FAQ for Parents
Getting your son or daughter launched into the world is an awesome responsibility. There are so many things to consider, to do, to plan for. Not the least of these is helping your teen get into the college he or she wants to attend — with minimal damage to the family finances.
Parents often call the ZAPS customer service team (yes, we're live humans) and ask us questions about the tests, about ZAPS, and about what else they can do to help their students succeed on their college entrance exams. We've gathered their most frequently asked questions here for you. If there's something you'd still like to know after reading this list, please check out the FAQ for Students. And if you can't find your answer there, please give us a call or send an email to the ZAPS Customer Service team.
ACT, SAT, OR PSAT?
PSAT AND SAT
ZAPS SEMINARS and Webinars
Guarantee and Refund Policies
ZAPS SCORE BOOSTERS
ACT OR SAT?
All U.S. colleges and universities that require a test will now accept either the ACT or SAT. (Some schools require neither test.) So which test to take is a decision that depends more on your student than on the colleges on his or her application list.
If your student is applying to a highly competitive school, is worried about whether he or she will get into a first-choice school, or is applying for scholarships, consider taking both tests and submitting the better score.
- ACT tests students’ achievement: or what they’ve learned in classes at school. SAT (and PSAT) says their test is less about achievement and more about students’ aptitude for learning, their verbal skills, and their reasoning skills.
- 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.
- Vocabulary is extremely important on the SAT, and somewhat less so on the ACT. But having an excellent vocabulary is essential for students to do their very best on both tests, in college, and in life. (Learn about ZAPS College Vocabulary app for web-enabled devices.)
Both ACT and SAT can be taken multiple times. But whether your student should do so is a decision you may want to make as a family. It’s all about balance between time (3 ½ hours for the ACT with essay and almost 4 hours for the SAT), money, and whatever pressure your student feels to get a higher score.
If it’s offered at your student's school, the PLAN is good practice for the ACT. And, if your student takes the PSAT, that’s good practice for the SAT.
Not everyone needs (or wants) to take the ACT or SAT more than once. By taking an excellent test-preparation seminar, such as the ZAPS ACT seminar or the ZAPS PSAT/SAT seminar, students learn essential skills, strategies, tips, and techniques that help them do their personal best on the test.
In order to experience the full benefit of the seminar, follow-up study and practice are necessary. ZAPS offers plenty of study material, including customized practice-test Workouts that fit into a busy schedule. Based on our experience with students all across the country, we have found that full-length practice tests (requiring 3-4 hours) tend to gather dust in the corner of the bedroom. As a parent, you’ll have a much easier time encouraging your student to commit to practice sessions of no more than 30 minutes. That is why ZAPS customized the Workouts (six for each subtest) so that each one provides a 20-minute test.
If your student wants to experience a full-length ACT test with complete answer explanations — even for the wrong answer choices — the online ZAPS ACT-Practice Test is a great option. Your student can take the test timed or untimed. In fact, we suggest taking the test both ways.
There is another aspect of preparation that offers significant benefits beyond the test, and that is college-level vocabulary development. Your student needs to make a concerted effort to expand his or her vocabulary with the type of words tested on college-admissions tests and applied throughout the college years. Check out the ZAPS College Vocabulary Challenge app (for computers and mobile devices) and consider whether it might be right for your son or daughter.
Awesome! More entertaining than other classes
I've done. Good tips.
~SHELBY, JOHNSBURG H.S., IL
The ACT test is given several times a year nationwide. The questions are written to reflect what all students should have been exposed to academically by Spring of their junior year. Students in advanced classes may want to take the test sooner and repeat it to try to earn a better score.
Here’s what the ACT says:
“Pick a test date that is at least two months ahead of the application deadlines of all the colleges and scholarship agencies you might want to apply to. Scores for the ACT (No Writing) are normally reported within 3–8 weeks after the test date. If you take the ACT Plus Writing, scores will be reported only after all of your scores are available, including Writing, normally within 5–8 weeks after the test date."
