Winward Academy | Frequently Asked Questions for Teens & Their Parents

Frequently Asked


How can I use Winward Academy on my own schedule?

  • Our convenient on-demand video lessons give you the flexibility to learn whenever it works for you.
  • Open a lesson on your computer, tablet, or even your smartphone. Just remember, it’s always best to take notes as you watch.

Why is the program so inexpensive?

  • We provide exceptional ACT prep, SAT prep, math class prep, and college application help, but at a fraction of the cost of a private tutor. Why? Because we’re not a mega-corporation seeking to maximize profits. We care about bringing exceptional, affordable online tutoring to every student, everywhere.
  • We’re dedicated to offering the best test prep, the best online tutoring for math classes, and the best college preparation and making it affordable. That approach is central to our mission to be Everyone’s Private Tutor®.

Who should use Winward Academy?

  • All are welcome. Our program is primarily used by high-school students, but middle-schoolers through life-long learners benefit from our lessons and unique features.
  • Winward Academy’s programs are personalized for each student. Whether you study well on your own or struggle with organization, or have to find a balance between other commitments and time to study, Winward Academy can help you create the right schedule.

How is Winward Academy different?

  • We want to close the opportunity gap by offering exceptional yet affordable online tutoring to any student, anywhere. Our program provides the kind of in-person attention and effectiveness you expect from a private tutor but for a fraction of the cost.
  • We offer more lessons, more practice questions, more opportunities to learn from mistakes, and more unique features to maximize confidence and content knowledge.
  • We know how stressful it can all feel: high school math classes, SAT prep courses, ACT prep classes, and college preparation. Our personalized programs can help you feel less anxious and more prepared.
  • Winward Academy’s Mindful Moments topical videos offer life-building skills that go beyond academic learning. Topics include best sleep practices during adolescence, effective stretches while studying, nutrition before an exam, and how to maintain positive self-esteem despite rising academic and peer pressures.

How do I know what I need to study?

  • A free diagnostic exam on our website helps you identify if you should focus on the ACT, SAT, or both.
  • Flexible purchasing plans make it easy to pay for only the lessons you need.

Can I study with friends?

  • Yes. You can collaborate on multiple choice questions with friends who use Winward Academy. When you review your mistakes, you’ll know which friends got the question right, so you can contact them for help.

What browsers are supported with the platform?

  • Our platform is optimized for Chrome, Safari, Edge, and Firefox. Please note that it is not supported on Internet Explorer.
  • We recommend using Chrome as your browser.

What makes Winward Academy's teaching different?

Dr. Jennifer Winward’s teaching methods are informed by 40 years of research on adolescent brain development, specifically how learning, memory, and executive functioning change during this critical time.

  • Every video lesson is written and taught by Dr. Winward, a renowned 20-year veteran of high school tutoring and a distinguished teaching professor at UCSD.
  • Dr. Winward’s personal passion for life-long learning defines her teaching style and allows you to experience the true value of knowledge gained.
  • Dr. Winward prepares and presents each lesson so it builds in difficulty, guiding you with repetition to ensure you learn and retain concepts.
  • Because Dr. Winward highlights spots at which students often make mistakes, you gain a deeper understanding of concepts.
  • Dr. Winward’s enthusiasm for teaching comes through during every video lesson. Learning is a lot more fun when your tutor loves the material.
  • Dr. Winward delivers challenging concepts in a clear and concise manner that resonates with students of all abilities and ages.

How can I personalize the instruction?

  • Our feature-rich platform provides a customizable, online tutoring experience tailored to your individual learning style.
  • We offer a full-length, official ACT® and SAT® diagnostic exam with step-by-step explanations to all questions.
  • You receive immediate access to your customized dashboard with strengths and weaknesses broken down by concept.

  • Just like a private tutor, Dr. Winward guides you through the learning process with supportive feedback and questions that increase in difficulty.
  • You receive feedback on every answer. When you’re reminded of what you did right or guided on what you did wrong, fundamental concepts are easier to master.
  • Lessons can be slowed down or sped up to your desired learning pace.
  • With Give Yourself a Hint, you can remind yourself of key concepts in your own words and then turn those hints into a personalized study guide.

What is the Mistake Bank?

  • Missed questions are automatically added to your Mistake Bank, a personalized study guide that helps you master each lesson.
  • With the Mistake Bank, you can access additional practice questions similar to ones you missed.

What is the Mix’Em Up Practice?

  • With Mix’Em Up Practice, you can create customized practice tests geared toward specific topics. You choose the topics and Winward Academy creates a practice test with questions of varying difficulty.

What if I get stuck on a question?

