time after the school year winds down).

If you have 2 hours free, then come by Sky High Tutoring and try our SAT/ACT Decision Test, which is a combination of parts cut out of the SAT and ACT, which allows us to advise you on which test you will probably do better on. The test is completely free!

Sign up for your free SAT/ACT Decision Test below: