Doorway to College

FAQ for Students Who Want Help Raising their ACT or SAT Score

A boy and a girl study together in a classroom with other students in the background

Preparing for the ACT, PSAT, or SAT is a lot like preparing for any important test, but the strategies required are unique to each test. Do your personal best by taking a ZAPS test-preparation seminar, then studying the strategies, tips, and techniques on your own or with a friend.

STUDENTS ASKED...

Why Test Prep?

Q. I'm a good student. Why do I need test prep?

ACT, PSAT, or SAT?

Q. Should I take the ACT or SAT?

Q. What are the main differences between the ACT and SAT?

Q. What subtests are on the ACT and SAT?

Q. If I take a test more than once, can I submit only my best scores? 

Q. I'm going to take both the ACT and the SAT; should I take both ZAPS seminars (or webinars)?

Q. Should I take both the PSAT and the SAT tests?

Q. I’m planning to take the PSAT and then the SAT; is there a ZAPS seminar or webinar for each of them?

Strategy-focused ZAPS Seminars and webinars

Q. What  can I expect to learn in a ZAPS seminar or webinar?

Q. How long is the ZAPS seminar or webinar?

Q. What do I need to bring to the seminar or webinar?

Q. Are there any breaks during the seminar or webinar?

Q. Is it okay to bring a snack to the seminar?

Q. I didn't sign up for the ACT Writing (Essay) test; why do I have to sit through it in the presentation?

Q. Will the seminar or webinar tell me what my score will be on the actual test?

Q. Do I need to take notes during the seminar or webinar?

ZAPS Webinars

Q. Seminar or webinar—which should I take?

Q. What equipment do I need to attend a webinar?

Q. What will I learn in a subject-review webinar? 

STUDYING AFTER THE Strategy SEMINAR Or Webinar

Q. What study materials will I get?

Q. Can ZAPS help me learn from my test-taking mistakes?

Q. Do the ZAPS materials cost extra?

ZAPS SCORE BOOSTERS

Q. My worst score on the PSAT/SAT was in Critical Reading; how can ZAPS help?

Q. Will the online ZAPS SAT-Practice Test help me prepare for the PSAT?

Q. I'm weak in vocabulary; does ZAPS have anything extra to help me?

Q. I would like even more practice for the ACT; got any suggestions?

MORE INFO, Please

Q. My high school doesn't offer ZAPS. What can I do?

Q. I have more questions about ZAPS. Where can I find the answers?

WE ANSWERED...

WHY TEST PREP?

Q. I'm a good student; why do I need test prep?

A. Even a Heisman Trophy winner wouldn’t dream of playing in the Super Bowl without intensive preparation: studying the opponent, developing a game plan, and practicing, practicing, practicing. 

To a student applying for college — especially a student who wants to earn a scholarship — college entrance exams are the Super Bowl. Your opponent is the test. ZAPS helps you get to know your opponent. We teach you winning strategies as part of a game plan that gives you control of the test. And then, we give you the tools to practice, practice, practice until you can do your very best. 

If you’re a junior, you already have 11 or 12 years of school learning packed into your brain. And that’s good; you’ll need to draw on that knowledge to take the test. What school most likely didn’t give you is an understanding of how each test is created, how the question types work, or how to use your limited time most effectively during the test. We’re experts in that. And we know what you need to know to do your best.

ACT, PSAT, and SAT

Q. Should I take the ACT or SAT?

Since U.S.. colleges today accept either test, it's truly your choice which to take. You might even want to take both, then submit your better score.

Q. What are the main differences between the ACT and SAT?

  • ACT tests your achievement: or what you've learned in your classes at school. SAT (and PSAT) says their test is less about achievement and more about your aptitude for learning, your verbal skills, and your reasoning skills.
  • Vocabulary is extremely important on the SAT, and somewhat less so on the ACT. But having an excellent vocabulary will help you do your very best on both tests.
  • The ACT counts only your correct answers. The SAT has a guessing "penalty" for wrong answers. The strategies for the two tests are different.
  • The ACT is 20 minutes shorter than the SAT, but it has more questions.
  • The ACT has four long sections, plus an optional essay at the end of the test. The SAT has nine shorter sections, including a mandatory essay at the beginning of the test. 

Q. What subtests are on the ACT and SAT?

On the ACT, you'll take four subtests:

    • English
    • Mathematics
    • Reading
    • Science

You also have the option of taking the ACT Writing Test (essay). It's a good idea to take the Writing Test, even if the college you're applying to today doesn't require it. If you change your mind after taking the ACT without the Writing Test, you'll have to go back and take the entire ACT just to get a Writing Test score.

On the SAT (and PSAT), you'll take three subtests:  

    • Critical Reasoning
    • Mathematics
    • Writing 

In addition to the multiple-choice Writing test, the SAT requires an essay, and it's the first test you'll take on Saturday morning. (There's no essay on the PSAT.)

The ACT counts only your correct answers. The SAT has a guessing "penalty" for wrong answers. As you might guess, the strategies for the two tests are different — but they might not be what you think they are. 

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Q. If I take a test more than once, can I submit only my best scores? 

With the ACT, you can take the test two or more times before deciding where to send your scores. You can send any number of score reports from different test dates, and your college may then superscore your test. 

If you take the SAT, unless you opt for Score Choice, your score report will include all of the scores you've earned on the SAT and any SAT Subject Tests you take. If you choose Score Choice, and if your school's policy accepts it, you can select scores from a certain test date as well as individual SAT Subject TestsTM

If possible, check with your selected schools to find out their policies before you take the tests.

Q. I'm going to take both the ACT and the SAT; should I take both ZAPS seminars (or webinars)?

The strategies that work best on the ACT are, for the most part, very different from the strategies that work best on the SAT.

You’ll find differences in the question style, test type, test directions, and how best to approach each subtest. Should you guess? Should you not guess? What’s the best way to use your time? The answers will be different for the two tests. You’ll learn all this and more by attending both the ACT and SAT seminars.

But it's better to take one seminar than none — and your school may make the choice for you by offering only one or the other. 

Q. Should I take both the PSAT and the SAT tests?

There are a couple of reasons you might want to take both the PSAT and the SAT:

1) If you’re a great student and believe you have a good chance of scoring well on the National Merit Scholarship Qualifying Test (the PSAT), then you definitely need to take the PSAT. If you actually score high and are a finalist, you’ll need to follow up with an equally great SAT score.

But what if you, realistically, aren’t likely to get a high enough PSAT score to qualify for the National Merit Scholarship? Should you take the PSAT anyway?

2) If you plan to take the SAT, there’s no better practice than to take the PSAT first. They’re essentially the same test, with the same —

  • level of difficulty
  • question types
  • directions

The two tests do NOT have the same, exact questions, of course.

The major differences between the PSAT and the SAT are —

  • the number of questions (fewer for the PSAT)
  • the amount of time (less for the PSAT)
  • the essay (only on the SAT)

By taking the PSAT, you get a “dress rehearsal” for the SAT. And that’s a very good thing.

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Q. I’m planning to take the PSAT and then the SAT. Is there a ZAPS seminar or webinar for each of them?

When you take a ZAPS PSAT/SAT seminar, you actually prepare for both tests. That’s because the PSAT and SAT are very similar tests—in item style, difficulty, directions, and content. The biggest difference besides timing and scoring is that the SAT has an essay section. The PSAT does not.

If your school offers a PSAT-only seminar, you can still apply all the tips and strategies to the SAT. The main difference will be that the PSAT-only seminar doesn’t cover the essay. That’s well represented in the Inside the SAT Study Guide, though, so you can learn the ZAPS essay technique by reading the book if you decide to take the SAT test later.

Strategy-focused ZAPS Seminars and webinars

Q. What can I expect to learn in a ZAPS seminar or webinar?

The ZAPS seminar and full-length webinar are both focused on strategies to help you do your best on the test. In these five-hour, strategy-focused seminars and webinars, you'll become familiar with all these features of the test:

  • Directions
  • Test length
  • Content
  • Test structure
  • Item types
  • Traps to avoid 
  • Test difficulty

 You'll also —

  • Learn how to use your partial knowledge to ZAP incorrect answer choices
  • Practice ZAPPING on real test items
  • Gain time-management strategies to take control away from the test editors
  • Get tips for improving your study plan at home
  • Learn where to find the tips and strategies in your ZAPS materials
  • Reduce your test anxiety so that you can do your personal best on test day 

Q. How long is the ZAPS strategy-focused seminar or webinar?

The seminar lasts five hours, scheduled however your school prefers. Some schools choose two 2 1/2-hour seminars on a Monday/Tuesday or Wednesday/Thursday. Others prefer an all-day seminar scheduled on a weekend day or during the school day.

