How to Improve My Test Scores…

And Other FAQs 

Getting ready for the ACT, PSAT, or SAT is a lot like preparing for any important test, but the strategies required are unique to each test. That's why we offer several helpful options for you to choose from. What would you like to know about the tests or ZAPS® Focused Test Prep™? Look for your questions here. If you can't find your questions and their answers, give us a call at 877-927-8378 or write to answers@doorwaytocollege.com

Students Ask...

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. Are the ACT and the SAT scored the same? 

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?

Q. I hear the PSAT is changing in Fall 2015 and the SAT is changing in Spring 2016. But the current SAT is still available in Fall 2015. I'm still deciding whether to take the current SAT or the new SAT. Will Doorway to College prepare me for either test?

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?

Q. Seminar or webinar — which should I take?

Q. What study materials will I get? Do they cost extra?

ZAPS Webinars 

Q. What equipment do I need to participate in a webinar?

Practicing at Home

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

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

Q. What will I learn in a Subtest-Intensive Instructional Video? 

ZAPS Score BoostersTM

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

Q. How will the online ZAPS SAT-Practice Test or ACT-Practice Test help me prepare for the tests?

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

Q. I would like even more practice for the ACT or SAT; 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?

Study Skills

Q. Does Doorway to College have a program that will help me improve my study skills?

College Prep

Q. Where can I find advice about getting ready for college?

 

We Answer...

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, 12, or even more 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?

We need to preface this answer by saying that both ACT, Inc. and the College Board (publishers of the SAT and PSAT) are planning to change their tests for 2015 and 2016. ACT changes will be relatively minor. Changes to the SAT and PSAT, on the other hand, will be more extensive. The information below is accurate as of the current tests. We'll update it as the tests change.

  • ACT tests your achievement: what you've learned in your classes at school. The College Board says their current test is less about achievement and more about your aptitude for learning, your verbal skills, and your reasoning skills. But achievement is important too. The College Board's redesigned SAT and PSAT will focus more on skills students learn in high school. In other words, their redesigned tests will be more like the ACT.
  • Currently, 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. In the redesigned SAT and PSAT, you'll be tested on meanings of words you already know. They may be common words, but you'll need to be careful that you're using their correct meanings in context.
  • 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 current SAT has nine shorter sections, including a mandatory essay at the beginning of the test. The redesigned PSAT and (presumably, though we haven't seen samples yet) the redesigned SAT will have three sections plus an optional essay.

To learn more about the ACT, go to http://www.actstudent.org/. To learn about the redesigned PSAT and SAT, go to https://collegereadiness.collegeboard.org/sat-suite-assessments/exam-changes.

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, or you find out later that your preferred college requires it, you'll have to go back and take the entire ACT just to get a Writing Test score.

On the current SAT, 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 redesigned PSAT and most likely the redesigned SAT will have three sections plus the optional essay:

  • Evidence-Based Reading
  • Evidence-Based Writing and Language
  • Mathematics
  • Essay (Optional on SAT, not present on PSAT)

Q. Are the ACT and the SAT scored the same? 

The ACT counts only your correct answers. 

The current 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.

The redesigned PSAT and SAT do not have a guessing penalty.

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 by choosing only your best scores for each subtest. 

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 Tests. 

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. But if you want a attend seminar that your school doesn't offer, you may be able to sign up at a neighboring school; check our website or give us a call (877-927-8378) to learn more. Or, consider a ZAPS webinar; students tell us they love logging on and participating from home.

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 share 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 offered on the SAT)

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

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.

If your school offers an SAT-only seminar, no worries! It will prepare you well for the PSAT too.

Q. I hear the PSAT is changing in Fall 2015, and the SAT is changing in Spring 2016. But the current SAT is still available to my student in Fall 2015. We're still deciding whether to have our child take the current SAT or the new SAT. Will Doorway to College prepare our student for either test?

A. Doorway to College is well prepared to teach students about both the current SAT (which expires after January 2016) and the redesigned SAT and PSAT. When you register your child for a ZAPS seminar or webinar, be sure to check which test it's targeting; they are very different. If you're unsure, call our office at 877-927-8378 or write to answers@doorwaytocollege.com.

Strategy-Focused ZAPS Seminars and Webinars

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

The ZAPS seminar and webinar are both focused on strategies to help you do your best on the test. In the 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 ZAPS strategy webinar, instead of a seminar, you can sign up for whichever format you prefer. Some webinars are scheduled on Saturdays or holidays for five hours (with short breaks). Others are scheduled two afternoons or evenings in a row. Be sure you note your own local time for your webinar, as all webinars are posted on the web 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 or webinar, 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?

