Suniti's Advice Corner

5 Questions to Ask When Selecting a Test Prep Method for the SAT/ACT

Posted by Suniti Mathur on Mon, Jan 05, 2015

Selecting a test prep method can be a daunting task. Every student is different, so there isn't one option out there that works for everyone. You know yourself better than others, so ask yourself the questions below, and make sure you do your research!

  1. When will I have time to prepare? 

    Consider your academic course load and extra-curricular activities. If have a busy schedule, and are choices-300x214involved in many different activities, it will be difficult for you to use a method of prep that requires being present at specific times – whether it is on the weekend or after school. You need to select a method that is more flexible, so that it can be accessed at your convenience or in small doses. 

  2. How much time do I have until my SAT/ACT test date? 

    If you don’t have too much time until your next SAT/ACT test date, you need to start preparing now. Books and online programs are instantly available to you once you purchase them, leaving no time wasted on scheduling or finding enough class times that could work. If your test is more than 3 months away, chances are that you have more options available to you. However keep in mind that you should continue preparing all the way till your test date. So if you are looking in to a schedule-based option, you need the sessions to extend as close to your test date as possible.

  3. How much preparation do I need? 

    If you haven’t taken the PSAT, attempt a full-length test at home to get an idea of where your scores stand as of now. Then, think about what your target score is. Not sure about what your target score should be? Read this blog about how to choose your target score. If you are looking for a high score improvement, you will need a customized plan and personalized attention. If you are just looking to boost your score by a few points and your scores are generally average, you can get by with less personalization. If you are a very high achiever and already have very high scores, you will need to drill down on the few areas of improvement and really target your preparation. This requires analysis of your strengths and weaknesses.

    Attempt the TestRocker diagnostic test to see what your areas of improvement are! 

  4. Which test prep options are available in my area? 

    If you live in a remote location and don’t have easy access to transportation, group classes and private tutors might not work for you logistically. If you live in a big city, all options are available, but scheduling can be tough because demand is high. Select your method of preparation early! If you rely on a parent or sibling to drive you to and from sessions, make sure you communicate with them prior to signing up for test prep so that they can make it a priority help you.

  5. How many times am I going to take the SAT/ACT? 

    If you can, take the SAT up to 3 times, and the ACT up to 2 times. That is our recommendation at TestRocker. These tests are offered only 6 – 7 times a year, so you will need to plan for a test preparation method that can be a resource to you throughout the process, over all two or three attempts. Check out our blog about picking the right SAT/ACT test dates.

You might also enjoy the following blogs:

How to Become a Great Test Taker

For Parents: Developing a SAT/ACT Plan with your Child

Tags: For Students

International Students: 10 Steps to College Acceptance in the US

Posted by TestRocker Team on Thu, Dec 18, 2014

If you are an internationflags-1al student and you want to pursue your undergraduate studies in the United States, this blog is for you! You will definitely need to have a clear plan of action as you go through the application process. To help you get started, we asked our friend and highly accomplished international admissions expert, Peter Davos, to provide a list of the steps to college success in the US.

1. Pursue your academic passion

With over 4,000 universities in the US, it's important to make the right choices. Take the time to choose a university that offers the major that you want, the flexibility that you seek, and the activities with which you want to get involved.


2. Get involved

Take part in and show commitment to a few extracurricular activities that you love. Be it sports, volunteer work, music, leadership programs, or internships, it’s important to show that you’re a well-rounded student.


3. Choose a rigorous curriculum

It's not enough just to get good grades. It's also important to show that you can handle the rigorous curriculum of a US university. The best way to do so is by choosing a rigorous high school program, such as the International Baccalaureate Diploma Program, Advanced Placement, or A-Levels.


4. Take standardized tests

As much as we wish it weren't so, standardized tests are a critical component of the application that can make or break admission. Choosing the right exams (SAT vs. ACT, SAT Subject Tests, TOEFL) to take and when is a crucial part of the process. Plan to retake tests up to three times and seek tutoring if needed. (To get a customized study plan for the SAT, ACT or both, take the TestRocker Diagnostic test for free. Simply create a free account by clicking here.)