If you attend a Strategy Webinar, instead of a seminar, you can sign up for whichever format you prefer. Some webinars are scheduled on Saturdays for five hours. Others are scheduled two afternoons or evenings in a row. Be sure you note the time of your webinar, as all webinars are posted in Central Time.

Q. What do I need to bring to the seminar or webinar?

We suggest you bring a pencil or two. It won’t matter if you use a pen in the seminar, but you won’t be able to when you take the test, so why not get into the right habit now?

You’ll most likely want to bring a calculator. It’s not absolutely essential, but it’s helpful to have when you work through the math test. You’ll use the calculator in the second half of the seminar — either day two of the two-day class or the second half of the all-day class. And you’ll use a calculator in the actual test, so it's a good idea to practice with it ahead of time.

If you're signing up for a webinar, you'll need special equipment. This is described in the section below called ZAPS Webinars.

Q. Are there any breaks during the seminar?

Typically, in a 2 1/2-hour session, you’ll have a break about halfway through. In a 5-hour seminar or webinar, you’ll have a morning and an afternoon break, as well as a longer mid-seminar break; be sure to bring your own lunch or snack, or make plans to get food nearby.

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Q. Is it okay to bring a snack to the seminar?

Your test specialist understands that you’re likely to be hungry and thirsty; we just ask that you respect school policy.

Q. I didn't sign up for the ACT Writing (Essay) test. Why do I have to sit through it in the presentation?

Even if you’re not planning to write an essay for one of these tests, you won’t be excused from writing essays in college. The techniques we use to teach you how to write an effective short essay will be useful to you throughout your school career. What’s more, you may well find that you use this method in your work life in the years ahead. So, we encourage you to listen, even if you don’t need the information immediately. You will need it someday — count on it.

Q. Will the seminar or webinar tell me what my score will be on the actual test?

You can estimate your potential score based on how well you do on the practice-test workouts. We provide score conversion tables to make it easy for you.

Q. Do I need to take notes during the seminar or webinar?

You probably won’t need to, though you’re welcome to, if you find it helpful. Because each Study Guide is written specifically to complement the ZAPS seminar, every strategy you learn in the presentation is also clearly stated in the book.  

ZAPS Webinars

Q. Seminar or webinar, which should I take?

If there's a ZAPS strategy-focused seminar offered for the ACT, PSAT, or SAT in your local area, and if you learn better in a room with an instructor, then a seminar is for you. But don't despair if there's not a local seminar; ZAPS ACT Strategy Webinars and SAT Strategy Webinars have exactly the same content and instruction as the in-person seminar. And, like the seminars, the webinars are live, so you can ask questions and get answers in real time.

Just be sure you have the equipment you need for a webinar. That's explained in the question below.

Q. What equipment do I need to attend a webinar?

There's really very little you need, but the elements are essential. Before the webinar begins be sure you have the following:

  • A quiet work area, such as your home, library, or a quiet area at school
  • High-speed internet connection (dial-up is too slow for the webinar to work)
  • Computer connected to the internet (PC or Mac)
  • Headphone (preferred, but not mandatory if you're in a quiet area)
  • A calculator is optional but helpful
  • ZAPS Study Guide and Workout booklets (these will be shipped to you, so be sure to register by the deadline)
  • Pencil or pen

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Q. What will I learn in a Subject-Review Webinar? And how is it different from a Strategy Webinar?

Let's start with the second part of the question first. The Strategy Webinars have the exact same content as the live seminars. In a full-length (five-hour) Strategy Webinar, you'll learn exactly what you'd learn in an onsite seminar at your local school. These webinars are provided for students who have no seminar in their area.

The Subject-Review Webinars, on the other hand, focus on reviewing content you'll need to do your best on a given subtest. Every subject-review webinar is focused on a single subtest of either the ACT or PSAT/SAT. Whichever Subject-Review Webinar you take, you'll study content that is likely to be in the test. You'll also learn from a live ZAPS instructor how to answer specific question types in that subtest area.

