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

Historical SAT Percentiles: New SAT 2016 and 2017

Posted by Laura Staffaroni | Jan 29, 2018 12:00:00 PM

SAT General Info

If you took the new SAT in 2016 and 2017, 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 2017? 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 and 2017.

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The Ultimate Study Guide for SAT Reading: Strategies, Tips, and Practice

Posted by Laura Staffaroni | Jan 28, 2018 9:00:00 AM

SAT Reading

We've created the best guide to the SAT Reading section out there.

This is not just us tooting our own horns. By reading many SAT prep books as well as studying the CollegeBoard’s own resources, we've been able to take the best aspects of each and combine them into a magnificent Frankenstein’s monster of a guide.

We cover each SAT Reading question type in detail, organized not by how the questions are asked, but by the essential underlying skills the questions are testing. You'll get the best SAT Reading tips and strategies available, as well as information about how to get the most out of your SAT Reading practice and prep.

If you're looking for a comprehensive guide to SAT Reading and how to improve your SAT Reading score, the information provided herein is invaluable. Master all these concepts, use realistic practice questions, and learn how to learn from your mistakes, and you'll be able to increase your SAT Reading score drastically.

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Little Picture Questions in SAT Reading: 5 Key Tips

Posted by Laura Staffaroni | Jan 24, 2018 2:00:00 PM

SAT Reading

Little picture, or detail, questions make up a significant amount of questions on the SAT Critical Reading sections. Of 4 post-2005 publicly available tests I surveyed, little picture questions accounted for 25% of all passage-based questions and 17% of all SAT Reading questions. This means that it is well worth your time in your SAT Reading prep to make sure you can consistently answer little picture questions accurately and in a reasonable amount of time (what that range is for accuracy and reasonableness will depend on the score you are aiming for).

In this article, I’ll provide examples of the different ways the SAT will ask you to use little picture skills, explain the SAT Reading strategies you can use to help with these questions, and end with a walkthrough of a sample questions. First, however, I’ll explain what exactly I mean by “little picture” questions.

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How To Stop Running Out Of Time On SAT Reading

Posted by Laura Staffaroni | Jan 17, 2018 5:30:00 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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Function Questions on SAT Reading: Strategies and Practice

Posted by Laura Staffaroni | Jan 16, 2018 11:00:00 AM

SAT Reading

Function questions (also sometimes known as “meaning in context” questions) make up 17% of all passage-based reading questions, or about 12% of all SAT Critical Reading questions (based on my survey of the four publicly available post-2005 SATs). Answering function questions requires the ability to step back from the text and judge the effect of a phrase in a certain place (as opposed to little picture and vocab in context questions, which are just concerned with meaning).

So how are function questions asked on the SAT, and what strategies can you use to answer them? Read on to find out.

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

Posted by Laura Staffaroni | Jan 3, 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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What Is a Good ACT Writing Score?

Posted by Laura Staffaroni | Jan 2, 2018 6:30:00 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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Vocab In Context Questions and Strategies for ACT Reading

Posted by Laura Staffaroni | Dec 21, 2017 5:00:00 PM

ACT Reading

What exactly are vocab in context questions, and what are the best ways to approach answering them? In this article, I'll start by going over the basics of what vocab in context questions are, then segue into an in-depth discussion of each of the two types (complete with examples). Finally, I'll wrap it up by suggesting strategies to use when tackling these types of questions.

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What's a Good SAT Score for 2018?

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

SAT/ACT Score Target

Another year, another chance to take the SAT! If you're taking the SAT this year, you might be wondering: just what is a good SAT score for 2018? Is there a particular score I should be aiming for to make sure I get into the colleges I want to go to?

To answer the question of what good SAT scores for 2018 are, this article looks at a few different definitions of what makes a good SAT score, and how this has changed over time. We also explain why SAT score goals should be specific to each student and give you step-by-step instructions for choosing your target SAT score.

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6 SAT Essay Examples to Answer Every Prompt

Posted by Laura Staffaroni | Nov 26, 2017 7:00:00 PM

SAT Essay

Just as with most essays, the major secret to excelling on the SAT essay is to pre-plan the examples and evidence you want to use.

"But wait!" I hear you cry. "Can you do that on the new SAT essay? Isn’t the point of the essay that you’re supposed to be using information from the passage in your answer, which you don’t know about ahead of time?"

The answer: Yes and no. While the specifics of each example will obviously change, depending on the passage, the types of examples you choose to discuss (and the way you explain each example builds the author’s argument) can be defined, and thus prepared for, ahead of time.

In this article, we give you 6 good SAT essay examples you’ll be able to find in nearly every prompt the SAT throws at you. By assembling a collection of these reliable types of evidence that can be used to answer most prompts, you'll cut down on planning time and significantly increase the amount you can write, making you able to walk into every SAT essay confident in your abilities.

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What's a Good SAT Math or Reading/Writing (EBRW) Score?

Posted by Laura Staffaroni | Nov 7, 2017 2:00:00 PM

SAT/ACT Score Target

In this article, we’ll go over how to calculate target SAT Math, Reading, and Writing scores, as well as why you might want to do this.

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Can Green Card Holders Get Financial Aid?

Posted by Laura Staffaroni | Sep 29, 2017 12:00:00 PM

Financial Aid

If you’re a high school student and a green card holder, you might be wondering if you’re eligible for any financial assistance for college.

The short answer to the question, “Can green card holders get financial aid?” is yes, but what’s the process for getting it? We’ll discuss the forms you have to fill out and how to determine your eligibility for financial aid as a green card holder in this article.

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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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