Why should I consider tutoring?
  • Test scores are one of the top three factors in admissions decisions. As an objective measure, they allow schools to compare students who may be in vastly different schools and programs. A perfect score may not guarantee admission, but a weak score may land you quickly in the “no” pile. Even test-optional schools will consider strong scores if submitted.
  • Test scores provide the basis for tuition reductions, honor college admissions, and merit scholarships. Families can save tens of thousands of dollars by adding points to standardized test scores.
  • Early test prep can identify weaknesses and help families develop a better list of target, reach and likely colleges.
  • Dedicated students who practice can improve scores on their own, but most don’t have the self-discipline or motivation to do so. The primary factor in improving test scores has been found to be personal accountability. It is easy for busy students to put off testing and hope for a good score the first time. When this doesn’t happen, students find themselves with no time to remedy the situation.
  • One-on-one tutoring is efficient and targeted, with the tutor devoting 100% of the hour to determining and correcting specific deficiencies.
  • Even a little bit of prep can improve scores, and even a small increase in scores can affect a college’s decision.
  • A good tutor can serve as a motivator, teacher, counselor, and ally at a time when teenagers are under tremendous academic pressure.
What does your program cover?

Students will be taught the design of the test and how to approach all types of questions. They will learn how the test is written, how its writers think, how to map a passage, how to decipher questions, and how to attack answer choices.

Standardized tests differ greatly from school exams and require specific strategies for success. Students may need to overcome their natural (but sometimes counterproductive) habits of thinking and working.

In the course of our work, we usually encounter gaps in knowledge. Reading comprehension is a common problem, so we work on tone, main idea, and discerning relationships between ideas. Often, students have never been taught grammar. Some students may not have had math or English for eight months. Others may have had weak math teachers/courses.

Our writing instructors will cover both the ACT and SAT essays if needed.

Even when students master content, they have to learn time management and practice timed sections.

When should I start prep?

Because junior year is academically challenging, we recommend starting early and using the summer after sophomore year to begin practice. We realize that school guidance counselors may recommend waiting until the spring of junior for testing, but, far too often, we see students who fall short of their goals by undertaking preparation too late.

It takes time to find suitable test dates, work on homework during the school year, and add prep when a student switches from one test to another.  Our goal is to make progress over 6-12 months to eliminate undue stress.

Which tests do you tutor for?


Where are you located?

Our tutors meet in different locations but most are in South Charlotte. We test and sometimes meet at Manus Academy at 6203 Carmel Road. Pat tutors at Manus Academy 2-3 days a week and at home (Dilworth) the other days.

Where is the diagnostic test and when can I take it?

The test is administered at Manus Academy (6203 Carmel Road). During the academic year, the test is given mainly on Saturdays at 10 a.m. In the summer months, we often test on Monday and Wednesday mornings at 10 a.m.

The test can be emailed to you if you find it difficult to schedule. In that case, we want you to take it under test conditions (morning, quiet, unplugged).

Should I take a test without prep as a baseline?

No. Why waste a test date on a test that likely will not reflect your potential? We would rather have you take a test off the record first. Low scores on a first test can affect a student’s self-confidence for future tests. Students may also suffer test burnout.

Ideally, students will limit the number of official tests taken. This can be especially important when a college requires all test scores.

How many hours of tutoring do I need?

This depends on a student’s initial test scores (PLAN, PSAT and diagnostic test), his or her target scores, his or her natural strengths and weaknesses, and the determination of the student to succeed. All of these factors combine to make an extremely variable range of hours needed.

We see some students for fewer than 10 sessions and others for over 50, with 20 being an average.

READING – to be fully prepared for the reading on the SAT or ACT, we want you to have completed at least 4 or 5 full practice tests. SAT Reading is difficult to master, especially for students who are not lifelong readers or fluent in SAT vocabulary. ACT reading, though more straightforward, has to be done accurately and under tremendous time pressure. Accordingly, we typically recommend –

  • 6-12 sessions of reading comprehension passages, including mapping a passage, learning to discern what is important, key words and phrases, rhetorical strategy, dual passages, interpreting charts, command of evidence, successful process of elimination, guessing techniques, essential vocabulary, and timing.

WRITING/ENGLISH SKILLS – SAT writing follows the ACT model, so preparation for one will overlap significantly with the other. Our students will find their writing instruction to be immediately applicable in school work (and life). We recommend –

  • 4-5 sessions of writing skills, including punctuation, grammar, logical organization, diction, expression of ideas, effective language use, and development of ideas

ESSAY – this may be optional for some students, as the new SAT does not require the essay. However, some colleges recommend or require it, so ALWAYS CHECK with prospective colleges to see their policies. We always recommend taking the ACT with writing. It is safer to take the test WITH THE ESSAY so that you will have done it in the event that one of your target colleges requires it. We recommend –

  • 2-3 sessions in essay instruction, review, and refinement.

