Guarantees in test prep

I just got an amazing phone call. I said hello and the parent on the other end launched into me with “What score can you guarantee me that my son will score?”


I was about to say, “I don’t think we are a good fit,” and hang up. Or, I was thinking:  “You should find a prep company with guarantees somewhere else.”  But I didn’t. I launched into the fray and explained that there are no guarantees in things dealing with humans. I was driving and had the time to spare, so why not get into a nice argument about the thing that I know MOST about.

What I asked were questions. What was his starting point? What are his goals? Where does he want to apply?  How are his grades? How tough are his classes?  These are all factors that can help me determine if a student will raise his/her score. But there are no guarantees. David likes to say, “We offer one guarantee: If your child does NOT do what we say, I guarantee you that the score will not improve.”

There are no guarantees in Pittsburgh Test Prep, none.  If you buy a guarantee you are simply falling for a marketing trick.

25 Math Problems You MUST Know for the ACT

25 Math Concepts you MUST know for the ACT!

Phil McCaffrey


ACT Math – Top 25 ACT Math Concepts.


I read, analyze, and teach ACT Math problems 4 to 6 hours per day, 5 days per week, sometimes more. Doesn’t sound like fun to anyone but a real geek like me. But I love it, and I love helping the teenagers who come to 3RPrep for help. When the SAT was changing a few years ago, I convinced David to be my partner (because he is way better at grammar than I am), and we painstakingly counted every “type” (or concept) of question on the ACT. I just looked at the list of math question types and tried to identify the ones that are on almost EVERY test.


Stay tuned. I am going to make a very short lesson with an example problem or two from every concept.


  1. Word Problems – 99% of the ACT math is word problems. More, less, fewer, higher, lower, double, half, etc.
  2. Properties of Integers. 90% + of the numbers used by the ACT are integers. Even, odd, positive, negative, consecutive, prime, factor, multiple, square, etc.
  3. 1/a + 1/b = (a + b)/ab. 1/2 + 1/3 = (2+3)/(2*3)
  4. Arithmetic = add/subtract. Geometric = multiply/divide.
  5. Part+Part=Whole.
  6. Rates & Proportions.
  7. Increase, decrease, percent of a percent, interest.
  8. Algebraic Operations & solving equations. Combine like terms – watch out for negative signs. Easy – don’t miss these.
  9. Algebraic Inequalities – graph them quickly.
  10. Absolute Value.
  11. Exponents, roots, logarithms.
  12. Linear Functions. ax+by=c & y=mx+b
  13. Coordinate Geometry in the xy-plane.
  14. Systems of Equations
  15. Evaluate f(x).
  16. Quadratics, parabolas, factor and FOIL.
  17. Lines & Angles. l is parallel to m, l||m
  18. Triangles, right, isosceles, 3-4-5
  19. Quadrilaterals, squares, rectangles, trapezoids.
  20. Circles & sectors. They love the angle of a piece of a pie chart.
  21. Multiple Geometry Figures. Big Area – Small Area is usually the answer.
  22. Two SOHCAHTOA questions, usually straightforward.
  23. Average, Mean, Median, rarely mode.
  24. Probability
  25. Counting, Factorials, Permutations, & Combinations.