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SAT/ACT Test-Prep Guide For Parents And Students

SAT/ACT Test-Prep Guide For Parents And Students

Is your college-bound student stressed about the SAT and ACT? It’s no wonder! Scoring well on these exams is an essential step in the journey to landing their dream college. U.S. universities respect both exams equally, and colleges use these scores to compare applicants before offering admission.

Although the tests cover similar content and are often used interchangeably, they are structured differently and emphasize distinct subject matter. At Groza, our recommendation is for students to take the SAT and then the ACT practice test to see which one they feel the most comfortable with. After both practice tests are completed, the student should compare their scores and focus on either the SAT or ACT. Depending on the child’s learning and thinking differences, one test may fit better than the other!

We know you’re busy and that preparing your child for these exams can feel overwhelming. Let our talented teachers remove the stress and guesswork! Our SAT and ACT Prep classes begin with practice tests to diagnose areas of strength and weakness and determine your child’s benchmark score.

This article discusses the important differences between the SAT and ACT while laying out a guide to help your student prepare for either one of the tests.

Comparing The SAT/ACT Exams

Universities widely accept the SAT and ACT exams, and both remain popular choices despite the fact that many colleges are opting to go “test-optional” or test-blind in response to the Covid-19 pandemic.

Despite this fact, reports indicate that within the last decade, an increasing number of students are electing to take the exams in preparation for their college admissions. Furthermore, many states still require completion of the SAT or ACT, and how well a student performs on these tests can be a critical factor in submitting a competitive application.

Outlined below are some of the key differences between the SAT and ACT.

Total Test Time3 hours 15 minutes (without writing and breaks included)3 hours 40 minutes (writing and breaks included)
Sections• Reading Section: 65-minutes allotted to answer 52 questions

• Writing and Language Section: 35-minutes allotted to answer 44 questions

• Math (No Calculator) Section: 25-minutes allotted to answer 20 questions

• Math (Calculator) Section: 55-minutes allotted to answer 38 questions

• English: 45-minutes allotted to answer 75 questions

• Math: 60-minutes allotted to answer 60 questions

• Reading: 35-minutes allotted to answer 40 questions

• Science: 35-minutes allotted to answer 40 questions

• Writing (optional): 40-minutes allotted to answer one essay; does not affect your overall score  
Scoring Equivalencies1600-1570
Cost to Test$60 (writing included) $70 (no writing)$52

If your child is a natural writer and enjoys literature, language arts, and verbal communication, they’ll probably prefer the ACT; while students with a penchant for mathematics tend to prefer the SAT. The math section on the SAT is split into a calculator and non-calculator assessment and includes a formula guide. The math portion contributes to around 50 percent of the student’s final SAT score. Read Thinking About College? Your SAT Prep Guide for more information on taking the SAT.

The ACT, on the other hand, has one math section that permits calculator usage. This portion accounts for about 25 percent of the student’s final overall score. It also includes an independent science section.

And don’t forget to check the testing requirements for the colleges your child is interested in applying to!

Students who prepare for their exams with a tutor will experience lower test anxiety because they have had the advantage of learning content, tricks, strategies, critical thinking, time management skills, and have taken plenty of practice tests. At Groza Learning Center, we understand how frustrating it can be to ensure your child is adequately prepared to get into the schools of their choice. Our world-class  Test-Prep Program can guide them towards their academic hopes and dreams!

Studying for the SAT/ACT

Is your student ready to begin preparing for the SAT and ACT? Then this section of our blog is for them!

Here are six tips that every SAT/ACT test-taker should know:

1. Register Early!

Don’t delay your registration. The sooner you sign up, the greater your chances of getting a seat at your preferred test center. We recommend registering at least three months before the test date.

2. Familiarize Yourself With the Structure and Content

The various sections of the SAT and ACT assess different aptitudes and subject areas. It’s essential to become familiar with the actual content and how the questions will be presented. Each exam has unique question styles and formats — get comfortable with them ahead of time, so you’re not thrown off while testing.

