What Is Orton-Gillingham?

Orton-Gillingham & Reading Remediation

The Orton-Gillingham approach is most frequently prescribed by psychologists for the remediation of reading and written expression disorders.  

Dyslexic students and students with reading and written expression disorders benefit from consistent and repetitive remediation of critical literacy skills using the Orton-Gillingham approach.  The Orton-Gillingham approach is a direct, multisensory, structured, sequential, and diagnostic method emphasizing reading, writing, and spelling.

Prep Academy’s Orton-Gillingham program includes highly-specialized pre-program and post-program testing to establish specific literacy competencies and testing using over a dozen standardized and criterion-referenced tests. Our testing presents a dashboard of a student’s present skill levels across the six domains identified by Congress’ National Reading Panel as being essential to master to achieve advanced literacy. These domains include: phonological awareness, phonics, oral fluency, vocabulary reading comprehension and written expression. Testing results are used to design an individually customized (not generic) curriculum that is psychologically and emotionally sensitive to achieve student accuracy and success.

Prep Academy’s Orton-Gillingham literacy program is highly beneficial for:

  • Students diagnosed with reading differences, including dyslexia. 
  • Students in elementary school who struggle with standardized tests including STAR and state tests
  • PSAT, SAT, ISEE vocabulary, grammar, and reading comprehension
  • Literacy skills transition from Middle to High School
  • Vocabulary, grammar, and reading skills remediation/acceleration.

Students who can benefit from Orton-Gillingham literacy remediation often show the following signs:

  • Difficulty with sounding out words
  • Slow and labored reading
  • Difficulty understanding the meaning of words and sentences
  • Difficulty with spelling and composing
  • Difficulty with grammar and punctuation
  • Difficulty with memorizing sight words

Meet our Orton-Gillingham specialist Jan Campbell

Differences Between the SAT and ACT and Choosing the Right Test for You

Recent changes to the SAT launched a critical difference between the SAT and ACT.  In January 2022 College Board announced that the SAT test will transition to a digital format while the ACT remains a pencil-and-paper exam. 

The new SAT will:

  • be entirely digital.
  • be shorter (approximately two hours instead of three) with more time per question.
  • be adaptive, with performance on early questions determining the level of difficulty in later questions.
  • have shorter reading passages with one question per passage.
  • allow calculators for the entirety of the math section.

College Board cites the following expected positive outcomes with the digital SAT:

  • The new test is easier to administer. Educators will no longer have to pack, sort and ship test materials.
  • Shorter and easier-to-administer tests will result in greater flexibility for when, where, and how often schools and test sites administer the exam.
  • More tests can be administered for free.
  • Scores will be returned within days, instead of weeks.
  • Greater test security. Every student receives a unique digital test.

When do changes take place?

  • Fall 2023 for all PSAT and international students.
  • Spring 2024 for U.S. students.


Other Differences: SAT vs. ACT:

Writing & Language
Essay (optional)
Length3 hours2 hours 55 minutes (with no essay)
Reading5 passages, 65 minutes, 52 questions4 passages, 35 minutes, 40 questions
English/Writing35 minutes, 44 questions45 minutes, 75 questions
ScienceNone35 minutes, 40 questions
MathNo calculator section: 25 minutes, 20 questions

Calculator section: 55 minutes, 38 questions

Concepts tested:
Algebra I & II
Data Analysis

Formula sheet provided
60 minutes, 60 questions

Concepts tested:
Algebra I & II

No formula sheet
CalculatorIncludes a ‘no calculator’ sectionCalculators allowed
ScoringScored on a scale of 400 - 1600Scale off 1 - 36

“The ACT is a very fast-paced test,” says neuroeducation specialist and experienced tutor Daniel Riseman. “The ACT takes more time to prepare a student because of the restricted timed conditions.  A lot of practice is required to prep for the pace of the test. Students who process information quickly and like science may enjoy the challenge of the ACT.” 

What’s the best way to determine the right test for you? Take a timed, full-length practice SAT and ACT test. Contact Vanessa and Sarah at Prep Academy Tutors to learn more.