5. Create a balanced college list

Choosing the right colleges to apply to will not only impact the responses you will receive but also ultimately impact your happiness and success in your four years at university. Create a list of universities that matches your personality, credentials, and learning style.

6. Apply!

The most labor-intensive part of the process, applying to a number of US universities takes time and effort. Managing your time and understanding deadlines is key. Take the time to craft a structured and well-written personal statement. Ask for letters of recommendation from your teachers and prepare for possible admissions interviews.


7. Research scholarships

US higher-level education can be very costly, particularly for international students. That's why it's always worthwhile to research what types of scholarships there are out there. Make sure you're eligible to apply!


8. Get accepted!

It's April and responses from colleges are now coming in. With two or more acceptances in hand, it's time to make an informed choice. Make sure you are confident and comfortable with your decision. Some considerations include: university reputation, amount of aid received, academic curriculum, location, and extracurricular programs.

9. Apply for your student visa

There's one last step to be completed before you embark on your American adventure: apply for your F-1 student visa. Getting your student visa can be a smooth and stress-free process if you manage your time and prepare all the necessary forms in advance. Get your parents involved!

10. Pack your bags

Pack your bags, kiss your parents goodbye and get ready to live the best four years of your life. Study hard, get involved in student life, and make lasting friendships. Your ids education the most powerful tool you will have to make a difference in the world!

Students in the GCC region: Click here to request a free consultation with Peter.

About the Author:

Peter is the founder and Managing Director of Carian College Advisors, the GCC's leading educational consultancy focusing exclusively on US university admissions. He graduated Phi BetaKappa, with a double major, from Johns Hopkins University and spent his junior year abroad completing the General Course in International Relations at the London School of Economics. Peter holds Master’s Degrees from Oxford University and Harvard University, where he was selected Marshal of his class. He has completed UCLA’s Certificate in College Counseling and IECA’s Summer Training Institute. A Johns Hopkins Alumni Interviewer for over twelve years, Peter is also a member of the Johns Hopkins Alumni Council, Second Decade Society, and founder/co-president of the Johns Hopkins Alumni Society of the UAE. He is a proud member of the HECA (Higher Education Consultants Association), OACAC (Overseas Association for College Admissions Counseling), HASUAE (Harvard Alumni Society of the UAE), and American Business Council of Dubai. Peter is an Offensive/Defensive Lineman for the Emirates American Football League’s Dubai Barracudas and has been chosen to represent the UAE on the country’s National American Football Team, the Falcons. He is a contributing writer on US Education issues for Gulf News has lived in Dubai since 2010.

Tags: For Students, For Parents, International Students, College Applications

The New SAT: Advice for the Class of 2017

Posted by Suniti Mathur on Thu, Dec 04, 2014


SAT-changes-ahead-New SATChange is always scary! By now you know that the SAT is changing. I have received a lot of questions from current 10th graders (students who will graduate in 2017) about what to do when it comes to test preparation now that this change is on the horizon. Here are my top 3 pieces of advice, in no particular order:


1. Don't panic! 

Yes, the SAT is changing. However, keep in mind that as of now, it is just as much of a mystery to you as it is to admissions officers who will be reviewing your application. Everything will become clearer as the College Board releases additional information. 


2. Take the ACT, if you can

While the SAT is changing, the ACT is not. The ACT is accepted by all 4 year colleges and universities in the United States. And last year, more students took the ACT than the SAT. Admissions officers are just as familiar with the ACT as the SAT. If you still decide to take the new SAT, submit both scores. Admissions officers like to see as much information about you as possible, so it definitely won't hurt! Sign up for an ACT diagnostic test here.


