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Suniti's Advice Corner

Sybil St. Hilaire

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4 Reasons to Prepare for the SAT & ACT this Summer

Posted by Sybil St. Hilaire on Tue, Jun 20, 2017

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Updated: June 6th, 2018

The time is finally here, the long awaited and much deserved summer vacation. After a long and grueling semester filled with tests, final projects, and tight deadlines, it is finally time for students and their parents to take a break! Families are heading off on vacations or looking forward to staycations. Both of which include days dedicated to rest, relaxation, new hobbies, and family bonding. 

While we here at TestRocker believe the summer is a perfect time to decompress, we also see it as the perfect opportunity for high-schoolers to do some stress-free SAT/ACT prep. 

Here are the top four reasons why:

1. Avoiding the summer slide

giphy-tumblr.gifAccording to a study by John Hopkins University, children lose approximately 2.6 months of grade level equivalency in math during their summer months. This is because students often find themselves with no set routine and don’t receive the same level of intellectual stimulation that takes place in the classroom. Studying for these tests over the summer with a customized program like TestRocker will keep children engaged. The program also helps refresh many concepts that were learned in school.

Learn About Our Summer Bootcamp Designed to Solve This Exact Issue

2. Studying when relaxed leads to better retention

There is no shortage to the number of studies that show that retention is higher when students learn while relaxed. Students have more free time in the summer, along with the opportunity to take a brief break before getting back to studying. This is the chance for your children to study more effectively for the tests at their own relaxed pace, in a comfortable environment.

3. Getting ahead of the crunch

Mistakes are made when we do things in a hurry. The same is true with studying for the ACT or SAT. One big mistake is starting to study without a plan and final goal in mind. Beginning SAT prep during the summer allows students to invest in a summer study plan. The absence of schoolwork also makes it much easier to make time for dedicated prep, 4-hour practice tests and quizzes. The next school year will bring along its own set of stresses: new classes, more activities, more tests, college applications, essays, deadlines and the tests. Use the summer to help your child get ahead of the crunch, and the competition.

4. The August SAT & July ACT

In 2017 Collegeboard decided to hold their first test date in August instead of September. This year it will be on August 25th. For most students this is before they go back to school, and it's useful to take the SAT before school starts as #3 explains, because 12th grade gets stressful. For more information on the August SAT see our post all about it. 

Additionally, this year ACT added a new July 14th test. Like the SAT, this now gives students the ability to take the ACT before going back to school. However, the ACT test is placed more in the middle of the Summer. That means less time to prep during the Summer so get to your prep now!

End the summer well ahead of the curve when it comes to SAT & ACT prep, and begin the next school year without the additional burden of anything more than the occasional refresher. 

Summer Bootcamp

Take advantage of our special offer for students taking the PSAT and/or ACT. Get $100 off any PSAT combo program + access to our Summer Bootcamp. 

To Use This Offer & Get Access to Bootcamp email Michael@testrocker.com or call/text +1-210-413-0570

Super Study Package (1)


Johns Hopkins Universit study

Tags: For Students, For Parents

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.

What else would you add to this list? Add your comments below!

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.


Updated 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

3 Findings from the 2014 ACT College and Career Readiness Report

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

Every year, the ACT prepares a “College and Career Readiness” report. This report highlights significant performance data points for the given year’s graduates. This information is meant to help track test-prep trends, give clear insight into whether aggregate test scores are meeting college readiness benchmarks, as well as capturing student aspirations. Below we share three critical findings from this years report. 

1. The ACT continues to grow in popularity

In 2012, for the first time ever, more students took the ACT than the SAT[i]. The increasing popularity of the ACT continues to be a critical piece of the puzzle for students applying to college. In 2014, 1.8M students took the ACT. This is an 18% increase in the number of ACT tested graduates since 2010.

2. The percentage of students meeting ACT College Readiness Benchmarks remained steady

The Class of 2014 performed similarly to past classes as it relates to the percentage of graduates meeting reading, math, and science benchmarks. In the class of 2014, the percentage of students meeting college readiness benchmarks was as follows:

English: 64% college readiness
Reading: 44%
Mathematics: 43%
Science: 37%
All four subjects: 26%

Interestingly enough the ACT reports that in Kentucky, Michigan, North Carolina, Tennessee, and Wyoming, states that focus on college and career readiness in their curriculum, the class of 2014 saw gains of 0.2-0.3 points in their ACT Composite scores. The ACT explains this improvement in the following way; “gains in achievement are common in states that create an educational culture focused on college and career readiness”.

3. Students aspire to college, but many are not enrolling

In 2014, 86% of graduates would like to attend a college or university. 87% of 2013 graduates reported wanting to go to college, but only 69% enrolled.

