Frequently Asked Questions

What exactly is SAT Tutor in a Box?
Answer: SAT Tutor in a Box is exactly what its name implies: a near-replacement for a live, in-person master SAT tutor. It consists of 9 instructional DVDs & three workbooks, with hundreds of example questions fully explained from all of the areas of the modern test.

What is on those 9 DVDs?
Answer: Short video lessons on each of the areas tested on the SAT. These lessons have dozens of example problems fully explained by me on screen. Check out a full listing of each disc’s table of contents here. The lessons are formatted so that the student is working on the same problem in her workbook I am explaining onscreen. This is a much more hands-on approach, as each student can much more easily manipulate the problem exactly as I do. Additionally, the DVD-video discs can be used with any DVD player or computer capable of playing DVDs.

Why are there three workbooks?
Answer:Three workbooks are provided because each fulfills a different role in the process of SAT study.

The first is simply called ‘The Workbook.’ The Workbook is where you work while you watch the instructional videos. After all, the SAT (and the PSAT, ACT, APs & SAT IIs to name but a few) is given using pencil and paper. To prepare for it, you must use the same tools—which is why our students work along in the workbook with the videos.

The second book is called ‘The Review Book.’ This book is a copy of all of the workable content in the workbook, only it is intended to be kept blank and have no answers marked in it. It is used, rather, as the ideal quizzing/evaluation tool (after all, a quiz wherein the student can see the work & correct answer written in front of her is hardly a quiz at all).

The third book is called ‘The TCC Book,’ [the acronym stands for Test Correction Cards], and it also contains a copy of all of the DVDs4theSAT Workbook content, only it’s entirely printed on single-sided pages. This means that every page in this book can be cut into panels, and those panels can then be put onto index cards, for the ultimate in reviewing convenience.

So, to summarize: as a student of DVDs4theSAT, you work in the Workbook, quiz yourself from the Review book, and cut out index cards from the TCC book for further review. This is why there are three books—because they serve three different purposes.

I’m already taking an SAT course/working with a tutor/studying on my own for the SAT; can I still benefit from using SAT Tutor in a Box?
Answer: Absolutely. The course is designed to work alongside any other instruction you may be receiving. SAT Tutor in a Box is designed like a toolbox of math, writing, reading, test-taking, problem solving, and vocabulary skills. The skills that you will develop from using SAT Tutor in a Box can be applied to any SATs you may be taking for an SAT review course, tutor, or program of self-directed study. In addition, many of the techniques have been successfully applied by our students to tests other than the SAT: the ACT, GRE, LSAT, MCAT, and even non-multiple-choice and non-standardized tests. There is a wealth of information contained in these 12 DVDs, culled from years of one-on-one tutoring sessions with hundreds of students of every level of ability. Many of these students report that just learning a few of these techniques have helped to change the way they take tests forever; you will learn literally hundreds of these techniques, pitfalls, solutions, and strategies.

Does SAT Tutor in a Box address the changes in the new SAT?
Answer: Absolutely! The entire course has been designed from the ground up to address all of the areas tested on the New SAT (March 2005 and after).

How was all of the material in SAT Tutor in a Box created?
Answer: A group of SAT tutors and experts was consulted at every step of writing all of the material contained in SAT Tutor in a Box. These experts created lists of concepts and questions that a majority of their students had had problems with on previous SATs. They then went about the task of creating sample questions that would illustrate these concepts; these sample questions were modeled very closely on actual SAT questions (while taking great care to ensure that copyrights were not infringed on). These questions and problems were then made into SAT Tutor in a Box: First Edition, which consisted of 10 hours of instruction on 4 DVDs and a 128-page workbook. This product was then tested extensively by several hundred students studying for the SAT. The students’ progress was carefully tracked, which allowed all of the material to be refined with a tremendous degree of precision. The students themselves also made many suggestions about how to improve the product; as a result, dozens of other new features and improvements were added. After all of these changes were made, SAT Tutor in a Box was re-created from the ground up: all of the material was re-shot, re-edited, and so on. The result of all of these efforts is the greatly expanded SAT Tutor in a Box: 2nd Edition, which consists of over 30 hours of instruction on 12 DVDs and a 280-page workbook.