Working one-on-one with a tutor, like the ones we offer at Groza, can ease your mind, and ensure you’re well prepared. 95% of our students get accepted into the school of their choice!

3. Master Test-Taking Strategies

Test-taking is a skill in itself! Here are some vital tips that will help get you through the exam with a higher score and more confidence: 

  • Answer the questions you know first. Make sure you mark the questions you’re going to come back to later!
  • Never skip questions. There is no guessing penalty, so you’ve got nothing to lose by giving every question your best shot! Eliminate the answers you know are wrong, then select the best one. (P.S. Your “gut” response is usually correct.)
  • Ensure you fully comprehend the question before answering. Reread the question prompt if you need to; after all that studying, make sure you’re not subconsciously answering a practice question!
  • Write on your test booklet. You are free to write all over your ACT and SAT booklets. This can help you work through problems and track your progress.
  • Pace yourself, and budget your time wisely. Spend a few moments on the easy questions and no more than a couple of minutes on the difficult ones. The ACT and SAT consist of several timed sections; it’s easy to lose track of time while focusing on your test, so pay close attention to how long you’re spending on each question. Additionally, make sure you take plenty of timed practice exams, so you’re used to these conditions.

Taking the SAT? Read Three SAT Tips and Tricks You Need to Know.

4. Take Full-Length Practice Exams

Take full-length practice exams of the ACT and SAT to get baseline scores. Identify your weakest areas, and make sure to prioritize these subjects during your study sessions. Depending on the score you want to reach and where your baseline is, we recommend allocating one to six months of consistent test-prep time. Self-reflect and pinpoint how long and how often you’ll need to study.

Use SMART goals to breakdown the material and help you reach your desired score:

S — your goal should be SPECIFIC and well-defined

M — your goal should be MEASURABLE with specific benchmarks in place

A — your goal should be ACHIEVABLE within the allotted time constraints

R — your goal should be RELEVANT and results-bound, so it guides you towards your ultimate pursuit (college admission)

T — your goal should be TIME-BOUND and broken down into weekly study sessions

5. Set a Study Schedule (And Stick to It)

Set your exam date(s), then put a schedule in place. Consider how much time you will have to dedicate to focused preparation each week. To prevent burnout, break up your study sessions into 30 to 90-minute focused intervals. Schedule these sessions into your weekly calendar and devote yourself entirely to test-prep during these times. If your friends or siblings are also preparing for the SAT and ACT, form a study group to help hold each other accountable!

Groza’s preparation process will ensure you’re ready to achieve your goal score on test day:

  • Content — You’ll get a full understanding of the range of material and the nature of the test itself.
  • Strategies — We will help you adopt strategies to optimize engagement, time-management, and question-by-question approach.
  • Critical Thinking — You will absorb advanced reasoning habits and techniques for the test prep problems and questions through demonstration, discussion, and application.
  • Practice, Practice, Practice! — You will complete homework, test simulations, and corrections to reinforce skills and learn from mistakes. We want you to go into test day feeling empowered and confident in your abilities!

6. Get Some Extra Help

We know that test prep can feel overwhelming and intimidating. You don’t have to go it alone!

Partnering with an award-winning Test-Prep Program, like that one we offer at Groza, will help eliminate your study-induced stress. Our world-class educators lead our program and navigate students through the test-prep process to achieve higher scores and confidence. These instructors know the material inside and out and will teach you valuable time-management and study skills you can carry through life!

Test with confidence and score with tenacity!

We invite you to call our team today at (310) 454-3731 or click here to schedule a free consultation.

What ‘Test Optional’ Really Means: A Guide To Taking The ACT Or The SAT

What ‘Test Optional’ Really Means: A Guide To Taking The ACT Or The SAT

One of the biggest things to happen to the academic world this last year was the announcement by many prominent universities to make submission of an ACT or SAT score optional. For many students and parents, this made the admissions process a bit confusing. What does ‘test-optional mean, and would this help or hurt a student’s admission chances? Let’s examine the changing landscape and break down what the testing part of the admissions process may look like for the next few years. 

