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

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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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:










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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What Do Ivy League Schools Think of the ACT?

Posted by Alex Heimbach | Sep 27, 2015 7:30:00 PM

SAT versus ACT, ACT General Info

As an ACT tutor, I often fielded questions about whether the test would be looked down by admissions officers, especially those at Ivy League schools. Because the SAT was the dominant college admissions test for so long, many students and parents worry that — at least in the Northeast — schools still prefer the older test. However, that time has definitely passed, and schools will now accept either test.

Read on for a more in-depth explanation of how Ivy League schools view the ACT and the differences in testing policies that may affect your decision between the tests.

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Can You Take the SAT Online? A Guide to Computerized Testing

Posted by Alex Heimbach | Sep 19, 2015 4:30:00 PM

SAT Logistics

As appealing as the option might sound, you can’t take the SAT online — it must be administered on paper at a designated test center. However, there are a lot of SAT prep resources available online and some alternate testing options for those who are unable to take the test under standard circumstances.

This post will explain when it will be possible to take the SAT on a computer and what that will look like, as well as what resources are open to you in the meantime.

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What Are CEEB Codes? Your Questions Answered

Posted by Alex Heimbach | Sep 18, 2015 5:09:20 PM

SAT Logistics, SAT General Info

Between college applications and standardized testing, you’ve probably heard CEEB codes mentioned at some point during your high school career. You may have even wondered what they were other than mysterious four digit numbers.

This guide will explain everything you need to know about CEEB codes.

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5 Fun ACT Test Facts For a Study Break

Posted by Alex Heimbach | Sep 13, 2015 12:30:00 PM

ACT General Info

As stressful as the ACT can be, you shouldn’t take it too seriously. It’s an important test, sure, but just a test all the same.

Here are five weird facts about the ACT to help you feel less overwhelmed by studying.

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8 Fun SAT Test Facts to Give You a Break from Studying

Posted by Alex Heimbach | Sep 13, 2015 12:00:00 PM

SAT General Info

Unfortunately, studying for the SAT isn’t much fun. There’s really no way to make reading passages or dissecting math problems super entertaining — and believe me, I’ve tried.

But if you’re looking for a quick break from studying, check out these 8 random SAT test facts. You may even learn something helpful!

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Average SAT Scores: What They Are and What They Mean

Posted by Alex Heimbach | Sep 12, 2015 1:00:00 PM

SAT General Info

When they first start tutoring, almost all students ask the same question: what is the average SAT score? 

The answer varies a bit every year, but for students in the class of 2013, the average SAT score was a 1497. I’ve created a chart by section below.

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Do You Need ACT Scores to Transfer Colleges? A Guide

Posted by Alex Heimbach | Sep 12, 2015 12:00:00 PM

ACT General Info, College Admissions

One of the most complicated parts of transferring colleges is determining what the requirements are, especially when it comes to standardized tests. Unfortunately, there’s no simple answer to the question of whether you need to take the ACT as a transfer student, but this guide will walk you through how different schools policies vary and explain how much SAT and ACT scores count when applying as a transfer.

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Should You Really Be A Creative Writing Major?

Posted by Alex Heimbach | Sep 6, 2015 11:59:13 PM

College Info

So you’re thinking about majoring in creative writing! Completing an undergraduate creative writing program can be a great way to explore your love of fiction or poetry and hone your craft.

As edifying as a creative writing major can be, it may not be what you expect. Dedicated creative writing majors are also quite uncommon, so if you're committed to getting your degree in that subject, you'll have a narrower pool of possible colleges. This post will help you decide whether a creative writing major is right for you. 

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How to Teach the ACT: A Guide for Tutors and Parents

Posted by Alex Heimbach | Sep 2, 2015 8:30:00 AM

ACT General Info

I spent four years as a test-prep tutor, working with students on all aspects of the ACT and SAT. When I started out, I knew how to take the tests, but I wasn't that good at teaching them. Over the years, however, I've learned a lot about how to be an effective teacher, and it's largely not about the kinds of tips and tricks you might expect. 

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Do You Need to Take the ACT for Community College?

Posted by Alex Heimbach | Aug 30, 2015 11:00:00 AM

ACT General Info

Do you have questions about applying to community college? I have answers!

For starters, most community colleges do not require ACT scores. In fact, the vast majority are open enrollment: as long as you meet a few basic requirements (the main one is generally having a high school diploma or GED), you’re in.

The exception to this rule is if you're interested in more selective programs in science or law enforcement or if you're planning to transfer to a four-year university. In these cases, you may need to take the SAT or ACT.

In this post, I’ll explain the application process for community colleges in more depth and what steps you’ll need to take to apply.

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ACT Admission Ticket? What It Is, How to Print, and What to Do If You Lose It

Posted by Alex Heimbach | Aug 29, 2015 4:19:39 PM

ACT Logistics

If you’re planning on taking the ACT, you may know that you’ll need an admission ticket (and photo ID) to get into the testing center. Because ACT, Inc. makes such a big deal about these tickets, figuring out how to get it just right can be one of the most stressful parts of registering for the test. But don’t worry—the process isn’t as complicated as it seems.

This guide will walk you through exactly what the ACT admission ticket is, how to get one, and what to do if you lose yours (it’s not as bad you think!).

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SAT Admission Ticket: What It Is, How to Print It Out, and What to Do if You Lose It

Posted by Alex Heimbach | Aug 29, 2015 4:16:00 PM

SAT Logistics

If you’ve signed up for the SAT, you’ve probably heard that you need an SAT admission ticket to get in on test day. The College Board makes a big deal about these tickets, and it can be stressful to figure out how to input all your information, get the right picture, and find a way to print the ticket.

Don’t worry! This guide will walk you through exactly what the admission ticket is, how to print it out, and what to do if you lose it.

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Which States Require the SAT? Complete List

Posted by Alex Heimbach | Aug 21, 2015 9:00:00 PM

SAT General Info, New SAT


The College Board offers a program called SAT School Day, which, as the name suggests, allows schools to offer the SAT to students during the week, generally for free.

In some states, all high school juniors are required to take the SAT under this program, while in others only some are. Read on to learn more about this program and what it means for you.

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