How would a student use SAT Tutor in a Box?
Answer: Typically, a student chooses different video lessons based on her needs. The student then watches these videos at her convenience while simultaneously working in the workbook, skipping backward to review, or forward to exclude any material as necessary. The student can review previously viewed lessons simply and easily in the workbook, referring back to the videos when further instruction is required. If the student is also working with an instructor, that instructor can target weak areas, introduce new material to the student, and otherwise take advantage of video learning as a powerful supplement to anything covered in class with the student. The student works at her own pace, in the comfortable environment of her home, using the familiar tools of a television, remote control and pencil.

How are most areas covered?
Answer: Most topics are divided into two parts: instruction on how to attempt a specific type of question, and explanations of numerous example questions of that type. These example questions are organized difficulty-wise as they would be on the test; for example, each group of sentence completions, and each group of math questions goes in difficulty order, while groups of grammar questions are arranged less specifically (as they would be on the actual SAT).

I’m in a big hurry because I’m taking the SAT in a month. Can I use SAT Tutor in a Box on a shorter schedule and still raise my scores?
Answer: There are a number of sample study plans available for download from the SAT Tutor in a Box website; one of these is a shorter ‘cram plan’ designed to be used over a period of four weeks. If you stick to this plan, you should be able to obtain excellent results in a short amount of time.

Preview some lessons plans here.

What kind of software / computer do I need to use SAT Tutor in a Box?
Answer: You don’t need a computer; SAT Tutor in a Box is a DVD-video product. All you need to use it is a DVD player, a TV, a pencil, and a calculator. You may be able to view the DVDs on your computer as well; if you can view standard video DVDs on your computer, chances are good you will be able to view SAT Tutor in a Box as well.

Of course, a portable DVD player (or a laptop computer) gives you the ability to take your studying anywhere, but it’s not required.

My tutor / SAT course is very strict about only studying what they teach. They’ve even told me that learning anyone else’s way to do things is a giant waste of time. So why should I use SAT Tutor in a Box?
Answer: The truth is that there are many different ways to do anything, whether we’re talking about writing an essay, taking a test, solving a math problem, and so on. Additionally, the only person in a good position to decide if a particular method works for you is you. Wouldn’t you at least want the opportunity to try other ways of doing things? Then you will be able to decide if any of these techniques is a legitimate addition to your SAT toolbox.

What is harder: the PSAT or the SAT?
Answer: The rumor that the PSAT is harder is false. These rumors stem, in part, from a desire to explain why students improve from the PSAT to the SAT. However, one should bear in mind that many students study for the SAT, but most don’t begin until after they’ve already gotten their PSAT score results back. So the bulk of score improvements come after one’s PSAT scores are already in place. This, in turn, usually means that SAT scores are higher than PSAT scores, which would seem to indicate that that SAT is easier.

However, a quick read through a PSAT and an SAT in the same sitting should quickly reveal that the SAT is significantly more difficult. The vocabulary tested on the SAT is slightly harder, the difficult math problems are more challenging, and the test itself is much longer: ten sections on the SAT versus 5 sections on the PSAT. There is also an essay required on the SAT that is not required for the PSAT. All of these factors contribute to a greater level of difficulty.

I got my PSAT back and I had a 1480. I know thats really bad but thats because I wasn’t prepared plus I wasn’t really caring because its the PSAT. My friends got 2200+. What’s the average SAT score?
Answer: The average score on the SAT is about a 1500–500 on each of the three sections. That being said, your friends with the 2200’s are quite unusual, statistically speaking. However, if you stick to a regular program of study, and take practice tests and work on your deficiencies, you should be able to improve your scores quite a bit.

I am currently looking for some sort of SAT or ACT prep course or someone who can help my prepare for the sat or act. I’m not really sure which one I want to take so I’m scheduled to take both . —from Yahoo! Answers, answer by SAT Tutor in a Box
Answer: First off, regarding your choice of which to take: most students benefit from taking both since the skills overlap quite a bit. However, you may want to consider two separate questions.

