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Test Prep

Avalon Test Prep Insiders

Avalon’s curriculum team and tutors comprise industry insiders and item writers who have literally built tests from the inside out. Further, our curriculum team leader is industry icon Neil Chyten, whose revolutionary strategies have helped tens of thousands of students earn literally millions of additional points across the US and around the world. At Avalon, you get incredible strategies based on our years of insider experience.

Are Test Scores Still Important?

Yes, test scores remain an essential factor in college and private school admission. For colleges, test scores are among the top three factors considered by admission committees, along with grades and strength of curriculum. For private schools, scores on the ISEE and SSAT are just as important as grades and recommendations. When all other admission factors are in place, test scores can get you in or they can keep you out.

How Effective is Avalon’s Test Prep?

At Avalon, we hire the most talented teaching professional in their fields, and then train them in our proprietary test-taking methods and strategies. All tutors have master’s degrees and many have PhD’s all from the top colleges across America. Therefore, at Avalon, you always get an expert tutor teaching first-rate strategies, backed up by Avalon’s tutor-match guarantee: If you don’t agree, the session is free.

SAT/PSAT

Avalon’s Proprietary PSAT/SAT Curriculum

Avalon’s proprietary PSAT/SAT test prep book entitled: “Breaking the Code: Insider Secrets of the SAT” by Neil Chyten, provides the basis for Avalon’s PSAT/SAT Tutoring. It includes authentic passages and nearly 500 questions with strategic explanations. It contains instruction and detailed descriptions of the 32 grammatical categories found on the PSAT/SAT, all relevant PSAT/SAT math topics, and a strategy for PSAT/SAT Reading called the Pendulum Procedure that uses the acronym S-U-R-F-I-N-G to help students memorize the steps to success. Avalon’s Plan for Effective Preparation: 24-36 Hourly Sessions. Unlike private tutors and most tutoring services, Avalon has a solid PSAT/SAT plan that provides students with their best odds of answering each and every question correctly.  The system is sensible, logical, time-tested, easy to remember, and highly effective.

Frequently Asked Questions About SAT/PSAT

Students qualify for the National Merit Scholarship Program by earning a top score on their PSAT taken in October of their junior year in high school. Nationally, approximately 50,000 students nationally will qualify based on their PSAT scores. From there, approximately two-thirds will receive Letters of Commendation and the remaining one-third will become semi-finalists and, eventually, finalists. Approximately 94% of semifinalists become finalists. While only finalists receive a $2500 scholarship from NMSC, all 50,000 students earning top PSAT scores may qualify for private, corporate, and college scholarships.

National Merit Scholarships.

Even though many colleges are likely to remain test optional for quite some time, the SAT is still an important objective measure of academic ability. As much as they may not want to admit it, colleges do value high test scores even if they are only one of many factors used in making admission decisions. Click on the link below to learn 12 important facts about the SAT.

12 Important Facts about the SAT.

SAT Reading question types include:Graphics (Graphs, Charts and Tables) Analysis (Higher order thinking) Vocabulary (Word meaning in context) Evidence (Find proof of answers) The acronym G-A-V-E can help you remember these four question types. In general, analysis questions tend to be hardest, while evidence and vocabulary questions tend to be easiest. Of course for international students, vocabulary questions can be somewhat problematic—and memorizing long lists of vocabulary words is simply a waste of time.

Discover strategies for SAT Reading.

There are approximately 30 grammatical issues that are tested on the SAT writing test. Some of the more common ones are pronoun use, parallelism, verb tenses, concision, and diction or incorrect word use.

Discover strategies for SAT Writing and Language.

For those of you who think SAT Math is easy, you may be right. And you may think the questions are so easy, you don’t need to use SAT Math strategies. Again, you may be right. Simply set up and solve equations, right? But strategies do far more than allow you to solve questions; they allow you to save time. There is little doubt that if you had more time you’d be able to get more questions right. Well, strategies can give you the extra time that you need to do just that!

Discover strategies for SAT Math.

It is not necessary, but it is advised. Not only can you qualify for a National Merit Scholarship by scoring high on the PSAT, you will also be preparing for the SAT at the same time.

Learn more about preparing for the PSAT.