Within the class of 2014, excluding those who are undecided or did not indicate a major, Nursing and Pre-Med were the two most popular majors. Only 14% of students with an interest in a nursing major met all four college readiness benchmarks. 48% of those who expressed an interest in being pre-med met college readiness benchmarks. The majors with the best fit based on ACT test scores were Biochemistery and Biophysics (51%) and Accounting (53%).

You can read the entire report by clicking here: http://www.act.org/newsroom/data/2014/pdf/CCCR14-NationalReadinessRpt.pdf

Other TestRocker ACT Blogs

The top 4 reasons to take both the SAT and ACT
ACT changes on the horizon in 2015
ACT Trigonometry Tips
The ACT Science Section: It’s not rocket science
Your guide to ACT test day

[i] Lewin, Tamar. NYTimes. “Testing, Testing: More Students Are Taking Both the ACT and SAT”. 2013 Aug 12.


Tags: For Parents, For Counselors

Study for the December ACT in just 3 weeks!

Posted by Sybil St. Hilaire on Wed, Aug 20, 2014

The Dec 13th ACT is quickly approaching, and you haven't started studying yet. Don't fret! TestRocker can help you ace the test! 

Here are the three steps to ensuring you get your dream ACT score on Sept 13th:

  1. If you haven't already done so, sign up for our free trial. If you enjoy learning with TestRocker then purchase our program!
  2. Use the calendar below and work through the recommended modules, video concepts, and practice quizzes
  3. Wake up calm and relaxed on December 13th, and rock the ACT!

Since TestRocker is completely online, you can prep for the ACT whenever you want, wherever you want. In fact after the September test, continue to use TestRocker to prepare for your next ACT. Good luck!

TestRocker Tip

Click to download the calendar

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TestRocker's ACT program has won Tech & Learning's 2014 award of excellence. Start studying with the best, forget the rest! 


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Tags: For Students, For Parents

How will the Vocab section change on the New SAT

Posted by Sybil St. Hilaire on Fri, Aug 15, 2014

test2 resized 600Earlier this year the College Board announced their planned changes to the SAT. Planned changes to test include the following:

- Passages will come from new sources
- The new math section will have a heavier focus on algebra, linear equations, and inequalities
- The SAT essay will go from being required to being optional and scored separately

Another key aspect of these changes includes a change in the type of vocabulary students will need to focus on. Gone are the obscure SAT words of tests past, instead students will be expected to focus on demonstrating a command of complex vocabulary that students will need to excel outside of the SAT or ACT. Since there is such a strong link between vocabulary and reading comprehension, the test will assess the multiple meanings of words in a way that will require sensitivity to context. 

Students will need to do more than just demonstrate the ability to memorize words using flashcards. Words will need to be defined as they are used in context. According to the College Board, “By including the sorts of words-in-context questions sampled above, the redesigned sat supports and rewards students’ development of broad and deep word knowledge without resorting to obscurity.”

All these changes mean that students will need to change the way they study for the vocabulary portion of the test. Memorization of words and their meaning out of context will not be sufficient to get ready for the new SAT.  As they prepare students should focus on “Tier 2” words like, “inimical”, “hallow”, and “consecrated”.  “Tier 2” vocabulary words are defined as any words “of high utility for mature language users and are found across a variety of domains”, according to the CollegeBoard.

Research has shown that conversation alone is not enough to build the level of conversation needed to be successful in college or career.

"A quick comparison between oral and written language is instructive: while the conversation of college-educated adults contains an average of 17.3 rare words per thousand, even children’s book exhibit almost double that frequency. Clearly, then acquiring vocabulary from conversation alone is insufficient to attain skilled comprehension." (CollegeBoard, 2014)

When preparing students should prepare to read widely and deeply. However because a love of reading is cultivated over time, a number of students struggle with comprehension and varied application of “Tier 2” words. Students should also practice in ways that allow them to learn words in context. TestRocker’s vocabulary game is one option for students looking to learn these words and apply them in context.

Whatever method you choose to prepare, it’s important to understand how critical mastery of vocabulary and solid reading comprehension are to college and career success. It is imperative that students see the value of these skills beyond both the SAT and ACT. Cultivating these abilities will allow students to write and present their own thoughts in a clear and concise way. A strong grasp on “Tier 2” vocabulary is essential to putting them on the path to success. TestRocker stands with students in their journey towards excellence in college and career.