  • Do the colleges you’re applying to accept the SAT, the ACT, or both? (many colleges require the SAT and will NOT let you use the ACT as a substitute, but others allow you to choose between the two)
  • Which will you score better on? On this second point…:
  • Before you start with any tutor, self-study program or school, you should take an official practice SAT and/or ACT (check or Take it like you mean it, in a situation that is as close to the real testing situation as possible (i.e., no distractions and respecting the time limits).

    This experience — which is necessary in any case — will help you (or you and your tutor, teachers, whatever) determine which test to take.

    As far as a prep course, one way to go is to “”go it alone”” with a self-study course. This requires discipline, but is relatively cheaper and if taken seriously the results will be excellent. In the end, whether you take a course with a school, with a private tutor, or with a DVD set, YOU are doing the studying and you are taking the test.

    If I took the SAT in 1998 and got a 1390 (730 verbal and 660 math), and I took time off to start a family before college, and now I am applying, what would that equal with today’s three part SAT test? (from Yahoo! Answers, answer by SAT Tutor in a Box)
    Answer: You can translate pre-2002 SAT scores to the current scale by just multiplying your existing total by 1.5. In your case, you would be around a 2080, which is excellent. I would definitely familiarize myself with the layout of the new test and essay–I would absolutely make time to take at least one complete practice test (including the essay) under strict test-like conditions–at a desk, with a timer, calculator on the math sections, pencil, test book, and scantron sheet. Make the test as real as you can, up to and including filling out the scantron, and following the book’s directions for grading the test. After all, you don’t want any surprises on test day. If you are interested in raising your score, I would make the writing section a priority, as it wasn’t on the edition of the test you took. It’s fairly straightforward–if you can learn to recognize about 15 types of errors, you should be able to score in the high 600s/low 700s. Getting on a program of regular reviewing is essential as well, since anything you’ve learned can only help your score if you can remember it on the day of the test. Lastly, I wanted to mention that having taken time off to start a family could definitely be an advantage when it comes to college admissions–I would highlight that aspect of my life on any future applications.

    Is chewing gum during a test a good or bad thing? – Yahoo Answers
    Answer: As long as the gum doesn’t get in your way–that is, you’re thinking about the gum instead of the test you’re taking–you’ll be fine.

    I just heard that some person got a 2400: does that mean they can go to any college they want?
    Answer: No. Colleges are interested in a lot more than just your SAT score. Applicants get rejected with 2400s every year; applicants also get accepted to top schools with scores outside those schools’ generally accepted score ranges. A good SAT score can help you, but it almost certainly cannot get you in if the rest of your application isn’t up to the standards of the school in question.

    Does colleges see all of my scores? Won’t they reject me if I have some low scores?
    Answer: Well, the answers to these questions are: “sort of,” and “not really, no.” To understand this, you need to know what goes on in the admissions department of a typical university. College admissions officers, professional college counselors, and high school guidance counselors all say the same thing: colleges want to see your best side. After all, colleges:
    ask you to send recommendations from people who YOU think will say positive things about you
    know you’ve worked hard on your essays, and are submitting something that you’ve probably revised a dozen times
    might ask you for a graded paper from an English class, but it’s safe to assume they know you’re going to pick one of your best, and so on.

    In short, colleges are interested in seeing how WELL you can do, not how spectacularly you can fail. This attitude holds true for SAT scores, furthermore, colleges are usually overwhelmed by the huge number of applications they must process every year to choose their incoming class. They do not want to make their job any harder; if anything, they want a summary of who you are and what you are all about.

    With this in mind, most admissions departments make use of an internal document called a reader’s sheet. The reader’s sheet is for the use of the admissions committee only; it contains a capsule summary of you:

    Best SAT verbal score
    Best SAT math score
    Best SAT writing score
    A copy of your SAT writing samples (your essays)
    Class Rank
    Proportion of AP/Honors/CP/standard/etc. classes you have taken
    AP test scores
    Best SAT II scores, one of which is usually the Writing test
    Legacy status
    How many new libraries your parents have funded recently, and so on.

