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

SAT Standard Deviation: What Does It Mean for You?

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Posted by Laura Staffaroni | Nov 17, 2021 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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The Complete List of the 25 CUNY Colleges

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Posted by Laura Staffaroni | Nov 6, 2021 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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The 25 Best Engineering Schools in the US (and How to Get In)

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Posted by Laura Staffaroni | Nov 5, 2021 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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CTY ACT Score Requirements

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Posted by Laura Staffaroni | Oct 26, 2021 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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What Is CTY at Johns Hopkins? Complete Guide

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Posted by Laura Staffaroni | Oct 26, 2021 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 you need to know about CTY 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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CTY SAT Score Requirements

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Posted by Laura Staffaroni | Oct 26, 2021 8:00:00 AM

Early Achievers (7th/8th Grade)

You've decided that you want to take part in the Center for Talented Youth (CTY) 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 SAT to apply for CTY or its programs? What does taking the SAT qualify you for, and how well do you have to do on it?

I'll answer all these questions, and even manage to squeeze in an example from Shakespeare, if you'll just read on.

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Historical SAT Percentiles: New SAT 2016-2021

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Posted by Laura Staffaroni | Oct 23, 2021 12:00:00 PM

SAT General Info

If you took the new SAT in between 2016 and 2021, 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 2021? 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, 2018, 2019, 2020, and 2021.

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How to Write an SAT Essay, Step by Step

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Posted by Laura Staffaroni | Jul 15, 2021 10:16:00 PM

SAT Writing, SAT Essay

SAT Essay writing requires a very specific set of skills. It's a little daunting to think that you only have 50 minutes to read a passage, analyze it, and then write an essay. But don't worry—getting a top SAT essay score is within everyone's reach! The most reliable way to score high is to follow our SAT essay template for every essay and to prepare well beforehand. 

In this article, we'll show you how to write a great SAT essay. We'll take you through all the steps you need to follow when writing the SAT essay to show you how you can put together a killer essay yourself.

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SAT Essay Prompts: The Complete List

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Posted by Laura Staffaroni | Jul 15, 2021 7:00:00 PM

SAT Writing, SAT Essay

On every SAT Essay, you'll have to read an argument meant to persuade a broad audience and discuss how well the author argues his or her point. The passage you'll have to read will change from test to test, but you'll always need to analyze the author's argument and write a coherent and organized essay explaining this analysis.

In this article, we've compiled a list of the 14 real SAT essay prompts that the College Board 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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SAT Essay Tips: 15 Ways to Improve Your Score

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Posted by Laura Staffaroni | Jul 15, 2021 6:00:00 PM

SAT Writing, SAT Essay

Whether you've never written an SAT Essay or didn't get the score you wanted on your last test, you can benefit from knowing more: both about the essay itself, and what really matters when the graders are reading your essay.

To introduce you to what you'll have to do, we've gathered up these 15 tips to master the SAT essay. If you can reliably follow all these points, you'll be able to get at least a 6/6/6 on the SAT essay—guaranteed.

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The Ultimate SAT Essay Study Guide: Tips and Review

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Posted by Laura Staffaroni | Jul 15, 2021 12:00:00 PM

SAT Essay


We've written the best guide to the SAT essay available anywhere.

To craft this guide, we have carefully read all official material available on the SAT essay from the College Board and read the best SAT books we could find and extracted the most important things you need to know to succeed on the essay section. Based on this research, we're confident that this is the most complete and comprehensive resource available for the SAT essay.

This guide gets deep into every aspect of the SAT essay, from the rubric to prompts to the nuts and bolts of how to write a high-scoring essay. You'll learn the best tips and strategies to use to maximize the value of your SAT essay practice as well as how much time to devote to prepping for the essay.

If you're looking for a comprehensive guide to SAT essay and how to improve your SAT essay scores, this guide is invaluable. Rather than trying to put all the information we've distilled into one long article, we've created this multi-sectioned guide to serve as a table of contents to each of our more in-depth articles.

We'll start by taking a high-level look at the importance of the SAT essay to colleges and which schools care about your SAT essay score. The next section delves into more of the details of the SAT essay prompt and rubric and outlines step-by-step how to write a perfect-scoring SAT essay. Finally, the third part of this guide takes you through tips and strategies to use with the SAT essay.

We suggest reading through this guide in order your first time through, as you would any other test prep resource. Alternatively, if you're just looking for a refresher on certain areas, you can use this guide as a reference you can jump around in as needed.

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How to Get a Perfect 8|8|8 SAT Essay Score

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Posted by Laura Staffaroni | Jul 15, 2021 12:00:00 PM

SAT Writing, SAT Essay

The SAT Essay is scored separately from the rest of the SAT now, thanks to the changes that went into effect in March 2016.

While the essay is now optional (you don't automatically have to take it every time you take the SAT), some colleges still require students to submit SAT essay scores with their applications. Learning how to consistently write a perfect SAT essay will be a huge boost to your application to these schools.

In this article, we'll discuss what it takes to get a perfect 8/8/8 on the SAT essay and what you need to do to train yourself to get this top score.

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SAT Essay Rubric: Full Analysis and Writing Strategies

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Posted by Laura Staffaroni | Jul 15, 2021 9:00:00 AM

SAT Essay

We're about to dive deep into the details of that least beloved* of SAT sections, the SAT essay. Prepare for a discussion of the SAT essay rubric and how the SAT essay is graded based on that. I'll break down what each item on the rubric means and what you need to do to meet those requirements.

On the SAT, the last section you'll encounter is the (optional) essay. You have 50 minutes to read a passage, analyze the author's argument, and write an essay. If you don’t write on the assignment, plagiarize, or don't use your own original work, you'll get a 0 on your essay. Otherwise, your essay scoring is done by two graders - each one grades you on a scale of 1-4 in Reading, Analysis, and Writing, for a total essay score out of 8 in each of those three areas. But how do these graders assign your writing a numerical grade? By using an essay scoring guide, or rubric.

*may not actually be the least belovèd.

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What's the Average SAT Essay Score?

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Posted by Laura Staffaroni | Jul 15, 2021 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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6 SAT Essay Examples to Answer Every Prompt

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Posted by Laura Staffaroni | Jun 15, 2021 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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