The D.C. Student's Guide to ACT and SAT Prep

The D.C. Student's Guide to ACT and SAT Prep

By Amelia Reuben

     The SAT and ACT is arguably important, but undoubtedly a source of stress for students. And I don't know about you guys but when I was looking for a place to take the SAT/ACT, I had a hard time choosing the right one. For one, I'm an only child so I had no recommendation from a sibling who had done it before, and after doing research I started to notice how ambiguous the information out there was. On the surface, most of the programs seemed really similar and they all advertised the same high results if you used them. But at a greater look, many of them differed drastically. How was I supposed to trust the biased people who were trying to sell me their service that they were the best in the area? Which one would actually raise my score? How did they teach the ACT/SAT? How much was it? With so many questions and concerns and time that was running out, I needed to get started ASAP.  I would have loved to have an unbiased compilation of reviews that compared how programs differed, if one would recommend it, what a typical class or session was like, the cost and so on. The D.C. Student decided to create that-here's a guide for the eldest child, only child, child who isn't like their sibling, rising junior (good luck!), maybe rising senior and so on. You got this!  
     I think we should also put it out there: It goes without saying that no one two people are alike, what worked for one person might not work for another. One size most definitely does not fit all. Therefore, take what we say with a grain of salt. Use this as more of a guide based on how the programs are structured rather than the amount of points someone increased. 


PREP U (Bethesda Metro) - $275 per hour - By Amelia Reuben
     PrepU is a one man business and one on one tutoring. A typical session went like this: review the homework my tutor David gave me (old ACT test sections, occasionally math problems from a separate book, and make flashcards of the notes taken in the past session) and then go over the problems I got wrong and take notes based on those things. I can't recommend David enough, he was patient and made things easy to understand. He also went above and beyond what he had to do- besides helping me prepare, he also made it possible so that I could get accommodations that I needed to do well. For someone with a learning disability, I think he is one of the most qualified and knowledgeable people to teach and advise on the ACT/SAT in the area. For example, in school I have gotten time and a half on all of my tests but because of David's help and knowledge about accommodations I was able to get: multiple day testing (I only took a section a day), 100% extra time and writing in the test booklet. Here's a story, someone at my school (who will remain anonymous) was supposed to apply me for the multi day testing that David had recommended. She told us she did and that I was denied them but David told us to call ACT to make sure she really had applied me for themand we found out she hadn't. If he hadn't told us to do this or about the accommodation at all, my scores would have differed drastically. I think what separates PrepU from other places is that David advocated for me when it came to getting accommodations and took an interest in making sure I got them. I don't think people at other SAT/ACT places would've cared as much as he did. Furthermore, my scores increased significantly from when I began and most importantly, I didn't mind going. 

CAPITAL EDUCATORS - Winter 2017 Session at Holton Arms - $1,995 for full course - By Gabby Valderrama 
    For the SAT/ACT I was pushed into taking the Capital Educators course by my mother, along with many of my peers. The class provided the much needed practice I needed for the testing. Four hours of my week were instantly dedicated to answering questions similar to those on standardized tests for two months, which was especially helpful because of my own personal time management obstacles. The teachers were all very nice and supportive, and they all would tell us interesting snippets of their lives, and make the classes enjoyable. I would say all the practice diagnostic tests were the most beneficial because I was accustomed to the testing format and style on the actual test day. Yet, I believe that this class did not live up to my expectations. I could’ve easily gone and done practice questions on my own, as well as choose when during the week to dedicate time to studying. And yes, the teachers would explain all the questions that most of the students in the class couldn’t understand, but it wasn’t anything a book or a video couldn’t do. The notes that were provided for each of the diagnostic tests were either too vague or ambiguous for me to improve those skills; but over time I did realize my scores had improved, just not to the extent I was hoping. The class definitely worked for some people, but this wasn’t the right fit for me. I recommend either personal studying with books and/or online sites, or a private tutor. 

CAPITAL EDUCATORS - Winter 2017 Session at Holton Arms - $1,295 for one class - By Lara McMurray
     Capital Educators did an amazing job preparing me for the SAT. I decided to take math class only instead of math and reading because my reading scores were high so I didn't want to pay more. Classes were straight to the point and taught me exactly what I needed to know for the test. The teachers are all young and entertaining, and make sure everyone understood a concept before moving to the next lesson. In addition, the practice tests they had me take every two weeks ensured I was comfortable with the format and timing of the SAT. When we got our practice tests back, I was given personal feedback on what I could do to improve my scores. Cap Ed offered extra-help sessions, where you can go over the material from the week’s lesson in smaller groups and get extra practice. In addition, my teachers also offered to tutor me before or after class. Even after the program ended, the directors and teachers were still in touch and willing to help me with any questions I had while preparing for the ACT. They still allowed me to take their practice tests and even came to my house to go over the answers, all free of charge. In the end, my SAT score rose 200 points with their help, and I was well-prepared for the ACT. 
     ***Side Note from an e-mail with Sam Holley, DC Director of Capital Educators: "It is possible to take the math or reading course only. If you did that, you'd only attend the math or reading classes, but we'd still ask you to take the full diagnostic tests. Our course includes several full-length practice tests and these are essential because they'll provide you with essential practice, and we grade them with a software that provides a detailed analysis of your strengths and weaknesses in different math topics. So you'd be looking at 8 classes that run for 2 hours each (as opposed for 4 hours each for both subjects) and 5 full length practice tests (that you'd take the same as everybody else). The fee for taking the course for only one subject is $1,295 instead of $1,995. It's a little more than half because the practice tests are full-length.

