How many times should I take the SAT or ACT?

Many of our high school junior clients took the SAT on December 2 for the first time. They’ll get their results online sometime between December 15 and 21. Other clients just took their first ACT exam on December 9.  They’ll get their results sometime between December 19 and February 2. We hope they don’t have to wait too long. And we wish them perfect scores!

But the reality is that most college applicants take the SAT or ACT more than once. Maybe 2 or 3 times, stretched over their junior and senior years. Odds are, with this extra familiarity with the test process and additional prep with our tutors they will improve their scores. Some experts caution not to exceed 3 times taking the test, as it may not help your score; plus some colleges may judge this unfavorably.

However, both the ACT and the College Board offer Score Choice, which allows you to choose which ACT or SAT and/or SAT Subject test scores you send to colleges. Here’s the College Board’s quick how-to video

In addition, many colleges allow you to superscore the SAT:  You submit the tests and the colleges consider only your highest section scores from each of two or three dates you took the SAT, forming the highest possible composite score. For example, you might combine your highest Math score from test 1, your highest Evidence-Based Reading and Writing (EBRW) score from test 2, and your highest optional essay score from test 3.

Some colleges also superscore ACT results, combining your highest Math, Science, Reading, and English scores, then average these together for a new composite higher than any of the individual ACT tests you took. This may be a better option than having to submit scores from only one test date via Score Choice.

Important! Make sure the colleges you plan to apply to will accept Score Choice and will superscore your ACT or SAT test results. Some colleges require that you submit all scores; some recommend but do not require that you submit all scores; while others accept score choice.

What to do after your first SAT or ACT test? Chill. Wait for results. Jump for joy with your high scores; or figure out what went wrong and how you can do better.  Schedule the next test and resume your prep work and practice tests at the Ivy Tutors midtown test center. Lather. Rinse. Repeat.

Fighting over screen (scream) time?

Some practical tips to help parents win the war over screen timePhoto: Richard Kaplan

Kids don’t come with operating instructions. Every child is different. Every parent is different. But almost every family struggles with how much screen time kids should have. (Not to mention how much screen time parents should have.)

Parents are apoplectic how kids are dumbed down by smart phones, iPads, computers, and X Boxes. Every time a parent requests or demands or surgically removes their offspring from a screen a donnybrook ensues. . It starts young and continues through high school and college. “What is to be done?” echoes from exasperated spouses friends and educators.

When we raise the specter of harm from unrelenting screen time, or at least the diminishing of time doing other things, kids balk and demand proof. Not to mention argue a lot. They have learned many a trick over the years to undermine our resolve.

The Numbers

  • Kaiser Family Foundation research indicates, “Counting all media outlets, 8-18 year-olds devote an average of 7 hours and 38 minutes to using entertainment media across a typical day.”
  • According to “Save Your Sanity. Downgrade Your Life,” in the New York Times.  A number of studies document the effects of techno-stress — the physical and psychological impact of spending countless hours staring at a screen. According to a 2017 American Psychological Association (APA) study, on a typical workday, 85% of people are constantly or often digitally connected (by email, text and social media). On their days “off”? It’s nearly the same: 81%.

That’s time not exercising, not walking in the park or seeing friends, talking with parents and siblings, not reading, drawing, listening to music, doing homework, or just chilling and having time to think about one’s life. The APA study notes,

…More Americans are employing “technology usage management strategies” such as banning cellphones from the dinner table (depressingly, only 28 percent of people do this), taking occasional “digital detoxes” and forbidding devices during family time.

According to the APA study, nearly half of millennials worry about the negative effects of social media on their physical and mental health.

Set screen limits behaviorally 

Every family needs to make their own rules… and stick to them. Just like any other aspect of parenting, consistency is key. You can ban cellphones from the dinner table or other times. But parents better hold themselves to these rules, too. Model your behavior.

Make sure students do their homework in a common space with parents nearby. Otherwise, kids do homework sequestered in their rooms, distracted by Facebook, Snapchat, Instagram, ad nauseam.

