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

When to Start Taking the SAT or ACT?

Taking the SAT or ACT requires a large amount or preparation ahead of time. In order to get the best results, you should give yourself both enough time to properly study for multiple attempts as well as the time needed to prepare for each attempt. Just as you wouldn’t start studying for the SAT a week before the test, you shouldn’t take the SAT or ACT for the first time in December of your senior year.

Now, there is no correct answer or specific day of the year that someone should start studying for the SAT.  One of the most important aspects of test preparation is that every student will (and should) have a different road to success. Different students may be ready to prepare early during their high school tenure, other students may need more time to catch up to relevant material, or mature enough to handle the pressure of the exam. Some students may only need to take the exam once or twice to obtain the score they’re looking for, others may want to take it three or four times to ensure they get the score they want.

Before you begin to set a schedule for when you should take your first exam, you should look up when the exam dates are ahead of time. If there are two dates that work for you, let’s say one them is October, then you know you should begin to prepare for that test during the summer. Most students should begin preparing 4 months prior to taking their first SAT or ACT exam. Anything less leaves students prone to cramming, which does not work on standardized tests.

After you have determined when the optimal test dates are that work with your schedule, you then have to decide which year you would like to begin taking the exam. Senior year is usually not an ideal time to start the process (although it is a great time to squeak out a few more points). You would be really limiting yourself to one or two relevant exam dates, plus you would be missing out on some important time to polish your college applications. You also never know if you might get sick the day of the exam and underperform.Then you would be in a serious predicament!

Starting to take the SAT or ACT your freshman year is also not usually the best idea. There are still parts of the exam that most students are either still learning or have yet to learn, so achieving the most amount of success would not be favorable. The best time to start preparing for the SAT or ACT for many students (but not all) would be the end of Sophomoreyear. This allows the students  time to obtain knowledge necessary to ace the exam. This also grants students enough time to take the exam multiple times if they think they continue to improve. Starting to take the exam around this time offers the student a nice chunk of time to prepare for each test as well.

Being a high school student requires having many responsibilities. So, choosing when to start taking the SAT should be a simple and well-prepared decision. Don’t wait before it’s too late!


If you have any questions about when you in particular should start prepping for the SAT or ACT, or better yet which test would be better for you, contact our experts at (516)728-1561 and we will set you on the right track to success.


By: Chris Desimone, Test Prep Expert, Curvebreakers

Essay writing

Let’s be honest. At some point, you may have dreamed of being in Carrie Bradshaw’s shoes, especially the Manolo Blahnik ones that she could afford while writing columns from the comfort of her home. But it’s not just because of the shoes and the materialistic perks why we are in such an awe, it’s about that special power and pride you get by calling yourself a writer. The successful writers that we all know and admire make writing seem like a talent that all of us possess up until the moment when we find ourselves staring at the blank page, having no idea what’s supposed to happen next.

It gets even harder when you have to construct your thoughts on an academic level. Suddenly, you realize that the span of your abilities and vocabulary are quite limited. Not everybody struggles with putting his or her thoughts into a written whole that makes sense, but for those who do, this one is for you:

Need Essay Help? Curvebreakers offers college application & essay services. Learn more here.

Simple guidelines on writing the most exploited form of writing – his majesty, The Essay.

Writing essays, especially for the purpose of college assignments, is not that difficult. It just requires a special combination of skill set and structure that can be easily applied no matter the topic. While mastering these skills won’t make you an instant writer, they will certainly contribute for better grades.

Before starting to write the essay, it is important that you have a clear idea of what you are about to write. Selecting a topic is the first challenging hurdle in college essay writing. Your topic needs to reinforce what you want to say about yourself to your prospective school.

With your mind set on the particular essay thesis that has to be discussed, the next step is to organize your thoughts. Spend some time on thinking and reflecting, on forming your own point of view, and putting your raw ideas on a paper. Organizing your thoughts will help you distinguish between them and will easily enable you to see the bigger picture.

The essay itself has to be structured in three main parts: the introduction, the body and the conclusion.

The Introduction

The introduction is simply about introducing the subject and describing how the narrator will deal with it in the subsequent paragraphs. It is important to keep it short and to the point, but captivating at the same time. You want to get your readers ‘hooked’. In order to do so, ask yourself what the reader needs to know and what is the best way to deliver your message to them.

The Main Body

Usually comprised of several paragraphs, the purpose of the main body is to elaborate the thesis in further detail. Even though we may have generated a lot of thoughts and ideas about the particular thesis, we must stick to the strongest arguments and try to explain their relevance with supporting evidence. The best way to do so is by balancing with researched evidence and personal opinions, or experiences. The balance will vary between different subjects, but the general idea is to back up the points as much as possible with the combination of the two.

The conclusion

Same as the introduction, the conclusion is a short summary of the general idea of the arguments. In most of the cases it should not be just an afterthought, but rather a last chance to prove your point and to indicate what has been learned. Also it can serve as an introduction to further issues that have been recognized, but are not in the scope of the present essay.

General rules

Despite following the general structure for writing essays, there are several other aspects that you should pay attention to.