Virtually all top colleges offer some version of superscoring. This means that they will take your highest test subscores and combine them to determine your SAT or ACT score. There are some slight variations on this policy among top colleges. For example, some colleges require you to send all your scores and others allow you to report only your highest subscores. It is important to note that you control which test results are sent to colleges from American College Testing (ACT) or the College Board (SAT), although you cannot request that only specific subscores are released.

The SAT counts…a lot! The higher ranked the college, the more important are your SAT test scores. Of course, SAT scores are not the only factor, but they are one of the most important.  Even test-optional colleges will take your SAT scores if you submit them.  Therefore, having high SAT scores gives you an advantage over those who don’t submit their SAT scores.

Learn more about the SAT.

Yes. Furthermore, the SAT can be beaten if you understand how it is designed. False Attractors and Active Eliminators can help you eliminate incorrect answers.

Learn more about SAT Strategies.

Rather than knowing everything about grammar, the ability to recognize correct and incorrect grammar is the most important skill you need for success on this section.

Learn more about SAT Writing and Language.

I have been in the test prep industry for more than three decades. During that time, I have heard thousands of students say thousands of times that we should not worry because their wrong answers are just “careless errors.” The implication is that these students won’t make the same kinds of errors on the actual test. Most students believe that their careless errors are just “stupid mistakes” made because they were tired, they were not focusing, or they just weren’t taking the practice test seriously enough. The truth is, however, that most of these errors are not careless at all; in fact, they are well planned by the brilliant test-construction teams of American College Testing (ACT) and the College Board (SAT).

Read about how ACT and SAT make you guess wrong answers.

Not all colleges allow self-reporting, which means that official test results must be sent directly from the testing agencies to these colleges around the same time as your application. Most colleges nowadays do allow you to self-report your scores, and only ask you to verify with an official report once you decide to attend that college. Also keep in mind that when you self-report your test scores, you may decide which scores to report. In other words, if you have taken the test multiple times you may decide which results to show on your application. You may decide to only show your highest component scores as opposed to listing all your results.

Yes. Most early applications are due in November. There is an SAT date on the first Saturday of November and again on the first Saturday of December. There is also an ACT test date on the second Saturday in December. High school seniors can continue to take tests on these dates. Scores from the November administration may arrive in time for consideration in the early rounds, though they would have to be reported quickly. It is also possible that a decision on a student has already been made by the time the results are available. The results from December tests will be received too late for consideration in the early rounds of admission. However, since many students are deferred from the early rounds into the regular admission rounds, having a new set of higher test scores could be extremely helpful in receiving acceptance from the later round. Students who take tests on these days and have results that are better than those they have already submitted on their applications can submit the new, higher scores directly through their college admission portals. Furthermore, scores from the November and December test administrations will be received in time to include in applications for the regular round of admission.

There are at least two potential benefits to high school seniors taking the February and March tests. 1. Students on a waiting list can be accepted from the wait list if they show higher scores. 2. If a student decides to transfer after their first year of college, having the highest possible test scores can be beneficial.

ACT

ACT Improvements of 4-10 Points per Section!

Our test taking experience and innovation ensures that each ACT test prep student gets maximum benefit from each moment of tutoring and receives the individualized instruction that he or she needs in order to experience meaningful score improvements on the ACT. How meaningful? Recently our students have had 9-point gains in ACT Reading, 8-point gains in Science, and astounding 10-point gains in Math. Most of our students start in the 20’s and end in the 30’s giving them a significant boost in college admission.  Avalon ACT Tutoring: 24-36 hours for ACT Complete. With four discrete tests plus an essay, the ACT is broader in scope and scale than the SAT. For example, it contains 75 grammar questions as opposed to 44 on the SAT, leaving room to cover more grammatical topics. Reading passages are longer and questions do not follow the natural order of the passage as they do on the SAT. Of course, the Science section has no SAT equivalent. ACT Math is more advanced than SAT math as well. So, as you can see, while ACT can be a great alternative to the SAT, it does require a significant amount of tutoring to meet or exceed target scores.