Tips for Managing Exam/Midterm Stress

A little stress can be a good thing; it’s a motivational push to get things done.

  • Set realistic goals and study deadlines. Working within the time you have, your skill set and your knowledge maximizes productivity and helps avoid burnout. 
  • Reducing phone usage, including turning off notifications and checking social media less helps to avoid getting caught up in distractions or drama. 
  • Don’t go it alone! 
    • Ask teachers, friends, siblings, and parents for help.
    • Add in some studying and support time with peers.
  • Do practice tests.  This will build confidence about what to expect on exam day, and hone your exam time-management skills.
  •  Before your exam, take 5 minutes to write down what you’re worried about. This is proven to reduce test-taking anxiety.  

Executive Functioning: Defined, Supported…and Maintained!

In the classroom, the resource room, and in what we read online, there are frequent references to the importance of executive functioning skills for academic and personal success.  It turns out executive functioning skills are much more than simply organization skills!

Executive functioning skills are brain-based skills required for all individuals to effectively execute, perform tasks and solve problems.  The executive functioning gurus, Dr. Peg Dawson and Dr. Richard Guare, identify eleven executive functioning skills.  Here are the top key skills for school success listed in developmental order: 

  1. Working memory: Keeping information in mind, while performing complex tasks. Drawing on past learning and applying it to the situation at hand. 
  2. Flexibility: Thinking about something in more than one way, finding different strategies to approach a problem, switching gears, changing schedules, or understanding two meanings of a word. 
  3. Sustained attention: Attention to a task despite distraction, fatigue, or boredom.
  4. Task initiation: Starting projects in a timely manner without procrastination.
  5. Planning/prioritizing: Creating a road map to meet goals and deciding what is important to focus on.
  6. Organization: Creating and maintaining systems to keep track of materials and information.
  7. Time management: The capacity to estimate and allocate time and stay within time limits and deadlines. 
  8. Goal-directed persistence: Having a goal, and following through without being put off by competing distractions/interests.
  9. Metacognition: Self-monitoring, self-evaluating, and taking a bird’s-eye view of how to problem-solve.

This is an extensive list! It’s built upon the assumption that every individual, young or old,  exhibits a wide variety of executive functioning strengths and weaknesses.  Not to mention that it takes on average 20-25 years for these skills to fully develop! Here are some popular methods to boost executive functioning skills.

Visualization and self-talk: Working memory allows students in math class to “see” the numbers in their heads and on an English test, it allows us to read a text, hold onto information and use it to answer questions. Practice visualization. Make a movie in your mind and see yourself performing each step of the task. Visualization should be paired with self-talk.  Repeat instructions! Say the steps out loud and boost your working memory.  Visualization, rehearsing and self-talk have the added bonus of also impacting cognitive flexibility.

Digital and physical systems: Put organization systems in place early, revisit and revise every four weeks. Set up a quiet, equipped, at-home workspace with school supplies, good lighting, and storage. Set up school binders with a duplicate system at home, divided and labeled by subject for completed units. Map the backpack!  Choose compartments for supplies, write it on your ‘map’ and keep supplies in the same place all year. Set up a Google drive folder with files for each subject. Title your Google docs and make sure to place work in the correct folder.  Memorize passwords and practice logging into Google classroom from multiple devices, including your phone. Spend time understanding how each teacher sets up their Google classroom, assignments, and methods for “turning work in.”

Write it down, rank it and do worst first!: Writing things down is a huge boost for EF skills. Including writing down homework and instructions in your agenda immediately when assigned. It also includes To-Do Lists – every day! To-do lists help identify work that needs to be done. Each task should be ranked in order of urgency and difficulty.  Students are often tempted to do easier assignments first, and when the time comes to tackle difficult work, they are fatigued.  Use the motto: “Worst first!”