  • You won’t. A video-based explanation to EVERY practice question is just a click away. Plus, you can always access hints or instructional support videos should you need extra help.

What should I expect in a lesson?

  • Each video tutorial features a downloadable handout to follow along and keep notes.
  • Each lesson is approximately one hour long and contains detailed explanations and sample questions. You can watch and take notes as sample questions are solved, then work on related practice questions.
  • If you want to review a particular portion of a video, you needn’t watch the entire thing. Simply click and the video will load at the appropriate bookmark.
  • You can focus on learning and performance thanks to intuitive navigation and easy review of mistakes.
  • Our unique teaching approach focuses on long-term knowledge retention, not just short-term test performance.

Do I need other materials with the Winward Academy prep system?

  • With over 7,000 practice questions, Winward Academy provides everything you need to prepare.
  • After completing the Winward Academy lessons and building knowledge and confidence, some students feel ready to take the real tests and others want to do a full-length, timed practice SAT test or practice ACT test.
  • If you want practice with real tests, then we recommend you purchase books of practice SAT tests from College Board or practice ACT tests from ACT. We have developed our proctoring service feature based on the practice exams in the ACT and SAT official prep guides. Our platform enables you to enter your scantron responses, score your practice tests, review your mistakes by lesson and topic, receive step-by-step explanations for every question, and track your progress over time.

What subjects are taught through Winward Academy?

  • Winward Academy specializes in ACT prep, SAT prep, high school math courses, and college prep.
  • We offer lessons for all sections of the SAT (Writing & Literature, Math, Reading, Essay Writing) and ACT (English, Math, Reading, Science, and Essay Writing).
  • Our high school math curriculum is helpful for those looking to review during the academic school year and students who want to get a head start on fall classes. We offer instruction in high school Algebra, Geometry, Algebra II, and Pre-Calculus.
  • Our College Application bundle reviews college application skills, including putting together your resume, writing your personal statement, preparing for interviews, and organizing your application plan with deadlines and requirements.

How can I see if Winward Academy is right for me?

  • We offer sample lessons to see if our approach to online tutoring feels like a good fit.

How long do I have access to the system?

  • Access lasts for 12 months.

Can more than one person use the system at the same time?

  • No. Our learning platform is personalized to each user based on his or her unique needs and strengths.

What type of payment do you accept? Is the payment system secure?

  • Our payment system is integrated with Stripe, a secure online application. Stripe uses the highest level of encryption.
  • Through Stripe, we accept debit or credit cards (Visa, Mastercard, American Express).

Does Winward Academy offer iPad/iPhone/Android access?

  • Absolutely.

How much study time should I plan for ACT prep or SAT prep?

  • There’s no one right answer. It depends on your learning style, timing, availability, and needs.
  • If you need extensive review in all subjects (grammar, math, reading, science, and essay writing), then plan to study for 8 hours/week for 12 weeks. Those who prefer to study more intensively could work 20 hours/week for 5 weeks. Of course, with fewer topics to review, you’ll need less time.
  • Whatever the timeline, you should sign up for a free trial to access an ACT and SAT diagnostic to record a baseline score. Mistakes from that initial assessment should guide the study process. Once you’ve reviewed material in a subject, timed practice tests can help you be more prepared as the exam date nears.

When should I start studying and plan to take the SAT or ACT tests?

Math content through Algebra II is a big part of these tests, so your math level is often a good way to determine the right time to study.

  • Example A: If you took Algebra II as a sophomore and you have time to study during the summer before junior year, then you can take your exams at the start of your junior year (Sep-Dec timeframe).
  • Example B: If you took Algebra II as a sophomore and don’t have time to prepare over the summer, you can start studying in the fall of your junior year, then take your exams in Dec-Apr timeframe.
  • Example C: If you took Algebra II as a junior, you’ll need to get through as much math as possible BEFORE taking the exams. Start prepping in the spring of junior year and take the exams in Apr-June timeframe. Another option: study over the summer and take the tests in the beginning of senior year (Sep-Dec timeframe).

What are the ACT and SAT test dates?

  • The ACT is offered in September, October, December, February, April, June, and July (new in July for 2018!). You can take one ACT test in each sitting.
  • The SAT is offered in August, October, November, December, March, May, and June. You can take either the SAT or the SAT subject tests on a single SAT test date. Please plan ahead if you need subject tests because you can’t take both the SAT and the SAT subject tests on the same day. Note that the subject tests aren’t offered in the March sitting.

How do I plan for high school coursework to optimize college preparation?

