How Am I Supposed To Eat This?



The little squid seemed to stare mournfully up at us.

We were in an izakaya in Kumamoto, Japan, and my wife and I had just worked our way through most of a plate of delicious sashimi. But there was one big piece left.

NBD... just an entire. Raw. Squid. Normally, we're adventurous eaters, but this seemed an insurmountable hurdle. For reference, this little guy was about half a foot long, translucent gray, shiny, and rubbery. We prodded and poked at it, but there was clearly no way to tear off a piece with our rudimentary chopstick skills. (Grossed out yet? Don't blame you.)

Thankfully, one of the chefs noticed our dilemma. After some halting conversation, we realized he was giving us two options for him to COOK the squid. I've never been more relieved. (We went for the tempura... delicious.)

It's not surprising we ran into trouble deciphering how to eat a meal that was foreign to us. Luckily, the chef was right there to help (and thank God we didn't order it to go).

(Segue time): Parents and students often feel a little lost when beginning SAT / ACT prep. And now that most people know all colleges will take either an SAT or ACT score and that colleges don't prefer one over the other, parents have to figure out which test their kid should prepare for.

This is often an important decision. There are plenty of kids who can become good at either the SAT or ACT, but many do better at one of the two.

However, there are bad ways to decide. I don't recommend asking a student which test they prefer (they probably don't have enough experience to really judge).

And heaven forbid someone tells the student they'd be better at one of the two tests based on the kid's academic record (some high schools actually do this) - or that the tests are so similar that it doesn't matter (false).

Our advice? The right way to make this decision is to:


  1. Have an expert explain the basics of each section of the SAT and the ACT to the student
  2. Have the student try parts of both, and compare the scores to see if they score higher on one.


Not rocket science, but there's a key component that's often missing when students just try a full practice test of each: we want the expert introducing each section of each test to the student right before he takes it. For example, we explain the basics of ACT Science and two minutes later, the student is actually working on an authentic ACT Science passage.


If we don't do this, the student can be blindsided by the unfamiliar material and score artificially low (or not put in their best effort). If we do it but then too much time passes, the student can forget our advice.

Good news! We now have a seminar designed to introduce both tests and help students decide. Our tutor Bronte D'Acquisto is leading our first "Deciding: SAT or ACT" class. It's Sunday, June 23rd, from 9:30 a.m. to 12:30 p.m., at our Sorrento Valley office. $99.

In the seminar, your kid will:

  • Get an informed, personalized, data-driven recommendation whether to prep for the SAT or the ACT -- from an expert tutor.
  • Receive our most important advice on how to do well on each test section.
  • Gain a thorough understanding of what successful test prep entails.

(Bronte also does SAT / ACT / GRE prep for us)

What are the rest of us up to, you ask?

In addition to his busy tutoring and class schedule, Matt Sheelen has just finished a project for Barron's (now Kaplan): PSAT flashcards. They should be published next spring.

(Matt does SAT / ACT / GRE prep, too)

Blake Jensen is meeting students in his Rancho Santa Fe Village office, and is also now teaching SAT / ACT classes at The Grauer School - one will be coming up to get kids ready for the August SAT.

(Blake also covers the SAT, ACT, and GRE)

And me, Vince? I've stopped working with individual students for the time being to focus on online course creation for the GRE, but I still teach all of our GRE classes. On that note, these guys above can answer any of your test prep questions - they're veteran tutors. Their phone numbers are on our website

Also, I made this fun, animated commercial for us (for lack of a better term):

Why test prep is more like pizza than you might have thought.


The Bottom Line

Test prep isn't THAT complicated, but there is a lot of conflicting information out there. So before you take a bite out of that squid, remember that we're here to help.


Questions For Discussion

1. Doesn't that cherry blossom photo (top, credit: my wife) make you want to go to Japan?

2. Have you ever eaten something that you actually weren't supposed to? Explain.

3. What's the most frustrating or confusing aspect of test prep for you?

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