SAT / ACT Prep Online Guides and Tips

Allen Cheng

As co-founder and head of product design at PrepScholar, Allen has guided thousands of students to success in SAT/ACT prep and college admissions. He's committed to providing the highest quality resources to help you succeed. Allen graduated from Harvard University summa cum laude and earned two perfect scores on the SAT (1600 in 2004, and 2400 in 2014) and a perfect score on the ACT. You can also find Allen on his personal website, Shortform, or the Shortform blog.

Recent Posts

These 2 Recommendation Letters Got Me Into Harvard and the Ivy League

Posted by Allen Cheng | Feb 15, 2020 5:56:00 PM

College Admissions, Letters of Recommendation

When I applied to college, I was accepted into every school I applied to, including Harvard, Princeton, Stanford, MIT, the Ivy League, UC Berkeley, UCLA, and more. While I had a strong overall application, the two teacher letters of recommendation were critical in getting me admitted.

Why? Both teachers said I was one of the top students they had ever taught. Both enthusiastically advocated for my personality, leadership skills, and energy.

How can you earn recommendation letters that will get you into your top choice colleges? I'll show you how in this article.

For the first time, I'm sharing my full, unedited letters of recommendation as examples for you. These are the exact letters submitted when I applied to college. Even better, you'll see exactly what my Harvard admissions officer underlined—what really stood out as important and noteworthy.

Read More

 

How to Get Into Harvard and the Ivy League, by a Harvard Alum

Posted by Allen Cheng | Feb 5, 2020 4:00:00 PM

College Admissions

Getting into elite schools like Harvard, Yale, Princeton, Stanford, and others is a goal of many high school students. How exactly to accomplish this is often a mystery to students and parents going through the admissions process. Lots of unhelpful and vague advice abound, especially from people who have never gained admission themselves to these schools.

In high school, I got into every school I applied to, including Harvard, Princeton, MIT, and Stanford, and I attended Harvard for college. I also learned a lot about my classmates and the dynamics of college admissions in ways that were never clear to me in high school. Now, I'm sharing this expertise with you.

I've written the most comprehensive guide to getting into top schools. I'm going to explain in detail what admissions officers at Ivy League schools are really looking for in your application. More importantly, I'm going to share an actionable framework you can use to build the most compelling application that's unique to you.

Read More

 

How to Get a 4.0 GPA and Better Grades, By a Harvard Alum

Posted by Allen Cheng | Feb 1, 2020 9:00:00 AM

College Admissions, Coursework/GPA

On the 4.0 scale, an unweighted 4.0 GPA means perfection. You need straight As in every class—not even one A- is allowed. In college applications, this carries a lot of weight. You're essentially telling the college, "High school classes are a cinch. I've taken a tough course load, and I'm more than prepared for what college has to throw at me."

In high school, I got a 4.0 GPA with a course load featuring 10 AP courses. I got straight As and 12 A+'s. This strong course load, along with a strong application, got me into Harvard and every college I applied to.

While it's flattering to say, "Well, Allen's just a smart guy," in reality I relied a lot more on high-level strategy and effective academic habits. These were the same strategies I applied to my undergraduate work at Harvard and that led me to graduate summa cum laude with a 3.95 GPA. This is the guide I wish I had my freshman year of high school.

Read More

 

New SAT Conversion Chart: Old 2400 to New 1600 (Official)

Posted by Allen Cheng | Jan 18, 2020 3:00:00 PM

SAT General Info

In March 2016, the SAT underwent a massive redesign, part of which included a change to its scoring system: it shifted from a 2400-point scale to a 1600-point scale. But how do you compare a new SAT score with one on the old SAT 2400 scale? What scores are colleges looking for since some still don't have data on the new SAT?

The official new SAT to old SAT conversion charts below offer the most accurate score conversions from one SAT to the other. If you need to convert your new SAT score to an old SAT score, or vice versa, simply use our handy conversion tool below to find your score.

After you get your SAT conversion, keep reading—I tell you why it's easier to get a higher SAT score than before due to the new SAT scoring advantage (the new SAT score is higher in certain score regions!).