Frequently Asked Questions About ACT

No. This may have been the case long ago but it is no longer true. The ACT emanates from Iowa City, Iowa, whereas the SAT emanates from New York City. Nonetheless, colleges all across the country regard them more or less equally. Some colleges may prefer the ACT since it provides more of a subject-level analysis than does the SAT. However in all cases, colleges have no bias toward one exam over the other. Both are considered a single data point among many. Some students are capable of performing better on ACT or SAT, so Iit makes sense to practice on both and see which one is more closely aligned to a student’s natural ability.

For some students, the more straightforward nature of ACT’s questions makes it a better option. For others, the far quicker pace required to solve ACT questions makes it a nightmarish experience. And while there is no guessing penalty for wrong answers on either the ACT or ACT, you are only awarded points for questions you answer correctly. As you can easily surmise, it is hard to answer questions correctly when no time is left on the clock. Also, unlike the ACT in which reading comprehension questions follow the natural order of the passage, ACT reading questions do not. Some students find it difficult to find the location of answers to ACT Reading questions within the time allowed. Furthermore, ACT math questions have five answers instead of four, sometimes making it more difficult or time-consuming to solve the question. But perhaps nowhere is time more of a factor than on the ACT Science section. Here, you have 35 minutes to answer 40 questions split between six passages, most of which have 2 to 4 graphical elements. nnEven with recent changes to the ACT, the ACT remains a more straightforward test. Therefore a general statement that is still as true now as it was 20 years ago is that the ACT favors literal thinkers while ACT favors analytical thinkers. Of course, this rather esoteric analysis is neither helpful nor encouraged. It is merely offered as an explanation of the difference between the tests.

There are only a tiny number of colleges that do not accept your SAT scores or ACT scores. Logic dictates that a solid SAT score or ACT score can therefore help your college admission profile. According to US News and World Report: “Schools with test-optional or test-flexible admissions policies still use these SAT and ACT scores in their admissions process, if prospective students provide them.” Nonetheless, there are so many misleading articles out there that confuse “test-optional” with “test-irrelevant.” These articles indicate that colleges do not use your SAT scores or ACT scores in admission—yet, they accept them. Does this make sense? Of course not. Colleges to which you send your SAT scores will see them, and therefore will, in one way or another, use them in their admission decision. If a college is considering two students who are exactly the same, but one has submitted a solid SAT score, make no mistake—that college is more likely to accept the student with the SAT score because he or she is more of a known commodity. Colleges don’t like to make mistakes, therefore the use all possible criteria in their admission decisions.

AP Tests

AP Tests Can Prove Your Academic Excellence to Colleges

AP classes and tests are more important than ever. In the absence of SAT Subject Tests which were discontinued in 2021, AP classes and tests are more important now than ever and serve several critically important functions for college admission. First, they prove your willingness to take challenging courses. Second, high AP test scores prove your ability to excel in college-level classes. Third, high AP test scores earn college credit and/or exemption from introductory level courses at many colleges, giving you the opportunity to advance further in your chosen field of study. Finally, APs allow you to earn academic honors ranging from AP Scholar, granted to students who receive scores of 3 or higher on three or more AP Exams, up to AP Scholar with Distinction, granted to students who receive an average score of at least 3.5 on all AP Exams taken,  scores of 3 or higher on five or more of these exams.

Frequently Asked Questions About AP Tests

No they don’t – and the policies keep changing from college to college, and even from department to department within a college. Many colleges do give credit for AP exams in which students earned at least a particular score. Some colleges only give credit for scores of 5, whereas others may give credit for a score of 3. Even if colleges don’t give graduation credit, they may allow students to test out of taking basic classes in favor of more high-level courses.

Taking AP classes and performing well on AP tests remains critically important for those students applying to highly competitive colleges. Not only is it important for admission, it is important for placement and, in some cases, to earn graduation credit that may lead to either early graduation or the ability to take more advanced level courses in college. If anyone tells you AP tests are not as important as they once were or that you do not have to take AP tests to get into top colleges, you need to look elsewhere for advice.

Learn more about AP tests.

AP exams are typically taken by students in corresponding AP courses. However, many top private schools have switched away from AP curriculum, but still teach content that prepares students for the AP exams. Also, more and more students self study AP course content and then take AP exams without ever having taken the class. AP exams are always given in May. Students may take whichever AP exams they want, and may retake exams in subsequent years (however it is uncommon to do this). During one testing period, students may take as many AP exams as they can fit into their schedules. Students should only take AP exams when they are very familiar with the content. Most AP exams consist of both a multiple-choice and a free-response section. The free-response section is usually in the form of an essay, but could also be a written solution or a spoken response.