ACT versus SAT: Which is better? 

Although often spoken of interchangeably, the ACT and the SAT are substantially different exams. Very often, students find they do better on one exam than the other. Students and parents must learn about the differences between the exams to prepare for taking the test more efficiently. The SAT has two central portions: vocabulary and mathematics. It is three hours long, and there is one portion of the math test that students must do without a calculator. The ACT offers vocabulary and mathematics sections and a science section designed to test the student’s critical thinking skills. Students may use a calculator in all the mathematics sections and can also choose to submit an optional essay.

Are the tests still relevant? 

Many universities decided to suspend requiring an ACT or SAT score from incoming students this past year and for the next several years. Some schools plan to reinstate requiring the test in 2024, and others may continue their test-optional policy. Many students wondered if they should even prep for a test that schools no longer required. There is a case for encouraging students to continue to prepare for either the ACT or the SAT, and here’s why: 

  • Many states still require high school students to take the SATs or ACTs as a benchmark for graduation. 
  • In the admissions process, standing out is critical. If other incoming students have not taken one of the tests, but your student has, that could be a deciding factor. 
  • Test scores are currently trending lower. Students who participate in test prep are likely to score higher than their peers. 

Test prep is a gift that keeps giving 

Parents and students often invest in test prep hoping to learn skills for the SAT or ACT but come away with actionable skills that prepare the student for more effective studying and more confident test-taking well into college. Groza Learning Center offers an award-winning Test Preparation service that goes well beyond the goal of a higher exam score. The right test prep should guide students to develop healthy time-management skills as they set and achieve goals. Groza’s Test Prep coaches students to stock their test-taking toolbox with practical study skills, more efficient executive functioning, and the ability to self-focus.

A robust test prep course like that offered by Groza Learning Center is an investment in the student that goes well beyond the ACT or SAT. Students master skills that can apply in other areas, such as AP exams. These skills also lead to greater success in college and well beyond. To learn more about how Groza Academy’s Test Prep can help build confidence and vital skills, schedule a consultation to discuss your individual needs.

How to be Productive Over Winter Break

winter break tutoring - 2

Sure, I will get some work done during winter break . . .eventually.

It knows when you are sleeping

It knows when you’re awake

It knows when you are bad or good

So be good for goodness sake

You better watch out

You better not cry

You better not pout

I’m telling you why

Procrastination is coming to town!

Case in point…I REALLY did not want to sit down and write this article for December. Winter break is a time to sit back, relax, recharge, and recoup. It is certainly tempting for students (primarily middle and high school students) to spend their days mindlessly scrolling through social media, watching TV, or playing video games. After all, they have three weeks, and there will be plenty of time to get to any schoolwork that may need attention. Sure, they will get some work done . . .eventually. But suddenly, it’s the last day of break, and they are stressed out for the upcoming semester because they got nothing accomplished.  

As parents and teachers, we know this year has been extremely challenging for students; many have fallen behind due to online learning.

Winter Break is the perfect opportunity to get students caught up so that they can begin their journey into 2021 with confidence, in-fact, winter break is an even better time than the regular school year to seek private tutoringFor starters, tutoring over the winter break gives students the ability to catch up or get ahead in a stress-free manner.

Winter Break Tutoring


An experienced tutor will help your child:

  • Review the semester and identify weaknesses.
  • Check-In with teachers; often, teachers will allow students to hand work in late.
  • Fill in the gaps.
  • Strengthen study skills.
  • Teach organizational techniques.
  • Prep for ACT, SAT, ISEE.
  • Boost confidence.
  • Reduce homework battles.
  • Write college essays.
  • Maintain structure and accountability.
  • Get ahead for next semester.
  • Support your child during their Zoom classes.

Groza Instructors are experience, and many, are credentialed teachers who will go above and beyond to ensure your child’s success.

When it comes to tutoring and academic advancement, Groza goes far beyond simply finding the correct answer. We seek to enhance, and even entirely reshape how a student thinks about each subject. We work with families to identify learning objectives and hit their goals.