Style clarity

All of the sentences should be complete, precise and simple. This means writing shorter sentences with clear expressions; in addition, each sentence should follow one another in a logical order, enabling the reader to follow more closely. Also, it is important to divide the text in paragraphs so that the reader finds it more understandable and more attractive. Transitional phrases, such as “furthermore”, “on the other hand”, “moreover”, etc. play a big role in connecting the dots and are the key of good writing. Because the essay is all about the reader, these statements will guide the reader throughout the paragraphs, keeping them informed.


Probably one of the most important things that most students neglect is the adequate list of references used for the purpose of writing the essay. If another author is directly quoted, there should be an indication where the evidence originated. Failing to do so can cause someone to be accused of plagiarism and face consequences.

In the end, don’t forget to review what you have written. Make sure everything is correct and flows smoothly. Don’t panic if don’t have everything in control from the very beginning. Mastering essay writing takes time and practice makes it perfect.


By: Nicholas LaPoma, Owner, Curvebreakers


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 January 2018 is Grace Aulisa, who improved on her SAT by over 100 points. Way to go, Grace!

Grace is a junior at Bishop Kearney High School in Brooklyn, NY

CURVEBREAKERS: What were your thoughts on the SAT before you took it the first time?
GRACE: I was really nervous going into the whole process.

C: When you signed up for tutoring, what did you think the session were going to be like?
G: I knew that I was going to have to really work at it because I genuinely wanted to improve from when I took the practice SAT at Curvebreakers. So I knew going into it that I was going to have to put the work in otherwise I wasn’t going to get the results [that I wanted].

C: What was it like working with your tutor?
G: I thought he was always willing to focus on exactly what I wanted to focus on. With math especially, he walked through each problem with me until I really got it. The math and the writing especially — getting down all the rules — he was really helpful with that.

C: How did your feelings change when you took your actual SAT compared to when you first started?

G: When I took the actual SAT I walked out of there and I was kind of relieved just to have gotten the first one over with. Even though I had prepped so much, I feel like when you’re there it’s so different because you’re just so nervous. But I was really happy after I took it and got the score back. It wasn’t as bad as I thought it would be when I was walking into it. I did feel like I was prepared when I was taking it so it didn’t feel as scary afterwards. I pretty much worked myself up over it for no reason just worrying about it.


C: What was your score the first time you took the SAT?

G: I got a 1360.


C: What was your score for the official SAT?

G: 1470. I was so happy to have gone up 100 points just from 9 sessions. I was really happy to be boosted that much.


C: What was the best part about tutoring with Curvebreakers?

G: They really focused on what I wanted to focus on so I loved that since it was one on one I got to decide what we were going to work on that day. It was totally up to me and at my pace. That’s what I really needed because I know that I wouldn’t have been able to focus in a big group.


Grace has since improved her score another 60 points to 1530!


The 5 ways students get themselves rejected from reach schools (and how we get you in)

1. Poor common app essay topic

One of the easiest ways to get rejected from a reach school is to have a sub par common application essay. The difficult part of the common application essay is often picking a great topic that will “wow” the committee. Here is an example of a common mistake: Student writes a passionate essay about her Grandfather who served in World War II and won a purple heart. Only a few sentences are about how this impacted her. Her Grandfather is accepted to Harvard on the spot, but she unfortunately is rejected. (That was a joke. But the committee is saying “Great, your Grandfather seems awesome. What about YOU?”)

Curvebreakers will help you brainstorm & select a topic for your essay. Once the student has written the essay, we will proofread it and provide feedback until the essay is ready for submission.

Learn more about our college application services

2. Sub-par research about the College

Many supplemental essays are geared towards why you want to go to the College, or what about the College appeals to you. Students do not do enough homework in researching Colleges to learn the ins and outs of the culture. We assist our students in doing vast research on reach schools so that we can make sure to let the committee know that our student is very, very interested… which leads to my next point!

3. Not showing enough interest

Another common mistake is not showing enough interest. One student we worked with last year told us of a rumor that no one from her school has been accepted to Stanford in recent memory. My explanation for that trend is that none of the students have shown enough interest in the school to be accepted. Since the student is based in Nassau County, New York, a student who wants to be accepted to Stanford needs to show REAL interest in going there. That starts with a visit if possible, calls, e-mails, letters, etc. They need to know that they are your top choice, not second fiddle to the equally great east coast schools.

4. Mismanaged early action application

Another common mistake is applying early to a reach school as early action. Early action is simply a way to have your application processed more quickly – it is not binding (Early Decision is the binding one) In many cases, the chances of getting rejected to a reach school in Early Action exceed the chances of getting rejected regular admission. Early Action is often a strong pool of students with great test scores (sometimes above the median for what the college normally accepts). Basically, Early Action is sometimes a bad strategy for someone applying to a reach. Early Decision, on the other hand, could be a better play if it is offered, as it shows a great deal of interest (see above) due to the binding nature of the deal.

5. Not requesting an interview

An interview is a great way for many students to show a college that they are mature and a great fit for the school. Not only does requesting an interview help you show great interest in the school, but it also lets you win over another recommender (the interviewer) if you do a great job. This could be a nerve wracking experience, but luckily we provide our clients with mock interviews with a real interviewer to make sure they are ready.

Luckily, we are here to help you. Need some advice? We’re happy to discuss any of the above in a FREE consultation. We are happy to assist whatever way we can. Please call the office at (516) 728-1561 or learn more about our college application services.

By: Nicholas LaPoma, Owner, Curvebreakers