ISEE/SSAT

The Avalon ISEE Prep Plan: 24-36 Hours of Tutoring

The Avalon Prep Plan for ISEE incorporates effective test-taking strategies and practice with 5-10 ISEE tests and hundreds of practice questions. Avalon tutors and students then follow the plan, which addresses basic weaknesses and strengthens overall test-taking performance in all areas tested by the ISEE. This completely unique and innovative approach to ISEE prep ensures that each student gets maximum benefit from each moment of tutoring and receives the individualized instruction that she needs to have meaningful, often dramatic score improvements.

The Avalon SSAT Prep Tutoring: 24-36 Hours of Tutoring.

As with all standardized tests, focused practice with strategies and regular feedback cycles is a proven formula for success. For most students, we recommend starting in the prior-prior summer – the summer before applications are due. Example: for students applying for seventh grade admission, preparation should begin in the summer prior to sixth grade. Avalon’s SSAT tutoring program begins with a personalized plan for success. Avalon tutors and students then follow the plan, which addresses basic weaknesses and strengthens overall test-taking performance in all areas tested by the SSAT. This completely unique and innovative approach to SSAT prep ensures that each student gets maximum benefit from each moment of tutoring and receives the individualized instruction that she needs in order to meet or exceed target scores.

Frequently Asked Questions About ISEE/SSAT

The ISEE is used primarily by private schools primary for entry into elementary and middle school grades – specifically 5th through 8th grade. Schools typically use SSAT for entry into 9th through 12th grade. There are three levels of ISEE: Lower Level for students currently in grades 4-5, Middle Level for students currently in grades 6-7, and the least common Upper Level for student currently in grade 8 and up. There are two levels of SSAT: Middle Level for students currently in grades 5-7 and the more common Upper Level for students currently in grades 8-11.

The ISEE is offered roughly one time per month (8 times per year), from October through June. Students can take the test three times per year, once during each of three testing “windows”: Fall (August–November) Winter (December–March)nSpring/Summer (April–July)

Avalon’s Recommended ISEE Test-taking Schedule:First Time: July. nSecond Time (if required): November. Third Time (if required): January. This testing schedule optimizes preparation time, establishes a baseline, then provides two closely-placed tests to maximize test-preparation efficiency. Note: Parents control which scores are released to schools, so there is no harm (and much potential upside) to taking the ISEE multiple times.

The SSAT is offered six times per year from September – April. Students may also take a private or small group “flex test” once within a 12-month period. Flex testing is done through local private agencies.

Second Time (if required): September or October. Third Time (if required): October or November Fourth Time (if required): December or January. This testing schedule optimizes preparation time, establishes a baseline, then provides two or three closely-placed tests to enhance test-prep efficiency. Parents control which scores are released to schools, so there is no harm (and much potential upside) to taking the SSAT multiple times.

The Character Skills Snapshot was introduced in 2017 by the Enrollment Management Association (EMA), the producer of the SSAT. It is designed to provide additional information about students applying to independent secondary schools. This new tool is a 20-30 minute on-line assessment that measures eight essential character skills that were not previously considered in any objective way in the admissions process. The results of this new assessment complement the traditional evaluation tools utilized by private high schools such as the student’s grades, application essays, letters of recommendation, and the results of cognitive SSAT and ISEE standardized tests.

Learn more about the Character Skills Snapshot.

Tutoring

Expert Test Prep Tutors

Avalon tutors are highly experienced professionals who provide students with a combination of content knowledge and test taking strategy. They are available on an hourly basis, or in increments of 12-hour 24-hour, and 36-hour package programs. Typically (although not always) students and tutors meet one to two times per week. During an initial evaluation, an Avalon advisor will identify current status and objectives, and suggest a plan of action to reach or exceed a student’s target goal.

Classes

Currently, Avalon does not currently offer classes for test preparation. Groups may request to work with Avalon at a reduced class rate.

More Information

For more information, please contact Avalon Admission at 800-469-1028.