3. Take the current SAT before March 2016

Universities will accept your scores from the current SAT, as long as you complete your attempts before March 2016. January 2016 will be the last time the current SAT is offered. If you do so, you will not need to take the new SAT. This is the advice I am giving to all my students, because there are no preparation materials currently available for the new SAT, and you can kickstart your prep now by preparing for the current SAT. 

Have more questions about the new SAT? Leave a comment below and one of our TestRocker experts will be in touch with you shortly. 

Other blogs you might be interested in:

How Will The Vocab Section Change on the New SAT

The Content and Structure of the New SAT

What the College Board Plans to Change about the SAT

Tags: For Students, New SAT

15 Tips About Writing An Effective SAT/ACT Essay

Posted by Suniti Mathur on Mon, Nov 10, 2014

One of our TestRocker students recently asked me for a list of 15 points to keep in mind while attempting the Essay section on the SAT/ACT. I thought it was worth sharing!

  1. Begin your introduction with short, firm sentences.keep-calm-and-write-your-essay
  2. State your 'stance' or thesis firmly and clearly.
  3. In the introduction, mention the 2-3 supports you will use in the essay to support your thoughts. 
  4. Make good transitions or 'links' to open each paragraph. 
  5. Tackle 1 support at a time in each paragraph. 
  6. Build your thoughts up with each sentence. Each sentence should add on to your thoughts. Do not repeat, put forth new information.
  7. At the end of each paragraph, write a 'mini' conclusion to connect to the topic and why your support proves your point of view. 
  8. Link well onto the second support. 
  9. Keep focus on the issue. Don’t go off topic. 
  10. Take a quick look at the assignment as a reminder to stay on topic, and to ensure you are answering what the prompt is asking you. 
  11. Take a few phrases and vocabulary words from the prompt, but don’t reproduce verbatim! 
  12. Don’t make 'politically incorrect’ statements.
  13. Write a powerful conclusion. Keep it simple but make firm assertions. 
  14. Keep an eye on time. 
  15. Use good and clear hand-writing! 

You might also enjoy the following blog entries:

Tips on How to Master the Essay Section

How to Become a Great Test Taker

Tags: For Students

Prepare for the Nov 8 SAT in 3 Weeks!

Posted by TestRocker Team on Thu, Oct 09, 2014

Been busy with school work? Need to prepare for the November 8th SAT last minute? Fear not! With TestRocker you can be prepared on time. Simply follow our 3 week preparation calendar (see below) to ace the test on time. All of the important topics below are taught on TestRocker's award winning online SAT program

Here is some more information about TestRocker:


3 week calendar

Click HERE to download the Calendar


Tags: For Students

Guessing on the SAT and ACT…Is it worth the risk?

Posted by Suniti Mathur on Sun, Sep 28, 2014

best_guessWhen it comes to test prep students often spend hours studying to ensure that they are not surprised by any of the content on the test. Even with all the time dedicated to studying, it is impossible to predict which questions you will encounter. It is highly likely that there will be a few questions that you just do not know the answer to…that’s where guessing comes into play.

The risk associated with guessing differs depending on whether you are taking the SAT or ACT. The ACT has no guessing penalty, so here students may feel less apprehension about guessing. The SAT does have a guessing penalty. While students who guess correctly will only reap the benefits, those who guess incorrectly will lose 1/4th of a point. On the ACT, we advise our students to guess when they cannot figure out how to solve the problem or when time is running out. On the SAT, students should only guess when they are able to eliminate a few answers. Below are our tips for guessing smart on test day.

Tips for Guessing Smart

Extreme Attraction

Take note of the highest and lowest value listed amongst your math answer choices. Do the same when it comes to sentence completion questions. For each of these questions the CollegeBoard often includes extreme answers to throw you off. If you haven’t been able to eliminate any responses and plan to guess, be sure to go with the answer that is the median between the two extremes.

Units of Measurement

On math questions units of measurement will often be used. Before you guess, double check that the provided answer choices have the unit of measurement that is being requested in the question. Eliminate any choices that are not in the correct unit of measurement.