MATH – new SAT math features a no-calculator section and is decidedly more rigorous than before, testing advanced topics from trigonometry and radians to equations of a circle and congruence theorems. The test is aligned with the Common Core. Since some school districts may not have caught up to national learning standards, students may need supplemental instruction to tackle the tough concepts. We recommend –

  • 2-10 sessions of math skills, including review of the fundamentals of arithmetic, algebra and geometry, problem-solving, data analysis, how to handle the no calculator section, and advanced math problems.

If we need to fill gaps in academic content, more work may be needed.

Even after you have covered all of the fundamentals, we think it is wise to see each of your tutors 1-2 times for review in the two weeks leading up to a test date.

What time commitment is required?

Each session runs an hour. Homework (usually 60-90 minutes) will be assigned during each session. The skills we are teaching must be practiced over time, so the work between sessions is vital to our progress.  The key to improvement is steady practice over time.

We want students to focus on accuracy when doing assignments. If they take on too much, they may be more focused on simply finishing and not doing their best work.

If a student has a heavy academic load and plays a sport or another serious extracurricular activity, it may be impossible to schedule enough sessions and do the assignments required to make good progress. Test dates should be chosen with a student’s other commitments in mind.

What if a student does not complete the homework?

If homework is not completed regularly, we will inform you. Failure to work through the practice materials likely will lead to lack of improvement in test performance.

Do you require the diagnostic test?

An initial test for diagnostic purposes will be expected of most students, although anyone who has taken one or two SAT tests with QAS and one or more PSAT tests will be able to substitute those for our test (in such cases, the initial fee will be $200 rather than $250). We use an official SAT or ACT for diagnostic purposes. The time spent taking this test (about 3-4 hours) is useful for both the student and the tutors. The student learns from the test experience, and we receive the equivalent of about an hour’s homework in each subject area for our tutors to evaluate.

When should my student take his/her first test?

Generally in the fall of junior year. We will guide most students toward an early SAT (August or October). We make this decision on a case-by-case basis, considering athletic commitments, extracurricular activities, exam schedules, and preparedness.

Students being recruited by colleges for a sport may need early scores, so recruits should plan to finish testing by the end of junior year.


Should my student prepare for the PSAT?

When we prepare for the SAT, we are also preparing for the PSAT. Since the PSAT given during junior year determines National Merit status, any sophomores who may be within range of qualifying should prepare seriously for the PSAT.

Students may start with us in the 9th grade if they have weaknesses they want to address early, have very high goals, or are curious about how prep will affect their scores. Prep between the 9th grade PSAT and 10th grade PSAT can be useful because the 10th grade scores will better reflect a student’s abilities.

How many times should I take the SAT or ACT?

Many students take both tests 2-3 times. If one test is clearly a better fit, a student may take only that test. Some colleges require that all scores be sent, so it is better in those cases to limit test dates.

Most students will finish testing at the beginning of senior year, but this is not an ideal time for tutoring due to the extra responsibilities associated with college applications.

Is there a typical test plan?

Most of our students plan to take the SAT in August or October of junior year. The Question and Answer Service is offered in October but not August, so we prefer the October date for our juniors. If a student is clearly better at the ACT, he/she may take the ACT in September or October. If a student is not in final exams in December, the December ACT is a good first ACT because it offer the Test Information Release.

Some families want both SAT scores and ACT scores by January 1 in order to focus on only one test thereafter.

It is preferable to do work on one test at a time.

Those who take 1-2 SAT tests in the fall/winter may try the ACT in the spring.

Many students, including all public school students, will be given the ACT on a statewide ACT date in February/March.

What are your rates and payment options?

Our initial charge is $250, which includes materials, a full SAT or ACT diagnostic test (or both), hand scoring, analysis, and review of all previous test results. In addition, each hourly session with one of our tutors is $130 payable to ACES. Payment is due at the session. We do not charge for our time in telephone or in-person consultations with parents or students, preparation for sessions, or review of files.

Payment for multiple sessions and tutors (e.g. 10 or 20 sessions) can be made payable to ACES through Pat Throneburg.

Credit card payments can be arranged through Square. Call Pat Throneburg with your credit card information, which will be kept on file. Sessions billed to a credit card will be charged at $135/hour.

Do you require a minimum number of sessions?

Once you are in our program, you can schedule as many sessions as you would like. However, in most cases, we will not expect much improvement in 2-3 sessions.

How do I decide whether to take the ACT or SAT?

