Curvebreakers’ ​ Student of the Month​ series features students who go above and beyond to achieve outstanding results. They take full advantage of everything Curvebreakers has to offer by improving their scores, being accepted to top schools, or receiving exceptional scholarships. We recognize them to inspire all Curvebreakers students to reach for their dreams! Our Student of the Month for ​ September 2018​ is ​Afia H.,​ who received excellent scores on both the SAT and the ACT. Nice job, Afia!

CURVEBREAKERS:​ When you signed up for tutoring, what did you think the sessions were going to be like?
AFIA:​ When I had first signed up for tutoring, I had an idea of what the sessions would be like since my cousin had also attended Curvebreakers. I knew that every session was supposed to be focused on a certain skill I was lacking and then continuous timed practice in order to ensure that the same mistake wouldn’t happen again. However, I underestimated the extent of how much practice SATs and ACTs I would be doing over time.

C:​ What was your score on your first SAT/ACT practice test?
A: ​ My first score on a practice SAT was a 1320, and my first score on my ACT was a 32.

C:​ How did you like your tutor?
A:​ My tutor was Nick LaPoma, who is also in charge of Curvebreakers. I liked my tutor a lot because not only was he able to be my teacher, but he was also somewhat of an acquaintance. He was able to push me to continue practicing, but also know when to give me a break and just let me take a breather. He would also talk to me about things I could relate to, so that I wouldn’t lose focus or ever get bored.

C: ​ What was your study schedule like when preparing for the official SAT/ACT?
A: ​ When I was preparing for the official SAT, I didn’t do an insane amount of practice SATs per week in the months leading to my test. However, I did try to do at least one timed practice a week and two in the month before my SAT. On the contrary, for my ACT I didn’t do any practice at all besides going to my sessions and the occasional timed section if I could. Most of my attention went towards my SAT because I knew it was the test I needed more help on.

C:​ What did you find most challenging when preparing and what did you do to overcome that obstacle?
A: ​ The most challenging obstacle I had faced was time, but not because I took too long, but because I would finish so ahead of the allowed time that I would begin to second guess and change my first choice answers. Although sporadically my second choice would be right, changing my answers more so hurt me than benefited me. In order to overcome this obstacle, I would try my best to take an extra step so that I could be as confident as possible with my answer. I would find the line in a passage where I got my answer for [the] reading sections, or do a math problem I had originally struggled on twice. I would also be sure to re-read questions in order to make sure I was answering properly and didn’t miss a keyword like “Which answer is NOT true?”

C:​ What was the best thing you did to prepare for the exam? What was most effective for you and what would you recommend to your fellow students if you could give them one piece of advice?
A: ​ The best thing I did to prepare for the exam was time myself during every practice, because it let me plan out what I should redo since I usually finished a lot earlier than the allotted time. Doing so helped reduce how many questions I got wrong in each section and it boosted my confidence to be able to really show that I made sure each of my answers had a reason I chose it.

C:​ How did your feelings change from when you took your actual SAT/ACT compared to when you first started?
A:​ When I first started practicing for my SAT, I was always worried about my first answer and never felt confident that I could be completely right. However, after I had so much practice and had started to [use] the skills that were meant to help me, I learned not to second guess myself as much and it ended up bringing my score up by a lot.

C:​ What was your final score on the SAT/ACT?
A:​My final score on the SAT was a 1510, and my final score on the ACT was a 35.

C:​ What was your favorite part about tutoring with Curvebreakers?
A:​ My favorite part about tutoring with Curvebreakers was how it was one on one because it allowed me to focus more on my personal struggles rather than go along with a group on something that may have been a lot easier for me. It also made sure I didn’t waste any time.


Curvebreakers’ ​Student of the Month​ series features students who go above and beyond to achieve outstanding results. They take full advantage of everything Curvebreakers has to offer by improving their scores, being accepted to top schools, or receiving exceptional scholarships. We recognize them to inspire all Curvebreakers students to reach for their dreams! Our Student of the Month for ​April 2018​ is ​Ryan H.,​ who brought his ACT score up 12 points. Incredible work, Ryan!

