Vogel Prep’s Secret Sauce: Six Ingredients to Successful ACT/SAT Prep

by Ellie Vogel and Ivan Mervis

What are the specific steps to take (and avoid) for your student to achieve his or her best results on the ACT or SAT?

  1. Start as early in junior year as practical.

  2. Figure out whether to start with the ACT or SAT.

  3. Don’t take a real test without proper preparation.

  4. Plan to take the test on two consecutive test dates.

  5. Start test prep about six to eight weeks before the first test date.

  6. Practice, practice, practice – and avoid shortcuts

1) In general, start test prep process as early as practical in junior year. Families are much happier when senior year doesn’t include ACT or SAT testing. If your junior is currently taking Algebra 2, wait at least until winter break because there is so much algebra on SAT and ACT. Look at the workload throughout the entire school year. If he plays football, wait until the season ends. If she has time-consuming activities in the spring, schedule test prep early in the year. You don’t want to add test prep to a schedule that is already fully committed.

2) Colleges and scholarship providers accept ACT and SAT scores on an equal basis. The Vogel Prep approach uses a “hybrid” ACT vs. Sat Comparison Test to help determine which test to try first. You can also use results on a recent PSAT (the SAT practice test) as a predictor of SAT performance. In late 10th grade or early 11th grade, students could also take a full-length ACT practice test at Vogel Prep to experience the faster timing and feel of that test. The ACT Science section is unlike any test taken in school, but don’t let that scare you away. ACT is the more popular test these days. The proctored practice test takes three and a half hours, usually on a Saturday morning or a non-school weekday. See whether ACT or SAT feels like a better fit – and which test yields a higher score. When you and your student come to Vogel Prep for your follow-up consultation, we’ll evaluate those detailed test results along with their academic strengths and other practical considerations to select which test to prepare for first. Avoid bouncing back and forth between the ACT and SAT. Pick one test, take it twice, then consider switching tests.


3) It’s a bad idea to take an official ACT or SAT test without proper preparation. Repeat — don’t take a test cold. At Vogel Prep, we know that private tutoring is the best way to do test prep; that’s what we do. One-on-one tutoring is usually best; but small classes (3 to 10 students) can be helpful for some students as well. Vogel Prep offers both, depending on the student’s learning style, personal availability, and budget considerations.

4) Students should plan to take the real ACT or SAT on two consecutive test dates in junior year. Avoid skipping a test date because that can leave a 3-month gap between tests– long enough for students to lose their edge on the skills learned. If you’re thinking of switching from ACT to SAT or vice versa, take a practice test at Vogel Prep before switching.

5) Start test prep about six to eight weeks before the first test date, there is a lot of material to cover. During ACT and SAT test prep, Vogel Prep tutors work in small group classes or one-on-one with students to strengthen their math, reading and writing skills, as well as test-taking strategies.  For private sessions, the schedule and lessons are customized for each student. After each session, the tutors send progress notes to parents to show what was covered and how the student scored on practice tests done for homework. 

6) Make time to practice, practice, practice. Just like improving skills in athletics or the arts, students get better at testing by purposeful practice and taking practice tests.  In addition to the session time with tutors, students are assigned practice tests as homework between their weekly sessions. Our tutors do a great job of coaching students and holding them accountable, but it’s up to students to take ownership of the test prep process. It’s hard work and there are no shortcuts.

Call Vogel Prep Tutoring and Test Prep at 480-990-7374 or email Info@VogelPrep.com to discuss strategic options for moving forward with testing. We look forward to working with you to customize a plan to help your student achieve his or her best results on the ACT, SAT or both tests.