ZAPS 2-hour subject-review webinars are available for a variety of subtests at various times during the year. The webinars cover the following:

STUDYING AFTER THE SEMINAR

Q. What study materials will I get?

You'll receive a Study Guide that's specifically targeted to accompany your ZAPS classroom instruction. It includes all the tips and strategies you'll learn in the seminar. 

In addition, you’ll get six shortened practice-test Workouts for each subtest (ACT — 24; PSAT/SAT — 18). Based on our experience with students all across the country, it became clear to ZAPS that full-length practice tests do not fit into your busy schedule. (They tend to gather dust in the corner of your room.) It's much easier for you to commit to practice sessions of no more than 30 minutes. That's why ZAPS customized the Workouts so that each one provides a 20-minute test.

Q. Can ZAPS help me learn from my test-taking mistakes?

Definitely. Each ZAPS Study Guide contains complete answer explanations for each practice-test workout question. You won't just see whether you got the question right, you'll find out whether you were a lucky guesser or really knew your stuff. And if you didn't know the answer, you'll understand why you made the mistakes you made. It's a great way to review (or learn!) those skills you should have learned in school.

Best of all, answer explanations for every single test item are included in your Study Guide, so you can understand why the right answer is correct. Even if you don't have time to take all the practice-test Workouts, you can learn a lot by studying the questions and the detailed answer explanations. 

Q. Do the ZAPS materials cost extra?
No. The materials are provided to you at no extra charge when you attend the seminar.  

ZAPS SCORE BOOSTERS

Q. I would like even more practice for the ACT. What does ZAPS have to offer?

Check out our online ZAPS ACT-Practice Test. You can take this full-length test timed or untimed. If you take it timed, you'll find out how well you do under the pressure of the clock. And, you'll be able to practice the time-management strategies you learned in your ZAPS seminar. And it's only $9.99 for a full year of access. You can take it again and again, studying the answer explanations until you thoroughly understand each question.

Q. Will the online ZAPS SAT-Practice Test help me prepare for the PSAT?

Absolutely. In fact, the PSAT and SAT are nearly identical except for the number of multiple-choice sections and the essay. The PSAT has fewer sections, but the form, style, difficulty level, and questions types are the same as the SAT. You won't find an essay on the PSAT, though you will on the SAT; the ZAPS SAT-Practice Test does not include an essay.

Q. I'm really weak in vocabulary. Got any suggestions?

ZAPS now offers a vocabulary app that is targeted specifically to for college-bound students to learn words that will help you be successful in school, on tests, and (most important of all) in life. Download the app to your computer, smartphone (Android or iPhone), tablet, or other web-enabled device. It's effective and excellent practice. (You might even enjoy it.) For just $1.99 you can try an abbreviated version at the Android or Apple app store, OR buy it on this site for only $4.99 to get the full app with hundreds of college-level words.

Q. My worst score on the PSAT/SAT was in Critical Reading. How can ZAPS help?

In that app we just mentioned — ZAPS College Vocabulary Challenge — the Challenge part is formatted just like the SAT's Critical-Reading questions. When you purchase the app, you learn vocabulary words, their meanings, synonyms and/or antonyms, and — where it makes sense — root words and/or prefixes. And you test your knowledge just like the SAT tests it, giving you lots of extra practice that will help boost your score. 

My vocabulary has always been reasonably 
good, but with the ZAPS app, now I'm ready 
for any arduous or onerous or irksome 
challenge. 

-DYLAN, PONTE VEDRA H.S., FL

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MORE INFO, PLEASE

Q. My high school doesn't offer ZAPS. What can I do?

Click on the blue box to the right labeled REGISTER FOR A SEMINAR to search for another seminar within driving distance for you. Unless that school restricts attendance to their own students, you can sign up right now on this website.

Q. I have more questions about ZAPS. Where can I find the answers?

You might want to take a look at the FAQ for Parents. Or email ZAPS Customer Support team at seminars@zaps.com. We're happy to help you. 

Excellent presenter, funny and nice. Worked very well with us
and explained most things 
thoroughly. I thought it was helpful.

~MALHAYLA, SOUTHGATE ANDERSON H.S., MI 

High School Student

Our presenter was exciting. He kept us motivated. He rewarded those who did well, those who improved, as well as encouraging the rest of us. Honestly, I wish I had him as a teacher. He did an amazing job.

Whitney, McDowell H.S., NC

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