For a list of scheduled dates, or to register for the ACT, visit their website at www.act.org.
You may also want to check with your guidance/counseling department to find out when they recommend that students in your school take the tests.
On the ACT, your student will take four subtests in the following subjects:
The ACT Writing Test (essay) is an optional addition.
It's a good idea for students to take the Writing Test, even if the colleges they’re applying to today don't require it. If they change their minds after taking the ACT without the Writing Test, they'll have to go back and take the entire ACT just to get a Writing Test score.
The strategies boosted my scores on the practice
tests. Really enjoyed. Ready to blow the ACT out
of the water.
~BENJAMIN, EASTERN H.S., KY
THE PSAT AND SAT
The PSAT is the first step in qualifying for the National Merit Scholarship Program. In fact, it's officially called the Preliminary SAT/National Merit Scholarship Qualifying Test (PSAT/NSMQT) by the National Merit Scholarship Corporation.
The PSAT is only offered in the Fall. For most students, the Fall of their Junior year is the best time to take the PSAT. But students can take it earlier. Because this exam is the qualifying test for the National Merit Scholarship Program, your student will probably do best by waiting as long as possible before taking the test. Note in the excerpt below from the National Merit Scholarship Corporation, students must take the PSAT "no later than the third year in grades 9 through 12":
To participate in the National Merit® Scholarship Program, a student must:
take the PSAT/NMSQT® in the specified year of the high school program and no later than the third year in grades 9 through 12, regardless of grade classification or educational pattern
NATIONAL MERIT SCHOLARSHIP CORPORATION
The first requirement is to score high on the PSAT. But that's just the beginning. Here's what the National Merit Scholarship Corporation says about the process:
Semifinalists are designated on a state representational basis. They are the highest scoring entrants in each state. NMSC provides scholarship application materials to Semifinalists through their high schools. To be considered for a National Merit® Scholarship, Semifinalists must advance to Finalist standing.
"To participate in the National Merit® Scholarship Program, a student must:
1. take the PSAT/NMSQT® in the specified year of the high school program and no later than the third year in grades 9 through 12, regardless of grade classification or educational pattern;
2. be enrolled as a high school student, progressing normally toward graduation or completion of high school, and planning to enroll full time in college no later than the fall following completion of high school; and
3. be a citizen of the United States; or be a U.S. lawful permanent resident (or have applied for permanent residence, the application for which has not been denied) and intend to become a U.S. citizen at the earliest opportunity allowed by law.
There's a lot more to the process, but the important point here is to note that a National Merit Scholar has to score well on both the PSAT and the SAT.
According to the College Board (the publishers of the SAT):
“Most students take the SAT during their junior or senior year in high school. At least half of all students take the SAT twice — in the spring of their junior year and in the fall of their senior year. Most students also improve their score the second time around.”
They’re essentially the same test, with the same —
- level of difficulty
- question types
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)
And, as with any two standardized tests, you'll never see the same questions on different test administrations.
Because the two tests are so similar, by taking the PSAT first, students are likely to do better when they take the SAT.
There are a couple of reasons your student might want to take both the PSAT and the SAT:
1) The PSAT is the only test used to qualify for the National Merit Scholarship. If your son or daughter does well enough to become a semifinalist, they'll then have to take the SAT, essentially to prove that their high score was not a fluke.
But, even if your student isn't likely to be a National Merit semifinalist or finalist, taking the PSAT can help them. There's no better practice for the SAT than to take the PSAT first.
Taking a ZAPS PSAT/SAT seminar gives your student both targeted strategies and realistic PSAT-style, practice-test Workouts in bite-sized chunks.
Like the SAT, students taking the PSAT take these three subtests:
- Critical Reading
There is no essay on the PSAT.
On the SAT (and PSAT), students take three subtests in the following subjects:
- Critical Reading
In addition to the multiple-choice Writing test, the SAT requires a written essay, and it's the first test students take on Saturday morning.