Timers, time bandits, and brain breaks: Have you heard, “This will just take me 5 minutes, Mom!”? Many students set aside too little time for assignments because they have an unrealistic sense of how long tasks take. Add a column to your daily to-do list for estimated vs. actual time.  Estimate, set a timer, do the task, and compare!  Students will quickly understand how long homework actually takes and learn to manage time effectively! Be aware of and manage sneaky time bandits that have a huge impact on productivity including phones, computers, and time in the kitchen making snacks. Clear your workspace and put your phone on airplane mode. Timed and screenless brain breaks for a maximum of 10 minutes per break help students sustain attention and work efficiently! Good time management skills help students work smarter, not harder! 

Follow Prep Academy Tutors on Facebook and Instagram for executive functioning tips all year!  


PSAT stands for Preliminary Scholastic Aptitute Test.  NMSQT stands for National Merit Scholarship Qualifying Test.The PSAT is a practice version of the SAT and a great strategic benchmark for your standardized test prep plan.  PSAT is administered one time per year at the beginning of October. Students can opt to take this test in 10th and 11th grade. 

Earning a high score in your Junior year can qualify you to receive a national merit scholarship. The National Merit Scholarship Program is a national academic competition for recognition and scholarships. Each year’s PSAT/NMSQT is the qualifying test designated for entry to a particular year’s competition. For example, the 2022 PSAT/NMSQT is the qualifying test for entry to the competition for scholarships to be awarded in 2024. All PSAT/NMSQT scores are automatically sent to the National Merit Scholarship Corporation to qualify as a semi-finalist for an award. Registration for the test is by high school rather than individual students. Interested students should see their counselor at the beginning of the school year to make arrangements to take the PSAT/NMSQT. PSAT 8/9 and 10 are not considered for entry into the National Merit Scholarship Program. 

Students do not generally prepare for the PSAT, but it is used as a learning tool for future study for the SAT. The PSAT and SAT are structured and scored the same way. The PSAT score will give students an indication of how they will perform on the SAT. The PSAT score is helpful in preparing for the SAT by highlighting areas of strengths and weaknesses.


  • Duration: 2 hrs 45 mins
  • Highest score is a 1520
  • 25 mins math no calculator
  • 45 minutes calculator allowed
  • 60 mins evidence-based reading 
  • 35 mins writing and language

The Advantages of Summer Learning

Summer is almost here and we’re excited! As the weather improves (finally!) and the days get longer, we are all less focused on schoolwork. However, it’s worth the time to consider how we might use summer downtime to polish academic skills and prepare for next year.   

Signs Your Child Could Benefit from Summer Tutoring 

  • Decrease in progress and attainment on their most recent report card
  • Decrease in motivation toward learning
  • Your child did not get enough one-to-one support for specific skills like reading, writing, math, or executive functioning during the academic year
  • Your child showed signs of boredom this year and is in need of a challenge, enrichment, and mentoring

The Advantages of Summer Learning 

Outside of the constraints of the school day and a jammed extra-curricular schedule, summertime is an opportune time for learning.  Here are some of the many benefits of summer tutoring.

  • Close learning gaps by practicing and reinforcing content from the previous year
  • Get a head start for September through enrichment and previewing key topics for next year
  • Practice and fine-tune essential executive functioning skills such as note-taking and organization
  • Explore subject areas of interest and engage in project-based, and outdoor learning – without deadlines or due dates!
  • Create some structure and add a routine to your summer plans
  • Get one-on-one attention to boost individual skills and regain academic motivation

 The Advantages of Summer Learning for High School Students

  • Complete summer assignments and preview topics for AP and other advanced classes
  • Write your college essays!
  • Prepare and take the SAT or ACT

The Benefits of Learning a Second Language

There are many benefits associated with learning a second language.  Here are a few:

  • Career opportunities in the modern world. Employers and businesses are seeking candidates who are best suited to navigate the modern, global marketplace. Knowledge of another language and sensitivity to other cultures is key.
  • Grow your brain! Studies show that the complex process by which we learn languages can increase the volume of white and grey matter in the brain which in turn boosts other skills including problem-solving, focusing, improved memory (short and long-term), flexible and creative thinking. 
  • Cultural understanding: one of the essential elements of learning a language is understanding the different cultures that speak it. Cultural insight gives you the chance to travel, immerse yourself, meet new people, and improve your intercultural understanding in the workplace. 

