Our Approach

Our approach reflects our motto: achieving success on the SAT or ACT is not just a matter of learning the right tricks. Strategy alone is not a substitute for skill, and acquiring a solid foundation is ultimately the most effective way for students to improve their scores. At the same time, however, we ensure that students learn to apply their skills to the test as quickly and efficiently as possible. Our focus is on reducing information to its clearest and simplest terms so that tests become straightforward and conquerable.

You set the number of sessions

Because we know that some students only need a session or two, while others may want to meet regularly for an extended period, we do not set a minimum or maximum number of sessions. You can set up as many — or as few — meetings as you need.

A specialist model

Unlike other companies, which require their tutors to teach all sections of the SAT or ACT regardless of their background, Critical Reader tutors are verbal specialists. Our tutors hold degrees in language-related fields, have taught English as a Second Language, and have backgrounds in editing and publishing; consequently, they understand the real-world application of the skills they teach. And because we focus on fundamentals rather than just “tricks” geared to a particular test setup, we are exceptionally well-equipped to navigate the transition to the new SAT in 2016.

Filling in the gaps 

Even “A” students sometimes arrive at their junior year with gaps in their knowledge — gaps that sometimes have gone unnoticed for years, only to hinder students from achieving their score goals. We save time, in some cases months, by checking for the most common issues so that they can be addressed as quickly as possible.

Building a solid foundation

Because students cannot apply challenging concepts or strategies without a firm understanding of the basics, we balance traditional strategy-based test prep with fundamental reading and grammar skills. We also know that merely explaining a concept once or twice is not enough. Research shows that people learn best when they are asked to recall information at periodic intervals. As a result, we regularly ask students to explain challenging concepts back to us, ensuring that information learned early on is not only retained but can be quickly applied on test day.

Only College Board/ACT material

While we may supplement official material with drills or exercises, we use only tests written by either the College Board or the ACT. Our methods are designed to prepare students for the real test, not just give the illusion of improvement on house-produced exams.

Working “in the moment:” a focus on process

Our approach is guided by one overriding question: how do you react when you don’t know the answer right away?

Unlike most test-prep tutoring, which focuses primarily on the questions that students have answered incorrectly when working on their own, we devote an exceptional amount of time to working through new questions so students can learn to manage themselves when they no longer have a tutor sitting next to them.This approach not only allows us to help students practice working calmly, but it also ensures that tutors can directly observe any skill gaps in action and take immediate steps to remedy them.

No scripts

We employ a “toolbox approach” — tutors are trained in a variety of proven approaches, then given the freedom to adapt to the particular student at hand. Tutors are never asked to follow a pre-set script or insist on an approach that does not match a student’s needs, as is often the case at larger companies. They do, however, undergo extensive training, including a student teaching period during which they are closely supervised and given regular feedback.

Learning for college…and beyond

We reject the idea that the SAT and ACT only test knowledge of the tests themselves. On the contrary, we believe that these exams test crucial skills that entering college students can and should reasonably be expected to know. Learning to identify and clearly summarize key points, keep track of multiple points of view, and write clear, grammatically correct prose is crucial for success at the post-secondary level and in the working world. Furthermore, the ability to analyze problems — to break them down systematically and be willing to re-evaluate their starting assumptions assumptions — is a skill that will serve students well in many situations for years to come.


A Note to Parents

Children will listen

One of the most common questions from parents is what sort of role they should play throughout the standardized testing process. How do they encourage their children to do their best without creating too much pressure? From a tutoring perspective, the most successful students tend to be ones whose parents consider the skills tested on the SAT and ACT important, and view these tests as something more than just a necessary hoop to jump through on the way to college. They are also active participants in the process — they explain vocabulary, quiz grammar, and discuss books and newspaper articles. When students are able to see the relevance of what they are learning to the world beyond the test, they are more likely to approach the preparation process with a positive attitude.