Read More

 

How to Get a Perfect ACT Score, by a 36 Full Scorer

Posted by Allen Cheng | Jan 11, 2020 6:01:00 PM

ACT Strategies

The maximum score on the ACT is a 36. Out of the 1.9 million students who take the test every year, only about 3,700 get the highest possible ACT score. This elusive perfect score places you at the top of millions of high school students and can be a big boost to your college applications.

I scored a perfect score on the ACT.

Most of the advice out there about how to get a perfect score comes from people who didn't get perfect scores. In this exclusive article, I'll be breaking down exactly what it takes, and the techniques I used to get a perfect score.

Read More

 

My Successful Harvard Application (Complete Common App + Supplement)

In 2005, I applied to college and got into every school I applied to, including Harvard, Princeton, Stanford, and MIT. I decided to attend Harvard.

In this guide, I'll show you the entire college application that got me into Harvard—page by page, word for word.

In my complete analysis, I'll take you through my Common Application, Harvard supplemental application, personal statements and essays, extracurricular activities, teachers' letters of recommendation, counselor recommendation, complete high school transcript, and more. I'll also give you in-depth commentary on every part of my application.

To my knowledge, a college application analysis like this has never been done before. This is the application guide I wished I had when I was in high school.

If you're applying to top schools like the Ivy Leagues, you'll see firsthand what a successful application to Harvard and Princeton looks like. You'll learn the strategies I used to build a compelling application. You'll see what items were critical in getting me admitted, and what didn't end up helping much at all.

Reading this guide from beginning to end will be well worth your time—you might completely change your college application strategy as a result.

Read More

 

We Ask Admissions Officers: What's the #1 Fact You Wish Applicants Knew?

Posted by Allen Cheng | Jan 4, 2020 8:00:00 AM

College Admissions

College admissions can be confusing, with a lot of contradictory information thrown around. It's hard to separate fact from fiction, which is frustrating since the stakes are high and you may not realize you made mistakes until it's far too late.

In this exclusive article, we decided to consult university admissions officers and counselors around the country to break through the noise.

We asked them a simple question: "What's the #1 fact you wish college applicants knew about admissions?" The results might surprise you. 

Read More

 

How to Get 800 on SAT Reading: 11 Strategies by a Perfect Scorer

Posted by Allen Cheng | Jan 3, 2020 6:09:00 PM

SAT Strategies, SAT Reading

Are you scoring in the 600-750 range on SAT Reading + Writing? Do you want to raise that score as high as possible—to a perfect 800?

Getting to a perfect SAT Reading test score isn't easy. It'll require perfection. But with hard work and my strategies below, you'll be able to do it. I've consistently scored 800 on Reading on my real SATs, and I know what it takes. Follow my advice, and you'll get a perfect score—or get very close.

Read More

 

How to Get 800 on SAT Math, by a Perfect Scorer

Posted by Allen Cheng | Jan 3, 2020 5:24:00 PM

SAT Strategies, SAT Math

Are you scoring in the 600-750 range on SAT Math? Do you want to raise that score as high as possible—to a perfect 800?

Getting to an 800 SAT Math score isn't easy. It'll require perfection. But with hard work and my strategies below, you'll be able to do it. I've scored 800 on Math on all my SATs, and I know what it takes. Follow my advice, and you'll get a perfect score—or get very close.

Read More

 

How to Improve Your ACT English Score: 9 Tips From a Perfect Scorer

Posted by Allen Cheng | Jan 3, 2020 9:02:00 AM

ACT English

Are you struggling with ACT English scores between 14-24? You're not alone—hundreds of thousands of other students are scoring in this range. But many don't know the best ways to break out of this score range and get 26+ on the ACT.

Here we'll discuss how to improve ACT English score effectively, and why it's so important to do so. Put these principles to work and I'm confident you'll be able to improve your score.