Question Context

You should depend on question direction and question tone to help you guess more effectively. The questions themselves often contain hints that you can use to find the answer. Look for these if you are ever stuck on a question. 

On the english sections, you will be required to put your vocabulary to use. If you’re being asked to find the opposite of a negative word, it makes sense to eliminate any words that have a negative connotation.

On the math section, skim the question to figure out whether your final answer should be a bigger or smaller value than the values provided in the question. Should your final answer be negative or positive? Will it be an exponent? Polynomial function? Or an integer? The answers to these questions should guide you throughout your process of elimination.

Ultimately with the right amount of preparation you should be able to make educated guesses on the test. 

If you're having trouble deciding on which test date to prepare for, read our blog on picking the right test date!

Tags: For Students, For Parents, sat, test prep, act, guessing

Three reasons why you should study before the PSAT

Posted by Suniti Mathur on Mon, Sep 22, 2014

girl_studyingPSAT season is upon us once again. In just a few weeks, most students around the world who are interested in attending university in the United States will attempt the PSAT. Some of these students prepared intensely for the test, while others have opted to take the test without studying. Experts and college guidance counselors differ on whether students should study for the PSAT. Here at TestRocker, we encourage our students to prepare for the test. Here are our reasons for making these suggestions: 

1. Any prep for the PSAT gets you ready for the SAT as well

Trying to study effectively for the SAT while also trying to manage a full academic schedule, leading extra-curriculars, and spending time with friends and family is hard to do. The PSAT is offered in October, which is normally a month or two after school has begun. While school is never easy, this is the time of year when things might be slower than usual in the classroom. Since the PSAT is mandatory for most students whether you are a sophomore or junior it might make sense to prepare.

The PSAT mimics the SAT in format, content, and question style. For this reason, consider preparing for the PSAT as this will put you ahead in your SAT prep. Students who study for the PSAT are then able to focus on learning and reviewing the content they are not as familiar with when studying for the SAT.

2. Determines eligibility for scholarships

The CollegeBoard and the National Merit Scholarship Corporation cosponsor the PSAT. For this reason the PSAT scores of US high school juniors are used to determine their eligibility for the National Merit Scholarship and other scholarship programs. The price of US colleges and universities continues to increase exponentially. No matter where your family falls on the socio-economic scale any additional money you can secure to go towards your schooling will no doubt be a huge help.

3. Get a realistic sense of your strengths and weaknesses

Taking the PSAT after making a significant effort to prepare will give you a realistic sense of your strengths and weaknesses. As we’ve mentioned before the content and questions on the PSAT are similar to what you would encounter on the SAT. Once you have received your PSAT score report use it to guide how you study for the SAT. Do not use your PSAT score report as an excuse to freak out.

For each of the PSATs three sections: critical reading, math, and writing, you will receive a score out of 80 as well as a predicted SAT score. You also receive your percentile which will tell you how many students you scored higher than. Finally your score report will include a skills breakdown section, which breaks down your skills to a subject/topic level. Review this section carefully to guide your studying.

Have more questions about preparing for the PSAT? Planning to take the PLAN instead? Contact our test-prep experts to develop a plan that you can feel confident about.

Other blogs to link to:


Tags: For Students, For Parents

Changes to the PSAT Coming in 2015

Posted by Suniti Mathur on Sun, Sep 14, 2014

psattestIf you didn’t know, TestRocker is here to tell you that changes are on the horizon across the test-prep landscape. In earlier blogs, we wrote about how the new SAT and new ACT will bring students a different test taking experience. In 2015, there will also be changes to the PSAT.

These changes are meant to mirror the announced changes to the SAT and ensure that students have a chance to prepare for the new SAT with a PSAT that is a realistic representation of the test. In addition to preparing students for the redesigned SAT, these changes are also meant to provide a measure of student performance and make it easier to identify a student’s areas of weakness. Below, we walk you through some of the structural and content modifications that you can expect on the PSAT as of October 2015.