Spend more time with your kids. Go for a walk. Play sports. Read together. Play games. Draw. Build. Supervise homework. Talk about their lives, their classes, their college aspirations.

 Set specific times and durations when screen time is allowed. Such as for 15 minutes before dinner and/or only after all homework is done.

Reward your children for completing homework, doing well on tests, exercising, and doing chores with additional screen time.

Turn off your router. Stop paying for cable/satellite.

Set digital limits digitally

Two services offer tech solutions to limit screen time (These are not our product endorsements, but their own verbiage.)

1) unGlue is not a “parental control” service, because it focuses on giving the kids more choice. Parents configure time limits on using entertainment apps like Snapchat, Facebook, Twitter, Instagram, YouTube and others, as well as mobile games, but when that time runs out, the internet is not disabled on kids’ devices. This is important because kids still need Internet access for doing homework, checking the weather, or listening to music — the idea is to limit the time they spend goofing off.

Parents decide how much time kids get per day, and then kids get to decide how to use it. Unused time goes into a “Time Bank” so they can build up hours by staying offline. In the unGlue Kids application, children can also request to earn more time by completing chores, at the parents’ discretion. 

2) ScreenTime Labs makes it simple to set time limits for each of your children’s devices using your phone or any device with a browser.

We understand that you need flexibility, which is why we offer different settings for week days and weekends. And if you don’t want to apply a blanket limit to all apps, you can specify which apps should always be available to your child, while limiting those you need to.

Richard Kaplan

Executive Director

Ivy Tutors Network

SHSAT test coming up. Get your ticket now

Pencils sharpened?  We are grateful for all our SHSAT clients this semester. We wish your students great success.

The DOE just sent this: You can now get your tickets for the Specialized High Schools Admissions Test (SHSAT) and LaGuardia High School Auditions, if you registered by the October 12 deadline. Get your tickets from your school counselor or at a Family Welcome Center.

Once you get your ticket, take these three steps to prepare for your test or audition day: 1. Map your commute to the testing site. 2. Write your school choices on your SHSAT ticket and bring it with you on test day to copy on to your answer sheet. Check page 1 of your audition ticket for the list of studios you’re auditioning for. 3. Get lots of sleep the night before your test/audition and eat breakfast that morning. Pack a snack or lunch and water to bring to your testing site or to your audition. Questions? Visit Specialized High Schools Admissions, speak with your school counselor, or call 718-935-2399.

Help us celebrate 15 years! Book your FREE standardized practice test by September 30 and get $15 off your first lesson too!

Caveat Emptor

Beware the snake oil salesman, for he lurks where we are most vulnerable, and preys on our insecurities and greed.

Beware the tutoring service that promises a sure-fire way to get 800s on your SAT.

Don’t trust a tutor who promises to raise your ACT score by 30% or 40%.

Don’t believe anyone who guarantees great scores in a defined number of sessions.

Or makes you buy a set amount of lessons up front.

Every year, we have students who achieve a perfect 2400 SAT or 36 ACT, while others break a 2300 or a 32. Many of our students see their scores go up by as many as 300 points on the SAT or 5 points on the ACT from prior tests. But what’s important to understand is that every student is an individual, with her own academic strengths and weaknesses; his own work ethic. How smart and experienced, and how good a communicator the tutor is, is crucial to a student’s success. But that success is equally dependent on how hard the student works, both during the sessions AND on the test prep homework the tutor assigns. At IVY Tutors Network, we also emphasize the importance of diagnostic and practice tests. That’s why we offer our clients unlimited number of free tests at our midtown test center. And we expect them to take advantage of this service.

Ivy Tutors is beginning our 15th year of one-on-one test prep and curriculum tutoring. We recognize that parents in New York City have choices. Without resorting to hyperbole, we can tell you that year after year Ivy Tutors is grateful for returning families—the same students and siblings– as well as our clients’ referrals to new families. We’re proud of how our reputation sustains our business.

We have helped thousands of students raise their scores and improve their grades. Yes, thousands. We would be happy to share our glowing results with you, and provide testimonials and references.