    Also note:

    A few colleges—for example the University of Michigan—do take your best combined score from a particular date, if you do take the SAT more than 3 times, most colleges will just average your scores for the reader’s sheet.

    The point of all of this is: in most cases, you can take the SAT up to three times without worrying about being penalized.

    What is a typical schedule that students follow as far as when they take the various tests that are offered?
    Answer: Of all the tests, the PSAT offers the least flexibility as far as scheduling since it is only offered once a year, usually on the third Saturday in October (or the Tuesday following that date for private schools, students with religious accommodations, and some public schools; the test given on that day is completely different from the one given on Saturday). It is a good idea to take the PSAT in both the Sophomore and Junior years, as having more experience is almost always a good thing.

    Students often take specific SAT II: Subject Tests, such as Biology or Chemistry, in May or June of the year they complete those classes. Students also piggyback SAT II: Subject Tests on top of corresponding AP tests, in order to have the greatest number of opportunities to get good scores—for example, if one is taking the AP US History test in May of one’s Junior year, it is not a bad idea to also take the SAT II: Subject Test in History at the same time.

    Students generally take the bulk of their standardized tests during their Junior year. Typically, students will follow the October PSAT with SATs in March or May (or both), and then SAT II: Subject Tests in June, which leaves October and November of Senior year open for possible re-takes of any tests. Usually, even November of Senior year isn’t too late to ensure that the student can have all of her test scores submitted to a university for Early Decision applications.

    I have heard that January / March / May / June / October / November / December SAT is usually the easiest / hardest. Is there any truth to this rumor?
    Answer: “No. Let us narrow the rumor to be “the May SAT is always the easiest.” Leaving aside the fact for a second that there is rarely, if ever, just one May SAT (there is an alternative administration—a different test—given on Sunday for students with religious accommodations, and it is not uncommon for there to be more than one test given on Saturday in May), let us address ourselves to the idea that somehow this rumor might be true, and that somehow you would be able to find out about it, but most other people would somehow not be able to find out about it, and it would go unreported in the news, on the internet, and so on. Add to that the fact that the rumor itself is always changing, and is always based on past administrations of the test, and you have all the ingredients for a classic urban legend.

    This situation is similar to a person gambling on a particular slot machine, winning some money, and concluding therefore that “this slot machine must pay off more than average,” or “gambling on Saturdays pays off more frequently than other days of the week,” or anything along those lines.

    Now, the test might seem easier to you in May than it did in March, because you might have studied a list of words that had a higher percentage tested in May than March. But that has nothing to do with the test, and everything to do with the list of words you studied. Additionally, having the experience of taking the test before often makes subsequent testings seem easier. All of this, however, has nothing to do with our ability to predict which test months are going to be easier or harder.

    In short, there are no test dates that are consistently any easier or harder than any other dates.”

    I just took an SAT, and it seemed really easy to me. Is this good or bad?
    Answer: This is usually not a good sign. Students should take the SAT knowing that it is difficult and carefully proofreading their work.

    The reason that it is not a good sign: The actual difficulty of the test does not vary that much. There are fairly equal proportions of all score ranges on every test date. This is accomplished through a technique called adaptive norming, where the results from each test date are correlated so that there are a similar number of 2400s, 600s, and every score in between for each test administration. So the actual difficulty of the test itself doesn’t change that much (or at least the scores that come out of each test administration don’t vary that much from date to date).

    So if you thought that the test was really easy, well, unless you always think that, it was probably you, and not the test. For example, we know that the test can be a tricky beast, with lots of careless mistakes waiting for most students. If a student, however, takes the test and doesn’t see any of these careless mistakes that they might be making, the test will seem unusually easy. “Hey, this is easy! I’m doing great!” the student might think. Conversely, if the student takes the test and catches a number of careless mistakes, the test will seem tricky and difficult (because it is). In the second case, the test seems harder, but the student has performed better.