I think I know what to expect on the SAT now.
~TIM, MT. VERNON H.S., IA
Yes. Students taking the ZAPS ACT seminar will become familiar with all four subtests: English, Mathematics, Reading, and Science. The seminar will also teach them how to write an effective essay. Whether or not they plan to take the Writing (essay) portion of the ACT, this is important instruction that will help them in high school, college, and the workplace.
Students taking the PSAT/SAT seminar will become familiar with all three subtests: Critical Reading, Mathematics, and Writing. Like students in the ACT seminar, they'll also learn how to write a high-scoring essay.
In addition, students learn other essential information specific to managing their time, using partial knowledge to eliminate wrong answers (ZAPPING), reducing test anxiety, handling specific test-item styles, using smart-guessing strategies, and more.
ACT: Your student will receive a comprehensive study guide that covers everything that is covered in the seminar. Students also will receive 24 practice test workouts with detailed answer explanations
SAT: Your student will receive a comprehensive study guide that covers everything that is covered in the seminar. Students also will receive 18 practice test workouts with detailed answer explanations
No. ZAPS Study Guides and practice-test Workouts are provided at no additional cost to students who have paid for the seminar or received a scholarship. Students must attend the seminar to receive their materials.
Students may bring any calculator to the ZAPS seminar. However, it’s important to note that some models are prohibited from being used on the actual tests. We will share this information with students at the seminar.
Students will use their calculators for the second half of the seminar only; so, if your student attends a two-day session, they won’t need the calculator on the first day. If they are attending a full-day seminar, they should bring their calculator in the morning to be sure they have it for the afternoon.
ZAPS managers work with schools to schedule local seminars from one to five weeks prior to the national test dates. If your student wants to get a head-start by studying early, or if there's no seminar at your student's school, consider registering for a webinar. Strategy-focused webinars (the same content as the ZAPS seminar) are offered a week or two before every national test date.
Students will spend 5 hours attending the seminar — either on two consecutive afternoons or evenings or in a single day (Saturday, Sunday or a school day).
Each student’s test score improvement is directly related to the attention they pay in the seminar and the amount of effort and practice they put in on their own. We strongly encourage students to continue to study and practice with their ZAPS materials right up to the day they take the test. Consider setting aside three hours per subtest to take the ZAPS practice tests and study the answers. After all, if a few extra hours help your teen secure scholarship dollars, that's a pretty good payback on their investment of time.
Score increases are a direct reflection of the amount of time and effort students put forth in the seminar and on the follow-up practice. Typically, when students focus during the seminar and then apply those strategies while working through all the practice-test Workouts at home, they experience score increases of 2 to 4 points and more on the ACT, 5 to 15 points or more on the PSAT, and/or 50 to 150 points or more on the SAT, depending on which seminar(s) they have taken.
There's no replacement for a positive attitude and a willingness to study and practice. Encourage your student to view the seminar as an opportunity to help determine their own future by getting their personal best score.
I am glad I did this. I think I will do much better
~BRYNN, SOUTH-DOYLE H.S.,TN
Guarantee and Refund Policies
Yes. We believe in the effectiveness of the ZAPS program, and we stand behind the quality of both our curriculum and our staff. However, we also know that, occasionally, a student may not be able to fully benefit from ZAPS for a variety of reasons. If your student is dissatisfied with his or her score after attending a strategy-focused seminar or webinar, he or she may attend another of the same seminar or webinar at no charge. Your student must use the same ZAPS materials provided at his or her original seminar; otherwise, you will be charged for replacement materials at the then-current price.
We understand that there are times when a student may not be able to attend a seminar or webinar even after you have prepaid. If you know your student will not attend, please call us as soon as possible. If you cancel earlier than 48 hours prior to the seminar, we will refund your payment to your credit card in full less a $10 administration fee. If you do not notify us prior to 48 hours before the seminar, we will not be able to issue a refund. The reason for this is that we make commitments to our presenters based on the number of students who have registered to attend a seminar or webinar. Because we are expecting your student and others to attend, we incur financial obligations that include presenter pay as well as travel costs and, often, room rent — many of these costs are nonrefundable.