CURVEBREAKERS:​ What were your thoughts on the ACT before you took it the first time? RYAN: ​It was a bit of an overwhelming thing to see how long the test was and how many topics it covered, and how much of an impact it had on getting into college.

C:​ What was your score the first time you took the ACT?
R:​ My first practice test score was a 21.

C:​ What did you think immediately after the first time you ever took the ACT?
R:​ “Oh my gosh this is a lot harder than I thought it would be.” The time pressure on the ACT for the different sections was intimidating to get past.

C: ​When you signed up for tutoring, what did you think the sessions were going to be like?
R: ​I thought I would be taking a bunch of tests and go over the answers. I wasn’t expecting it to be as in-depth as it was.

C:​ How did you like your tutor?
R: ​He was awful! (Haha kidding) He was great! I learned tricks, short cuts to make those long questions simple, and he made the process so much easier and improved my score tremendously.

C:​ How did you prepare for the official ACT?
R: ​I was able to pick up patterns on the test from practice tests and have an internal “shot clock.” I learned how long to spend on a question and was able to get through the test a lot better.

C:​ What was your final score on the ACT?
R:​ A 33.

C:​ What was the best part about tutoring with Curvebreakers?
R:​ How individual it was. There wasn’t a blanket approach for each student. My issue was time management and we spent time on that, on how to keep myself running and not spend too much time on a specific question. I would also add that the tutors are invested in you, you are not just a “client” but a person that they care about.

Note from Nick LaPoma:​ Thank you Ryan for being an incredible example for other students that hard work truly does pay off. Your determination throughout this process was impressive to say the least and you deserve all the credit in the world. We wish you the very best in College and the future.

Celebrity SAT Scores

1. Bill Gates: It’s no question that the famous multi-billionaire creator of Microsoft is a pure genius and his SAT score certainly compliments that fact. Gates notched a 1590 on his SATs, 10 points away from a perfect score! I bet the person who devised the one question Bill Gates got wrong must feel pretty cool knowing he stumped one of the smartest men in the world.

2. Ke$ha: The pop singer famous for her hit songs like Animal, We R Who We R, C’mon and Tik Tok certainly didn’t have a time management issue when it came to taking her SATs. Ke$ha secured a very impressive score of a 1500 on her SAT. Although she may play the wild and fun blonde on stage, don’t be deceived — her smarts are crazy as well.

3. Peyton Manning: The future Hall of Famer is undoubtedly one of the smartest brains in football. The 5-time MVP was known for his encyclopedic knowledge of anything and everything football. However, when it came to his SATs, Peyton didn’t match his football expertise. Manning got a 1030 on his SATs. I think it’s safe to say that many NFL fans would still consider him a genius.

4. Howard Stern: The famous radio personality known for his controversial content and edgy opinions definitely has a ton of street smarts, but when it comes to the SAT’s, not so much. Stern only scored an 870 on his SATs. Many throughout the entertainment industry consider Stern to be one of the most savvy and intelligent people in the industry. I’m sure if you asked Howard Stern about his SAT score, he’d tell you everything worked out just fine.

5. Natalie Portman: Not everyone knows that this Oscar-winning actress, who made her film debut at the age of 12, graduated from the prestigious Harvard with a bachelor’s degree in psychology. Despite her busy acting schedule, this Star Wars star is rumored to have earned an SAT score in the 1400s. Clearly Natalie is versatile in more than just her acting roles!


By: Chris Desimone, Test Prep Expert, Curvebreakers

How to Prepare Yourself for Exam Day

Testing season is almost here. If you’re planning on taking the ACT in February or the SAT in March, you should be well into your test prep by now (if you think you might be behind schedule, check out our post onwhen to start preparing for either test). Even if you’re on track for success now, how you handle those anxiety-filled days right before the exam can have a major effect on your score. You’ve put months into preparing for the ACT or SAT, so why would you want to throw away all that hard work the day before? Here are our pro-tips on how to put the finishing touch on your test prep so you can walk into the exam 100% ready.


