Planning a Test Prep for Juniors and Seniors


When to Test?
Since both the SAT and ACT cover math primarily from Pre-Algebra through Algebra 2, it's important for students to have completed part of Algebra 2 before taking their first test. Therefore, most juniors benefit from taking their first test in December or spring (February, March, or April) of their junior year. If you’ve already completed Algebra 2, taking the test sooner is definitely better!

When to Begin Preparation?
The summer before junior year is an excellent time to start studying. Maintaining consistency in studying until you complete testing is essential, so choose your timing carefully. I recommend starting at least six weeks before your first test and continuing your studying through future tests.

How Many Times Should You Test?
Generally, most students should plan on taking the test three times. However, starting earlier is important to allow time for retakes if needed or in case something goes wrong (like illness or test center closures).


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Maximizing Your Summer Break to Crush the SAT or ACT

Summer is an ideal time to invest in test preparation, as you are free from the stresses and rigors of the school year and can focus your energies into increasing your score. Here are some tips for summer prep:

1. Take two diagnostic tests

It’s important to choose the right test. I suggest taking two full length tests, using official materials (one SAT and one ACT on separate days). Compare your scores to see which test you scored better on. It’s generally better to choose one test and focus all of your attention on it rather than splitting your time between both the SAT and ACT.


2. Create a study plan

Gather materials and past official tests and source quality materials to aid in your studies. For the SAT in particular, be careful to use the official practice tests wisely, as you only have access to 6 (as of the writing of this blog post); I see a lot of students using them up too quickly, who then have no reliable way of measuring their progress. Schedule time...

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Registering for the August SAT

Every year since it’s been in existence, the August SAT date fills up extremely quickly in many areas. It’s important to act quickly to secure a spot (October may fill up quickly as well).

Why does it fill up so quickly?

I assume the reason is the scarcity of testing centers. I suspect schools do not want to open their doors in August, before school officially begins in many areas.

When does registration open up?

The College Board does not tell us, and it’s not an easily predictable date. Last year was the earliest so far, in mid-May.

What can I do to secure my spot?

I recommend frequently checking the registration page, beginning now (at least once per day). Make sure your details are already filled out in your account, so you don’t take too long during registration (and risk losing your spot). You can skip all of the optional questions asking about academic history. Here is the registration page:


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Why is my test score lower than my practice test scores?

  1. You didn’t take the practice tests properly

Using real, official SATs and ACTs is the best way to assess your score; the practice test scores you got in the two weeks before test day are good predictors of how you will score on the real test. However, these scores can be quite inaccurate if you don’t take the practice tests properly. You should take each practice test in a single sitting, uninterrupted, and follow testing rules (for example, don’t give yourself a few extra minutes to finish up a section).

2. You aren’t properly managing your time

It’s important not to allow yourself to get bogged down on any one question, as it’s easy to get sidetracked and run out of time.

3. Test anxiety can reduce your score

If you suffer from test anxiety, I recommend taking the actual test as many times as you can; the more you take the test, the more comfortable you should be on test day, which can help you feel less anxious. Note that test anxiety is...

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Is the ACT Going Digital?

act sat test-optional Mar 02, 2024

I’ve been getting questions from parents and students about the possibility of the ACT going digital, following the SAT’s recent transition. The ACT has been available only as a digital test for international students (anyone outside the US) for several years. Recently, there is an option in certain centers to take a digital ACT, but (for now) the US-based ACT is primarily a paper based exam.


The computer based ACT and the paper based ACT are the same outside of the format. They have the same number of questions, the same timing, and the same scoring. Both formats will be accepted and given equal weight by colleges. 


Should you take the digital ACT if it is available in your area? It really depends on what you feel most comfortable with. My recommendation is to take both versions of the test and see which one you felt better with. The ACT has sample tests in both the digital and paper format on their website and in their official prep guide.