We value both your business and your student's success; therefore, we will do our best to assist you in transfering your student to another local seminar or to a webinar, if either is available. If one is not available, we'll be happy to ship the seminar/webinar books to your student via standard mail at no additional charge so he or she can study independently.
Despite our best intentions, there are times when either the school or ZAPS determines there's a need to cancel a seminar or webinar. We don't like to do it, and we understand that it's inconvenient for your student. When your student's seminar is canceled, we offer you the following options:
- Transfer to another seminar nearby
- Transfer to a strategy-intensive webinar from the comfort of home (The strategy-intensive webinar has the same format and content as the seminar.)
- Buy the seminar materials for the then-current price and receive a refund on the remainder
- Request a full refund if you have prepaid
If your student's seminar is canceled, we will call to offer you these options and do our utmost to help your student get the prep you were counting on.
It really was helpful and I know how to deal with
most of the questions if I don’t understand 100%.
~SAVANNAH, NORTH PAULDING H.S., GA
Yes! ZAPS hosts live seminars and webinars during the summer. To find a local seminar or an online webinar, click on REGISTER FOR SEMINAR and enter your zip code. If you are interested in having your student attend a summer seminar, please contact the ZAPS office and let us know. We will have other seminar options in the future.
Please contact the ZAPS office, and we will address your student’s needs individually.
Yes! ZAPS content-area test specialists host subject-review webinars before each national test date.
Very good class, amazing presenter, well worth
~IAN, EASTERN H.S., KY
Unless otherwise noted on our website, students are free to choose the seminar that best fits their schedule. 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 your student, right now, on this website.
Click on the blue box to the right labeled REGISTER FOR A SEMINAR to search for a seminar at a high school close to your home. Unless that school restricts attendance to their own students, you can sign up your student, right now, on this website. If you prefer, your student may attend a live, strategy-focused, online webinar, which has the same content as the seminar but takes place in the comfort of your home. Be sure to check the equipment requirements if your student plans to attend a webinar.
Contact the ZAPS office for options to reschedule at another location or to transfer to a strategy-focused webinar. The cost of the webinar is typically higher than a seminar at a school, but students whose seminars have been cancelled may transfer in at the same price they paid to register for their school's seminar. Our friendly customer service team (1-877-927-8378) will be glad to help you transfer your student if your seminar is cancelled.
The full seminar is a total of 5 hours. Some schools choose to offer the seminar to students all in one day, while others prefer to have students attend two days for two and one half hours each day. The seminar is divided into subjects, the same as the tests, so students need to attend both sessions in order to cover all the subjects.
We post seminars as soon we are able to begin taking parent registrations. If you are on our website and don’t see a seminar that you’re expecting to see, it may be that we just have not posted it yet. Or, perhaps the school has changed from a fall seminar to a spring seminar or the reverse. If you are concerned, we invite you to email us at firstname.lastname@example.org.
I thought this experience was 100% worth my time
and I feel I will do better on the tests.
~CODY, NEW HOLSTEIN H.S., WI
ZAPS SCORE BOOSTERS
The online ZAPS ACT-Practice Test and the online ZAPS SAT-Practice Test each provide a full-length test that students can take timed or untimed. As with the ZAPS practice-test Workouts, students can see answer explanations that tell why an answer is correct or incorrect, which is much more helpful than just learning whether they got the answer right.
ZAPS College Vocabulary Challenge provides vocabulary instruction and practice with college-level words. The Challenge part tests students in the SAT’s Critical-Reading-style format, providing outstanding practice for what many students consider the hardest portion of the SAT. The app is available for computers as well as Android and Apple smartphones, tablets, and other web-based devices.