We know our mutual success depends on our hands-on individual customer care and attentive, diligent tutors helping your hard-working students achieve their full potential.

Please contact us at or (800) 476-0596

Help us celebrate our 15th school year! Book your FREE standardized practice test by September 30 and get $15 off your first lesson too!

Summer is the perfect time to study for standardized tests

Richard Feynman, the Nobel Prize-winning theoretical physicist who pioneered quantum mechanics, was a brilliant teacher. He believed if you couldn’t explain a complex scientific concept in simple terms, then you didn’t really grasp it yourself.

In spite of rumors, Feynman never taught with Ivy Tutors Network; but he is still a role model. Our tutors are brainiacs, too. And great explainers. They can break down complex ideas in physics, chemistry and calculus. They are experts at French grammar and macroeconomics. They systematically reveal test strategies for the ACT and SAT, SAT 2s, APs and Regents, and the alphabet soup of GRE, SHSAT, SSAT, ISEE, SCAT and HSPT, too.

A number of our tutors are scientific researchers on their way to medical careers; others are Ph.D candidates in mathematics, or writers and editors, award-winning filmmakers and actors. They are Valedictorians, Phi Beta Kappa, Summa Cum Laude, with 4.0 GPAs from the top universities in the nation. But just as important as their academic accomplishments, they are great teachers.

Some are full-time teachers, ranging from elementary school special education to college professors. Others are experienced tutors, even before coming to Ivy, balancing various careers and graduate schools. Devoted to their students’ achievements. Savvy in reaching different kinds of learners. Patient. Inspiring.

“The real problem in speech is not precise language. The problem is clear language. The desire is to have the idea clearly communicated to the other person.” –Richard Feynman

Summer is the perfect time to study for exams like the ISEE, SHSAT, ACT and SAT when other school work doesn’t get in the way. Especially for students heading into their junior and senior years when high school demands and college applications heat up to photon speed.

Call us for all your tutoring needs this summer.  Face-to-face or Skype.  We’ll make it clear.

Ivy Tutors Network 800-476-0596

P.S. Here’s a TED video of Richard Feynman’s vintage BBC talk,  “Physics is Fun To Imagine.”

Test-Taking Cements Knowledge Better Than Studying, Researchers Say – The New York Times

To Really Learn, Quit Studying and Take a Test

“I think that learning is all about retrieving, all about reconstructing our knowledge…

Source: Test-Taking Cements Knowledge Better Than Studying, Researchers Say – The New York Times

That’s why Ivy Tutors emphasizes taking diagnostic and practice tests at our test center. Schedule your SAT, ACT, SAT 2, SHSAT, SSAT, ISEE, SCAT or other standardized test with us now.

Does Skype Work For Tutoring?

Nothing beats one-on-one, face-to-face, in-your-home tutoring.  Ivy Tutors has built its reputation on this over the past 14 years. Experience has shown us it’s the most effective mode of tutoring, for sustaining a dynamic rapport between student and tutor.

But we also use Skype and FaceTime just as successfully.  Either exclusively or in conjunction with face-to-face tutoring.

Currently, our tutors work exclusively on Skype with our far-flung clients, ranging from Eastern Long Island to England, from California to Switzerland. The sessions cover subjects as diverse as ACT prep, college essay writing, AP physics, AP Calculus, AP chemistry and AP French.

Skype or FaceTime are also useful with regular face-to-face clients. You can schedule an extra last-minute session, whether you currently work face-to-face or are suddenly 5000 miles away. Say you work with your tutor on Tuesdays, but Thursday after school you do not get that day’s biology class and there’s a big test the next day. Book an extra last-minute FaceTime session. Or you are visiting grandma during your normal Saturday SAT 2 tutoring slot, but can’t miss any prep time. Skyping works.

This summer, do you need to prepare for your SAT, ACT, SAT 2 or SHSAT tests for the late summer or fall tests? But you’re going to be away on vacation or working out of town. You can schedule regular one-on-one test prep sessions via Skype.

Always great customized tutoring and our always available customer care.  No cookie cutter. No one-size-fits-all. 