The national standards mandate the following for eligibility for college acceptance. Clearly each high school or state could have unique requirements, so be sure to check with your school’s college counselor. But the following can be used as a guide for the minimum* requirements:

English 4 years
Math 3 years
History 2 years
Lab Science 2 years
Foreign Language 2 years
Visual/Performing Art 1 year
College-Prep Elective 1 year


*Keep in mind these are the minimum requirements. Most state colleges and private universities will expect more coursework, especially in math, history, and science. They will want to see that you’ve challenged yourself by taking accelerated, honors, AP, or IB classes in your areas of interest.

ACT vs. SAT - what are the differences?

We have prepared a detailed ACT vs. SAT comparison for your reference. Briefly, both tests require the same skills in English, math, reading, and writing. The new SAT – launched in March 2016 – made significant changes that made the SAT test much more similar to the ACT test. However, there are still a few differences between the two that make SAT test prep and ACT test prep slightly different.

1. The SAT math has both a grid-in section (in which you write in the answers) and a multiple-choice section, whereas the ACT is all multiple-choice questions.

2. The SAT math has a calculator section and a non-calculator section, whereas the ACT allows a calculator on all math problems.

3. The SAT essay is 50 minutes and requires that you critique the validity of an author’s argument. The ACT essay is 40 minutes and requires that you form your own argument on a topic.

4. The ACT has a 35-minute reading section and a 35-minute science section. Please note the ACT’s “science” section really tests your ability to read and to interpret figures and tables. You’re not expected to bring outside knowledge from physics or chemistry. The SAT has a 65-minute reading section that *also* tests your ability to interpret figures and tables on scientific topics. So, overall, you’re being tested in reading abilities on both scientific and non-scientific concepts for 70 minutes on the ACT (in its reading and science sections) and for 65 minutes on the SAT (in its reading section).

Should I take both the SAT test and the ACT test?

In general, the preparation you do will transfer well between the two exams (with the exception of the SAT non-calculator math and the different essay prompts). However, many students will have a strong preference for one test over the other, in which case it’s more advantageous for students to just focus on one test. We offer an ACT, SAT, or Both Quiz that you can take for some initial direction. It just takes one minute to answer the questions.

There are two ways to decide which test is better.

First, do you have PSAT (practice SAT) and PLAN (practice ACT) scores from sophomore or junior year? If so, compare your SAT percentile to your ACT percentile and stick with the test on which you scored higher.

You can also sign up for a free trial to take a free full-length SAT and full-length ACT and then compare your scores to determine which is better for you.

Do I need to take SAT subject tests?

  • Most top private and public universities will require or highly recommend at least two SAT subject tests. You’ll need to check the specific requirements of the colleges to which you’re applying. If you’re not yet sure of your final list, we recommend you take two SAT subject tests to be sure.
  • Also, don’t forget about the normal ACT or SAT reasoning tests. If you apply to a college that requires or highly recommends subject tests, then you will apply with the SAT and SAT subject tests or you will apply with the ACT and SAT subject tests.

When should I take the SAT subject tests?

The best time to take the SAT subject tests is immediately following completion of the course on which you’re being tested, at the end of your sophomore or junior year (in May and/or June). Unlike the SAT and ACT – which test more general abilities in grammar, math, and reading – the SAT subject tests are exactly that – for a specific subject.

If you’re taking an Honors or AP class in your sophomore year, take the related subject test at the end of the school year (May/June) so the timing overlaps with your studying for the AP in early May or for finals at school. The same is true for your junior year; it’s a good idea to take the subject test at the end of the school year (May/June).

The SAT Subject Tests provide a great way to reinforce the story you’re telling in your college applications. If you discuss your interest in pursuing political science, then strong scores in Literature and History would bolster your statement. Or, if you’re applying to top-notch engineering programs, then strong scores in math and science would make sense in your applications.

For a full list of the dates on which you can take certain SAT Subject Tests, see the 2019 SAT Subject Test Dates. You can take up to 3 (yes, that means you can take 1, 2, or 3) on one test date.

What are the options for the SAT subject tests?

Here is a full list of the SAT Subject Tests:

  • English: Literature
  • History: U.S., World
  • Math: Level 1, Level 2
  • Science: Biology-Ecological, Biology-Molecular, Chemistry, Physics
  • Language: Chinese, French, Hebrew, German, Italian, Japanese, Korean, Latin, Spanish, German

Be sure to check the College Board website to sign up and confirm test dates.

How much does it cost to take the SAT, ACT, or SAT Subject Tests?

SAT ACT SAT Subject Tests
$52.00 (without writing) $55.00 (without writing) $26/subject
$68.00 (with writing) $70.00 (with writing)


Note that College Board and ACT charge additional fees if you register on the phone, waitlist, or change your test date. You should do your best to sign-up online and in advance to avoid these fees.

