Changes on the ACT Math Test

Without any fanfare, ACT makes subtle yet significant changes to its test each year, which runs from September to June. The public gets its first look at specific changes when ACT releases its December test booklet to students who purchase it. There are two noteworthy changes to the 2016-17 ACT math test, as shown in questions 30 and 55.

For the first time, ACT is testing basic knowledge of combinations and permutations as shown in question 30 on December’s test (74H). It’s located in the middle of the 60-question test, before they usually start asking the more difficult questions. 


While ACT has included questions on determinants in the past, they also provided the required formula. December’s question 55 is the first one we’ve seen where students are expected to know the formula in this advanced math category.


Strategies for the College-Bound Student

boy w beatsFrom freshmen to seniors, there are worthwhile strategies that students can employ in 2017 that will vastly improve the college admissions process ahead.


For Freshmen

First-year students should create specific college application goals early on. Of course, their interests and plans will evolve as the high school years go by, but they can still make a timeline for college visits, scope out potential AP courses, extra-curricular activities of interest, and the like. By creating an overarching outline of their college preparedness plans now, freshmen can reduce the stress of college planning later.


For Sophomores

Many high school students wait until junior year before considering college admissions tests, but sophomores can get a head start. By encouraging your child to prepare for the PSAT, as well as research the right admissions test for their skill set (ACT vs. SAT), he or she can focus more clearly on optimizing scores in junior year.


For Juniors

Junior year is a tough balancing act. While maintaining a solid GPA and participating in activities, students must prep for the ACT and/or SAT. They should plan to take a test (or both tests) two or three times. At the end of the year, there are likely to be AP tests and possibly SAT Subject Tests.


For Seniors

Take a deep breath. For parents and students alike, the college application process has likely become a whirlwind. Don’t forget that the journey is just as important as the destination. The hard work and preparation he or she has put in will pay dividends in the future, no matter where he or she arrives for college in the fall.


At Dogwood Tutoring and Test Prep, we recognize that academic preparedness begins early on in a student’s life. That’s why we’ve identified and possess the tools and resources necessary to make your student’s high school career and college transition a positive and successful evolution. Whether your student is prepping for an algebra exam, the SAT or ACT, AP tests, or SAT Subject Tests, our one-on-one tutoring can make 2017 a year of life-changing academic growth. 

Test Taking is a Lifelong Skill

ben-girl-studyingFirst, a true story. A mom was waiting for her eighth-grade daughter to finish her tutoring session for SSAT test prep (for private school admission). As we talked about the strategies and testing methods we teach, she explained how impossible it was for her to pass the medical board exam on her first attempt. So she decided to do some test prep, where she learned the same test-taking skills we’re teaching her daughter… and she passed the boards on her next try.

Some people may think the benefits of test prep just evaporate after test day. In fact, professional tutoring builds skills that pay dividends for students throughout school, college and career. When Dogwood’s tutors prepare students for ACT, SAT or SSAT exams, we help to improve their lifelong skills in three main ways.

Identify and plug gaps in foundational skills

As part of our test prep process, when we help students improve skills in math, reading and writing, it also helps them perform better in the classroom. One-on-one tutoring can often explain and clarify challenging topics more effectively than a teacher can do in a classroom. For example, students with improved grammar and writing mechanics will go on to write better essays and papers in college and beyond.

Teach students how to apply appropriate test-taking strategies

Testing is complicated and frustrating for many people. Test-taking strategies help students approach questions more methodically and accurately so they can achieve their best test scores. Better test results in school and college classrooms lead to better grades. On graduate admissions exams like GRE, LSAT and MCAT, higher-scoring students will have better outcomes with admissions and scholarship money. Later in life, better scores on professional licensure exams will lead to rewarding careers in fields like medical, legal, financial, real estate, engineering and education.

Professional tutors hold students accountable

Without ongoing adult supervision, many students struggle with the tedious test prep process. Just like any sport or performance art, test prep requires practice, practice, practice. In their weekly meetings, Dogwood tutors coach and support students as they refine their study skills and remain accountable to the test prep regimen. When it really counts, we help students to establish priorities, organize workloads, manage deadlines and use scarce time more effectively. Test prep is hard work, but our students learn to remain calm and focused on demonstrating their hard-earned skills.

Professional test prep is an investment that pays dividends for a lifetime. In the short run, it will help your child become a better test-taker and stronger student in school. That means better chances for admission at more colleges as well as greater opportunities for scholarship money. Longer term, students will have the skills needed to become better learners and test-takers in college and career. Call Dogwood Tutoring & Test Prep today at 678-735-7555 to see how customized test prep can open doors for your child for years to come.

