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 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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Complete List of Crucible Characters

Posted by Laura Staffaroni | Nov 4, 2018 10:56:00 AM

Book Guides

Who are The Crucible characters? What do they do and when do they show up in the play? Find out in this overview of the characters in Arthur Miller's The Crucible.

In this article, I'll go over each of the Crucible characters by name, pinpoint which act(s) each character appears in and/or is mentioned in, and briefly describe each character and what she/he does in The Crucible.

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Best Abigail Williams Analysis - The Crucible

Posted by Laura Staffaroni | Nov 4, 2018 9:57:00 AM

Book Guides

In Arthur Miller’s The Crucible, Abigail Williams is the pebble that gets the avalanche of the Salem witch trials started. It is Abigail who first says Tituba has been using supernatural powers to corrupt her and Betty, and it is Abigail who jumps on the (metaphorical) accusation train after Tituba has been coerced into confessing her involvement and naming co-conspirators.

In this guide, we’ll go over Abigail’s entire sphere of influence, from her role as the lead accuser in the witch trials to the relationship between Abigail and John Proctor, and discuss what drives Abigail to act as she does throughout the course of the play.

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Historical SAT Percentiles: New SAT 2016, 2017, and 2018

Posted by Laura Staffaroni | Nov 1, 2018 12:00:00 PM

SAT General Info

If you took the new SAT in 2016, 2017, or 2018, you might be wondering what percentile your score is in. Is a 700 on Math in 2016 the same as a 700 in Math in 2018? How much do percentile scores change from year to year?

In this article, I'll explain what new SAT percentile scores are and how they've changed over time. I'll also provide percentiles for SAT combined and section scores for 2016, 2017, and 2018.

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What's the Average SAT Essay Score?

Posted by Laura Staffaroni | Nov 1, 2018 12:00:00 AM

SAT Essay

You've gotten back your SAT scores. On your score report, there's information about how you did on Evidence-Based Reading and Writing and Math, compared to students in the previous year's graduating class who took the SAT.

But what about your essay? How does your essay score compare to everyone else? There's no percentile information for that in the score report.

Find out what an average SAT essay score looks like (and how you stack up) in this article!

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What Are the Ivy League Schools' Acceptance Rates for 2018?

Posted by Laura Staffaroni | Oct 12, 2018 12:00:00 PM

College Admissions, College Info

The eight schools in the Ivy League are among the most well-known and selective universities, both within and outside of the U.S. Because of this, Ivy League (and similarly selective non-Ivy) schools have tens of thousands of students from whom to choose their class of 2023.

But what are Ivy League schools' acceptance rates, and how have those rates changed over time? In this analysis, we'll look at Ivy League admissions, from the number of applicants to the number of students who ultimately end up attending.

In addition to the eight Ivy League schools (Brown, Columbia, Cornell, Dartmouth, Harvard, Princeton, UPenn, and Yale), we'll also consider eight equally selective non-Ivy League national universities: Caltech, Duke, Johns Hopkins, MIT, Northwestern, Stanford, UChicago, and Vanderbilt.

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Which Schools Use the Coalition Application? Complete List

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

College Info

Ah, October. The changing of the leaves, the onset of autumn allergies...and the knowledge for high school seniors that slowly but surely, college application deadlines are drawing ever nearer.

If you're applying to schools in the U.S., you've probably heard of the Common App before, but you may not know about the relatively new Coalition Application.

The Coalition Application works pretty much the same way as the Common App—it's an online application that you only have to fill out once (aside from supplements for certain schools). This centralized application system is a big time saver if you're applying to multiple Coalition Application schools.

To help you figure out if you can use the Coalition Application for the schools on your college wishlist, we've listed all the current Coalition Application schools in this article, broken down by state.

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What Is CTY at Johns Hopkins? Complete Guide

Posted by Laura Staffaroni | Oct 3, 2018 8:30:00 AM

Early Achievers (7th/8th Grade)

CTY, or Center for Talented Youth, at Johns 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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Writing the Why NYU Essay

Posted by Laura Staffaroni | Sep 27, 2018 12:00:00 PM

College Essays

If you're applying to New York University, you'll need to submit both the regular Common App materials as well as the NYU supplement, which includes a short essay. At its heart, the NYU essay prompt asks you to answer a single straightforward question: why do you want to go to NYU?

In this article, we'll fully analyze the "Why NYU?" essay prompt and what successful essays need to accomplish. We'll also go over potential topics to write about and look at the essay that got me into NYU's College of Arts and Science.

First, however, we'll begin with a quick discussion of why schools ask students to write "why this school?" essays

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