What topics does the program cover?


We try to cover all factors that affect a student’s score.  Among other topics, our curriculum includes:


Testing strategies: Time management, process of elimination, omitting problems, techniques for guessing, minimizing careless errors


Academic knowledge: Geometry review, writing skills, grammar rules, vocabulary


Techniques for specific types of questions: Sentence Completions, Underline the Error, Tone/Attitude, Possible Combinations, Probability, Main Idea types of questions


Study skills: Note taking, memorization, mnemonic devices, error analysis


Psychological factors: Confidence, willingness to guess, focus

What time commitment do you require?


Students often see us once or twice per week. Most sessions are 1 hour long with 1-2 hours of homework assigned. We give more homework in the summer but can modulate the amount depending on the student’s schedule and frequency of appointments. Our philosophy is to give a reasonable amount of homework and hold the students accountable for doing it carefully. If we assign too much homework, students try to get through it quickly and don’t practice the techniques.

What will you do in the first evaluation session?


We usually begin with a short meeting to answer questions and discuss the tutoring process. Then, the tutor works one-on-one with the student, going over problems the student missed on the evaluation test or a previous SAT or ACT. The goal is to identify each student’s weaknesses so that the tutor and student together can create a lesson plan to address them. The tutor will give a report to the parent at the end of the session or by phone or email later.

How do you evaluate the needs of students who have not taken the SAT or ACT yet?

When we work with sophomores in winter or early spring, we may use the results of the 10th grade PSAT. In late spring or the summer before junior year, we ask students to take a short evaluation test on our website.  Click here for more information.



How do we decide whether my student should take SAT or the ACT?

Many students will end up taking both tests. Almost all students take the PSAT in mid-October. Many schools now offer the ACT free of charge in March. So the more pertinent decision is often which test to prepare for.

We may be able to determine that based on prior scores or a description of the student's strengths and weaknesses - some students are obviously better suited to one or the other. If it’s not clear, we typically ask students to take evaluation sections from both tests. At the first prep session, we go over the questions that they missed and try to figure out which test would be easier to improve. 

Click here to learn more about the differences between the tests and students who do well on one or the other.

Will the preparation you've done with my student for the SAT carry over to the ACT (or vice-versa)?

The techniques and grammar concepts for the SAT Reading and Writing and the ACT reading and English are very similar. Students who go from SAT to ACT need to speed up significantly and learn pick more straightforward answers. Students who go from ACT to SAT need to slow down and learn to avoid overthinking on the more nuanced SAT passages. The basic approach is similar, but we find that students need to practice with sections on each test to implement the techniques effectively. The essays on the SAT and ACT are completely different. Aside from general writing and logic skills, little prep for one will carry over to the other.

The ACT tests a broader range of math than the SAT. So students who go from SAT prep to ACT typically need to review some more math concepts like trigonometry and geometry. The ACT has a science section, which is unlike anything on the SAT. It's vital that students who move from the SAT to the ACT get additional practice with and ideally prep for the Science.


How is each session structured?

We spend the first half of most sessions going over the homework from the previous session. We want to make sure that the students understand the techniques and can employ them effectively. If they do, we may go on to new techniques and material. If not, we try to troubleshoot, identifying what is holding the students back and devising strategies to address those weaknesses.

What type of homework do you assign?

We assign individual problems that allow students to practice techniques discussed in each session. We also assign complete test sections to address testing skills like time management and avoiding careless errors. Initially, as students work to master our techniques, we may not ask them to time themselves. Once they can consistently get the questions right, we time them.

How will I know whether my student’s preparation is going well?

We try to update parents by phone or email every three or four sessions and to give a final report after the last session. Sometimes during busy seasons, we may not get to update parents as often. If you have not heard from us, feel free to call, email, or text. We will certainly contact you if your student is not giving sufficient effort or progressing to our satisfaction.

If my student works with both Steve and Robin, how do you coordinate your approach?

We use the same curriculum, so a student will learn the same techniques and use the same material for any subject, no matter which tutor he or she sees. We create an electronic record for each student with information about personality, grades, college goals, and preferred teaching style, created from a parent interview or questionnaire. We take detailed notes during each session to keep track of how a student is progressing in all the subjects and help us craft a unified approach, We also meet to discuss students who have special educational needs or are not making satisfactory progress.

Can my student's scores increase with just a few sessions of tutoring?

It depends on what your student needs to improve.  It’s easier to help a student who has good basic skills but falls for trick answers or uses the wrong techniques.  It’s harder to help a student who doesn’t understand the passages or has a weak foundation in math.  Also, some students pick up concepts more quickly than others do.  In our first conversation, we may be able to tell you whether a few sessions might make a significant difference.  

How do you keep up with the changes in the test?

Every year, we take three SATs, three ACTs, and one PSAT. We analyze shifting trends in the questions, try out new techniques, and perfect methods for improving speed.



If my student works with several tutors, how do you coordinate your approach?

Every tutor uses the same curriculum developed by Robin, so a student will learn the same techniques and use the same material for any subject, no matter which tutor he or she sees. They receive a profile of the student with information about personality, grades, college goals, and preferred teaching style, created from an interview or an email from a parent. We also meet to discuss students who have special educational needs or are not making satisfactory progress. Our goal is to enrich the tutoring process with our varied perspectives while ensuring that students’ needs are addressed in a uniform way.



What is the best way to contact you?

You are welcome to contact us by phone, email, or text message. Although we try to return calls and emails within 24 hours, we often are not able to check e-mails or voicemails until the late evening. 

If you have a time-sensitive message, an urgent question, or a last-minute cancellation, please send a text message to either Glynnis (704-654-8627), Stephen (704-488-6752), or Robin (704-502-7989). 

How do I schedule sessions?

During our first conversation, we typically estimate the number of sessions needed and discuss when a student is available. Then Robin sends a scheduling request to our scheduler, Glynnis O'Donoghue, who will email a series of appointments along with other introductory material. Parents who would rather schedule by phone can also set up a phone call with Glynnis. The number and frequency of sessions can be adjusted after prep begins. 

Glynnis’s number is 704-654-8627 and her email is glynnis@yourstepstocollege.com.  If you need to cancel or change an appointment, you should also call or email her.  Robin and Stephen can set up sessions, too, but it's best to talk to Glynnis first.

Do you require a minimum number of sessions?

There is no set minimum for all students, but we will not schedule fewer sessions than we think will help. It is important not to string out the prep too much, doing just one or two sessions for each test over many months. A very strong student may improve with just one or two sessions, but most students will need more reinforcement to be able to implement our methods. Unless students are tutoring in just one subject, we usually need more than just a couple of sessions to significantly improve a student’s abilities.

What is your policy regarding changing or canceling appointments?

We require 24 hours’ notice except in case of health emergency. We assume that students who cancel or change appointments have parental permission. 

If your student is busy, please ask your student to evaluate his or her schedule ahead of time. A student who calls us at 2 PM and says he is too overwhelmed to come to his 3 PM appointment will be charged.

How will I know whether my student’s preparation is going well?

How will I know whether my student’s preparation is going well?

How will I know whether my student’s preparation is going well?