Read More

 

How to Get a Perfect 1600 SAT Score, by a 2400 Expert Full Scorer

Posted by Allen Cheng | Jan 2, 2020 5:00:00 PM

SAT Strategies

The maximum score on the SAT is a 1600. Out of the two million students who take the test every year, only about 500 get the highest possible SAT score. This elusive perfect score catapults you to the top of high school academic achievement and can be a big boost to your college applications.

I scored perfect scores on the SAT. I actually scored two perfect scores—a 1600 in 2004 when I was in high school, and a 2400 in March 2014 when I took it ten years later.

Most of the advice out there about how to get a perfect score come from people who didn't get perfect scores. In this exclusive article, I'll be breaking down exactly what it takes, and the ruthless techniques I used to get a perfect score.

Read More

 

Step-by-Step Guide With Pictures: SAT Registration

Posted by Allen Cheng | Aug 6, 2019 4:00:00 PM

SAT Logistics

Registering for the SAT sounds like the easiest part of the process. But signing up is actually much more convoluted than you might think—and some things matter a lot more than others do. Most of all, you want to avoid classic registration mistakes that can cost you dearly.

In this article, we’ll discuss step by step how to sign up for the SAT. We’ll also cover what parts of the 30-minute process really matter and what parts don’t. Finally, we’ll give you some key tips on how to choose the best location and how to save money.

Read More

 

What Harvard's Asian Admissions Lawsuit Reveals About How You Should Approach College Applications

Posted by Allen Cheng | Oct 19, 2018 4:44:00 PM

College Admissions

The hottest news in college admissions these days is the release of documents from the lawsuit filed against Harvard University for unfair admissions practices against Asian-Americans. For the first time in recent memory, an elite institution's opaque admissions practices have been laid bare. More than 90,000 pages of internal Harvard admissions documents have been made available for use in the lawsuit, with excerpts made publicly available in court filings.

In this article, I'll summarize what this lawsuit is about and what we learned about how top-tier schools like Harvard choose which students to accept. (Spoiler: most of it confirms what I wrote about in my How to Get Into Harvard guide. If you haven't read that, I suggest you open it in a tab right now, and read it after you finish this article).

Most importantly, we'll cover what this means for how YOU should be preparing for college admissions.

Read More

 

Harvard Acceptance Letter: Real and Official

Posted by Allen Cheng | Aug 1, 2018 9:00:00 AM

College Admissions

Each year, Harvard receives nearly 40,000 applications from high school hopefuls. Only 5% of them get a Harvard acceptance letter.

For example, in 2015, Harvard College accepted 1,990 applicants from a record 37,307 applications for the Class of 2019. That’s a 5.3% admission rate.

Unfortunately, the overwhelming majority of applicants get a rejection letter. “I am very sorry to inform you…”

When I was in high school, I was one of the lucky few to apply Early Action and receive an acceptance letter in the mail. This validated years of hard work and made me giddy like I'd never been before for what came after high school.

Here’s my complete, official Harvard acceptance letter.

Read More

 

Stanford Acceptance Letter: Real and Official

Posted by Allen Cheng | Jul 12, 2018 6:51:00 PM

College Admissions

Each year, Stanford University receives over 40,000 applications from high school hopefuls. Only 5% of them get a Stanford acceptance letter.

For example, in 2015, Stanford accepted 2,144 applicants from a record 42,487 applications for the Class of 2019. That’s a tiny 5.0% admission rate.

Unfortunately, the overwhelming majority of applicants get a rejection letter. “I regret to inform you…”

When I was in high school, I was one of the lucky few to apply to Stanford and receive an acceptance letter in the mail. This validated years of hard work and made me proud that a school like Stanford wanted me as part of their community.

Here’s my complete, official Stanford acceptance letter.

Read More

 

Student and Parent Forum

Our new student and parent forum, at ExpertHub.PrepScholar.com, allow you to interact with your peers and the PrepScholar staff. See how other students and parents are navigating high school, college, and the college admissions process. Ask questions; get answers.

Join the Conversation

Ask a Question Below

Have any questions about this article or other topics? Ask below and we'll reply!