Because every student learns differently, we carefully monitor and optimize their unique learning plan as they advance, giving special attention to their unique learning style, how to effectively engage and inspire the student, and what the individual progress suggests moving forward.

Your child is unique. So, don’t settle for a one size fits all approach.
Instead, give them a learning experience that meets their individual needs.

Groza Learning Center’s Winter Break tutoring programs

How are the Top 20 Nationwide Universities Responding to COVID-19?

Test Optional Universities


Recently, the College Board announced that they will not be administering at home SAT exams for the 2020-2021 school year. In addition, due to COVID-19 the capacity for in person examinations has been extremely limited.  These factors will prevent thousands of students from taking the SAT exam. Furthermore, the at home ACT testing option will not be available until late fall or early winter.

In light of this, is reporting that nearly half of all four year universities in the US, including the top 20, have gone test optional for the 2020-2021 admissions cycle. Of these top 20 universities, some have stated that they will be test optional for only the 2020-2021 admissions cycle, while others, such as California Institute of Technology, have stated that they will be test optional for a two year period.  Although students are not required to submit SAT or ACT scores, many schools, including Columbia University, strongly suggest submitting them as it can be a valuable addition to a student’s application.

Test Optional vs. Test Flexible vs. Test Blind:

Even with universities going test optional, there are still three categories in which a school can fall under. The first is a test optional college, where students decide on whether or not they want to submit test scores with their application.  The majority of test optional colleges will consider SAT or ACT scores, but will focus on a student’s essays, GPA, and recommendations. The second type is a test flexible college, which allows students to submit other standardized tests in place of the SAT or ACT.  For example, Advanced Placement tests and SAT Subject Tests. Lastly, the third category is a test blind college. These colleges will not consider test scores, even if students submit them.

Test-optional schools:

– Brown University

– Columbia University

– Cornell University

– Dartmouth University

– Duke University

– Harvard University

– John Hopkins University

– Massachusetts Institute of Technology

– Northwestern University

– Princeton University

– Rice University

– Stanford University

– University of California Los Angeles

– University of Chicago

– University of Notre Dame

– University of Pennsylvania

– Vanderbilt University

– Washington University in St. Louis

– Yale University

Test-Blind Schools:

– California Institute of Technology

In place of the SAT or ACT, college admissions will be based on:

– Ability to handle challenging courses throughout high school;

– Commitment and effort in pursuing other challenging learning experiences;

– Community involvement;

– Extracurriculars (clubs, sports, activities outside of school);

– Letter of Recommendation from a teacher in a specific field (for example, a math teacher for students interested in STEM);

– Other standardized tests (AP, SAT Subject, state exams)

In conclusion, many universities have acknowledged that students who find themselves limited in the activities they can pursue due to COVID-19 will not be disadvantaged in the application process.

For more information about the College Admissions Process and SAT or ACT Test Prep
Call: (310) 454-3731
Groza Learning Center

Thinking About College? Your SAT Prep Guide


The SAT is a standardized test widely used for college admissions in the United States. It is also one of the most challenging components of the admissions process and requires effective planning in order to achieve success.

Deciding when to begin prepping for the SAT will vary; starting too early may leave you struggling since the content on the SAT might not be taught in school until later in the year, plus you will likely forget the material by the time the test rolls around.  In contrast, starting too late will not earn you the high scores you are capable of.

Despite this, every students’ journey will be unique since each learns at a different pace with differing strengths, weaknesses, schedules, and goals.

Step One – taking the PSAT/NMSQT®:
PSAT/NMSQT® (National Merit Scholarship Qualifying Test) is a preliminary version of the SAT exam. The PSAT can be written once per year, and many students take the test in both their sophomore and junior year. Earning a high score on the PSAT in your junior year could qualify you to receive a National Merit Scholarship.

Step Two – take a practice SAT:
A practice SAT is not the same as taking the PSAT. The practice SAT will include all the content found on the official SAT(including the essay), allowing you to establish an accurate baseline score, identify weak areas, and set realistic score goals.