1. Develop a plan for last-minute studying

Studies have shown that cramming right before a test doesn’t work. Instead, you should plan out a few time slots to study the day before the test and focus on those areas you struggle with the most. Planning to study for short periods throughout the day, say an hour at a time, can help improve your focus and, in turn, how well you retain the information. You can designate each time slot to a different area you feel less confident about. If you struggle with timing, try timing yourself on a few practice questions. You should be aware of the timing per question for each section of the test (we talk about this in our post on the5 Biggest Differences Between the SAT and ACT).


2. Set your mind and body up for success

This is one of the main reasons why cramming doesn’t work — your body needs rest! Staying up all night studying and only getting 4 hours of sleep before exam day is a great way to shoot yourself in the foot. 8 hours is the minimum recommended amount of sleep you should get the night before (and every night, if you can). Countless studies have shown that a good night’s rest can be beneficial to test-taking in more ways than one. The best thing you can do for yourself before the test, besides getting enough sleep, is to eat a nutritious meal (this means more than a Pop-Tart on your way out the door). It’s important to know your body so you don’t over or under eat, but aim for something high in protein like an omelet or yogurt. You can also bring a snack with you to eat during any testing breaks. Granola bars are a great option for staving off those midday hunger pains.


3. Know what to expect

First and foremost, you should know exactly what time you need to be there, NOT just what time the test starts. For example, the SAT begins between 8:30 and 9 am, but the doors close promptly at 8. So you might think arriving at 8:15 would be early but you’d actually be late! Knowing what to expect comes, in large part, from preparing for the test months in advance. Being familiar with the sections, question types, and timing are all keys to success. If you’ve never taken a practice test, you may want to rethink your strategy and put off taking the official exam for a few months. Taking practice tests with trackable, detail-driven results is a great way to improve your score and walk into the exam with confidence.


4. Make sure you have all the materials you need

You should also know what to bring with you (and what you should leave at home). Both the SAT and ACT provide helpful checklists on their websiteshere andhere. Both tests require you to bring a photo ID and leave electronic devices at home. Though you can bring a watch or a timer, you should plan ahead to make sure that it follows all rules (you obviously won’t be able to use the stopwatch on your iPhone). You are also required to bring sharpened No. 2 pencils (not mechanical or pens). I would recommend bringing more than the suggested two, just in case. Even if you think you’re the master of standardized test taking, make sure your pencils have good erasers — you could still make a mistake!


5. Go in with the right mindset

I know you’ve all heard this before, and I hate to be corny, but this really is the biggest part of testing and it can make or break a student’s score. Low self-esteem is something most of us struggle with at some point in our lives and we see it all the time with students who don’t believe they can get that high score. A 36 on the ACT may seem unattainable, but if you encourage yourself you may be surprised by what you can achieve! Regardless of how lofty your goals are, going in with a positive attitude will make the test feel like less of a drag (which we all know it definitely can be).

Taking the SAT or ACT can feel like one of the biggest moments of your life. This would make anyone anxious! Being prepared when you walk into the exam is the best way to reduce stress. I know not everyone is a Type A organization-lover, but I promise you that knowing you’ve covered all your bases will pay off in the long run. You shouldn’t spend the morning of the test worrying about whether or not you know where the testing center is or if your calculator will be allowed. If you get all of that out of the way beforehand, you’ll have the peace of mind necessary to bring home a top score.


By: Emily Sahli, Staff Writer, Curvebreakers

6 Signs You’ve Found the Right SAT/ACT Tutor

Tests are hard. Maybe your student gets tripped up by the phrasing of questions, has trouble with timing, or, like for many students, is losing the battle with testing anxiety. No matter their unique situation, finding the right tutor can be just as much of a struggle. Tutoring should be approached like a teeter-totter (remember those playground staples from your own childhood?) with the tutor providing just the right amount of help to balance out the student’s needs. But what should you look for in the beginning, when you know your student needs help but you don’t know where to start? Diving into the search can seem daunting so we’ve come up with six signs to help you know when you’re on the right track.


