How Does Online Tutoring Stack Up?

girl-tutorMost people rely on computer-based services and smartphone apps to handle so many of our daily tasks, large and small. How did we ever survive without them? So let’s see how online tutoring services stack up against face-to-face sessions with tutors.

While online tutoring can be good at providing free generic instructional help and repetitive practice exercises, online training uses a cookie-cutter approach. When it’s crunch time, however, only seasoned tutors can assess what each individual student needs to really understand and apply the concepts. Beyond just explaining challenging concepts, Dogwood’s expert tutors identify each student’s specific strengths, weaknesses, learning style, and goals. Then they tailor each lesson to meet those individual needs. Using verbal and nonverbal communications, they match an appropriate teaching style with your student’s unique learning style, resulting in improved learning skills and self-confidence. Our tutors can clearly see when students are “getting” the material. Online services have yet to bridge that human touch. 

College Board has partnered with Khan Academy to provide free online SAT prep. Kaplan has announced a similar arrangement with ACT. These are positive developments to try to level the playing field for students whose families can’t afford tutoring. One problem is that some students don’t have the focus or motivation to go it alone with online training. Dogwood tutors are instrumental at mentoring students, keeping them focused and accountable throughout, especially with the demanding yet required practice exercises. Online students have to rely on themselves and/or their parents to stay on task… and it’s not easy.

Another problem is that high-achieving students usually need help in very precise areas to improve their ACT-SAT scores. Online they will have to dig deeper to find that level of help, if it’s available at all. At Dogwood, our tutors deliver such laser-focused, expert help in an efficient and productive framework, customized for each student’s needs. If your student needs to increase her score from 28 to 30 on the ACT to earn $10,000 more per year in scholarship money, online tutoring is certainly not the solution.

Overall, online tutoring will be helpful for some students but it has some definite limitations. In the final analysis, there is nothing more effective and efficient for busy students than face-to-face, customized tutoring like we offer at Dogwood Tutoring and Test Prep. For more information, please call Ivan at 678-735-7555 or email

What’s Up With the New PSAT Score Report?

This Washington Post article provides some insight about the rosier percentiles shown on the 2015 PSAT score reports, compared to prior years. In summary, today we have very little solid guidance on where the cutoff scores will be for National Merit recognition. It’s also hard to predict what the scoring curve will look like for the upcoming redesigned SAT. Be prepared for a long wait.

Counselors overwhelmingly recommend ACT for the class of 2017

students_testingUpcoming changes to the SAT, scheduled to debut in March 2016, are affecting advice independent educational consultants (IECs) give their students about which college entrance exams to take—the “old” SAT, the “redesigned” SAT, or the ACT, according to a survey conducted in August of 273 educational consultants.

While specific recommendations vary on a case-by-case basis, educators are in total agreement about one thing: nearly 100 percent (99.25%) of the educational consultants surveyed will be recommending that their students in the Class of 2017 register for and take the ACT this school year.

“For this year only, my preference is the ACT since the new SAT is such an unknown quantity. The biggest issue I see is that students won’t know how they did on the March test until late May or early June which will impact their ability to retake as needed,” wrote Alison Parker, of Parker College Planning. “If you are a risk-taker, you could roll the dice, but that isn’t me. I do think this year’s crop of ‘new SAT’ takers will be a self-selecting group and I don’t know how that will pan out with norming the test.”

“I’m suggesting that most of my junior students forgo the SAT. Let the College Board work out the kinks for a year, and then we’ll reconsider,” said Vita Cohen, of Cohen College Consulting.

Cori Dykman, of Annapolis College Consulting adds, “I am absolutely steering my 2017 students to the ACT because it is an assessment which they can better prepare for, because they will have test scores back in a reasonable timeframe, and because the new SAT will have swarms of tutors taking it and possibly changing the normed score.”

“Timing one’s testing plan will be important and most students should plan to start testing earlier than usual this cycle,” explained Marla Platt, of AchieveCoach College Consulting. “I am advising all my juniors to consider doing themselves a favor by planning ahead and sitting for both the current SAT and the ACT to avoid a revised test that, from what we are hearing, appears to be fairly daunting and challenging to prep for.”

Slightly over two-thirds of those surveyed indicated they would be recommending students, who are academically prepared, take the current version of the SAT to avoid changes, capitalize on known skills, satisfy coaches, or otherwise get the test out of the way. IECs specified the following groups of students might consider taking the more familiar “devil you know” old SAT:

  • Students who perform better on the old SAT (using a test diagnostic)
  • Students who are academically mature
  • Student-athletes who are prospects for D-1 colleges
  • Rising juniors who have completed (or will complete as juniors) Algebra II
  • Students with attention or processing issues, given the personal timing challenges inherent to the ACT
  • Students with strong backgrounds in Algebra
  • Students scoring over 154 on the PSAT in October 2014
  • Students who read voraciously
  • Students who like testing and understand the new/old SAT model

Pat Gildersleeve, of the College Advisory Service, wrote, “I could be wrong, but I feel that colleges will know exactly what to do with scores from the ‘old’ SAT or the ACT but not exactly yet what to do with the ‘new’ scores unless they are very good or exceptionally poor ones. Some high schools are good at Common Core teaching; others are fighting it. How will colleges know whether a low SAT score this year is due to the student’s ability or to teachers who are resistant to teaching the Common Core skills. With that in mind, I advise students who have done exceptionally well on their PSAT and who plan to take an SAT to take the current test and the rest to take the new SAT and/or the ACT.”

Of those recommending the new SAT, there seemed to be a slight preference for the June, 2016 test date—after the dust settles. More than one respondent kindly referred to March test-takers as “guinea pigs,” suggesting the perceived experimental nature of the first administration of the redesigned SAT.

“The new March SAT results won’t be a quick 3 week turn around, but probably a 6 to 8 week turn around, leaving students in the dark as to whether to retake the test,” explained one IEC who counseled avoiding the March date.

If nothing else, the recent survey of IECs showed basic distrust of the College Board and its new product. Unlike previous changes to the SAT, the one debuting in March comes with many more “unknowns.”

This posting is reproduced with permission from Biltmore Tutoring in Asheville, NC.