SAT / ACT Prep Online Guides and Tips

Laura Staffaroni

Laura graduated magna cum laude from Wellesley College with a BA in Music and Psychology, and earned a Master's degree in Composition from the Longy School of Music of Bard College. She scored 99 percentile scores on the SAT and GRE and loves advising students on how to excel in high school.

Recent Posts

Duke TIP SAT Score Requirements

Posted by Laura Staffaroni | Jul 14, 2019 2:00:00 PM

Early Achievers (7th/8th Grade)

Perhaps you’ve read our article about Duke’s Talent Identification Program (TIP), maybe you’ve heard about it from other students, or maybe you did your own research. You've heard vague hints of "score requirements," but don't know exactly what that means—do you have to take the SAT in order to take part in TIP? How well do you have to do on the SAT in order to become a TIPster? (I refuse to believe that students who participate in TIP do not go by this name.)

There are SAT (or ACT) score requirements for the Duke TIP: specifically, there are score requirements for Summer Studies programs and eStudies courses. I'm going to cover this complicated topic in exhaustive detail, explaining what the programs are, what the SAT score requirements are, and giving you some tips on how to meet these requirements.

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ACT Writing Prompts: The Complete Guide

Posted by Laura Staffaroni | Jul 14, 2019 2:00:00 PM

ACT Writing

It's pretty scary to walk into a room on ACT test day and with no idea what the essay question you're about to answer is about. Luckily, you don't need to know—the ACT essay prompts only ask about a teensy, tiny category of ideas. And the best part is, you already know all about the topics!

Keep reading to see sample ACT Writing prompts you can practice with. More importantly, we also teach you how to gather evidence before the test so you can walk in 100% prepared to answer any prompt they give you.

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Seven Sisters Colleges: Should You Go to One?

Posted by Laura Staffaroni | Jul 14, 2019 11:00:00 AM

College Admissions, College Info

If you're looking at applying to elite liberal arts colleges, you've probably come across the Seven Sisters schools. But what schools are Seven Sisters colleges, and what makes them so special?

In this article, we explain what the Seven Sisters schools are, which of them still exist, and which of them are still all-women's colleges. I'll also use my expertise as an alum of a Seven Sisters school to break down what the benefits are of applying to a Seven Sisters school and five tips for getting admitted.

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Duke TIP ACT Score Requirements

Posted by Laura Staffaroni | Jul 14, 2019 10:30:00 AM

ACT General Info, Early Achievers (7th/8th Grade)

Maybe you’ve read our article about Duke’s Talent Identification Program (TIP), maybe you’ve heard about it from other students, or maybe you did your own research. You've heard vague hints of "score requirements," but don't know exactly what that means—do you have to take the ACT in order to take part in TIP? How well do you have to do on the ACT in order to become a TIPster? (I refuse to believe that students who participate in TIP do not go by this name.)

There are ACT (or SAT) score requirements for the Duke TIP: specifically, there are score requirements for Summer Studies programs and eStudies courses. I'm going to cover this complicated topic in exhaustive detail, explaining what the programs are, what the ACT score requirements are, and giving you some tips on how to meet these requirements. These requirements all refer to the regular ACT, not the ACT Aspire or ACT EXPLORE.

Feature image credit: Ilyse Whitney/Flickr
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What Should I Go to College For?

Posted by Laura Staffaroni | Jun 11, 2019 12:32:51 PM

College Admissions

Applying to colleges is a rough enough process on its own. If you're interested in a lot of different subjects that don't necessarily mesh nicely together into one major, then figuring out what you should go to school for can seem like an impassable obstacle on the road to figuring out where to apply to.

In this article, I'll take you through the same steps I, a student with multiple disparate interests, took back when I was looking at colleges to figure out what I should go to college for.

I'll also go through how, as a well-rounded student, you can narrow down what kinds of schools you should apply to.

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The Ultimate SAT Spanish Subject Test Study Guide

Posted by Laura Staffaroni | Jun 9, 2019 12:00:00 PM

SAT Subject Tests

Applying to highly selective schools often means submitting SAT Subject Test scores along with your regular SAT or ACT scores. Si español es pan comido para usted, then taking the SAT Spanish Subject Test is a great way to fulfill part of the subject test requirement.

Read this guide to learn more about what’s on the SAT Spanish Subject Test and whether or not you should take it. We’ll go over format, test content, where to find good practice material, and tips to help you when studying and taking the test.

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What Is the SAT Adversity Score? What Does It Mean for You?

Posted by Laura Staffaroni | May 21, 2019 3:00:00 PM

SAT General Info

Last Thursday, the College Board announced via the Wall Street Journal that it has been testing out a project where, along with students' SAT scores, colleges see each student's "Overall Disadvantage Level," or their "adversity score."

