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.


Here’s Why We Invest In Making Mock Testing Available For All Students

SAT tipsThis just happened: while our proctor was waiting for the last student to arrive to take a mock ACT test, the panicked father called to say they were running late. All streets were closed because of a half-marathon. They had abandoned their cab and were running pell-mell to the subway. “Would we please wait for her?” I told him it’s no problem and don’t get his daughter any more upset than she already was. I imagined she had spiraled down to: “I’m going to miss this test. Then I’ll do terribly on the actual test. I’ll never get into college. I’ll be a failure all my life…” Take a deep breath.

Taking a mock test at our test center has multiple benefits. Obviously it is a practice test. Like the old joke, how does a musician get to Carnegie Hall, improving your test scores is all about practice. That’s why our tutors encourage clients to do as many practice problems and tests as possible at home and at our test center. The latter simulates the actual test experience– as students stress to locate the place and arrive promptly, and then take a timed test with a proctor and other students, with only scheduled breaks.

Home testing is great for learning the material and implementing test strategies and tactics. But home gets distracting. Texts, Snapchat, the phone rings; the dog barks, the bee stings; an unscheduled bathroom break, the sibling’s challenge to a video game, the parent’s request to clean up a mess.

That’s why Ivy Tutors makes it a priority to offer mock SAT, ACT, and other standardized tests to our clients at our test center. Our proctors adhere to the official test timings, then correct and score the tests within 72 hours so the student can work on it with her tutor.

Plus, if the student is undecided whether to take the SAT or the ACT, she can take both at our test center and compare the process and results to determine which one she prefers.

So please call Ivy Tutors to schedule free practice tests for the test-taker in your home. Richard Kaplan, Executive Director  800-476-0596  

Tell Me More About the New SAT & ACT


photo: Richard Kaplan


Tell Me More About the New SAT & ACT


Divided into 4 Sections, plus an essay response:
  • Reading: 52 questions, 65 minutes
  • Writing and Language: 44 questions, 35 minutes
  • Math Test, No Calculator: 20 questions, 25 minutes
  • Math Test, Calculator: 38 questions, 55 minutes
  • Optional Essay: 50 minutes
Scoring has changed! In its attempt to emulate the ACT as closely as possible, the College Board has eliminated the penalty for guessing in the SAT. The overall score is now two scores of 800 for a total of 1600.

Reading and Writing Section:
  • Scores between 200-800 points
  • The number of questions you answer correctly correlates to a raw score chart unique to each test
  • The separate Reading and Writing scaled scores are added together and multiplied by 10. This is your total Reading and Writing Score
Math Section
  • Scores between 200-800 points
  • The number of questions you answer correctly (raw score) correlates to a scaled score chart unique to each test
  • The Math scaled score is multiplied by 10. This is your Total Math Score
Optional Essay
  • Two different people will read and score your essay.
  • Each scorer awards 1–4 points for each dimension: reading, analysis, and writing.
  • The two scores for each dimension are added.
  • You’ll receive three scores for the SAT Essay — one for each dimension — ranging from 2–8 points.  There is no composite for this section (the three scores are provided for individual assessment and are not added together).

Divided into 4 sections, with an optional 5th:

  • English: 75 questions, 45 minutes
  • Mathematics: 60 questions, 60 minutes
  • Reading: 40 questions, 35 minutes
  • Science: 40 questions, 35 minutes
Each section is scored on a 36-point scale, where the raw score is matched against a scaled score out of 36.

Optional Essay:
  • Two different people will read and score your essay on a range of 1-6, which will be added together, on 4 different areas
  • Four domain scores from 2-12:
    • Ideas and Analysis
    • Development and Support
    • Organization
    • Language Use and Conventions
Your score will be the rounded average of the four domain scores for a single subject score between 2-12.
Learn more about Test Prep with IVY

Tutor Profile!

Justin Swibel is a data-driven tutor focused on setting goals, instilling confidence, and providing each pupil with problem-solving tools necessary for achieving his or her goals. He has four years of intensive experience tutoring SAT, ACT, College Admissions, and high school entrance exams. His students consistently demonstrate drastic score increases averaging between 30 and 60 percent, cumulatively. Justin grew up near Chicago and graduated with high honors from NYU in 2005, with a BFA in Film/TV Production and a minor in Classics. His debut feature film, MODERN MAN (2006), a loose adaptation of Thoreau’s WALDEN, was praised by The New York Times as “a droll parable of mankind at ease after having subdued nature, yet still not feeling in control of it.”


“We have enjoyed the SAT tutoring and our daughter’s performance has vastly improved with your help—you made her dig deeper. We appreciate your help, feedback, time, thought, and overall generosity.  And you’re a nice guy— what a great combination!”
-Parent of 11th grader
Come in for a free test!   Use code: FIRSTTEST17