Step Three – create a learning plan and timeline:
The intensity and length of your SAT test-prep will depend on which college you want to attend (State School vs. Ivy League). For instance, highly selective schools like MIT and Harvard are looking for scores of 1500 and above.  In addition, your timeline will depend on whether you choose a more extended and gradual approach versus a shorter and intense one. These decisions will be based on individual study styles, schedules, and goals.

Factors to Consider When Building Your SAT Success Plan:

When To Take The SAT:
Students typically take the SAT a few times, it is recommended that the first time is in the fall of their junior year, the second in the spring of their junior year, and the third in the summer or fall of their senior year.  However, many students prefer taking it in the winter of their junior year, when they have covered most of the material in school.

College Application Deadlines: 
Typically students taking the SAT are doing so as part of their applications to 4-year colleges. Regular decision deadlines for colleges are around January 1 of senior year. But remember, early action (EA) will push your notification and deadlines up by a few months.  The most common EA deadlines are November 1 and November 15. Typically, you will hear back in December, maybe even before you send off your regular decision (RD) application.

SAT Test Dates: 
The SAT is offered seven times throughout the year, in March, May, June, August, October, November, and December.  You will most likely take the SAT three times; therefore, creating a test schedule is crucial since you will want to leave several months in between test dates to prep effectively and increase your score.

Overlapping Dates:
Accounting for overlap with busy times of the year, like AP exams, IB exams, college applications, varsity sports, and extracurricular activities in junior and senior year, is imperative. Effective planning will help balance your schedule, alleviate stress, and allow you to stay focused.

SAT Test Dates:

Due to COVID-19, June 6th SAT and SAT Subject Test Administration have been cancelled.

The College Board will provide weekend
SAT administrations:

  • Aug. 29
  • Oct. 3
  • Nov. 7
  • Dec. 5

Students can register for these administrations starting in May. They will contact students directly when we have the exact date. Eligible students can register with a fee waiver.

For each administration, they are preparing to significantly expand their capacity for students to take the SAT once schools reopen so every student who wants to take the SAT can do so.

How Can Working With A Tutor Maximize Your SAT Score?

Customized Strong Study Plan:  

  • Create timelines
  • Assign homework
  • Target weaknesses
  • Teach important test-taking strategies
  • Reach and crush goals        

Motivation and Accountability: 

  • Provide coaching, mentoring, and cheerleading
  • Keep students on track
  • Students are more engaged
  • Interactive learning
  • Build trust
  • Consistency 
  • Confidence

Personalized Attention: 

  • Lessons tailored to fit your schedule
  • Critical thinking
  • Test-taking strategies
  • Opportunity to discuss questions/concerns in-depth
  • Build confidence 
  • 1-to-1 learning


Free SAT Practice Test
Begin Your College Journey

 Get started on your SAT prep today! 
For more information or to schedule a
complimentary consultation,
please call 

(310) 454-3731 or click here.

Planning for Long Term School Closures

Planning for Long Term School Closures 1

By now your head is probably swirling with all the information about the Novel Coronavirus.  It’s important to stay updated and informed but it’s equally important to stay calm, take deep breaths, and plan for the future.

On March 17th Governor Gavin Newsom stated … that public schools across the state, many of which are already closed until early April to prevent the spread of the coronavirus, may stay shuttered for the rest of the school year.

“Let me be candid … don’t anticipate schools are going to open up in a week, please don’t anticipate in a few weeks,” Newsom said, acknowledging that “6-plus million kids in our system and their families need to make some plans.”

“I would plan and assume that it is unlikely that many of these schools, few if any, will open before the summer break,” the governor said.

At Groza Learning Center our experienced education specialists are ready to support and guide your family during these unprecedented times.  We understand that this is a very stressful time for parents and children.  Many children are self-motivated and will be able to keep up with their curriculum, however, there are also children who will require more direction, structure, and guidance in order to ensure continuity.  We can create, customize, and implement a long term learning plan for your child.

