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. 

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.