In each 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.

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 about bringing food and drinks into the seminar room.

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 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.  

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.

Some students prefer the relative anonymity of a webinar. No one sees you, and none of your school peers will know if you ask a question about something that's hard for you. It's a safe, supportive environment. Your parents are welcome to watch the webinar, too, so they can help you review later.

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

Webinars

Q. What equipment do I need to participate in a ZAPS webinar?

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

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

Subtest-Intensive Instructional Videos

Q. What will I learn in a Subtest-Intensive Instructional Video? 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. Strategy webinars are provided for students who have no seminar in their area or who can't attend their local seminar.

Subtest-Intensive Instructional Videos, on the other hand, focus on reviewing content you'll need to do your best on a given subtest. Every Subtest-Intensive Instructional Video is focused on a single subtest of either the ACT or PSAT/SAT. Whichever video you watch, you'll study content that is likely to be in the test. You'll also learn from an expert ZAPS instructor how to answer specific question types in that subtest area.

ZAPS Subtest-Intensive Instructional Videos are available for a variety of subtests:

ZAPS ACT Subtest-Intensive Instructional Videos

  • English
  • Math
  • Science

ZAPS PSAT/SAT Subtest-Intensive Instructional Videos

  • Math
  • Writing

Practicing at Home

Q. What study materials will I get?

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

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 schedules. (They tend to gather dust in the corner of your room.) If you're like most students, 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 about 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.

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 strategy seminar, participate in a strategy webinar, or purchase a strategy webinar (live or recorded) or the ACT Video Prep Course. If you are participating in a webinar or watching a recorded webinar or video, we'll ship your materials to you. We'll also provide downloadable Quick-Start Packets for you to print prior to watching if your books have not yet arrived.

Subtest Intensive Instructional Videos come with downloadable materials for you to print prior to watching the videos.

ZAPS Score Boosters™

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

Check out the online ZAPS ACT-Practice Test and the ZAPS SAT-Practice Test. You can take either of these full-length tests timed or untimed. If you take them 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. You can take them 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, too?

No. The ZAPS SAT Practice Test is designed to prepare for the current SAT. The redesigned PSAT (available in Fall 2015) is aligned with the redesigned SAT (available in Spring 2016), not with the current SAT.

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

Doorway to College offers the online ZAPS College Vocabulary Challenge™ that is targeted specifically to help college-bound students learn words for success in school, on tests, and (most important of all) in life. Use the Challenge on your Internet-enabled computer, smartphone (Android or iPhone), tablet, or other web-enabled device. It's highly effective and excellent practice. (And, hey, you might even enjoy it.)

If you prefer a stand-alone app, search for ZAPS Vocab Complete in the Android or iTunes stores.  

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

In the Vocabulary Challenge we just mentioned, the Challenge questions are formatted just like the SAT's Critical-Reading questions. When you purchase the Vocabulary Challenge, 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.

More Info, Please

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

You have choices! 

1. Look for a seminar near you by clicking on the "Register" button at the top of the page. Enter either your Zip code then click the Search by Zip code button, or use the Advanced Search feature to search for a school by name or location; you must enter a state to activate the Advanced Search.

2. Search for a webinar by clicking the Webinar Search button. Whichever way you search, you'll be able to see the options available to you.

3. We also offer several additional tools and recorded webinars that may be helpful to you. Check the dropdown for either ACT Prep or SAT Prep to view all your options.

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 the Doorway to College Customer Support team at answers@doorwaytocollege.com. We're happy to help you.

Study Skills

Q. Does Doorway to College have a program that will help me improve my study skills?

A. Yes! We have recently developed a helpful class called Study Smart!™, which is targeted to middle and high school students. In this 2 1/2 hour class, you'll learn all sorts of helpful tips and strategies about topics like these:

  • How to determine your learning style and use it to your benefit
  • The best tools and methods to get organized in school and at home
  • How to make teamwork more efficient and collaborative
  • Why understanding how the brain works can help you remember new information
  • What you should (and shouldn't) do to prepare for a test
  • How to give a dynamic and effective presentation
  • And so much more!

College Prep

Q. Where can I find advice about getting ready for college?

A. Doorway to College Foundation is continually releasing new information to prepare students for college. Check out our College Prep section on this website to find a list of ebooks and resources for students and parents.

We also offer two new workshops called Kickstart to College™, which are designed for 9th and 10th graders or 11th and 12th graders. These workshops help students gain the information needed to get ready to apply to college. Check out the Kickstart to College page on this website to learn more.

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