SAT / ACT Prep Online Guides and Tips

Alex Heimbach

Alex is an experienced tutor and writer. Over the past five years, she has worked with almost a hundred students and written about pop culture for a wide range of publications. She graduated with honors from University of Chicago, receiving a BA in English and Anthropology, and then went on to earn an MA at NYU in Cultural Reporting and Criticism. In high school, she was a National Merit Scholar, took 12 AP tests and scored 99 percentile scores on the SAT and ACT.

Recent Posts

College Essay Prompts: Complete List, Analysis, and Advice

Posted by Alex Heimbach | Sep 4, 2017 8:30:00 AM

College Admissions, College Essays

When talking about college essays, we tend to focus on the Common Application prompts, and it's true that many students will need to write a Common App essay. However, there are actually quite a few schools, including both public and private universities, that don't use the Common App and instead ask applicants to respond to their own college essay prompts.

Luckily, college essay prompts tend to be pretty similar to each other. In this guide, I'll list all of the college essay questions for popular schools in the US (and a few abroad) and then break down the patterns to help you brainstorm topics and plan how to approach multiple essays efficiently. After reading this guide, you'll be able to strategize which essays you'll write for which colleges.

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Which States Require the ACT? Full List and Advice

Posted by Alex Heimbach | Sep 1, 2017 8:00:00 PM

ACT General Info

Over the past five years, the number of states that administer the ACT statewide has more than doubled: there are now 12 states that require every junior to take the test and eight more that either require the test in some districts or offer it as a free option for students who wish to take it.

This post explains why these programs exist, which states have them, and how you can take advantage of them if you live in one of these states. 

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The 12 Best Creative Writing Colleges and Programs

Posted by Alex Heimbach | Aug 16, 2017 11:00:00 AM

College Info

Finding a dedicated creative writing program at a school you're excited about can be a real challenge, and that's even before you start worrying about getting in. Nonetheless, there are some great options. In order to help you find the best school for you, this list rounds up some of the best colleges for creative writing in the United States.

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What Is a Personal Statement? Everything You Need to Know About the College Essay

Posted by Alex Heimbach | Aug 12, 2017 9:00:00 AM

College Admissions, College Essays

In addition to standardized test scores and transcripts, a personal statement or essay is a required part of many college applications. This requirement can be one of the most stressful parts of the process because it's the most open ended. 

In this guide, I'll answer the question, "What is a personal statement?" I'll talk through common college essay topics and what makes for an effective personal statement. 

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Should You Take the ACT With or Without Writing?

Posted by Alex Heimbach | Aug 4, 2017 1:30:00 PM

ACT General Info, ACT Writing

Because ACT Writing is optional, many students are unsure whether they need to add the extra 40 minutes to the test. However, there’s a simple answer to whether you should take the ACT with writing or without writing: it depends on whether the colleges you want to apply to require a writing score.

This guide will talk you through how the ACT writing got started, how to determine whether you should take the ACT with or without Writing, and some other considerations you may want to keep in mind.

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Do You Need SAT Scores to Transfer Colleges?

Posted by Alex Heimbach | Jul 24, 2017 6:30:00 PM

SAT General Info

Determining all the different requirements for transferring colleges can be a huge hassle. One of the most common questions students have is whether they need to submit SAT scores to apply as transfer students.

There’s no single answer to this question, but this guide will explain some common policies about SAT scores for transfer applicants, how to determine whether you need to submit SAT scores, and how much attention schools pay to these scores when they also have your grades from another college.

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How to Teach the SAT: Best Tips for Tutors and Parents

Posted by Alex Heimbach | Jul 12, 2017 4:00:00 PM

SAT General Info

When I started working as a professional tutor, I was fresh out of college with few qualifications other than high test scores and some volunteer experience. I struggled with tutoring my first few students — I didn’t feel comfortable giving them assignments and I struggled to figure out how best to use our lesson time.

But after years of tutoring, I became thoroughly familiar with the ins and outs of the whole process. I've drawn on my hard-earned knowledge to create this guide laying out the key steps to helping someone excel at the SAT, so that you know where to start when tutoring your own student or child. A big part of being a great tutor is being properly prepared — these seven steps will set you on the right path to raising your student's score:

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The New SAT vs. the ACT: Full Breakdown

Posted by Alex Heimbach | Jun 8, 2017 9:00:00 AM

SAT versus ACT, New SAT

For the past decade or so, the SAT has come under increasing scrutiny for its confusing structure, trick questions, and obscure vocabulary. Meanwhile, the ACT is often seen as the fairer test, more closely based in what students learn in school.