    The SAT is hard, and it’s hard for everyone. Even people who’ve been taking it for twenty years and regularly get perfect scores think that it’s difficult. Therefore, if it seemed very easy to you, it probably wasn’t because the test itself was easy: it is more likely that you just thought the test was easier, which is usually not a good sign as far as your performance goes. Try taking the test knowing that it’s hard, but also that you’re well prepared. This is usually the best mindset for most students.

    How many time should I take the SAT?
    Answer: Short answer: at least twice. The long answer is that it depends on many factors. However, there are a few underlying principles at work here

    You should NOT take the test only once unless you do amazingly well your first time.

    It is unlikely that you will do amazingly well on your first real SAT, as the pressure of taking the test, nervousness, and a relative lack of experience all contribute to make your first test the hardest.

    Even if we assume that nervousness, pressure, and your lack of experience your first time will NOT affect your performance, your odds are still only 1/2 or 1/3 (depending on how many times you end up taking the test) of getting your best scores on each of the three sections the first time you take the test. This means your overall odds of getting your best total score the first time are either 1/8 or 1/27 (again, depending on whether you take the test a total of 2 or 3 times). These are not good odds, and they are further compounded by nervousness, pressure, and your lack of experience taking the SAT the first time.

    In summary, you almost certainly will not take the SAT only once. This wonderful situation can occur from time to time, but it is unlikely. Since we need to prepare ourselves for what will probably happen, as opposed to what we hope will happen, we must plan on taking the SAT at least twice.

    Is it a good idea to take the SAT for ‘practice’?
    Answer: Short answer: no. Why? Since your last six SAT scores are included in each score report sent to colleges by the College Board, it is probably NOT a good idea to take the real SAT for practice.

    There are many practice SATs available, including recent years’ SATs. I recommend the Official SAT Study Guide.

    However, if you are someone who really wants to have the experience of taking the SAT, you can take an earlier SAT and then cancel your scores (following instructions given either at the SAT or on the College Board website). Another option is to notify the test proctor. In any case, neither you nor anyone else will ever see the scores from your cancelled SAT. Some students find this to be useful (to get familiar with the ‘real’ testing situation), while others think it is a waste of time.

    When should I take the SAT?
    Answer: Consider how long you’ve been studying and what your goals are. With these in mind, the most popular dates to take the SAT during the Junior Year of high school is usually the last weekend in March (which sometimes spills over into April), and the first weekend in May. These two dates are the most popular for a variety of reasons.

    They allow students time to take the SAT again if necessary,
    They allow a student other dates to take SAT IIs if necessary,
    They allow a student to complete all of her standardized testing during the Junior year (nice bonus!)

    Also, most colleges’ Early Decision deadlines will still allow a student to take the October SAT, if that is necessary.

    In total, there are then four dates that one could take SAT I’s or SAT II’s on

    The second weekend in March
    The first weekend in May
    The first weekend in June
    The middle of October

    Your needs may be completely different, however; that is why there is no ‘right’ answer this question.

    I already took the ACT, and am very pleased with my score of 33. This was without the writing section. I am thinking about taking the SAT, but if I don’t do well on the SAT then colleges can still see it. With the ACT I have to send out my scores for them to see it. From the PSAT, I can expect my scores to be around 630 for Reading, 690 for Math, and 610 for Writing (I think PSAT scores can translate like that). If it helps, some of the colleges I am considering are Stanford, Carnegie Mellon, and MIT. Is it worth it to take the SAT? If I don’t do as well on the SAT, can I still ride on my ACT score?
    Answer: Your score of a 33 is indeed excellent. I don’t know why you’re feeling pressure to take the SAT in addition–as you mentioned, the SAT uses a mandatory score reporting system, wherein your last six SAT scores go out on every report they send. Additionally, any scores you may have on SAT II’s also go out on the same report–and those are bound by the ‘six test dates’ limit as well. You’re probably planning on taking a number of SAT IIs, given the schools you’re looking at; therefore, any SAT scores you have would go out on those reports as well. Here’s what I would do: take the ACT at least once (if not twice or three times) more. Every time from now on, take it with the writing–and prepare for that part of the test, too, so you can really nail the essay. I would not take the SAT I at this point; I think it would give your application a little exotic ‘zing’ to it that you had only ACT scores and SAT II’s with no SAT I. You may be under the impression that schools in the Northeast favor the SAT–however, this is not the case. They all accept, and know how to read, both types of college admissions test scores–and it certainly would not be a blemish on your record to have only taken the ACT (albeit with writing) and SAT II’s (and, of course, any AP tests that you’ve taken).