Prep Academy Tutors offers French, Spanish, Italian, and Latin languages for Kindergarten to 12th-grade students. Contact Vanessa & Sarah to learn more.

SAT and ACT Score Reporting: What Does the Middle 50% Mean?

Many high school students will opt to take an SAT or ACT even as the number of test-optional colleges increases.  Many want to see how they score and have the option to submit.  

When determining whether to submit scores, students will generally be advised to submit their scores if such scores land within a particular school’s middle 50% range of test scores. The middle 50% is the range of scores between the 25th percentile and the 75th percentile for a specific group, such as a group of enrolling students for a particular school in a particular year. The middle 50% range eliminates the top and bottom 25% outlying scores and gives prospective students good information about the group or pool. 

For example, Vanderbilt’s middle 50% testing range on the ACT for the class of 2018 was 32-34.  This means that of the approximately 1600 enrolled students, about 800 (or the middle half) had a score between 32 and 34.  You also know that about 400 enrolled students scored higher than this range (35 or 36) and about 400 scored 31 or below.  

Schools often opt to report the middle 50% range instead of an average score since averages can be statistically misleading and skewed by a small number of outlying scores.  Plus, reporting a single average score is often misinterpreted by applicants as a benchmark or cutoff. Remember, test scores are only one component of the application.  Schools prefer to use the middle 50% range, instead of an average or cut-off, to reinforce this important idea.

Prep Academy Tutors Hosts The Road to College: Strategies for Enjoying the Trip!

On Wednesday, November 2nd, Prep Academy Tutors hosted an informative panel discussion, ‘The Road to College: Strategies for Enjoying the Trip!’, at the Bronxville Field Club. This well-attended and interactive talk was led by Prep Academy’s directors, Vanessa O’Friel and Sarah Loader and Prep Academy’s college admissions counselor, Karen Rozanes.  This dynamic team brought both their business expertise and their personal expertise as parents of freshmen, sophomores, juniors and seniors currently engaged in the college admissions process. Although there are many roads to college, and each student has a unique path, this talk served as an overview of the significant milestones most students will encounter along the way. The goal was to introduce these milestones to parents and students in grades 9 to 12 and inform them about how and when in their high school career to engage in these activities. The theme of the talk was to ‘turn the lights on’ for parents and students, help them make a road map through high school, and develop a strong college candidacy on a measured timeline for a positive (and less stressful!) college admissions experience.  

Some of the highlighted topics include:

  • Staying strong in high school with good grades and rigorous courses
  • Extracurricular activities, honors, awards, and building impact in high school
  • Recent changes to the SAT and its impact on the current freshman and sophomore classes
  • SAT vs. ACT vs. test-optional, and how to choose
  • College lists, college visits, and demonstrated interest 
  • The Common App and college essays 

Prep Academy Tutors plans to bring this talk back to Bronxville this spring, so stay tuned for upcoming dates! For more information about subject-specific tutoring, SAT and ACT test prep, and college admissions counseling, call Vanessa and Sarah at (914) 303.7661.

The Benefits of Standardized Test Prep

Standardized tests such as SAT, ACT, SSAT and ISEE are not IQ tests but tests of acquired skills.  These skills can be acquired and refined through practice and test prep.  Aside from high scores on these tests, standardized test prep has other benefits, including: 

  • Students learn about planning, focused practice, and goal setting
  • Test prep not only requires students to master content, but also to develop and execute a plan for such mastery
  • Leads to executive functioning development in time management, organization, and persistence, plus metacognition (thinking about how you learn and how to better learn)
  • Test prep teaches students to work in an efficient and measurable way against a deadline; a skill vital for those headed to college or into the workforce
  • Students learn to become active instead of passive actors in their educational journey
  • Students learn that hard work pays off and that they are the master of their own destiny.  This is also known as Growth Mindset 
  • Test Prep teaches discipline and emotional resilience