So now, as you may have heard, the College Board undertook a radical overhaul of the SAT that went effect in March of 2016 and, in many ways, made it much more similar to the ACT. Adding to the confusion is the fact that ACT, Inc. also made some minor changes to the ACT. 

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Complete Strategies: Common App Essay Prompts (2017-18)

Posted by Alex Heimbach | Jun 1, 2017 9:00:00 AM

College Essays

If you’re applying to more than one or two colleges, there's a good chance you'll have to use the Common Application, and that means you’ll probably have to write a Common App essay.

In this guide, I’ll cover everything you need to know about the essay. I'll break down every single Common App essay prompt by covering:

  • What is the question asking?
  • What do college admissions officers want to hear from you?
  • What topics can you write about effectively?
  • What should you avoid at all costs?

This will be your complete starting guide for Common App essays. At the end of reading this, you should have a lot of ideas for your own essays and directions to write a really strong personal statement.

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A Massive Collection of Free SAT Practice Tests

Posted by Alex Heimbach | Apr 7, 2017 8:30:00 AM

SAT Strategies, SAT General Info, New SAT

Whether you’re building your own prep program or just supplementing a class, finding SAT practice tests and questions can pose a serious challenge. This article will go through every type of practice SAT test, how to best use them, and — most importantly — where you can find them.

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Do You Need to Take Both the ACT and SAT?

Posted by Alex Heimbach | Feb 28, 2017 9:00:00 AM

SAT versus ACT, ACT General Info, SAT General Info

As a high school student, I took both the SAT and the ACT. I’d been taking the SAT every couple of years since I was in middle school, so I planned to focus primarily on it. However, as a public school student in Colorado, I was required to take the ACT by my school. My scores on the two tests were relatively similar and I ended up submitting both.

Taking both tests, whether because of school requirements or personal preference, has become an increasingly common choice for students, especially those applying to top colleges. Though it isn’t necessary to take both the ACT and SAT, doing so might be the right plan for you. This guide will walk you through the pro and cons of taking both tests.

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Please Complete Our Brief PrepScholar Blog Survey!

Posted by Alex Heimbach | Mar 26, 2016 1:00:00 PM

Here at PrepScholar, we're always striving to determine how we can write even better articles that will be both interesting and helpful for our readers. To that end, we've created this very brief survey to find out a little bit more about all of you and what kinds of articles you're most interested in. Please take a few minutes to fill it out so we can keep expanding our subject matter to cover the topics that matter most to you!

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How to Write a Great College Essay, Step-by-Step

Posted by Alex Heimbach | Nov 10, 2015 9:00:00 AM

College Admissions, College Essays

Writing your personal statement for your college application is an undeniably overwhelming project. Your essay is your big shot to show colleges who you are — it’s totally reasonable to get stressed out. But don’t let that stress paralyze you. 

This guide will walk you through each step of the essay writing process to help you understand exactly what you need to do to write the best possible personal statement. I'm also going to follow an imaginary student named Eva as she plans and writes her college essay, from her initial organization and brainstorming to her final edits. By the end of this article, you'll have all the tools you need to create a fantastic, effective college essay.

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SAT 1 vs SAT 2: What's the Difference?

Posted by Alex Heimbach | Oct 11, 2015 1:30:00 PM

SAT Subject Tests, SAT General Info

You may have heard of something called the SAT II (or SAT 2) and wondered what it could possibly be. A secret, harder version of the SAT, perhaps? The reality is less dramatic: the SAT II is just an old name for the SAT Subject Tests.

This guide will explain the current form of the SAT II, outline the difference between the SAT 1 vs SAT 2, and show you how to determine which of the tests you need to take.

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Average ACT Scores: What They Mean For You

Posted by Alex Heimbach | Oct 2, 2015 7:00:00 PM

SAT/ACT Score Target, ACT General Info

The average ACT score for US students is a 21. The middle 50% of students score between a 16 and a 24. The following chart breaks down the nationwide average by section:

English

Math

Reading

Science

20.3

20.9

21.3

20.8

 

However, when you’re thinking about college admissions the nationwide average isn’t important: what really matters is the average score of the students you’re being compared with.

If you’re a high achieving student applying to very selective schools you’ll need a score much higher than the national average. If, on the other hand, you’re applying to certain state schools, a 20 is a totally acceptable score.

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