Frequently Asked Questions

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A recent independent statewide study confirmed Test Prep Gurus as California's most effective test preparation firm (call us for more details).

Our students average improvements of more than 5 composite points on the ACT and more than 220 points on the new SAT when enrolled in programs of 24 or more hours.

Please note that an improvement of +5 composite points on the ACT is equivalent to improving 200 points on the SAT. Due to the different scoring scales of the ACT (1-36) and the SAT (400-1600), ACT improvements can appear to be less impressive. However, in terms of college admittance, every point on the ACT is critical.

The significance of 5-point improvements on the ACT:

  • ACT Score: 15 -- higher than 18% of college-bound students nationwide.
  • ACT Score: 20 -- higher than 50% of college-bound students nationwide. 
  • ACT Score: 25 -- higher than 74% of college-bound students nationwide.
  • ACT Score: 30 -- higher than 95% of college-bound students nationwide.
  • ACT Score: 35 -- higher than 99+% of college-bound students nationwide.

The significance of 200-point improvements on the SAT:

  • SAT Score: 750 -- higher than 5% of college-bound students nationwide.
  • SAT Score: 950 -- higher than 31% of college-bound students nationwide.
  • SAT Score: 1150 -- higher than 68% of college-bound students nationwide.
  • SAT Score: 1350 -- higher than 92% of college-bound students nationwide.
  • SAT Score: 1550 -- higher than 99+% of college-bound students nationwide.

Please note that students who commit fully to their preparation program and help facilitate the learning process by completing 100% of their homework, often see improvements as high as 10 composite points on the ACT and more than 350 points on the SAT.

For more on admittance rates and average SAT and ACT scores at more than eighty popular colleges, please see our downloadable chart, Finding the Right Fit.


The Secret Sauce:

Our one-of-a-kind approach to test preparation is what has made Test Prep Gurus the most effective test preparation firm in California. The cornerstones of our approach are as follows:

  • A uniquely designed training program that makes our exclusive pool of instructors the best in the country.
  • Dedicated directors who take the time to understand each family's specific goals, and then work tirelessly to make sure each family is on track to achieve their goals.
  • The Test Prep Gurus D.I.G. teaching methodology:
  1. Deliberate Practice - building skill-sets and achieving superior performance through expert instruction.
  2. Intrinsic Motivation - cultivating self-driven desire to achieve a goal.
  3. Growth Mindset - the belief that one can acquire a given ability by investing enough effort and study.
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The Process:

Diagnostic Exams: We begin each program by administering two free diagnostic tests: one ACT and one SAT. This helps us to determine which exam is naturally a better fit for the student. Please note that a previously completed official PSAT may be used in place of a full-length SAT exam for diagnostic purposes.


Personal Consultation: After diagnostic testing, we'll schedule a complimentary consultation to meet with you and your student. This can be done in-person or over the phone. During this meeting we will review the results of the diagnostic exams and discuss how much the student's score might need to improve to be competitive at the specific colleges your family is considering. With this information we can begin building a customized test preparation program that will give your student the best possible chance of achieving the score they will need to be competitive at their dream colleges.


Instruction: Our programs are designed to achieve results. Individual 1-on-1 instruction is by far the most effective way to improve students' ACT and SAT scores. Contrary to popular myth, improving scores on standardized exams is not simply a matter of learning a few "test-taking tricks." While it is important to teach students test-taking strategies, massive score improvements are rooted in mastering the complex content and concepts that are assessed on the ACT and SAT. For this reason, our programs focus on teaching the content assessed on the ACT and SAT.


Duration: Teaching all of the content and concepts assessed on the ACT and SAT takes time. Boot camps and other quick fixes rarely achieve significant score improvements.

We recommend different packages depending on each student's specific goals. But to get a sense of how a typical program unfolds, let's look at our most popular program, the comprehensive 1-on-1 24-hour program (in red below). In this program, a student typically meets with his/her instructors once per week, for 12 weeks. Each lesson lasts 2 hours, and the student will receive an additional 2-3 hours of homework for each lesson.

All of our programs include a minimum of 3 full-length official decommissioned practice exams. The results of these practice exams help us to adjust lesson plans as needed based on the student's progression. There is no additional charge if students wish to schedule additional practice exams -- in fact, we encourage it because it provides us with additional data points from which to further customize your student's program!


Customization: 1-on-1 programs allow us to build a schedule that is customized to the student's availability. We offer 1-on-1 sessions during the week and on weekends. Our students typically meet our instructors at one of our eight locations, but it is also possible to arrange in-home lessons (may be subject to additional fees depending on the location) or virtual instruction.

Discounts are available for programs that are conducted virtually or hybrid programs that consist of a mixture of virtual and in-person lessons.


Do you prep students for other subjects?  

Of course. If there is a test involved, we can help your student prepare for it. We offer expert instruction for academic subjects ranging from Chemistry to AP US History, as well as all other standardized exams such as the PSAT, GRE, ISEE, SSAT, and LSAT.

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The majority of families invest in test prep services for one of two reasons --

  1. Families want to increase their options for college: SAT and ACT scores (along with GPA) are highly linked to being admitted or denied at selective colleges. For more on admittance rates and average SAT and ACT scores at more than eighty popular colleges, please see our downloadable flier, Finding the Right Fit.
  2. Families want to qualify for more financial aid: SAT and ACT scores (along with GPA) are highly linked to merit-based financial aid. Merit-aid is 100% "need blind," which means that a family's finances are not considered for these scholarships, awards, and tuition reductions. For more on this topic, please see Did Someone Say Scholarships? where we discuss how even just a one-point increase on the ACT can be worth $26,000, and an example of a recent student whose scores earned him five scholarships ranging from $60,000 - $100,000.



Referral Credits and Coffee-Talks:

Are you worried about the initial investment of a test prep package? We offer a credit of 2 free instruction hours for every referred family who enrolls in one of the packages listed above.

Parents can also host a "coffee-talk" on college admissions at their home, local Charity League chapter, parent group, or school. There is no sales pitch. Just accurate, actionable information.

As an incentive, the hosting family receives two free hours of instruction for hosting the event, and an additional two free hours for every referred family who enrolls in a package listed above. 


The Next Step:

Contact us to discuss your student's specific situation and create a plan of action to help him or her reach their goals for the future.