CAPITAL EDUCATORS - Spring 2017 Session at Georgetown Visitation - $1,995 for full course - By Camille Devincenti
     I took the full course at Capital Educators (Cap Ed) which included math and reading for about two months. My class was every Saturday from 1-5 PM, but this can change every year depending on where and when you take the class. When I first took the SAT in January, my math score was embarrassingly low, my reading score was average, and I did not write the SAT essay. I was excited to start at Cap Ed because I talked to many people at my school who took it and liked it. I heard the teachers were all young, fun and energetic students from Georgetown. Also, what some people don't know is that Cap Ed offers financial aid on a first-come, first-serve basis for those who apply. At the first class, we were given a large binder with the Capital Educators logo and a box of flashcards called the "Study Buddy." The large group of students at Visitation was split into different classrooms based on our scores on the diagnostic test we had taken before the courses started. The first two hours of the class I had reading which I enjoyed the most. My teacher was a student at Georgetown and was funny and laid-back but also taught me so much. In her class we read passages and answered questions in the practice packets they gave us. After we did some on our own we went over the answers together. I liked discussing the answers in a group setting because everyone has a different way of interpreting the reading and it helped me understand how to get the right answer and which answers to avoid. We learned specific reading strategies that were helpful and my reading score skyrocketed up to the 700s after the class. It was rewarding to see it improve on the diagnostic tests we were required to take every other Sunday. For math, I thought the materials we were given were helpful and I had a great teacher, but I think it was too fast paced for me. In class, I didn't immediately get the explanations to each problem and we would usually quickly move on to the next one. Sometimes I felt like I was just sitting in class while the lessons were rushing past me, but I also am in a lower level math class in school so I don't completely blame Cap Ed for making the math challenging to learn. In retrospect, I would do the CapEd class for reading and do private, one-on-one tutoring elsewhere for math. I got a math tutor after finishing the class and he helped me catch up on all the concepts that were hard for me before because he was able to explain it longer and for my individual needs. If you are interested in Cap Ed, I would recommend eating a good meal and maybe getting a coffee before each class so you can get through the 4 hours of straight instruction. There is little to no time in between the math and reading class so you are pretty much doing SAT Prep for 4 hours straight. I liked how structured the class was and how I could plan on going every week, whereas if I had been studying on my own free will, I know I would not be putting in that much time for the SAT every week. 

CAPITAL EDUCATORS - Spring 2017 Session in Rockville - $1,995 for full course - By Lauren Hirst
     For January me, the thought of having to sit down and take the SAT in few months was terrifying. Being one of my most constant sources of anxiety, my parents decided to sign me up for an SAT class. After doing some research I decided I wanted to enroll in the Capital Educators course. I was really worried about having to show up every sunday and every other saturday for a few weeks because I thought it would be too much with the school work I already had. I was very wrong though. The teachers at CapEd were all excellent and really focused on making sure students were understanding the material. This saved me a lot of time studying at home so balancing this class and junior year was no problem! Each week I could see myself improving, so by the end of my session I felt really confident and ready to kill this test!

PRIVATE ACT TUTORING - at home - $75 hour - By Téa Lorsch
     I opted for a private ACT tutor over a group class for a variety of reasons. First, I knew in a group class it would be easy for me to lose focus, whereas with a private tutor I would be forced to pay attention. Another factor was that a private tutor was actually far less expensive than a group class, $75 per session as opposed to $2,000 for 10 weeks. I also thought that personalized attention would be beneficial as a private tutor would be able to take the time to explain the specific questions that I did not understand which may not be possible in a group class. Overall the experience was definitely beneficial to me, and my ACT score even rose by 4 points. In each lesson we would go over the problems he had assigned me for homework, which was never an overwhelming amount, and then continue working on problems similar to those I had gotten wrong. This strategy worked well with my style of learning because it allowed me to repeat one concept until it had fully resonated with me. The only downside I would point out with private tutoring is that you lose the ability to learn techniques from and work with peers, which makes the class less interesting but for me also helped me remain focused for the entirety of the session. I would definitely recommend a personal tutor to other students preparing for the SAT/ACT, especially those who may find other students to be distracting. My tutor was able to explain what I did not understand and teach me new strategies I never would have thought of on my own. Despite some boring sessions, it was worth it when I got back my next ACT score.

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