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A Brief History of Test Prep


"You can't prepare for the SAT"
--The College Board


"Standardized tests are highly trainable."
--Test Prep Companies


"Taking the SAT or ACT without preparation is like going to the Olympics without training and expecting to win"
-- Modern College Applicant

Demystifying Test Prep

The most important thing to know about the ACT and SAT is that they are skill-based (not knowledge-based) tests. Any student, regardless of innate aptitude, can dramatically improve their test-taking skill – and therefore their scores – with the right practice.

Although the “test prep arms race” is a reality for today’s college applicants, we don’t buy into the hysteria. Test prep isn’t complicated and it doesn’t have to be prohibitively expensive. It does require consistent work and dedication, but it doesn’t have to be a grueling slog.

There’s a great satisfaction in beating the clock, mastering previously unassailable problems, and seeing your scores rise. When approached with the right mindset, it can be a lot of fun.

Read on to learn about our test prep process.

Want to talk? We're always happy to answer your questions.

Our Test Prep Process

Step 1.

Find your baseline score.

ACT or SAT? Regardless of the test, the first step of the process is to find your starting score by taking a practice test under realistic test-taking conditions.

Most students will have the option to sit for both tests, so unless you have a good reason not to, take both a practice SAT and a practice ACT to get a baseline score.

Download a sample SAT by clicking this link.

Download a sample ACT by clicking this link.

Be kind to yourself – don’t take them both on the same day!

Step 2.

Pick your target schools

Although a high SAT or ACT score won’t guarantee admission to a top university, a lower than average score will certainly put you at a disadvantage.

Take a look at the chart and find a few of the colleges you want to apply to. Make note of their average scores, and compare your baseline score from your practice tests with the average acceptance score of your college of choice.  That’s how many points you’ll need to improve by to give yourself a good chance at admission.

To further improve your odds, you want to score safely above the average – ideally in the 75th percentile – on either the SAT or ACT.

The scores change every year, so take a look at the U.S New College Rankings for up-to-date scores and rankings.

1California Institute of Technology154534
2University of Chicago151533.5
3Harvard University150533.5
3Princeton University150533
5Yale University150033.5
5Massachusetts Institute of Technology150034
7Vanderbilt University149033
8Franklin W Olin College of Engineering148932.5
9Washington University in St Louis148533
10Harvey Mudd College148033.5
10Columbia University in the City of New York148032.5
12Stanford University147532.5
13Northwestern University147032.5
14Pomona College146032.5
14Rice University146032.5
16Dartmouth College145532
16Duke University145532
18University of Pennsylvania145032
19Tufts University144531.5
19Williams College144532
21Amherst College144032
21Swarthmore College144032.5
23Bowdoin College143531.5
23Webb Institute14350
23Carnegie Mellon University143532
23Brown University143531.5
27University of Notre Dame143033
27Carleton College143031
29Cornell University142032
30Johns Hopkins University141532
31Claremont McKenna College141031
31Wellesley College141031
33Georgetown University140531
34Haverford College140031.5
35Wesleyan University139031
35Northeastern University139031.5
35Vassar College139031.5
38Rensselaer Polytechnic Institute138929
39Hamilton College138531
39Washington and Lee University138531.5
41University of Southern California138031
41University of Michigan-Ann Arbor138030
43Grinnell College137530
43Case Western Reserve University137531
43Reed College137530.5
43Middlebury College137532
47Scripps College 1366.530.5
48Emory University136530.5
48Colgate University136531
48College of William and Mary136530
51Oberlin College 1362.530
52Georgia Institute of Technology-Main Campus136030
52Boston College136031.5
54University of California-Berkeley135530
54University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign135528.5
54Cooper Union for the Advancement of Science and Art135531
54New York University135530
54University of Virginia-Main Campus135531
59Brandeis University135030
59University of Rochester135030.5
61Colby College134530
62Macalester College134030.5
62Barnard College134030
62Bryn Mawr College134029.5
65Davidson College133531
66Colorado College132529.5
66University of Miami132530
68Jewish Theological Seminary of America 1322.5 31
69Whitman College 1321.5 30
70Tulane University of Louisiana132030.5

SAT to ACT Concordance Table

New SAT TotalACT Composite
Step 3.

Pick a Test!

Now that you know where you want to apply, and how much you’ll need to improve, it’s time to decide which test to focus on. Although a few schools strongly prefer one or the other, most will readily accept both.

Take a look at the concordance table, and find your scores for both tests. If you scored higher on one test than the other,  such as a 1400 on the SAT but only a 27 on the ACT, it’s probably best to focus on the test that you did better on naturally.

If your scores were pretty close, or you are still unsure, check out our in-depth article on How to Choose Between the SAT and ACT.

Step 4.

Make a (realistic) study plan

How many more points do you need to hit your target?

If you score within 50 on the SAT or 2 points on the ACT, an additional 10-20 hours of study will help get you there. Need 100 points on the SAT or 3-4 points on the ACT? Plan to invest at least 40 hours.

Increasing your score by 200 points or more on SAT or 6 points or more on the ACT is doable, but will require dedicating a significant amount of time and effort – 80 hours or more.

For more information, check out our in-depth article on when to start studying for standardized tests.

Step 5.

Get some help - if you need it!

The bad news is that tutors can’t a) take the test for you, or b) magically imbue you with their skills.

They can, however:

  • guide you through the test-taking process
  • assess your weak-points
  • help you formulate an effective, personalized study plan to maximize your score
  • show you different ways to efficiently attack specific problem types
  • teach you any material that you don’t know
  • help you stay on track
  • inspire confidence
  • and more!

If you choose to work with a tutor, we recommend about 1 hour of tutor time for every 3-6 hours of solo practice time.



We’ve all gone through the test-taking process, and most of us have scored in the top 1%. None of us, however, started at the top – we all had to practice and prepare to get there.

If you have high aspirations and are willing to work hard, we’re here to help you on your journey.

Upcoming Administration Dates

2018-19 SAT

SAT DateRegistration Deadline
March 10, 2018February 9, 2018
May 5, 2018April 6, 2018
June 2, 2018May 3, 2018
August 25, 2018TBA (to be announced)
October 6, 2018TBA
November 3, 2018TBA
December 1, 2018TBA

2018-19 ACT

ACT DateRegistration Deadline
April 14, 2018March 9, 2018
June 9, 2018May 4, 2018
September 8, 2018TBA (to be announced)
October 27, 2018TBA
December 8, 2018TBA
April 13, 2019TBA
June 8, 2019TBA

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We love talking to parents, and are always happy to help out or answer your questions.

Call us directly at (718) 552 0300e-mail us at, or fill out the form.

Please let us know as much as possible about your situation, and include your phone number as well a good time to reach you.

Phone calls are usually answered right away, and emails are usually returned within 24 hours, though it may take us longer on weekends.

We look forward to speaking with you.

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