SAT / ACT Prep Online Guides and Tips

Ellen McCammon

Ellen has extensive education mentorship experience and is deeply committed to helping students succeed in all areas of life. She received a BA from Harvard in Folklore and Mythology and is currently pursuing graduate studies at Columbia University.

Recent Posts

Expert's Guide to the AP Literature Exam

Posted by Ellen McCammon | Oct 13, 2019 8:00:00 PM

Advanced Placement (AP)

If you're planning to take the AP English Literature and Composition exam, you'll need to get familiar with what to expect on the test. Whether the 2020 test date of Wednesday, May 6, is near or far, I’m here to help you get serious about preparing for the exam.

In this guide, I’ll go over the test's format and question types, how it's graded, best practices for preparation, and test-day tips. You’ll be on your way to AP English Lit success in no time!

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SAT Subject Test Math 1 vs Math 2: Which Should I Take?

Posted by Ellen McCammon | Oct 6, 2019 8:30:00 AM

SAT Subject Tests

If you're considering taking SAT Subject Tests and math is a strong subject for you, you'll need to decide which SAT Subject Test in math to take. There are two Math SAT Subject Tests: Math 1 and Math 2 (also written as Math Level 1 and Math Level 2, or Math I and Math II).

Math 2 is meant for students with more high school math coursework and covers a broader range of topics than Math 1 does. Other than that, the two tests are pretty similar: both have 50 multiple-choice questions and a 60-minute time limit.

In this article, I'll go over what's covered in Math 1, what's covered in Math 2, their similarities and differences, whether Math 1 is easier than Math 2, and how to choose which Subject Test to take.

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How Are SAT Subject Tests Scored?

Posted by Ellen McCammon | Sep 29, 2019 8:00:00 PM

SAT Subject Tests

Picture this: you sit down to take an SAT Subject Test. You answer somewhere from 50 to 95 questions in an hour. A few weeks later, you log on to your College Board account and see a score for your test on a scale of 200-800. Somehow, the results from your multiple-choice test got turned into this final scaled score. But how did this happen? How are SAT Subject Tests scored?

In this article, I’ll discuss how your raw score for the exam is calculated, how this is converted into your final score, and what SAT Subject Test scoring means for you in terms of setting—and meeting—a target score.

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The Best (and Worst) Online AP Courses, Reviewed

Posted by Ellen McCammon | Aug 25, 2019 5:00:00 PM

Advanced Placement (AP)

There are hundreds, if not thousands, of online AP courses. So how are you supposed to find the best one for you?

To help you sort through your options, I’ll quickly go over what makes a good online AP course. Then I’ll discuss the best-reviewed online AP courses, some popular online AP class providers, and wrap up with some classes that you should avoid.

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The Best College Essay Length: How Long Should It Be?

Posted by Ellen McCammon | Aug 25, 2019 12:00:00 PM

College Essays

Figuring out your college essay can be one of the most difficult parts of applying to college. Even once you've read the prompt and picked a topic, you might wonder: if you write too much or too little, will you blow your chance of admission? How long should a college essay be?

Whether you're a terse writer or a loquacious one, we can advise you on college essay length. In this guide, we'll cover what the standard college essay length is, how much word limits matter, and what to do if you aren't sure how long a specific essay should be.

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64 Great Colleges That Don't Require Essays to Apply

Posted by Ellen McCammon | Aug 25, 2019 12:00:00 PM

College Info, College Essays

If the thought of writing a college essay fills you with terror, you might be wondering: are there any colleges that don’t require essays?

The answer is yes, there are! This guide will give you an overview of colleges that don’t require admissions essays, how to find these schools, and whether you should apply to one or not. We’ll wrap up with a list of 64 colleges with no essay requirement that you can apply to.

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The Ultimate SAT Literature Subject Test Study Guide

Posted by Ellen McCammon | Jul 28, 2019 7:00:00 PM

SAT Subject Tests

The SAT Subject Test in Literature, formerly known as the SAT II Literature Exam, is one of the most popular Subject Tests. This might be because you don't necessarily need specialized knowledge, such as foreign language fluency, to do well on it. However, it also has a reputation for being a fairly difficult test.

Luckily, I—800-scoring sorceress of the SAT Literature Subject Test—am here to take you through all the particulars of the exam. We'll go through whether the exam is right for you, its format and content, its question styles, study hacks, practice resources, and test-day tips. Let's get the magic started!

Here is a quick guide for those who'd prefer to skip around:

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The 20 Best Graphic Design Schools in the US

Posted by Ellen McCammon | Jul 28, 2019 8:00:00 AM

College Info

Graphic designers are involved in nearly everything we look at, watch, or read, from the designs on books, to the way websites navigate, to halftime commercials, to logos on business cards. Graphic designers are the visual wizards who make sure every concert poster and app user interface has an impact and communicates a desired message.

If this sounds appealing to you, you might wonder how you can become a graphic designer. Well, you go to school! In this article, I’ll discuss what a graphic design program is, how I created this list, the best graphic design schools, and how to choose the right program for you.