Is self-study right for your child’s ACT, SAT or SSAT test prep?

ben-girl-computer-sqspaceThere is a lot riding on standardized tests like ACT, SAT and SSAT. Whether your student is applying to college or an independent K-12 school, the competition for admissions and scholarship money can be fierce. You have several choices on how to prepare, including self-study and professional test prep services.

At the very least, your student may benefit from independent study using free online resources such as Khan Academy and College Board. Or you may find books or videos online or at the public library. Self-study can be a good option if your child is disciplined and organized enough to squeeze test prep into his or her already full workload of homework and extracurricular activities. The test prep regimen is tedious and ongoing, but there are no shortcuts to improving scores. Whether you choose self-study or get outside help, it takes plenty of dedicated study and practice, practice, practice.

How Do You Know When Outside Help is Needed? Does your child…

– have trouble prioritizing all his school work and other activities?

– get great grades but struggle with standardized tests?

– feel anxious when testing?

– know how to do the problems but run out of time on the test?

– score well but want to score even better?

How Will Professional Test Prep Help Your Student?

– We help you determine whether ACT or SAT is a better fit

– We answer your questions about testing and discuss your strategic options

– We assign two expert tutors, a math specialist and an English specialist

– Our tutors customize each lesson based on your child’s individual learning needs

– We coach and motivate your child to stay on track and make progress

Dogwood’s expert tutors are here to explain and clarify even the most challenging topics. We identify and plug gaps in students’ reading, writing and math skills, and teach how and when to apply our proven strategies. Those strategies help to manage time more effectively and answer questions more accurately. Strategies help students approach the test more methodically, so they are more confident and less affected by stress and anxiety.

One word of advice: avoid the temptation to take a test cold. If you’re thinking about having your child take a standardized test without any preparation, take a practice test at Dogwood instead. You’ll see the results with no risk, stress or cost. And you’ll receive a complete diagnostic report with much more usable info than a real SAT or ACT report.

At Dogwood Tutoring and Test Prep, we’ll help you navigate the complex maze of SAT, PSAT, ACT and SSAT testing. Call Ivan at 678-735-7555 to learn more about helping your student achieve his or her best results on standardized tests.

There’s More to New SAT Scores Than Meets the Eye

1600 Sat CircledSince the first scores of the New SAT were released last week, there has been plenty of discussion and skepticism surrounding the scores, and for good reason.  Although many students were thrilled to see scores better than they expected, the scores are actually a bit misleading, as the Washington Post reported in an article titled “Why your new SAT score is not as strong as you think it is.” 

At first glance, the scores from the new SAT appear encouraging.  The problem is that a New SAT score of 1300, for example, is not as strong as an old SAT score of 1300.  In fact, you need to use concordance tables to adjust your new score to the old SAT scores of the past ten years.  Or you can use an app available through the College Board to help convert scores.  The conversion calculations unanimously reveal that the new scores don’t stack up to the old scores, and the discrepancy between scores can be as much as 80 points.  That’s pretty significant.

It means that students who were looking at a specific SAT score to gain admission to certain colleges are likely to find they’ll need a higher score than they had thought.  Consider the example of student Bill Jones.  Bill believed he needed a 900 total SAT score to fall in line with the Median Score of Incoming Freshman at West Virginia University.  With the new SAT scoring system, however, the old 900 score converts to new 980.  In another example, to get into Penn State, the old SAT target was 1190 but the new SAT score needs to be 1260 to carry the same weight. 

Confused yet?  You’re not alone.  Many predicted there were going to be some hiccups with the new SAT.  And College Board didn’t disappoint. The inflated scoring scale was an added surprise nobody expected and few have respected.  Even more shocking is that College Board has decided unilaterally how the new SAT scores should convert to ACT scores.  In the past, the ACT-SAT concordance tables were built jointly by College Board, ACT and the NCAA after a full year of data had been gathered.   

The ACT has become the more popular test in recent years.  Since colleges accept both ACT and SAT scores, each student needs to determine which test to take first.  Dogwood Tutoring can help to figure out that dilemma.  We offer an ACT vs. SAT Comparison Test that takes about three hours, 20 minutes.  Or students may take full-length ACT and SAT practice tests to make the comparison.  Either way there is no charge or obligation for the proctored testing, diagnostic reports and private consultation.

If you could use some help in managing the confusing testing process, please contact Dogwood Tutoring anytime at 678-735-7555 or via email at  We will help you and your student pick the better test, figure out which dates to take it (and the other test, if desired), develop a customized test prep program, and achieve great results.  Our mission is to help each student perform his or her best in school and on standardized testing.