1. They care about their students

First and foremost, you want to find a tutor who genuinely cares whether or not your child succeeds. In every field, there are going to be those employees who are just punching the clock and trying to do as little as possible as fast as possible. When it comes to tutoring, weeding those people out is the most important first step. A good tutor should recognize that your child is an individual with a unique skill set and specific needs and be able to adapt their lesson plan accordingly. They should be able to establish a trusting relationship in which they can engage and motivate your student. Keep in mind that tutoring doesn’t have to be boring! A tutor with a sense of humor is always an added bonus.


2. They scored in the 99th percentile

Someone who remembers getting a decent score on the SAT when they were in high school is not going to be an effective tutor. Believe it or not, an above average score (let’s say 30 on the ACT or 1350 on the SAT) is still not going to cut it when it comes to test prep tutoring. The right tutor should be able to ace whichever test your student is studying for. This is incredibly important regardless of the student’s own goals for scoring. Even if you are only aiming for a 27, a tutor who had a 99th percentile score on the ACT will be far more effective. Here’s why — scoring in the 99th percentile on either test requires more than just knowing the material. The highest scores only come from knowing things like timing tricks, strategies, and the overall construction of the test. Because the SAT and ACT are testing you not only on your knowledge but your test-taking skills as well, you need a tutor who can provide you with the ins and outs of the test.


3. They use the newest materials

So now you know that you want a tutor who scored 1600 on the SAT, right? Well, if they took that SAT in 2014 their score would actually have been out of 2400. Because the tests are constantly changing, you want to make sure your tutor is up to date on the newest developments. It’s not just scoring that changes either. In March 2016, the SAT made changes to several question types and shifted the focus in some areas as well (for example, more obscure vocabulary words were removed to focus on those that students would be more likely to encounter). A good SAT/ACT tutor will always have the most recent version of the test. It should also be taken from a reputable source, such as College Board.


4. They give timed practice tests

No matter how many tutoring sessions your student goes to, nothing will prepare them for exam day as well as a practice test. The most effective tutor will be able to provide a quality practice test that simulates the real testing environment. This is important for improving timing and overcoming test anxiety. Your student should be able to take as many practice tests as he or she needs to feel confident walking into the exam. Companies or private tutors that do not provide this service on an unlimited basis to clients are simply shortchanging or up-charging you.


5. They provide data-driven reports

Most students are going to struggle on their first practice test. A good tutor will expect this and have the right tools to see exactly where they went wrong. A cumulative practice test score tells you nothing about the student’s strengths or weaknesses and is often not an accurate indicator of how they will score on exam day. Data-driven reports break the test down not only by section but by question as well. To truly help your student, a tutor needs to be able to see how many questions were answered incorrectly AND how many were unanswered altogether. In-depth score reports are also a wonderful tool for determining the success your student will have on the ACT versus the SAT (an important decision to make at the beginning of the test prep process). It is also important to note that these reports should never be used to scam you into paying more for tutoring. A reputable tutor or tutoring company should include them in every package.


6. They know when and where to take the test

When your student is ready to take the official exam, their tutor should be able to provide them with all the information they need for exam day. They should know when the exam days are and how to register. In addition, they should be able to tell you all of the locations where the exam is being held in your area and what your student should bring on exam day. Easy access to this information is a no-brainer and any tutor worth their salt should have the necessary resources to give your student the accurate days, times, and locations of the exam.

The bottom line when looking for a tutor is to find someone with a thorough and up-to-date knowledge of the test your student will be taking. The right tutor will adapt to your student’s individual needs and make them feel comfortable and capable of success. Asking a potential tutor for their own score and whether or not they provide practice tests with data-driven score reports is the smartest way to weed out those tutors who do not have your student’s best interest at heart. Finding the right tutor can be a struggle but a careful search will always yield the most success.

Remember, not only is your score on the line but a boatload of cash too.


By: Emily Sahli, Staff Writer, Curvebreakers