We will guide you based on your work with us. Students who read fast may prefer the ACT. The ACT is often better for students with extra time on tests. Students who excel in math and science or are weak in reading comprehension may prefer the ACT.

Most students start with the SAT, which requires more care, and switch to the ACT, which requires more speed.

Some of our students choose to take both a diagnostic SAT and ACT with us at the beginning of the process. The best way to know which test will be advantageous is to take a full ACT and a full SAT and compare results.

Do all colleges accept both tests?


Will work for one test help me on the other?

Yes. Writing, some reading techniques, and some math concepts will carry over. Students who start with SAT and switch to ACT will have to add some math and ACT science.

Reading is very different, so reading for each test will have to be practiced. Pacing on the ACT is a learned skill. The essays are also completely different tasks.

What are the QAS and the TIR?

The QAS and TIR mean that a student can order a copy of the SAT or ACT for that test date. Only three dates per year provide published tests. Without QAS/TIR, you can see your scores but not the questions themselves.

Only three SAT test dates per year offer the Question and Answer Service. When you order the QAS, you will receive a copy of the test in the mail along with your answers. This is a valuable diagnostic tool for us, so we will guide you toward these test dates if possible. For the SAT, the QAS is available in March, May, and October.

On the ACT side, the TIR is the Test Information Release and is available for the December, April, and June test dates.

QAS and TIR usually arrive in 6-8 weeks. Either can be ordered for several months after the test date.

How do I register?

Register early to get your first choice in test sites.

To register for the SAT, go to collegeboard.org and create an online account. This account will allow you to register for upcoming tests, view your scores when available, and see AP results.

​To register for the ACT, administered by the ACT organization, set up an account at act.org. Students may use their online accounts to register for upcoming ACT test dates and to check their scores once they become available.

When will scores be released?

2-4 weeks. Check collegeboard.org and act.org for exact dates.

PSAT scores usually are released in mid-December.

What if I don’t gel with my tutor?

ACES has multiple tutors and we are happy to make a switch. Tutoring is a personal relationship, and we realize that there are various factors that come into play. We want you to be happy.

If I use extra time at school, will I automatically have it on the SAT and ACT?

No. You have to apply for extra time to the College Board and the ACT separately. You must register for an ACT before you can submit a request for test accommodations.

How do colleges use scores?

Colleges will use your best combination of SAT math and reading for a “super-score.” Most colleges will ignore your lower scores, so, technically, there is no disadvantage to reporting scores.

Many colleges will super-score the ACT as well. Check with a specific college to see its policy.

We missed the registration deadline. What do I do?

There is a late registration deadline. Once that has passed, you may be able to take the test as a standby. Most standbys are admitted on test day. Go to the test center with a photo ID and a check or pay in advance for a future test. Complete instructions are on the College Board and ACT websites.

Should I sign up to send the scores to schools when I take the test?

No. Since most colleges do not require that all scores be sent, we usually advise you to wait to see your best scores and send only those.

Can I cancel a session? Do you charge me when I forget my appointment?

In order to reschedule or cancel a session, more than 24 hours’ notice is required. We will charge you at our regular hourly rate for a no-show or a late change unless a student has a health or family emergency. When you schedule a session, you have purchased that hour of our time. We understand that students get sick and that teenagers have busy lives that change rapidly. However, we are providing an educational service for which we have limited availability. A missed session constitutes a lost hour and may cause considerable inconvenience to our tutors as well as our inability to meet with other students. We try to be as flexible and understanding as possible in scheduling.

What are subject tests and do I need to take them?

Some colleges (usually the most selective schools) require or recommend a certain number of subject tests, usually 2-3. Subject tests are one hour each and are given on most SAT test dates. A student can take up to three tests on one day. Subject tests (formerly called SAT II tests) are given by the College Board. Some popular subject tests include Literature, Biology, Chemistry, Physics, Math, foreign language, and U.S. History. Each test is scored on a 200-800 scale.

Most students take subject tests in the spring of junior year or the fall of senior year. For example, if you finish AP Biology or APUSH in May of your junior year, you may want to take the subject test in that area in May or June while the material is fresh in your mind. However, if you plan to take the Spanish subject test and you will take AP Spanish during senior year, you may want to take the subject test in November or December.

We recommend that you try the sample questions for several subjects online in order to determine which tests you might prefer. You can buy prep books to study for subject tests.

Some colleges accept the ACT in lieu of subject tests.

You cannot take the SAT and subject tests in the same day; you must allocate a separate test date for subject tests. For this reason, many students take the May SAT (because it is a QAS test) and subject tests in June.

Score choice applies to subject tests. If you take three tests and want to send scores for only two of them, you may.

Subject tests are an individual decision, and we are available to guide you in this matter.