Call Ivy Tutors and we’ll explain how we make it work.  800-476-0596


A Special Offer To Counteract Math Anxiety

SAT tutor in NYC

SPECIAL MATH OFFER  Book 5 math lessons for the price of 4. Any level. Help your child or yourself overcome math anxiety. Book by June 1 to claim this discount.

Ivy Tutors offer math whizzes for all levels. From elementary and middle school math teachers working day-in and day out in special ed, to PhDs who eat AP Calculus for breakfast with a side of Statistics.

Ivy Tutors is as much customer service as it is brilliant tutors. In part, it’s understanding the educational process and knowing the strengths and stresses of educating children in New York City.

Step one: We listen. We need to understand what your student needs; how she best works with a tutor; how he learns (any learning issues?).

Step two: we match our tutors with your student. By expertise. Experience. Personality. By common interests. Even by gender, if you prefer.

Here’s a typical initial conversation with a parent: “My student gets really good grades … except for math… And I’ve never been good at math.”

Could it be math anxiety? “Does being ‘bad at math,’ whatever that is, make you anxious, or does being anxious make you bad at math?” Alana Foley, a developmental psychologist, believes, “Poor performance in math can lead to math anxiety, but there are also studies that point in the other direction; if you have math anxiety it disrupts your concentration.” (The New York Times May 2, 2017)

Chicken or egg, what’s the root cause? Sian Beilock, a psychology professor, boils it down to this, “The moral of the story is that parents likely play an important role, either for the positive or the negative.” (The New York Times August 24, 2015)

As if we don’t feel guilty enough as parents, it’s we who may instill this anxiety when all we’re trying to do is help our kids with homework?!? And it starts early, with alarmed facial expressions and insecure comments. Problems often manifest in middle school and only get worse if not addressed properly.

Jan Hoffman, in The Times, wrote, “So much for good intentions. The more the math-anxious parents tried to work with their children, the worse their children did in math, slipping more than a third of a grade level behind their peers. And the children’s weaker math achievements increased their nascent math anxiety.”

Sian Beilock, author of Choke, about anxiety and performance, warns that comforting a homework-distressed child by saying, “I’m not a math person either, and that’s O.K.,” conveys a damaging message.

So how should you handle the situation? Call Ivy Tutors: 800-476-0596

Our tutors know better than to feed your children the self-fulfilling misconception that you either get math or you don’t. Instead, they teach the skills, concepts and methods of study and practice that achieve good results, build confidence and break the cycle of math anxiety.


We’ve got you covered: Here are your college entrance exam basics.

How do I choose between the SAT and the ACT?

While the SAT and ACT are largely similar, here are some important differences that may affect which test you choose:

  1. The ACT includes a science section. If science and quantitative analysis (think: reading and analyzing graphs) are difficult for you, the SAT may be a better choice.
  2. Although both tests require you to adhere to a tight timeline, the ACT is definitely the tougher test if you work more slowly.
  3. The ACT allows calculators for the entire math section, while the SAT has both a ‘calculator-allowed’ and a ‘no calculator’ section. So if mental math is not your strong suit, the ACT might be more to your liking.
  4. Some colleges accept your ACT score in lieu of SAT subject tests, so if you take the ACT, you may get out of taking some extra tests.
  5. The ACT hasn’t changed for over 40 years while the SAT has changed several times, with a brand new redesign issued just last year. For this reason, many prefer the ACT. It is a tried and true test with a plethora of practice materials available. As the current SAT is brand new, the College Board is still figuring it out and the test fluctuates slightly every time it is administered.

How do I start?
With a diagnostic test. At IVY, each student starts by taking both of these standardized tests at our testing facility in Midtown Manhattan. This gives students a basis to compare how well they do in the two tests and establishes a baseline from which we can work towards a scoring goal in whichever test you choose. Many students are surprised that they feel naturally better at one test over another. That feeling of confidence is really important and we want you to take the test that makes the most sense to you. That’s something you don’t know until you try each one.