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When Are AP Tests? The Complete AP Exam Schedule

Posted by Ellen McCammon | Jul 14, 2019 3:00:00 PM

Advanced Placement (AP)

As the school year starts to wind down, you might be asking yourself: when are AP exams? In this article, I’ll break down everything you need to know about the AP exam schedule, including when they usually take place, the specific schedule for this year, what to do if you find yourself in an AP schedule mishap, and how you can leverage the schedule to best plan your studying.

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Every AP Literature Practice Test Available: Free and Official

Posted by Ellen McCammon | Jun 9, 2019 8:00:00 PM

Advanced Placement (AP)

When you’re studying for your AP Literature Exam, you’re going to want to use practice tests and questions to hone your skills. But where can you find AP literature practice tests? And are all practice exams equally useful for you? 

The real exam has 55 multiple-choice questions and three free-response questions, but there are practice tests with every conceivable number and combination of question types. 

In this article, you’ll learn where to find every official College Board AP English Literature and Composition practice exam, free unofficial tests, and paid practice test resources. You’ll also find out which tests are high-quality and how you can best use different practice exams to fulfill your studying needs.

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Are the SAT Subject Tests Changing?

Posted by Ellen McCammon | May 5, 2019 8:00:00 AM

SAT Subject Tests, New SAT

The SAT was redesigned in 2016—a huge revamp that has been linked to the Common Core and attempts to re-secure market share lost to the ACTThis may leave you wondering: what about SAT Subject Tests? Are they changing? Will there be new SAT Subject Tests modeled after the main SAT redesign?

In a word, no. At least, not now.

So what does this mean? Well, for starters, it means that SAT Subject Tests will now be even more different from the regular SAT than they were before the SAT redesign. 

In this article, I’ll go over the implications of the “mismatch” between the redesigned SAT and the SAT Subject Tests. How are the formats different, and how should you approach these differences? I’ll also go over how the SAT redesign has changed how Subject Test content overlaps (or doesn’t) with the regular SAT. Finally, I will engage in some wild speculation (okay, fine, evidence-based speculation) about where the SAT Subject Tests may be going in the future. 

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Where to Find the Best DBQ Examples

Posted by Ellen McCammon | Mar 24, 2019 6:00:00 PM

Advanced Placement (AP)

One of the best ways to prepare for the DBQ (the "document-based question" on the AP European History, AP US History, and AP World History exams) is to look over sample questions and example essays. Doing this will help you to get a sense of what makes a good (and what makes a bad) DBQ response.

That said, not all DBQ essay examples are created equal. I’ll briefly cover what makes a good DBQ example and then provide a list of example essays by course. Lastly, I’ll give you some helpful tips on how to best use sample essays in your own preparation process. 

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How to Send SAT Subject Test Scores: 7-Step Guide

Posted by Ellen McCammon | Jan 1, 2019 4:00:00 PM

SAT Subject Tests

 

While you are studying diligently for all of your SAT Subject tests, you probably aren’t thinking too hard about how and when you are going to send out all those scores to your dream schools. I get it—taking the test is the hard part, and you want to focus your energy on that.

To help you out, I’ll lay out everything you need to consider in terms of score-sending logistics and strategy: how to send SAT Subject test scores (with or without Score Choice), sending the four free reports you get with registration, special ordering circumstances, and how to cancel scores. It’s all in here!

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When Should You Start Studying for Your AP Exams?

Posted by Ellen McCammon | Nov 4, 2018 11:13:00 AM

Advanced Placement (AP)

 

So you’re taking a couple AP classes, they’re going well, and you feel pretty good about most of the material. The exam in May seems a long way off. Do you need to start studying? The answer is, that depends! Every student and every exam is different.

However, my general advice is to start studying no later than the midpoint of the school year. (That would be after winter break for most of you.) Why the midpoint of the year? Keep reading to find out!  

I’ll also discuss how many hours you should plan to prep based on how the course is going and what score you are aiming for. Then I’ll present some strategies for determining how you should balance general conceptual review of the material and dedicated exam prep like taking practice exams. Finally, I’ll make suggestions as to when and how you should study based on overall course subject (math, science, foreign language, and so on.)

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What is a DBQ? The Document-Based Question Explained

Posted by Ellen McCammon | Nov 4, 2018 11:09:00 AM

Advanced Placement (AP)

The dreaded DBQ, or “document-based question,” is an essay question type on the AP History exams (AP US History, AP European History, and AP World History).  For the DBQ essay, you will be asked to analyze some historical issue or trend with the aid of the provided sources, or "documents," as evidence. 

The DBQ is an unfamiliar type of in-class essay for many students, but it does not need to be a source of dread or panic. In this guide I'll go over the DBQ's purpose and format, what the documents are and how to use them, how this type of essay is scored, and how to prepare. I'll tell you everything you need to rock this unique type of essay! 

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