Intensive tutoring for September ACT? From whom?

Son will only have one shot at the ACT, the September test date. He’s been working his way through the Official ACT PREP Guide (probably 2019-2020),has done the first two tests (out of 5) and gets 34-36 on everything except the math, on which I think he got about a 32. He says that he is learning what areas he needs to refresh his memory, as he works his way through the math, his weakest subject.

Question is, are the tests in the Official Guide easier than the actual test? His overall scores keep coming out as about a 35, which I understand is quite good, but will these scores predict actual test score? He does not have test anxiety. Would working with a tutor help at this point? Would intensive practice at a testing center help? He has about three weeks in August that he could spend in working with a tutor or at a test prep center.

Which test center? Which tutor? He is in Concord, MA (west of Boston).

I’ve paid for tutored test prep for my kids, and it helps but mostly for structure, practice tests, and relieving stress. My kids were so busy they need to be very efficient with their prep. Your S seems to be doing great with test prep, so I wouldn’t spend the money unless you think it’s causing problems between you two.

It sounds like he is in great shape for the September test. The test are very good at predicting scores, but it’s generally not exact. Your son is probably a 34 on a bad day, 36 on a good day, and most days a 35. My D is similar, so I have to warn you that it takes a little luck to make a 36. There is always a couple of poorly worded questions and a new subject that wasn’t on any of his previous tests.

The best way we have found to prep is:

1- Take a practice test. This needs to be as close to the real conditions as possible. Mask on, strict time limits, uncomfortable chair, etc.
2- Review why he missed each question. Write these down and keep track.

3- Study sections and practice methods
4- Repeat.

Try and get him enough real prior tests to practice as you can. Ideally he will take 1-2 a week all the way up to the test. I would not stop taking practice tests or studying for a week or two. Even on vacation 30 minutes a day is easy to squeeze in.

I don’t know Concord Mass, so I can’t recommend a site. Try and find one that held the July test. Also, sign up for the last one of the October tests if you can. It’s great to have a second chance if he needs it or a back up if there is a second wave in September.

The last thing I would recommend is to not add stress to the situation. Help him by getting more practice tests and advice, but don’t judge the score on each practice test. It’s a process and you have to be patient.

It’s best to use real past (retired) tests for practice tests. I will PM you the info of the tutoring company we have used, they have purchased many retired tests. Very happy with the tutoring and testing outcomes for both our kids.

@Mwfan1921 my son is taking the ACT in September (we hope). can you please PM me the tutoring company you used? We are in NJ.

We decided against private tutoring. My son has gone through 4/5 tests in the official ACT prep book form 2019. He consistently got 34-36 on all sections except math (32-33). We then got the math prep books The Best ACT Math Books Ever (1&2), and he’s going through the sections according to the type of problems he got wrong. He’s fairly self-motivated, and able to self-teach from the books. He’s mostly an A minus student in highest level classes, so he’s not a brilliant superstar, but he’s pretty good.

Meanwhile, I’m glad we didn’t go with the private tutoring, since he may never be able to take the test!

The only thing I used were the official practice tests from the book you mentioned, and the ACT prep black book. I got a 33 my first practice test (36 math, 34 reading, 32 english, 28 science), and 35’s my last two practice tests—did no other prep. The most important thing is to scrutinize your mistakes as intensely as possible.

I had a google doc which had every single question I missed, exactly what was going through my mind when I missed the question, and how I can change my mindset in the future to not miss similar questions. Do not merely dismiss mistakes as “silly,” because the grader does not care if your mistake was silly or not. There has to be a reason behind a silly mistake. Aim for perfection. If you miss two similar questions in different practice tests, it means you didn’t do something right in between the two practice tests. An exception for this could be math, where sometimes practice is the best way to improve.

This is by far the most time efficient way of preparing for the exam—I was very busy with school and I spent probably 15 hours of prep total (including the practice tests)—started six weeks before the exam, one practice test every two weeks.

I took the real thing in February—ended up getting a 36 on every section except for a 35 on math, which was strangely my strongest section. Practice tests (the official ones) should be a reflection of how well you will do on the real thing, but it varies between person. For me, I absolutely thrive under pressure and the test-taking environment—I always do better in the real exams than practices.

If you need more tips, send me a PM. I took the ACT very close to Boston (rising junior btw)

S21 through dumb luck took the February 2020 ACT just to get a baseline. He worked through one of the top prep books and took several practice tests. His actual score pretty much mirrored his prep tests. He scored a 30 and just missed a 31 by one point on any of the sections. Honestly, for what he wants to major in a 30 is good enough but he wants to aim a little higher.

Math was weakest by far so we’re using a local company that worked with S20. They can craft a plan just to focus on weaknesses. With some schools superscoring the ACT it’s a no-brainer to try one more time.

I say get a tutor if you can and take a few more practice tests. My S20 used the same approach for the SAT. He got some tutoring on his weaker areas and bumped up 60 points with a few sessions and practice tests. You’ll kick yourself for not trying. That said, don’t stress out. S20 could’ve taken SAT one more time but was burnt out and figured he wouldn’t do a lot better. There comes a point when you have to stop and breathe. Instead of trying to get another 20 points on the SAT he focused on essays which was probably wise.