    How long do I have to wait to see my SAT results?
    Answer: You can usually go online and get your scores about 2 weeks after you’ve taken the test, and you get your scores back in the mail 3 weeks after taking it.

    I haven’t had time to review any old problems or vocabulary this entire week. Will I get the same benefit if I just study intensely for one or two days to make up the lost time?
    Answer: No, you won’t. If a friend said to you, “well, I haven’t brushed my teeth in a week, but I’m not worried: I’m going to brush them for three hours this Sunday,” you would probably assume that this person would be needing a dentist pretty soon, and you’d be right. Learning is something that takes place over time, and is difficult to rush. One would probably not expect to go to the gym once every two weeks and work out for fourteen hours straight and get the same results as someone who went to the gym for an hour a day for two weeks.

    And so it is with learning. The best approach is to review as frequently as you can, even if this means squeezing short review sessions into your schedule: between other activities, before bedtime, immediately after waking up, and so on. Find the holes in your schedule and fill them.

    I have other assignments that are similar to my SAT work (vocabulary, for example). Do they count towards completing SAT assignments?
    Answer: Well, the answer to this question is: it depends. Remember, what we’re trying to do is affect the knowledge that you actually bring to the test. In other words, if you studied some vocabulary six months ago, and knew it then, but don’t know it on the day you take the SAT, well, it’s not going to affect your score that much. In fact, the frustration of knowing you forgot it will probably hurt your performance. So we try to avoid that situation.

    However, if you study vocabulary for English class, and you still remember it at the SAT, it will help your score. The point is that all assignments are cumulative; if you are adding to your cumulative knowledge, then certainly it should count towards your SAT homework. If you normally make vocabulary cards for the SAT, and you make them for an English-class assignment, then that would count.

    Should I listen to music/talk on the phone/have IM windows open/have the TV on/whatever while I work?
    Answer: No. You should work like you really mean it, and you should also expect to test, and learn, the way you study. If you study in a half-hearted way, you’ll test similarly. Conversely, if you study like you really mean it, you’ll test like that as well.

    There are exceptions to this rule, however: if you are doing busy work, or work that doesn’t require much thought (recopying things exactly, or cleaning up, for example), then the distraction of the music or IM’ing or whatever isn’t going to affect your performance that much. Naturally, you shouldn’t be spending a great deal of time on tasks that don’t require much thought.

    I am the worst procrastinator the world has ever seen. What can I do about this?
    Answer: “Several things—procrastination is about many issues, but there are a few techniques that work well towards eradicating it:

    Get started immediately. If you have a (for example) vocabulary assignment, go do it right this second. Everything else can wait. It will only take you fifteen or twenty minutes, after all, and after that you can watch TV/go online/listen to music/talk on the phone/play video games with kids in New Zealand/whatever.

    Enlist someone to check up on you. This might mean a friend who calls you every afternoon to make sure you’ve begun working, or it might mean someone who quizzes you on your materials every night. Involving someone else causes many people’s procrastination to evaporate.

    Keep a journal of what you’ve accomplished. If it’s vocabulary, write an entry every day for how long you spent working on it, how many words you learned that day, and how many words you have learned in total. If you didn’t accomplish anything that day, write the reasons why, and label that as an excuse. You might soon find yourself wanting to write more accomplishments, and fewer excuses.

    Try to keep a regular schedule. It’s easy to accomplish brushing your teeth, since you probably do it at the same time each day. The same principle applies to learning and studying.
    Create deadlines for yourself. These can be daily, weekly, hourly, or whatever you like. See if you can complete a certain task by a certain time or day.

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