Are you wondering how to get good scores for SAT? JEREMY CRAIG of Testtakers has seen many high schoolers ponder this question in his 30 years of teaching courses that prepare students for these university entrances exams in the US. He brings us through the intricacies of SAT prep in Singapore.
What led you to establishing Testtakers in Singapore?
I started teaching test prep in 1993 while an undergraduate at Columbia University. My father taught high school and my mother was a college professor, so the teaching side came easy to me.
After earning my Master of International Affairs from Columbia, I worked as an international economist. Then I exported lawnmowers to Asia for a few years before moving to Singapore in 2000.
I soon saw that there was a demand for premium SAT test prep in Singapore. I’ve had the franchisee for Asia since 2001, after contacting Testtakers USA. I feel that Testtakers makes a positive impact with the students we work with by helping them secure admission to universities where they will continue to grow.
Many American universities no longer require SAT. Why do you think SAT scores are still important?
The shift to “test optional” was a result of COVID. The test wasn’t available in large parts of the world, and schools couldn’t ask for a test that not all students can realistically take.
Students without good scores for SAT decided there was no harm in applying to more competitive universities, which they likely wouldn’t have applied to pre-COVID. This resulted in a spike in applications to the most rejective American schools.
Universities love more applications – it lowers the key acceptance rate percentage. This number is a key component in the calculation of rankings by outfits such as US News and World Report.
While some universities – Georgetown, MIT, Florida publics – have started formally requiring the SAT again, most have not. Doing so would result in a decrease in the number of applicants, an increase in acceptance rates and potential job losses in admissions departments due to plummeting rankings.
A look at the numbers in common data set reports reveal that it’s all a bit of a charade, particularly for the most competitive schools. For the top 75 universities with the lowest average acceptance rate of 21.7%, 64% of successful applicants have submitted test scores. For the top 10 schools with 5.2% average acceptance rate, that jumps to 84%. So test scores may be optional but a sizable majority of successful applicants submit scores – and you probably should too.
The SAT provides an impartial metric that can compare students from across school systems, countries and continents. The score has a proven correlation with academic success in university; students can demonstrate this by submitting a score. Some of the leading English programs in Europe (for example, IE in Madrid and Boccini in Rome) have their own admissions tests but accept the SAT in lieu.
It may be optional but so are high grades, leadership roles and CCAs. If a student does well in school, they will also do well on the SAT without any formal prep. Testtakers will help that student achieve even higher good scores for SAT.
How do you keep up to date with the changing entry requirements of American universities?
I’m a member of the International Association of College Admissions Counseling and a founding member of the Singapore University Admissions Association, an informal grouping of university counsellors from all the international schools in Singapore.
I subscribe to about eight international education newsletters and speak frequently with others in the field, mainly university counsellors at our many partner schools.
Students want to know: when to start preparing for SAT?
The most common error is to start the SAT prep course too early. The SAT covers what students are learning in school and scores will increase over time naturally.
So, when to start preparing for SAT? As a rule, Testtakers doesn’t work on any formal SAT test prep before students are in Grade 11 or IB1. Even the cool kids in the maths club who read Jane Austin for fun shouldn’t really test before December of that year.
Up until that time, students should work hard in school, bake bread, learn flute, read more, volunteer, play volleyball, and try out new activities to broaden themselves and hopefully find a passion.
From time to time, we run some academic fundamentals programmes for younger kids. We also teach the SSAT/ISEE to younger kids applying to American boarding schools.
What’s the background of teachers at Testtakers?
All our teachers are graduates of top American universities and, in most cases, posh New England prep schools as well. The small team we have now has been together for nearly 10 years. They average 10 years of experience specifically in test prep, which is longer than most of our competitors.
However, an Ivy League school does not a good teacher make. More importantly, all our teachers are very good communicators who can get through to students and help them discover answers. COVID resulted in many students having a harder time in a classroom environment – we pride ourselves in connecting with our charges and challenging them.
How can Testtakers help with Singapore SAT prep?
The SAT uses a good deal of American vocabulary and cultural references in the questions. Our teachers are able to translate these to a local audience. More importantly, a creative learning experience is created by our teaching team. Students have a good time while learning so they walk out of class with new knowledge and a smile on their face.
Hear from students and a parent
“A 200 point increase is crazy. I appreciate Testtakers so much.” – E, Singapore American School class of 2025
“As a student with diagnosed ADHD and who often gets distracted, I’ve never felt more focused in my life while attending a class. The Singapore SAT prep teachers at Testtakers are also very familiar with different schooling systems and college courses. Solid 10/10 for studying materials and hacks, and 10/10 for the teachers. I highly recommend it!” – M, Singapore American School class of 2024
“I’ve just got my SAT scores in May and I am incredibly happy. To go from 680 to 760 English is crazy. That is an improvement of 90 points overall from March. Thank you so much for tutoring and having helped me!” – Nick
“The SAT score just arrived today and S’s came back with a significant improvement. Thank you for your support and patience throughout the Singapore SAT prep process.” – Y
About the SAT prep course at Testtakers Singapore
Classes are no more than eight weeks and are scheduled to end just days before a particular test date. This ensures that students take the SAT while the Testtakers techniques are fresh, which results in getting the most effective good scores for SAT.
Students are grouped by ability. The average class size is eight to 10 students for a high level of personal attention. This is reinforced through graded homework with individual comments, mid-term evaluations and frequent calls with each student.
Testtakers is also the only SAT prep institution that uses a 400-word vocabulary flash-card of the difficult words that occur most often in the SAT as well as core Math and grammar concepts to be mastered. Jeremy says that learning these is more effective than learning 2,500 random “hard words”.
Testtakers offers programmes to the public at its facility at Balmoral Plaza. They also work with many international school partners in the region so you can attend their SAT prep course online. There is also individual tutoring available. Contact them at firstname.lastname@example.org to find a programme that suits you.
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