Ask the Tutor

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QI saw that you offer a bunch of practice tests. Do I have to take extra practice tests?

AWhile practice tests are never required for students, a tutor may recommend that you take one in order to get a feel for what testing is like on a true test day. Our practice tests are usually offered the weekend before a national test date. They are given using standard timing and closely approximate the real testing experience.


QI heard that the June ACT is the easiest. Is that true?

AThe tests have basically the same degree of difficulty throughout the year. One of ACT’s objectives is to maintain the average score from test to test so that the data is useful for college admissions purposes. If the June test were discernibly easier, students would flock to it and the average score would be skewed.

You may perceive that the June test is easier because by June, AP and final exams are over, you have gotten through spring dance season and the graduations of your friends and family, spring sports have wrapped up, and you have had the opportunity to rest and maybe even sneak in some vacation time before testing. Your mindset is completely different than it was in April. For this reason, testing in June is a great idea if it fits your schedule.


QI am looking at Stanford, UC-Berkley, and Boston College. Shouldn’t I focus on the SAT?

AWhile it is a good idea to focus on either the SAT or ACT, it doesn’t have to be the SAT if you are interested in an East or West Coast school. All 4-year accredited institutions now accept both the SAT and ACT. There are some situations where a test is compulsory. For instance, a National Merit Semifinalist must take part in the Finalist qualification process. There are also some situations where it is a better idea to take one or the other. For example, it is easier to qualify for Bright Flight with the minimum ACT score than with the SAT minimum score. In general, though, if you are only looking at geography, you can safely take either test as part of your admission process.


QWhat is the ACT Writing section and do I have to take it?

AThe ACT Writing section is an optional part of the ACT. Some four-year colleges require it, some recommend it, and some do not require it at all. If you have determined your top choice schools, you can check to see their preferences by clicking on the link below. If you are not sure where you are going to apply, it is a good idea to take the test with writing at least once to establish a writing score. You can send that score, plus an updated score, to the school of your choice when you apply. If you take an ACT without writing and then later decide you want to apply to a school that requires the writing section, you will have to take the entire test with writing again.

Starting with the September 2015 ACT, there is now a new version of the ACT Writing section, known as the "Enhanced ACT Writing Test." Those who have prepared with us for the ACT Writing section in the past may want to reach back out to their tutors, if they plan on taking the Enhanced ACT Writing Test.

Find more information about the exam format here


QWhat is the best way to start visiting colleges?

ABelieve it or not, a good way to start visiting colleges is to start close to home, even if your dream school is far away. You can visit colleges in a variety of settings within a day’s drive of St. Louis, and use those experiences to shape your college search. If you visit Saint Louis University, for instance, you get the feeling of a mid-sized Catholic school in an urban setting that has strong health sciences, engineering, and professional programs, with on-campus housing available and competitive Division I athletics. Is it exactly like DePaul University in Chicago, Marquette University in Milwaukee, or Xavier College in Cincinnati? No, but it’s very close, and if you visit it and discover that you are not really interested in a school in the city, you have saved yourself considerable time and energy.

Similarly, consider visiting University of Missouri in Columbia to see what a large college in a "college town", such as Indiana University in Bloomington, might be like. A trip to Truman State can help you visualize life in a more rural setting, and if you don’t like the three-hour drive to Missouri State, you might think twice before applying to Ole Miss, which is six hours away.


QI get really nervous when I take the ACT and can’t finish it. My friend has 5 hours to take it. How do I get extended time?

AGetting extra time on the ACT is a multi-step process and one best explored by your family and your college counselor at school. In broad terms, most people who qualify for extra time on the ACT have a learning issue that has been diagnosed by a doctor and an IEP or similar special education plan on file with the school. They also regularly receive accommodations for their schoolwork, tests, or exams. If you think you may be interested in pursuing extra time accommodations, you need to start the process at the right time to ensure that your accommodations are received in time to meet your testing goals. Your college counselor can give you more information on the timeframe involved.

If you are not a candidate for extra time, or ACT denies your request for accommodations, there are still things you can do to improve your performance on the test. Using strategies and improving your mastery of the content can help you develop a solid testing plan and move through the test much more efficiently and with much less anxiety.