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.

Penn abandons policy requiring all test scores

What’s a “Good” SAT or ACT Score?

We talk to countless parents and high school students every week, and one of the things we hear most is: “My scores aren’t very good.”  We work hard to get parents to see that there’s no such thing as a “good” score, nor is there such thing as a “bad” score.  A score that’s good for Denison University might not be good for Duke University.We want students and parents to think differently about standardized test scores.

The question we like to ask is: “Are your scores where they need to be?”  And we need some context to arrive at an answer by asking some more questions:

  • What colleges or types of colleges are you considering?
  • Do you know what your major might be?
  • How does your transcript look?  GPA alone doesn’t give us (or colleges) the whole story.  
    • What classes are you taking?  
    • What classes do you plan to take?
  • What are your interests outside of school?
    • Do you play sports? Volunteer? Work?

We ask these questions to get a more three-dimensional view of the student, because this is how admissions officers look at applicants.
If you live in the Pittsburgh area, give us a call to schedule an appointment.  If you’re out of the area, we’re always happy to connect via Skype or Google Hangout.   We can help you figure out if your scores are where they need to be.

David Cerniglia

Head English and Writing Tutor

david @