As an SAT/ACT tutor myself, I would say that at most, your son could benefit from a handful of sessions with a private tutor. They could use this time to delve into the Math section, review any topics he need to brush up on and learn some new concepts he may not be familiar with (the ACT Math section is notorious for testing a large scope of topics).

The ACT practice tests in that prep book are usually rather good indicators of performance and if he is scoring that high, I don’t think he needs dozens of hours of private tutoring. With that being said, being able to take a few more practice tests before the real test would be very beneficial, if he has already maxed out all the tests in that book (private tutor could help with this).

Do not spend money on a test prep program when he just needs to target his math skills. Test prep programs are horribly expensive. For a lot less money, you could get him a few sessions with a private tutor who will probably make more of an impact. Test prep programs mostly (always?) have to use fake tests and their own expensive materials to tutor your child.

I am a tutor and my students come word of mouth and via social media. Find a local tutor by posting on your local parents page, or ask a friend to do it for you. Personally, I would choose a tutor who helps students prep with official materials. Only use official ACT tests while prepping. It’s pretty easy to find more tests online, though ACT doesn’t like it. It’s a shame they don’t have 8 free tests like College Board does.

Thanks. Very useful information. He’s gotten the two math prep books that were recommended, and we’ll pull more real ACT tests off the internet. Now let’s see if I can even get him registered for a test!

Don’t worry. The score in practice tests are usually match with the real test provided him don’t stress out. As your son is already doing very well, I think help him to relief the stress before the test is a good strategy so that he can reproduce the practice score in real test. My D22 did the ACT test in Jun 2020. Her score in practice tests are similar to your son. She finally reproduced the practice score in real test.

For anyone who comes across this thread in the future, I just want to leave feedback about what the outcome was. Son did not get any professional tutoring. He realized that the issue with the Science section was that he needed to gain more familiarity with the way in which the material was being presented (reading different graphs and charts). Taking practice tests was enough to fix that. For the Math, he said that there was material that he remembered having learned, but had not seen in years. Also, there was some Statistics that he’d never learned.

We bought the two volumes of The Best ACT Math Books Ever. He looked at the 4 practice tests he’d already done, compiled a list of the subject matter for the math questions he’d gotten wrong, and did those sections of the math books. Then he took more practice tests (officially released ones that we found online, that are legally in the public domain). He focused mostly on doing the Science sections, and the Math sections. If he got a math question wrong, he re-studied the material. Eventually, he found that the only math questions he was getting wrong weren’t even in the math books - he was having to google to find out how to do them. He also found that he was under tremendous time pressure for the math, that he had to develop techniques to get through the math section. The last ten problems were always very hard, with not enough time left.

He wound up probably having done maybe 6 complete ACT tests, and maybe 4 more just Math sections. Overall, I would say that he probably spent a total of 50 hours on test prep, usually about two hours/day, on and off through the summer, but mostly the last couple of weeks of August and first week of September. Then school started, and he didn’t have any time to do any more test prep the last week before the test.

He wound up getting a 36 overall, with 36 in everything except math, in which he got a 34. I would say that his performance on the released ACT tests that were in the public domain very closely predicted his actual test scores. I think that his original practice test was maybe a 33 or 34 overall, with some weakness in Science and Math. I think that the test prep that he did really helped with the Science, and helped some with the Math (brought it up from 32 on first practice test, to pretty consistently getting 33-35 on practice tests, and a 34 on the real thing). I think that he might have benefited from professional help with the Math, because he clearly just hadn’t figured out how to move quickly enough through it, while maintaining accuracy (I guess) or maybe there were tricks that he just never learned. But he surely had given himself a very comprehensive review of high school math by the time the test rolled around!

Looking back, I think that the advice we got was on target. He didn’t need a comprehensive prep program, but we should have gotten him some help from a tutor for the math section. I think he hit the point of diminishing returns working on his own. I was a little surprised that all the hours of math prep that he did only brought him up 2 points. But math has always been his weakest subject, so I guess I shouldn’t be surprised. And of course, overall, we are very please with his score. It should definitely help him in his applications, certainly won’t hurt him.

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@Mwfan1921 I am interested in the tutoring company that you mentioned, could you please PM me the info? Thanks in advance

@Mwfan1921 could you please PM me as well. I am interested. Thanks

@Mwfan1921 can you please PM me the tutoring company you have mentioned? looking for real tests for ACT to get D practice for upcoming ACT.


I would like to PM you…how do I do so?

Hi, thanks for sharing. Your post is very helpful. My child self-studied (and ask tutor if she does not understand practice test questions). English and Math sections are making progress but the reading and science sections are showing little improvement. Any suggestions on test prep books? Thank you!

Sending you a private message. Look for the green circle on the D in the upper right hand corner of your screen.

@Mwfan1921 can you PM me the tutoring company you are using as well?