Structural Changes to the PSAT

Test Components

Today’s PSAT has 3 components. These three components are critical reading, writing, and mathematics.  The PSAT of the future will have only two components. The first is an evidence-based reading and writing section. The second is a math section. A reading test and writing and language test will be collapsed into the new evidence-based reading and writing section. 

Test Time

While the PSAT will go from having 3 components to 2 components, this doesn’t mean that the test will be any shorter. In fact on the new PSAT the test will go from being 2 hours and 10 minutes long to being 2 hours and 45 minutes long.


A number of significant changes have been made to the way the PSAT will be scored. There will no longer be a penalty for incorrect answers. Students will receive points for the right answer but receive no penalty for blank or incorrect answers.

Subscores will be provided for each section of the test, a feature that is not currently available with the PSAT. These subscores are meant to provide students, educators, and parents with a fuller picture of whether students have a grasp on the content being tested. PSAT test takers will receive seven different subscores.

Overall score reporting will also be different on the new PSAT. Each of the PSATs three tests (Reading Test, Writing and Language Test, and Math) will be scored on a range from 10-40. The two areas, Evidence-Based Reading and Writing & Math will each be scored from 200-800. The redesigned PSATs composite score will range from 400 to 1600. 

Content Changes to the PSAT


Echoing the changes to the SAT that were reported earlier this year, the PSAT vocab section will not require students to just memorize a bunch of words and their meanings. Instead students will have to demonstrate an understanding of words by applying them in context.


While the current PSAT has an emphasis on general reasoning skills, the new PSAT will also test whether students have knowledge, skills, and understanding for college and career success.

Leave us a comment and let us know what you think of the coming changes to the PSAT.

Image source: Flickr


Tags: For Parents, For Counselors

Back to School: Preparing your child for SAT/ACT success

Posted by Sybil St. Hilaire on Fri, Sep 05, 2014

test prepBack to school season is in full swing. As summer winds down, parents have been swept up in the tide of back to school shopping, double-checking summer assignments, and preparing their children for another year of academic success. This season can get even more stressful as your children begin the college application process. Test preparation in particular can be challenging for children and parents alike. It is important for parents to support, guide and mentor their children through the college admissions process. If you are afraid that your child may struggle with time management, SAT/ACT preparation, or completing their college applications; here are a few things you can do now and over the course of the school year to help your child get ready:

Create an SAT/ACT test prep plan

For many parents nothing is harder than getting their child to study. It’s only more difficult to get your child to study for the SAT and ACT on top of their existing academic obligations. We have written extensively about how you and your child can work together to create a SAT/ACT test prep plan.

If you are the parent of a high school junior or senior, it is critical to start a conversation with your child about which SAT or ACT test dates they plan to register for. Once you and your child have agreed on test dates, use this information to follow up on and guide your child’s test prep process.

Create the right study environment

Effective studying does not happen in a hectic or messy environment. Work with your child to identify the three or four areas or environments in which they study most effectively. These places can be both inside and outside the home (e.g., kitchen table, library, or bedroom). Be sure that any potential distractions are removed from the chosen study areas.

Stay organized

Today’s high school student is expected to juggle any number of academic; extra-curricular; social; and sports commitments. Many parents choose to put all of their child’s commitments on one central calendar to facilitate keeping track of everything. If this schedule is not kept digitally, it should be posted somewhere where it is easy for the entire family to view. 

Introduce yourself to your child’s teachers

Your child’s teachers will be your allies throughout the school year. They can help identify and address academic red flags before they become major obstacles to academic performance.  Partner with your child’s teacher to develop an action plan for achieving goals and addressing any areas of development.

Schedule a meeting with your child’s guidance counselor

Once you have been able to introduce yourself to your child’s teachers, it may also make sense to schedule a meeting between yourself, your child, and your child’s guidance counselor. In this meeting, empower your child and ensure that their voice is heard. This meeting is also your opportunity to have your questions about the college application process answered. Once you have this conversation, let your child drive the process. Be a source of encouragement and check-in to make sure all necessary classes, tests, and applications have been completed. d 

Parents: Want more information? Register today for our “How to support your child through the test prep process” webinar.

