You can always call 610-730-4876 and ask me anything you like, but here are some questions that I often hear from prospective students and their parents:
Q: Do you offer one-on-one tutoring?
Prepare does not offer private tutoring, but I will sometimes schedule an individual make up session for students who know that they will have to miss a given class. However, private sessions are quite expensive—$150 per hour—nor can I guarantee that I will be able to find the time to make up an unexpected absence, so I strongly suggest that students enroll with the sincere intention of attending every single class.
Q: When is the best time to take your class?
My motto is: “The earlier the better… schedule permitting.”
Those students who come onboard before/during their sophomore or junior year tend to do much better than those students who wait until their senior year to take the class. The more time they have to integrate the techniques and strategies I teach them—which they often use on regular school assignments as well as on standardized tests—the better they will do in the end.
Even more important than kids’ taking my class early on is their having enough time to concentrate on it. While the Prepare class does not require a ton of time compared to other extracurricular activities, it is important that kids pay close attention to my instruction and devote quality time to their homework. Just showing up won’t get it done.
Thus, I strongly urge students to take my class when they are not overburdened with other extracurricular activities—like sports, shows, or part-time jobs.
Q: Do you recommend the SAT or the ACT?
It depends on the individual student. During my class, students take one PSAT test, one SAT test and one ACT test. After that, they should be able tell which test best suits their particular strengths.
However, since both tests are pretty similar—that’s why I can teach both the ACT and SAT in the same course with relative ease—it is unlikely that any student will truly crush one test and bomb the other.
Q: How often should I take the test?
I think it’s a good idea, after finishing my class, to take both an official, real-world PSAT or SAT and an official ACT test… then make a final decision about which one you like best… and take that particular test (ACT or SAT) three times. Why? Well…
- Like anything else, practice makes perfect. Or, at least, it leads to improvement.
- Anybody can have a bad day. Having your college future ride on just one test is unnecessarily stressful.
- The difficulty of individual SAT and ACT tests vary. The SAT test on one date can be easier or harder than SAT tests on other dates. This shouldn’t be the case, but it is.
- Colleges do not average your results. They either use your total score on your best day, or combine section scores from all of your reported test dates. This is called superscoring. For instance, if you get a 1040 (510 on Reading and Writing, 530 on Math) in March 2019… then, in May 2019, you get a 1070 (560 on Reading and Writing, 490 on Math)… a college that does superscoring will actually set your score as a 1090 by combining the 560 Reading and Writing score with the 530 Math score.
To sum up: it is wise to take whichever test you prefer, SAT or ACT, multiple times.
Q: Do colleges count it against me if I take the test multiple times?
Nope; they’re used to it. However, I don’t recommend a student’s taking official tests close together (like a month or two between tests) because they aren’t likely to see a ton of improvement in a short time span. Also, if kids are constantly taking standardized tests, they may tend to stress out
An exception can be made for seniors, who might want to take consecutive tests before they apply to college in the fall and early-winter.
Q: I heard have good things about Prepare from a friend/another parents/a school counselor, but how do I know that I will get the same teacher that they had?
I, Peter Schmidt, run Prepare all by myself… I write the curriculum myself and teach every class myself. If someone you know liked the class—or didn’t—it’s all on me. I have never had to miss a class due to illness. Still, if that should ever happen… my wife, a published author with a Lit PhD, could cover for me.
Q: Is the two-class absence rule really that strict?
Yes. After a few years in business, I found that students who missed two classes never really got caught up. Whether these absences were due to illness, family emergency or (more commonly) schedule conflicts… the net effect was negative for both student and for the class as a whole.
You see, when students miss a class, this not only affects their own preparation, but affects the rest of the kids, as well. Absences tend to spread like a virus: I have had large classes (20+) where no one has ever been absent or tardy… and I have had small classes (5-10 kids) where everyonehas been absent or tardy. I can’t perfectly explain the psychology behind this, but I have noticed that when kids don’t think of being absent or tardy as even a possibility… then they always show up on time and don’t miss unless something truly serious comes up.
Of course, I realize that illnesses and legitimate emergencies do arise, so I permit one absence. But that’s it. Should a student planone absence—for a game, a trip, whatever—they no longer have a safety net. So, I really recommend that kids come into the course with the sincere intent of attending every single class.
Q: Do you guarantee a certain result?
I am an effective teacher. I can help my students a lot—I can show them how to approach these tests in a strategically effective manner and I can introduce them to grammar and math concepts that they may not know well, or—in more cases than you might imagine— even know at allyet. But I am not a miracle worker. I am not an expert in learning or processing difficulties; I can’t completely compensate for a really poor math or English education; and I can’t do the kids’ work for them. While standardized testing is relatively easy for some kids and harder for others… their work ethic is the most important factor in determining their eventual success.
When the SAT was a 2400-point test, I guaranteed at least a 100-point increase for my students: even if they chose to ignore my advice or didn’t work very hard, I could still manage to help them raise their scores 100 points if they simply met the minimum attendance requirements. Indeed, my students averaged a 190+ improvement on the 2400-point SAT, with many kids going up by more than 300 points.
A few years ago, the SAT test returned to a 1600-point scale. In my opinion, the new test is, paradoxically, both more predictable andmore volatile: it seems that the difference between tests served up on different dates is greater. Also, while it’s now easier to get an ‘average’ score (say, 980-1020) than it used to be, it’s harderto get to a greatscore of 1500+. Thus, I no longer feel comfortable guaranteeing a specific score increase, especially for students who don’t work that hard and/or students that are only coming to me in the fall of their senior year.
That being said… my students who come in before the fall of their senior year and meet the minimum attendance and homework requirements have had no trouble at all in raising their scores at least 100 points. Indeed, their average score improvement is roughly 150 points.
As a consumer and a parent myself, I’d like to make sure that I’m not throwing away my hard-earned cash and that my kids aren’t wasting their time, so I urge you to check my testimonials page—there may be someone there that you know personally—and ask around at local schools; I think you’ll find that I have an excellent reputation for helping kids raise their scores.
Q: What is the point of homework and quiz grades?
Even though I no longer offer a guarantee, I keep track of my students’ effort so I can figure out if any problems are due to a lack of understanding or a lack of effort.
When I grade homework I try to go by how hard the kids are working (i.e., how much pencil work they show), but vocab and math quiz grades are entirely objective. By recording their homework and quiz scores, I can get a pretty clear idea about how hard they are working. I also monitor how well they are following my advice by combing their practice test booklets.
If, after a few weeks, I see that a given student’s effort is poor, I notify parents. I don’t do this to punish kids but because if parents are paying good money for my class, they deserve to know if their kids are keeping up with their work.
Q: Are weekend classes really that long?
Not all of them but, during the academic year, each session has three 6.5-hour weekend classes: we hold class from 9 – Noon, eat pizza (my treat) and take a practice PSAT, SAT or ACT test. I then grade these tests, write detailed comments for each student, and hand the tests back to the students the following class.
During the summer sessions, we do not have any ‘marathon’ classes. Instead, I teach each weekday, Monday through Thursday, and give the practice test on Friday.
PLEASE NOTE: I never allow students to make up tests at home. Unless they take the practice tests under test conditions, there’s really no point to the exercise. Of course, kids are free to take as practice tests on their own if they wish, but I will not grade them.
Q: How many students are in a typical class?
It depends. Mid-spring and summer are my busiest times, with 15-25 students in a class. In the early-fall, winter, and late-spring, I usually have 10-15 students at a time. In late-fall (when most seniors have finished testing and most underclassmen aren’t yet thinking about the SAT) I typically only have 5-10 students in a class.