7 months ago
Admissions Advice

What is the best test prep (web site or company) to register for summer before junior year?

I will be heading into my junior year and I'd like to get help with preparing for SAT/ACT this summer. We are looking into more formal routes before looking into tutors.

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3 answers

7 months ago[edited]

If you are not aware, all colleges are agnostic as to which test you submit if you submit a standardized test. The caveat are the UC colleges, Caltech, Sarah Lawarence, Hampshire College and a few others that are test-blind meaning that your test scores will not be used whatsoever.

The next hurdle is to focus on the test format that suits your learning style and your test taking style the best. To do that unfortunately you need to take 1 of each as a practice test and see how you do and establish a baseline. If you get 1350 on the SAT or 31, use the concordance table on ACT.org to determine which score is highter. In this case a 31 is like a 1390-1410 so you would forgo studying on the SAT and concentrate on the ACT and try to get your score as high as possible.


If you are on a tight budget, I would still get the Official SAT Study Guide (the 2021 should be out soon) or Official ACT Prep Guide 2021-22. I would also sign up for free Khan Academy account.



Once you figure out which test you are better at, look carefully at the test results to determine if you need the most help with EBRW (reading and writing) or with MATH or in the case of the ACT, Science is a section.

There are many specialized books on Amazon that you can buy to help you with a specific weakness. The best series I found helpful are the College Panda series by Nielson Phu. While I bought all of them to help me with the SAT, this was before I realized that I would never hit my target 1550 on the SAT. So I switched over to the ACT and thank GOD I did because I was able to get my target 35+ in less than 1/2 the time I already invested in the SAT. (So like 100 hours of studying versus 200 hours of studying).

The key thing is to take as many timed practice test as possible and then spend hours identifying your missed questions and going over them until you get them right. So take a timed test in an empty room once a week, especially better if you do it on a SAT morning at 8:30 like the real test. And then spend the afternoon going over all the problems you missed and put a study plan to focus on those missed areas. In my experience, I would recommend taking no less than 8 practice tests, ideally 12. Take your last one, the week before the actual test. This rountine will help you get rid of the nerves during the real thing because you've done it many times already.

If you find yourself study at a certain range like 1400 and 31 and you really need a 1520 and 34, the only thing I can recommend is that you pay for an online test prep service. There are 3 paths.

1.) A service like Stanley Kaplan or Princeton Review. Depending on your target score, these companies have different pricing tiers. So at Princeton they have a guaranteed 1400+ service which cost $1500, and a guaranteed 1500+ SAT service which is $250 per hour (so figure 10 to 20 hours will be $2500-$5000).

2.) There are plenty of Ivy grad or Elite grad consultants that get help you as well. But they are even more expensive. Plan on spending up to $500 per hour depending on where you live and the persons credentials and clients. Some charge $1000 per hour.

3.) If you are on a budget, try using SuperTutorTV's best ACT or Best SAT prep program. Its mostly watching videos on the test broken down to all its individual parts and then you do practice problems. Its about $300-$400 depending on how long you want the service for. I subscribed and it helped me get my target score in less than 2 months.

So the wrap up is the following:

1.) Figure out which test is better for you.

2.) Figure out what your target score needs to be.

3.) Get specialized help to get those weaknesses or gaps closed by taking a weekly practice test and studying all your deficient areas. (Not fun but you have to grind)

4.) If you get stuck at a level, then get more help, and this is where it costs the most money.

Why is it worth it? It's worth it only if you are trying to get in to a top 50 school because there are going to be more applicants these next 2 cycles. Successful admits at top schools have for the most part submitted ACT or SAT scores compared to those who didn't submit. At some top colleges it's like 90% submitted test scores which at others 50%. In general it would be fair to say that 2/3rd to 3/4s of successful admits at Ivys and Elites submitted test scores. If you do not have a test score to submt, then your academic record and ECs and essays and recommendations should be near perfect.

Sorry for the long answer but in my case, failure was not an option. If I gave up and didn't submit my 99.5% ACT score to Columbia, I'm not sure I would have been admitted. I'm just being honest. I didn't want to take the risk of not getting it even though CollegeVine said that it was a Target at 34-44% at the time I applied.

Hope that helps.

7 months ago

@CameronBameron gave a detailed answer. I just want to add one additional book for SAT math which helped immensely is unicorn 1000 + advanced math problems from Amazon. I practiced all problems in that book thoroughly and my math score went from low 700 to 790. If you stick with SAT I would recommend buying that book for math.

I found reaching/writing harder in SAT even with practice and lot of reading still could not surpass from low 700’s thread hold.

I did prefer ACT as that is still you can get better with each timed practice. Reading/English is way easier and math and science just need lots of timed practice.

7 months ago

Hi @pisom

First of all, it depends on the test you plan to take from both of them I would advise if taking SAT Khan Academy or for the ACT take PrepScholar as it is a very useful tool since it includes resources for SAT as well. Good Luck!!!


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