BALTIMORE, MD--(Marketwire - Mar 19, 2013) - In today's competitive college admissions environment, doing well enough on the SAT®(i) and ACT® tests may seem a daunting task. But with some work, and the right preparation and practice, students can demystify these tests and score strong, according to the tutoring experts at Sylvan Learning.

Sylvan Learning offers students the following three-step approach, using the "3 Ps" -- Pace, Prepare, Practice -- to make it happen.


Plan Ahead
Even if the goal of college admissions is still four years off, you should begin to prepare as early as the last year of middle school. This is the time to begin laying the foundation for the math, science and language skills you will need to get into college -- and to succeed once you are admitted.

Pace yourself along the way. Don't wait until junior or senior year of high school to suddenly realize you should have done more as a freshman and sophomore, like taking those honors and AP classes that college admissions offices like to see on transcripts.

Set Up Your Test Schedule
Take your PSAT and any appropriate SAT Subject Tests in your sophomore year. In your junior year, explore colleges, learn about financial aid and take more subject tests as needed. This is also the time to take the SAT and/or ACT -- twice -- once in the fall and once in the spring. Make college visits in the spring and summer. If necessary, retake the SAT or ACT at the beginning of senior year.


Get to Know Your Guidance Counselor
Throughout your high school career, counselors can tell you all you need to know about college and SAT and ACT admissions tests, as well as give you expert advice on which classes to take to reach your goals. The better your guidance counselors get to know you during your high school career, the better they will be able to help you identify, prepare for and gain admission to the college that best matches your needs, interests and skills.

Research and Target Colleges
Most colleges accept both the ACT and the SAT, but be aware that some of your targeted schools may accept only one of them, or strongly prefer one over the other. Before you take admission tests, collect as much information as you can on the colleges you are interested in to see which test they prefer and how they use it in conjunction with other factors such as GPA, extracurricular activities and work experience. Do this early enough to allow yourself time to prepare for and take both tests if you decide to do so.


Know Your Test
Take practice tests to gain an understanding of how the tests work and how they are structured. For example, the SAT is longer. It takes 3 hours and 45 minutes. The Writing section is mandatory. The ACT, on the other hand, takes 2 hours and 55 minutes to complete -- or 3 hours and 25 minutes if the student takes an optional Writing test, which is required by some colleges. Math also accounts for more on the SAT -- 33 percent, compared to 25 percent for the ACT. The tests also treat incorrect answers quite differently: There is no penalty for an incorrect answer on the ACT, but each incorrect answer on the SAT costs the test-taker 1/4 point.

"Using this three-step approach while preparing for college admissions will give students the tools they need to improve their college entrance exam scores and develop the college readiness skills needed for lifelong success," says Richard E. Bavaria, Ph.D., senior vice president of education outreach for Sylvan Learning.

For additional information and educational resources on test prep programs, visit, an online, on-demand, video-based course that teaches students to increase their PSAT, SAT and ACT scores by being smarter test-takers; call 1-800-31-SUCCESS; or visit us on the web at

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About Sylvan Learning
Sylvan Learning is the leading provider of tutoring to students of all ages, grades and skill levels with over 30 years of experience and more than 800 centers located throughout North America. Sylvan's trained and Sylvan-certified personal instructors provide individualized instruction in reading, writing, mathematics, study skills and test-prep for college entrance and state exams. For more information, call 1-800-31-SUCCESS or visit

(i) SAT is a registered trademark of the College Board, which was not involved in the production of, and does not endorse, this product. ACT is a registered trademark of ACT, Inc.

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Sara Costello