In this article, we'll go over what we know so far about the adversity score and how it might affect college admissions. We'll also give some tips on how to limit what information about you the College Board can use to calculate your adversity score.

We'll keep this article updated as new information comes out on the adversity score, so be sure to check back periodically.

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Should You Go to a Public Ivy? 5 Factors to Consider

Posted by Laura Staffaroni | May 12, 2019 12:00:00 PM

College Info

Most people have heard of the illustrious eight private schools that make up the Ivy League. But what about high-quality public universities, or "Public Ivy League" schools? Are there any public schools out there that can match the caliber of top private schools?

Find out what the Public Ivies are and why you should consider applying to them.

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What Is a Good ACT Writing Score?

Posted by Laura Staffaroni | Jan 13, 2019 4:07:00 PM

ACT Writing

As you study for the ACT, it's easy enough to calculate your ACT composite target score. But where does your essay score fit into all this? What’s a good ACT Writing score? Read on to find out how to figure it out!

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What's an Average ACT Writing Score?

Posted by Laura Staffaroni | Jan 13, 2019 1:22:00 PM

ACT Writing

It's approximately one month after your ACT test date. You get your ACT score report and see your ACT Writing score. But what does that number actually mean? Did you do better than average? Worse? Exactly average? Learn what an average ACT Writing score is in this article.

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How To Stop Running Out Of Time On SAT Reading

Posted by Laura Staffaroni | Jan 6, 2019 4:16:00 PM

SAT Reading

Feeling pressed for time on any test is extremely frustrating. It’s even worse on tests like the SAT and ACT because they’re so lengthy: if you run out of time on a section, you don't get the relief of "Well, at least I'm done with the test" because you have to move right on to the next section.

Since you can’t stop time (probably?) and, except for some special circumstances, can’t get extra time, you'll need another solution to help you avoid running out of time. So what strategies can you use? I’ll discuss the top misconception students have about running low on time on the SAT Reading section and strategies to avoid running out of time.

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What Is The Duke TIP 7th Grade Talent Search, and Why Do It?

Posted by Laura Staffaroni | Dec 9, 2018 5:30:00 PM

Early Achievers (7th/8th Grade)

What is the Duke TIP, and what is the 7th Grade Talent Search? In this article, I'll be writing about the Duke Talent Identification Program, also known as Duke TIP, also known as the Duke TIP Program. The Duke TIP is a conglomeration of multiple subprograms, one of which is the 7th Grade Talent Search.

While you can find all the information about it on Duke's own website, as I did, the information is spread out and a little tricky to track down (hence the confused panda at the top of this article). For your convenience, I've compiled everything here into one magnificent blog post/guide. I recommend reading it all the way through, but if you only want to read one particular section, you can pick and choose from the Table of Contents.

A disclaimer: I've done a lot of linking in this article to the Duke TIP website, and while all links and information were correct (to the best of my knowledge) at the time of this article's publication, things may have changed since then.

Now that that's out of the way, let's dive into the Duke TIP and the 7th Grade Talent Search!

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How to Get a Perfect 12 on the ACT Writing Essay

Posted by Laura Staffaroni | Dec 9, 2018 2:58:00 PM

ACT Strategies, ACT Writing

There is no part of the ACT more mysterious to students than the essay, and very few people seem to know what exactly the ACT is looking for in a "perfect" essay (particularly since September 2015 was the new ACT Writing test's debut). Luckily, we've got the expertise to give you some insight into how the essay works and what you can do to push your score those extra few points up the scale.

Whether you're trying to impress your dream school or just want to boost your ACT score, the essay is a great thing to work on. Some of the tips below stand alone, while others are part of larger categories that have been assembled based our ACT expertise.

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How to Write an ACT Essay: Step-by-Step Example

Posted by Laura Staffaroni | Dec 9, 2018 2:45:00 PM

ACT Strategies, ACT Writing

Sometimes writing—especially writing for standardized tests—can feel like something you "get" or "don't get." That's primarily because it's very difficult to explain and teach writing in a mechanical way, especially when you're up against time limits.

In this article, we've broken how to write the ACT essay into eight steps that work for every essay, every time. Then, we show you exactly how to do it with an actual ACT essay example.

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The 15 Best Music Schools in the US

Posted by Laura Staffaroni | Nov 9, 2018 12:00:00 PM

College Admissions, College Info

Many students learn some kind of musical instrument in elementary school. Some continue through high school, and some even plan on continuing to do some kind of musical activity in college.

For a small fraction of students, though, music is not only something they want to continue studying, but it is the only thing they want to focus on studying in college.

If you're one of these students who wants to go to music school, then this article is for you. We'll go over what kind of experience you can expect to have at the best music schools and what you should look for in a top music school. We'll also introduce to you to our ranking of the best music schools in the US (for undergraduates).

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