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

What's a Good PSAT Score for 2017? Expert Analysis

Posted by Laura Staffaroni | Sep 7, 2017 12:00:00 PM

PSAT Info and Strategies

If you plan on taking the PSAT in October 2017, then you won’t have to wait too long for the results. You’ll get your scores back mid-December, just before winter break.

Your PSAT score report gives you a few different score types, including your total scores, section scores, and Selection Index. With all this data, how can you sort through the numbers to figure out what's a good PSAT score?

This guide goes over the full scoring system of the PSAT so you'll know exactly what makes a good score. We'll start with a quick glossary explaining the various types of PSAT scores you’ll find on your score report in December.

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The 25 Best Engineering Schools in the US (and How to Get In)

Posted by Laura Staffaroni | Jul 13, 2017 12:00:00 PM

College Info

Do you dream of building driverless cars or a space elevator? You should check out the best engineering schools in the US!

But with so many different engineering schools out there and intense competition for the top programs, how can you figure out where should you apply? To help you decide, we’ve compiled a list of the best engineering schools in the US. We’ll explain a little bit about each school on the list as well as provide rankings within specific subfields of engineering.

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The Ultimate SAT Spanish Subject Test Study Guide

Posted by Laura Staffaroni | Jul 3, 2017 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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How to Study for the Summer SAT: 4 Helpful Tips

Posted by Laura Staffaroni | Jun 22, 2017 12:00:00 PM

SAT General Info

Starting August 2017, there will now be an SAT test date at the end of the summer. What are the advantages of taking the SAT in the summer and what’s the best way to prep for the summer SAT?

Read on to find out the summer SAT dates for 2017 and 2018 and what the best way to prep for them are.

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Seven Sisters Colleges: Should You Go to One?

Posted by Laura Staffaroni | May 26, 2017 12:00:00 PM

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 SAT Score Requirements

Posted by Laura Staffaroni | May 25, 2017 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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SAT Standard Deviation: What Does It Mean for You?

Posted by Laura Staffaroni | May 22, 2017 12:00:00 PM

SAT General Info

If you've ever glanced through any of the year-end College Board data reports, you may have seen information about the SAT standard deviation. Unfortunately, the reports just list the numbers and then move on, without explaining at all what these numbers mean.

So how is info about the SAT mean and standard deviation useful to you? In this article, we’ll explain what the term standard deviation refers to and what it means for you and your SAT score.

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

Posted by Laura Staffaroni | May 11, 2017 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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Duke TIP ACT Score Requirements

Posted by Laura Staffaroni | May 10, 2017 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's an Average ACT Writing Score?

Posted by Laura Staffaroni | Apr 30, 2017 8:00:00 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.

Note: The information in this article includes average scores both for the current ACT Writing test (on a scale of 2-12, where the total ACT Writing score is an average of the four domain scores) and for the ACT Writing test as it was scored September 2015–June 2016 (on a scale of 1-36).

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4 Expert PSAT Calculator Tips + Approved Calculators

Posted by Laura Staffaroni | Apr 24, 2017 12:00:00 PM

PSAT Info and Strategies

PSAT math can be intimidating so it would be nice to have to have some computerized help. But can you use a calculator on the PSAT? Yes you can, though only the second of the two Math sections on the PSAT. But what kind of calculator can you use, and when does it make sense to use a calculator on the PSAT?

Read on for the complete list of approved calculators for PSAT test day and our top tips for using your calculator effectively.

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The Most Reliable SAT Essay Template and Format

Posted by Laura Staffaroni | Apr 14, 2017 6:00:00 PM

SAT Writing

Aside from the “grid in” math questions, all you have to do for most of the SAT is answer multiple choice questions.

And then, if you've chosen to take it, there's the essay. Or, more accurately, "To finish up, there's the essay." Because the last thing you'll do on the SAT (with Essay) is read a passage and write an essay analyzing its argument, all in 50 minutes.

How can you even begin to read a passage, analyze it, and write an essay about it in 50 minutes? What SAT essay structure should you follow? Is there an SAT essay format that’ll score you a top score for sure? Read on to find out the answers to these questions!

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SAT Essay Prompts: The Complete List

Posted by Laura Staffaroni | Apr 6, 2017 5:00:00 PM

SAT Writing, SAT Essay

The SAT Essay has changed drastically from what it looked like from March 2005-January 2016. On the plus side, you’ll now be asked to do the same task every time: read an argument meant to persuade a broad audience and discuss how well the author argues his or her point. On the minus side, you have to do reading and analysis in addition to writing a coherent and organized essay.

In this article, we’ve compiled a list of the 11 real SAT essay prompts that the CollegeBoard has released (either in The Official SAT Study Guide or separately online) for the new SAT. This is the most comprehensive set of new SAT essay prompts online today.

At the end of this article, we'll also guide you through how to get the most out of these prompts and link to our expert resources on acing the SAT essay. I’ll discuss how the SAT essay prompts are valuable not just because they give you a chance to write a practice essay, but because of what they reveal about the essay task itself.

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What Is CTY at Johns Hopkins? Complete Guide

Posted by Laura Staffaroni | Apr 5, 2017 8:30:00 AM

Early Achievers (7th/8th Grade)

CTY, or Center for Talented Youth, at John Hopkins University (JHU) offers an assortment of resources to gifted students. These resources include summer programs and courses, written resources, community awards/recognition, and college counseling.

The first step to many of the CTY programs is registering for the Talent Search. Even the programs that are open to everyone give priority to students who participated in the Talent Search. For your convenience, we’ve compiled everything here into one magnificent blog entry guide. I recommend reading it all the way through, but if you only want to read one particular section, you can pick it out from the Table of Contents.

I'll start off by going in depth into the Talent Search and then mention other programs along with links if you want more information than I give in this article.

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What Is a Good SSAT Score? Understanding Your Scores

Posted by Laura Staffaroni | Apr 3, 2017 12:00:00 PM

Other High School

If you’re looking at applying to a private elementary, middle, or high school, there’s a good chance you’ll need to take the SSAT first. But what is a good SSAT score? How can you get the score you need to get into the school of your dreams?

Unfortunately, there's usually not a clear cutoff for what SSAT scores are acceptable. In this article, we'll try to remove some of that uncertainty by going over how scoring on the SSAT works and what counts as a good SSAT score.

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