Can I ever see the actual SAT or ACT exams to know my mistakes?


ACT offers the Test Information Release (TIR) service for December, April, and June tests. If you take the test at a national test center that offers this service, then you can pay $20 and receive a copy of your test booklet with your answers. Be sure to order when you register for the test so you get the test back as soon as possible.

SAT offers the Question-and-Answer Service (QAS) for October, January, and May tests. If you take the test at a national test center that offers this service, then you can pay $18 and receive a copy of your test booklet with your answers. Be sure to order when you register for the test so you get the test back as soon as possible.

We highly recommended students take advantage of these services. Seeing your mistakes provides an excellent opportunity to identify patterns, check for silly errors, and figure out where to focus if more practice is needed to retake the test.

What websites give good information about colleges? is an excellent resource. You can generate a personalized list of colleges based on your preferences on location, size, majors, activities, etc. You can also search for colleges by name to learn more about their acceptance rates, size, deadlines, financial aid packages, majors, campus life, housing, activities, and application process.

To how many colleges should I apply?

  • The general guideline is that you should apply to 9 colleges: 3 at which admission is relatively certain, 3 at which you have a 50/50 chance, and 3 at which admission would be a reach.
  • Each student will be different and might have more or fewer applications depending on preferences. Regardless, it’s important that you actually want to attend every school to which you apply. It’s not worth the time and money to apply to a school you have no intention of attending.
  • The college counselor at your high school should be helpful with college selection.

When should I start working on college apps?

  • The summer before senior year is an ideal time to work on the apps. Applications become available in early to mid-July and it’s nice to get the time-consuming part of filling out the personal information and activities out of the way before school starts.
  • Also, the personal statements are very important and commonly require multiple revisions. Set aside time to review and make adjustments. There’s nothing better than having essays drafted before senior year starts. Consider asking your favorite teacher to read your essays and give feedback. Also, remember to have someone who doesn’t know your story read the essay to ensure it makes sense from start to finish and highlights your unique qualities.
  • Early action and early decision deadlines are from Nov. 1-15. Plan to get everything done by mid-October to be a few weeks early. If you’re not applying for early decision or early action, then deadlines will span from the end of November through February, so you have a bit more time to finish your apps.

What is most important to include in my personal statement essay?

After helping hundreds of students with personal statement essays for college, we have compiled the following two critically important pointers and also key tips for a stellar essay.

#1. You need to write your own essays. It’s IMMEDIATELY obvious to adults when a 17- or 18-year-old didn’t write an essay. The point of the personal statement is to capture the voice of the student, so make sure your personal statement honors your voice.

#2. A personal statement should be unique JUST TO YOU. Colleges want to hear your voice and to get a sense of how you think and what you care about. Make sure your story reveals that information.

Here’s some more advice to plan ahead with the essays for optimal success.

How many letters of recommendation will I need? Whom should I ask for letters?

Most colleges require one or two letters of recommendation. Check specific requirements. This information should be part of your application plan. Teachers can be overwhelmed by letter of rec requests, so remember to give them plenty of notice. Plan to know which teachers to ask by the end of your junior year.

Approach the teachers and share how important their class was to you and how honored you’d be for a letter of rec. Teachers put a great deal of time and effort into these letters; the earlier you ask and the more gracious and respectful you are, the better the letter will be.

Why does Winward Academy actively pursue community partnerships?

  • We believe all students deserve access to quality teaching, and our charitable programs are designed to deliver just that.
  • Our charity partners include nonprofits that are equally devoted to increasing access to education for youth with challenging life circumstances, mental and physical disabilities, or chronic physical illness.

What are the two main charity programs pioneered by Winward Academy?

  • When you purchase a Game Changer ACT Prep or Game Changer SAT Prep, one is donated to Computers 2 SD Kids, a 501(c)3 charity working to increase computer access for students in the San Diego Unified School District who are on assisted lunch programs. It is the ultimate partnership in hardware and software to promote positive change.
  • Through our 1-for-1 School Program, when one high school purchases a full-access subscription for its students, another school on our sponsored list receives full access at no charge. This program is integral to our mission to broaden access to the best educational resources for students, regardless of their zip codes.

If I run a school or charity, how can I apply to be sponsored?

  • Please see the form to apply for a sponsorship.

If I am affiliated with a corporation that wants to partner with Winward Academy to sponsor a charity, whom should I contact?

  • We are thrilled to discuss this opportunity with you. We are always looking for leaders in the community with whom to partner to bring more access to students in deserving populations.
  • Please complete the form to discuss partnership opportunities.