Mock testing is vital to success!
Surprise: the testing doesn’t stop with a diagnostic! Both the SAT and the ACT are long tests, clocking in at 3 hours, even without the optional essay. Because it is extremely important that students practice in the most efficient way, we strongly recommend that each student take 3-5 mock tests at our testing facility. We believe so strongly in the importance of mock testing that unlimited mock tests are included in the Test Prep Program fee.

Tutor Profile!

Chris Jacques focuses on SAT and ACT, successfully tutoring many of our students through the intricacies of both tests. In fact, he wrote our new SAT manual and coaches our Ivy tutors in test prep. Chris has been a full time tutor for over 6 years. Fearlessly, he took the new SAT in May 2016, so he can share the ins and outs of the testing process, including which testing centers are best.


“I thought I’d share the good news that my son was accepted by Harvard E/A last month. While his acceptance was most likely based on multiple factors, I am sure his strong test scores (i.e. SAT, SAT IIs, and APs) played a major part in their decision. We are extremely grateful to Chris for helping my son increase those scores dramatically.”
-Parent of 12th grader


What’s the difference between the SSAT and ISEE? Here’s your private school exam primer!

sat testing

     Thinking about independent or boarding schools, or switching from one private school to another? You need to think about and prepare for the SSAT or ISEE. What’s the difference between these two exams, and when should your child start studying? Both standardized test companies offer tests ranging from the elementary, middle and upper grades. Many schools accept either test. But contact the admissions office of each school to confirm they accept the test you prefer.

     The two tests are similar in duration and content, requiring that students master verbal reasoning, vocabulary, quantitative reasoning, math and reading. Both also demand writing samples, which they send unscored with the test results directly to the schools where your child applies.

    Some differences in content seem subtle, but can be significant for your child. Just like with the SATs and ACTs, we can advise your family on which test to take based on the kind of learner your student is. She is welcome to take each test at our midtown test center to compare. Our free diagnostic tests can help determine which test makes more sense for your child’s strengths. For example, the SSAT reports scores on two verbal and one quantitative test, while the ISEE score is comprised of 50% verbal and 50% math scores. So students strong in math sometimes prefer the ISEE, while language-oriented students sometimes opt for the SSAT. One key difference is the type of verbal questions.

     Both the SSAT and ISEE have synonyms; but they differ in that the SSAT has analogies, whereas the ISEE makes students complete sentences. These two similar standardized tests score quite differently, though. The SSAT gives 1 point for each correct answer and deducts one-quarter point for each wrong answer. But the ISEE does not penalize for wrong answers. There’s no harm in guessing. This is where tutoring can really help: learning to strategize the overall test and learning the essential process of eliminating clearly wrong answers in multiple choice and then guessing among the best options.

     Another contrast: students can take the SSAT multiple times throughout the year, including February 11, March 4, April 22, June 10 of 2017; the ISEE limits students to testing once every six months, or only once during each admissions’ cycle. Psychologically, this puts more pressure on students taking the ISEE, if they have no recourse to retake the test and improve scores. Make sure you register for these tests well in advance as the test sites fill up quickly. Registering any later than a month in advance may cost you a late registration fee.

    Our tutors have scored exceptionally well on standardized tests during their own school years. Subsequently, they are trained to teach the content and strategies for all the standardized tests. We also emphasize sensitivity to the emotional needs and learning differences of each of our students. The big question everyone asks: how much time will my child need for (ISEE or SSAT) test prep? This is, of course, relative to each student. How diligent a studier is she? What’s his baseline score? Ivy Tutors offers free mock tests to our clients at our test center. We highly recommend an early evaluation test to establish a baseline and then at least one more test later in the process to chart progress and establish a comfort level with the test-talking process. If the practice test results come close to the goal score, we suggest about a month of light review, say 1000 problems. Otherwise, if there is a large gap between the first diagnostic test and the target score, we recommend anywhere up to 4 months with 3,000 practice problems.

For more information please contact Ivy Tutors Network 800-476-0596

For more test information contact the SSAT or the Educational Records Bureau directly. SSATB or call 609-683-4440   ISEE or call 800-989-3721


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