We are offering online tutoring and test prep using video conferencing with an interactive whiteboard and screen sharing. Sessions will be held in-center today, March 2oth for those previously scheduled.  However, as of  11:59 pm, we will be closing in compliance with the “Safer at Home” ordinance. We will continue to keep you updated and informed.   We are here to help and are easily accessible, call or email us with any questions or concerns.  Let’s work together to ensure our kids are given the tools and resources they need to grow and thrive.

Warm Regards,

The Groza Learning Team

Updates on Standardized Test: Reschedules and Cancellations:

SAT – March 28th & May 2nd SAT & SAT Subject Tests are canceled. Click here for updates.
AP Exams – Still as planned. Additional information will be posted by March 20th. Click here for updates.
ACT – April 4 test date rescheduled for June 13, check here for updates on future dates.
CAASPP, PFT – State Assessments have been suspended, click here for more information.
ELPAC – Waiting for further CDE/ED guidance, click here for more information.

“Easy” SAT Throws Students A Curve Ball As Their Scores Sink

SAT curve 1

Ack! How is it possible my prepared student’s SAT score was so low?


That’s what many families were asking when the College Board released their August 24th, 2019 SAT results. It caused a mini tsunami of confusion and dismay. This particular test was supposed to be “easier,” but students’ test scores were much lower than previous tests they had taken. Welcome to THE CURVE.

What is the curve?

A lot of students (and parents) do not realize that the College Board uses something called the equating process. This process is not like the traditional grading curve because it looks at the raw scores and then compares it to the difficulty of the other SATs given.

Why is the curve important?

The SAT maintains multiple exam versions due to the number of test-takers. There are both difficult and easier tests, but the differential between them is actually quite small. How else do you test a broad number of students and make sure they are on equal footing?

How do we deal with the curve?

Since now we know there is no control over which test your student is going to get – easy or hard – the most important thing is to help them be as prepped as possible. SAT scores aren’t linked to anyone else’s, so it really depends on their individual performance. What students DO have control over is their study plan. Being fully prepared by knowing the content, test format, and common strategies are the only guarantee to boost a SAT score.

And if your student gets stuck taking a test like the one in August, which some folks consider a fluke, remember they can retake the test in October.  If it turns out the curve is not in your student’s favor, there are 7 testing dates to choose from for taking the SAT in the 2019–20 admissions cycle. Also, each college determines scores differently. Some take the best overall, and some take the best from each of exam. It does not hurt to go for it to see if your student can boost their score!

May The Curve be with you!

Three SAT Tips and Tricks You Need to Know

SAT Tips 2

The SAT is a complicated exam journey with numerous potholes on the way to eventual success. While most students have basic test-taking skills, this exam needs to have a strict and focused strategy to find the type of academic victory you’re looking for. Here are three tips the College Board won’t tell you about.

1. Don’t Flip Flop on Test Day

Many times students will read a question, figure out an answer, find their answer sheet, record it, go back to the question booklet and then repeat the formula until they’ve finished a section. While in theory, this seems the best route, a better way to save time is to mark answers in the test booklet, then flip to the answer sheet and mark down the correct multiple-choice answers quickly. Less flipping and flopping and more time to reflect on answers.

2. Optional Essay Is Not Your Opinion

Even though the SAT essay is optional, many colleges will want to see you attempt it. Be aware though, the essay is not looking for your opinion, but instead, looking for your ability to analyze and rip apart the article’s opinion. Make sure you have your critical thinking cap on. Look for logical fallacies, deconstructive arguments, and don’t be afraid to disagree, but by looking at the writer’s techniques, not opinion.

3. Trust Yourself

Big tests can cause bigger anxiety battles. Yet, if you’ve been prepping and putting in the work, you must learn to trust your initial responses in the multiple-choice and essay sections. Remember, this is a harshly timed exam, so there’s no time to spend your time second-guessing.

You’ve already done the hard work! It’s time to reap the reward.

Are you looking for some help getting prepared for the SAT? Contact Groza Learning Center today and we will match you with a professional and experienced tutor to help you reach your goal score.