Frequently Asked Questions
I. General FAQs
II. Test Preparation
III. Academic Tutoring
Q: Where do tutoring sessions take place?
A: We meet with students at our offices in the Tenleytown neighborhood of NW Washington or remotely over Zoom.
Q: How long do sessions last?
A: Academic tutoring sessions typically last one hour. Test preparation sessions generally last two hours.
Q: What are the tutors with Odyssey like?
A: Tutors with Odyssey are intelligent, ambitious young people in their twenties and thirties who have a range of academic skills and passions. Some are enthusiastic about a career in the classroom, while others want to ultimately be in medicine, law, or business. In addition to impressive academic achievements and credentials, tutors with Odyssey have a range of athletic and extracurricular interests. Some were Division I athletes, while others were active in the arts in college or involved with their college newspaper.
Q: How do I know my child will like his or her tutor?
A: It's critical a student enjoy working with his or her tutor. A strong working relationship between tutor and student is much more likely to lead to successful outcomes than a relationship where the student and tutor don't connect. We go to great lengths to carefully match a student to the tutor he or she will work with, and then ensure that both the student and parents are pleased with the arrangement.
Q: How are parents kept updated on progress?
A: We believe that parents need to be consistently updated about the progress their child is making. To this end, tutors with Odyssey will send a session summary to parents after every meeting. These summaries will offer a synopsis of how the time was spent, how the student performed, and any other information that the tutor deems useful. These summaries give both an immediate snapshot of how the student is fairing, while also providing longer-term insight and analysis.
Q: Does Odyssey offer financial aid?
A: Yes. Odyssey offers financial aid to families with demonstrated need. Please reach out to Odyssey if you would like to apply.
Q: Should my child take the SAT or ACT?
A: Odyssey is happy to discuss this issue with parents and students who are unsure which test is the better fit. There are a number of substantive differences between the two tests. We strongly believe that the best way to make a determination about whether the SAT or ACT is the better fit is through an SAT/ACT diagnostic test. Ideally, this is completed before the beginning of a student’s junior year. In general, we do not believe that the two tests should be studied for concurrently. Although some students do end up taking both tests, this is rare—and often the result of bad counsel. Preparing for both tests at the same time, in our experience, only leads to higher levels of stress and confusion regarding the content and structure of each one.
Q: How long before an SAT or ACT should my child begin studying for the test?
A: In general, we believe that it is best to begin preparing for a first SAT or ACT approximately 3 to 4 months before a first official test. This allows enough time to learn the structure of the test before intensively reviewing concepts.
We do understand that sometimes students have less than that amount of time to prepare for an upcoming test. In these instances, we are often willing to find a reasonable arrangement to help a student prepare. However, we do not work with students to help them "cram" or make last-minute preparations. We will categorically not work with students who contact us less than two weeks before a test date.
Q: What sort of materials are used for test preparation?
A: Odyssey has its own guides for both the SAT and ACT. These guides are concise, no-nonsense manuals that outline how the tests are organized and scored, before delving into specific content. Odyssey also uses supplementary materials for practice tests and workbooks for section-specific work.
Q: How do you track progress during test preparation courses?
A: We use official SATs and ACTs to track progress during our courses. This ensures that any score increase reflects objective improvement.
Q: How much homework will my child have in between test preparation sessions?
A: Students will typically have between one and two hours of homework between sessions. As the test date nears, however, the workload will increase beyond this amount.
Q: What is the average score increase for students who work with Odyssey?
A: The average SAT increase for students we work with is between 200 and 250 points. The average increase on the ACT is between 5 and 7 points. Based on our research, these are two of of the highest average increases anywhere.
Q: Do you offer a guaranteed score increase for your test preparation services?
A: No. We believe that score guarantees are used primarily for marketing purposes, and not as a mark of quality or professionalism. At Odyssey, we’re confident in the materials we’ve created, the people who work for us, and the test preparation services we provide. But we also recognize that every student is different, and that all students won’t achieve the same increase. Some students will see an increase greater than average, while for others, the increase will be more modest.
Q: My child has already worked with a private tutor (or taken a classroom SAT/ACT course) and scores showed only modest improvement. What makes you different?
A: We're extremely proud of the outstanding people who work for us, the carefully crafted materials we use, and the overall quality of the services we provide. We believe that these aspects of Odyssey differentiate us from both classroom courses and other one-on-one tutoring services in the D.C. area.
Q: Aren’t colleges going test-optional?
A: To paraphrase Mark Twain: rumors of the demise of standardized testing have been greatly exaggerated. While COVID led a number of colleges to temporarily go test-optional, we believe this will end up being a short-term band aid and not a long-term solution. The SAT and ACT, while admittedly imperfect gauges of aptitude, provide colleges with a necessary metric by which to judge applicants in an apples-to-apples way. We expect these tests will continue to be an important factor in college admissions for the foreseeable future.
Q: I remember taking the SAT 25 or 30 years ago—I took the test only once, had no preparation, and my life has turned out fine. Does my child really need formal assistance to prepare for the ACT/SAT??
A: In our view, yes—a lot has changed since you applied to college! One of the most significant changes has been the increased competition for admission at nearly all schools. Selective colleges and universities in the U.S. now receive many times the number of applications than they did just a generation ago. While this is due to a number of factors—technological innovations, greater numbers of high school students applying to and enrolling in college, a common application that standardizes a lot of the paperwork, and so on—there are simply larger applicant pools than the ones you had to contend with when you were a high school senior.
Q: Which academic subjects do you work with students in?
A: We work with students across the core high school subjects—math, science, English, and history. We do not assist students with foreign languages. For a complete list of subjects we tutor students in, please visit our Academic Tutoring page.
Q: My child is a good student, but needs help with organizational skills. Is this a service you offer?
Yes—we work with students across a range of academic aptitudes. Some students need assistance with a few academic courses, while others are looking for help with a particular class. We also work with students taking advanced courses and earning strong grades, but who want to improve their time management and organizational skills.
Q: How much homework will my child have between academic tutoring sessions?
A: For academic tutoring, there is typically be no extra work on top of school coursework. However, if it is evident that a student will benefit from additional coursework above and beyond what’s directly related to class—and the student has the time and energy to work through this additional material—we will consider assigning and reviewing supplementary assignments.