October 15, US: Click here to register
October 16, International: Click here to register

Tags: For Parents

Back to School: 5 Things seniors must tell their counselors

Posted by Sybil St. Hilaire on Fri, Aug 22, 2014

College Prep Harkness TableYou’ve done it! Well, almost. If you’re a senior about to start your final year of high school, the bulk of the hard work is already behind you. As you celebrate all of the hard work that it took to get to where are, you must also plan for the future. When it comes to your college plans, it’s important to communicate these key pieces of information to your guidance counselor from the beginning of your senior year.

Share your college list revisions

As a senior, you should have spent the summer after your junior year researching the schools on the college list your counselor provided you with. This research may have included school visits, in-depth research online, reading through any materials schools shared with you, and conversations with students, faculty, and staff from your institution of interest. Based on your findings, let your counselor know which schools seem to be the best fit given your goals, desired experience, and academics.

Update SAT/ACT Scores

Once you are back on your high school’s campus let your counselor know where your scores stand. This information will help them set realistic expectations for you. It will also allow your counselor to develop an informed picture of where you stand as an applicant. Based on your updated college list, your college counselor can let you know what score range you need to target on subsequent test retakes. Counselors would also be able to share score information for alumni who attend the schools you are interested in.
Wondering how to pick the right target score? Start with our advice. Click here.

Share your test-prep plan for the coming year

In addition to a score update, seniors should also share whether they plan to take the test again before college applications are due. Doing this allows students to double check the necessity of additional testing. Students and counselors can work together to ensure that test scores are back in time to be considered by admissions committees.

Share planned extra-curricular and academic course load

During your senior year, there is the temptation to just do the bare minimum. It is important to consult with your guidance counselor to make sure you are meeting graduation requirements, while continuing to challenge yourself and explore any areas of potential interest.  This will also allow your counselor to share with college admissions committees how you have grown academically over the course of your high school career.

Talk through your approach for requesting recommendations. 

Since your counselor will act as your advocate throughout the college admissions process, it is important to get their input about teacher recommendations. They should have some sense of which teachers will be able to speak positively about your academic performance. In most cases your counselor will also share a recommendation on your behalf, be sure to share any key messages you want them to send.
The college application process is difficult enough, you don’t have to go it alone. Remember to rely on the parents, teachers, and counselors around for advice, support, or just a shoulder to cry on. The sooner you share your plan and get these people involved, the more likely you are to find yourself celebrating the positive outcome of the entire process.

Enjoyed this blog? Check out these relevant blogs

College Ready: Help your child get ahead during their junior year!

Suniti's Time Management Tips for High School Students

Social Media: An Extension of your college application

You know your SAT Score. Now what?

Developing a SAT or ACT Test-Prep Plan with your Child 

Tags: For Students, For Parents

About Suniti

describe the image

Suniti is the creator of TestRocker, an online learning platform that helps you unlock your dream SAT and ACT scores. TestRocker is based on Suniti’s highly successful and proven method of teaching students how to maximize their SAT and ACT scores, a method she has perfected through tutoring thousands of students globally for more than a decade. 

TestRocker is a one of a kind online SAT/ACT program that empowers students to take control of their test preparation. After taking our diagnostic test a customized study plan, individualized to students' strengths/weaknesses, allows them to track progress as they work through the program. Each of the 1,200 SAT & 2000 ACT questions on TestRocker are accompanied by video explanations from Suniti. Parents are able to track their child’s progress through biweekly reports.

Ask Suniti a Question!

Follow TestRocker

describe the imageTestRocker twitterdescribe the imageinstafor blog 

Try our free trial

International Student Guide Download

SAT vs ACT Webinar

Stay up to date with our Blog!