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

Seven Sisters Colleges: Should You Go to One?

Posted by Laura Staffaroni | Jul 11, 2020 12:00:00 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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The Ultimate SAT Spanish Subject Test Study Guide

Posted by Laura Staffaroni | Jun 11, 2020 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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Duke TIP ACT Score Requirements

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

Posted by Laura Staffaroni | Jun 6, 2020 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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Duke TIP SAT Score Requirements

Posted by Laura Staffaroni | May 31, 2020 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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Should You Go to a Public Ivy? 5 Factors to Consider

Posted by Laura Staffaroni | May 22, 2020 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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ACT Standard Deviation: What It Means for You

Posted by Laura Staffaroni | Apr 8, 2020 4:00:00 PM

ACT General Info

If you've ever come across a table listing all the ACT score percentiles, you may have seen the ACT standard deviation listed at the bottom for composite and section scores. Sadly, there is no explanation for what the standard deviation being that value means; instead, the tables just throw the data out there and move on.

So how does knowing the mean and standard deviation of ACT help you? We'll discuss what standard deviation is and what it means for you and your ACT score in this article.

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Historical ACT Percentiles for 2019, 2018, 2017, 2016, and 2015

Posted by Laura Staffaroni | Mar 16, 2020 4:00:00 PM

ACT General Info

Whether you're currently studying to take the ACT or took it in 2015-2019, you might be curious about how your ACT percentile compares to students who took the ACT in past years.

In this article, we'll go over what percentiles are, how percentiles work on the ACT, and why ACT percentiles matter. We also lay out ACT percentile charts for 2015, 2016, 2017, 2018, and 2019 so you can see how your score compares to historical ACT scores.

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CTY ACT Score Requirements

Posted by Laura Staffaroni | Feb 23, 2020 6:39:00 PM

Early Achievers (7th/8th Grade)

You've decided that you want to take part in the Center for Talented Youth at Johns Hopkins University. Good for you!

Having made this decision, however, you probably have some questions about test score requirements—do you have to take the ACT in order to apply for CTY or its programs? What does taking the ACT qualify you for, and how well do you have to do on it?

I'll answer all of these questions for you in this article. Now, read on...

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The Complete List of the 25 CUNY Colleges

Posted by Laura Staffaroni | Feb 14, 2020 2:00:00 PM

College Info

The City University of New York system is the lesser-known member of New York State's public university system. Unlike New York's SUNY colleges and universities, however, all the CUNY schools are located in NYC.

In this article, we'll go over a list of CUNY schools in NYC and CUNY locations along with what to consider when choosing which CUNYs to apply to.

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Should You Go to a Women's College?

Posted by Laura Staffaroni | Feb 6, 2020 12:00:00 PM

College Admissions, College Info

Many people are familiar with the idea of all-girls' schools for elementary, middle, and high school, but did you know there are also women-only colleges?

In this article, we discuss what women's colleges are and why you'd want to apply to them. We'll also go over the top 17 women's colleges in the US and explain why these schools made the cut.

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ACT International Test Dates Guide, 2020-2021

Posted by Laura Staffaroni | Feb 1, 2020 3:00:00 PM

ACT General Info

When are the ACT international test dates? If you're an international student thinking about taking the ACT, you might be surprised to learn that the dates the ACT is offered on are different internationally than in the US. 

Find out what the ACT international test dates are for 2020 and 2021 and which dates you should choose in this article.

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Best Abigail Williams Analysis - The Crucible

Posted by Laura Staffaroni | Jan 28, 2020 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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The Ultimate Prep Guide to ACT Reading: Strategies, Tips, and Practice

Posted by Laura Staffaroni | Jan 21, 2020 9:00:00 AM

ACT Reading

This is the best study guide to ACT Reading out there.

No kidding, no exaggerating, and no doubt about it. We've read many ACT prep books, studied ACT, Inc’s resources, and taken the best aspects of each to combine into this magnificent patchwork quilt of a guide. Each question type is covered in detail, organized not by how the questions are asked, but by the essential underlying skills the questions are testing. We cover the best ACT reading tips and strategies and how to get the most out of your ACT Reading practice and prep.

Looking for a comprehensive guide to ACT Reading and how to improve your ACT Reading score? Want to master the important concepts, grapple with practice questions from ACTual (I will probably never stop doing this) ACT Reading tests, and make sure you're taking the most away from questions you miss? This is the ACT study guide that will help you improve your ACT Reading score dramatically by focusing on all those areas (and more!).

I've divided this guide into three sections, based on level of information. We'll start with understanding the ACT Reading section at a high level, move on to the ACT reading test and the different question types therein (divided by the underlying skills that are tested), and end with study plans and how to maximize your study time for score improvement.

I suggest reading all of the articles below in order to start off, then using this guide as a reference page to come back to as you progress in your test prep.

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(Updated) ACT Essay Scoring: Completely Explained

Posted by Laura Staffaroni | Jan 19, 2020 9:00:00 AM

ACT Writing

It's finally that day you've circled on your calendar—the day when ACT essay scores are released. You log into ACTstudent and look at your essay score. There's an "8" for your overall Writing score as well as four different "domain" scores of 6, 8, 9, and 10. What does your ACT Writing score mean and how is your ACT essay scored? This article will shed some light on both of these things.

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