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How to Study for the Digital SAT

Uncategorized Feb 04, 2024

As we embrace the new era of the digital SAT, we're met with a fresh challenge: a scarcity of study resources. This shortage might persist, given the College Board's decision to discontinue the QAS, effectively limiting access to past real SATs. Presently, the College Board has provided only 4 practice digital SATs, a digital 8/9 grade PSAT, and a digital 10/NMSQT PSAT via their BlueBook app.

Given the scarcity of official practice SATs, we have to use them wisely! These tests serve as the best resource for practice and assessing progress, so students should ration them carefully, reserving some for potential future retakes of the exam.

What to avoid: until you've exhausted all official practice tests, avoid all other College Board materials. Unfortunately, questions from their practice tests have been repurposed in their question bank, paper book, and social media posts. Exposure to these questions compromises the accuracy and effectiveness of practice exams.

For additional...

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A Case for Choosing the ACT

Uncategorized Jan 02, 2024

With the SAT now fully digital worldwide, the decision-making process for choosing a standardized test has shifted. While my usual advice of comparing scores and considering comfort levels with each test remains unchanged, a new factor has emerged – the availability of practice tests.

Currently, the digital SAT offers only four practice tests, along with a single digital PSAT and an eighth/ninth-grade version. In contrast, there is a wealth of practice tests available for the ACT, a test which has remained fairly consistent over the last three decades. Even non-official ACT materials, created by test prep companies over time, outshine their rushed-to-market digital SAT counterparts.

Practice tests are crucial. They allow students to get experience taking timed tests, helping them become more comfortable with the process, and giving them an accurate idea of where their score currently stands. In my opinion, taking many practice tests (and reviewing them) is the best way to...

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Maximizing College Scholarships with Your SAT or ACT Score

Uncategorized Dec 04, 2023

In the era of test-optional college admissions, families may question the necessity of taking the SAT or ACT. While a robust test score can undoubtedly bolster your application, the financial advantages of a strong performance can often be overlooked.

Beyond enhancing your application, a noteworthy SAT or ACT score can be a key to merit scholarships. Many educational institutions tie scholarship opportunities directly to these standardized test scores. It's not merely about gaining admission; it's about unlocking financial support that can significantly ease the burden of tuition fees.

Before dismissing standardized testing altogether, prospective students should look into the policies of their target schools. A solid test score doesn't just enhance your chances of admission; it elevates your eligibility for scholarships, which can be even more competitive than the admission process itself. Importantly, some schools mandate an SAT or ACT score for scholarship consideration, even if...

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Adaptive Testing and the Digital SAT

Uncategorized Oct 31, 2023

With the final paper SAT coming up in a mere month, many students and parents have questions and concerns about  the new, digital version of the SAT. Foremost among those concerns is the fact that the test is adaptive


Adaptive technology is not new


Both the GMAT and GRE have been adaptive tests for decades, so the industry has a lot of experience with this technology. This should allay people’s concerns about the effectiveness of adaptive testing - while it is new for the SAT, it is not new to testing!


The Digital SAT is section adaptive


Like the GRE, the Digital SAT adapts in sections. This means that your performance on the first section determines which version of the second section you are given. 


How the Digital SAT adapts


There are two sections (what the SAT calls modules) for the reading & writing portion of the exam and two sections for the math portion of the exam. Everybody gets the same version of module 1. If...

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Test Anxiety

Uncategorized Oct 08, 2023

Test anxiety is one of the most challenging hurdles that some students deal with when taking the SAT and ACT. Test anxiety is an emotional and physical response to the stress of taking a test. Here are some techniques students can use to effectively cope with this issue.


  1.  Be prepared! It’s easy to feel stressed if you don’t feel well prepared for a test, so make sure you learn lots of strategies, review tested concepts, and take lots of practice tests so that you feel confident and prepared on test day.
  2. Remind yourself that you are prepared. Make an effort to push negative thoughts from your mind and tell yourself that you are prepared and will do well on test day.
  3. Sign up for lots of tests. Knowing that your next test is not your last test can do a lot to calm your nerves.
  4. Breathe slowly. Breathing in and out slowly can help slow your heart rate and make you feel calmer.
  5. Don’t procrastinate. It’s easy to push off tasks that make you feel...
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