Tags: For Students, For Parents

The top 4 reasons to take both the SAT and ACT

Posted by Sybil St. Hilaire on Wed, Jul 30, 2014

happy students studying resized 600The start of the school year is on the horizon. As students start preparing for another year of academic growth, extra-curricular activities, leadership roles, and new friendships, high school sophomores and juniors are faced with a big question: Should they plan to take the SAT or ACT? Here at TestRocker, we encourage all  students to take both tests. There are many reasons for this, but below are our top 4 reasons why: 

Colleges accept both scores

All 4 year colleges accept both, SAT and ACT scores from their applicants. Submitting both scores will allow you to demonstrate the full extent of your abilities. The SAT and ACT score breakdown will give admissions officers insight into your academic ability in different skill areas. Assessing both scores (when available) helps colleges understand students better. In essence, the more scores schools see, the more they can use to inform their admissions decisions.

There is an overlap in subject matter

Despite a few differences in subject matter, preparing for one test will require you to review material that will be tested on the other test. Those preparing for the ACT can easily prepare for the SAT as well because the concepts are the same, except for the math and science sections. The SAT tests fewer topics in math and does not have a science section.
The SAT and ACT have the following content areas in common:
- Reading Passages
- Arithmetic operations
- Algebra
- Geometry
- Statistics
- Probability
- Grammar
- Essay
The SAT and ACT both require students to have a good grasp of high-school level content and solid test-taking skills.

Students taking both will have an edge in admissions

After preparing for and taking both tests at least once, students can then focus and continue preparing for the test they did better on. Students who attempt both tests are able to submit the higher score to schools they are planning to apply to. 

Flexibility around test dates

Opting to take both tests allows students to have more flexibility around test dates. Students will have more test dates and options to choose from. The student can then plan around convenient test dates. Sometimes students can be so stressed around a particular test date that they do not do well. Additional flexibility helps students stay relaxed.

Have more questions about the SAT and ACT? Check out our SAT vs ACT webinar today!

Tags: For Students, For Parents

How to Choose a Target SAT or ACT Score

Posted by Sybil St. Hilaire on Thu, Jul 24, 2014

target scoreFinding time to complete your schoolwork on top of studying for the SAT and ACT is difficult. Having a goal in mind over the course of your test-prep journey will help you stay focused and motivated. Since this score is meant to be a source of motivation it should be realistic and attainable. It should not be chosen arbitrarily. Here are some questions to consider when making this decision. 

How did you do on practice tests?

Practice tests, the PLAN or the PSAT are great resources to use when trying to choose a target score. According to a 2007 study by the CollegeBoard, on average students who take the PSAT end up improving their performance on the actual SAT. To this end, your practice test results can help ensure that you are keeping your target score realistic and achievable. As you study you should be taking practice tests at regular intervals. These practice test scores will help you track your progress against your target score. 

What colleges are you planning to apply to?

When deciding on a target score it is important to keep your college list in mind. All the schools you are considering will share information about the SAT and ACT score ranges for their accepted students. The official admissions website for a given school is a good place to start researching this information. Use it to help you narrow your target score range.

Some colleges and universities will not consider applications below a certain minimum score threshold. For other schools students are guaranteed acceptance if they have the required test scores and GPA.

Are you being realistic?

We all want perfect scores, however the most important piece of advice is to remain realistic when setting score goals. And don’t let your score goal bring you down. Remind yourself that there is more to your college application than just your SAT/ACT score. You should also consider the kind of test taker that you are when making this decision. That said, I encourage you to attempt to get the highest score you can.

How are the other parts of your college application?

We have all heard the stories of students who have gotten perfect SAT or ACT scores but were still denied entry into certain schools. Your college application will consist of recommendations, personal statements, lists of your extra-curricular activities, your course load, leadership positions etc.

Our experts can help you set your SAT/ACT score goal, contact them to set up your personal consultation.

Tags: For Students, For Parents

5 Things you can learn from your SAT Score

Posted by Sybil St. Hilaire on Fri, Jul 11, 2014

smilingteenWhile you may already know what to do with your SAT scores once you have received them, here are some things you can learn from these scores. Your SAT score can help you understand your comprehension of high school level material, your competitiveness as a college applicant, and your eligibility for certain college scholarships.

1. Competitiveness for your chosen colleges

One of the main key reasons to take the SAT is to gain admission to the college or university of your choice. The SAT helps college admissions officers assess your reading, writing, and math skills. It also helps colleges estimate your potential academic performance if admitted. Your SAT score is just one of the criteria used to determine college admission. Once you have your score you can compare it to the score ranges at the schools you plan to apply to. Your position within a given school’s SAT test score range can indicate your strength as a potential applicant.

2. Eligibility for certain scholarships

High SAT scores often translate to a heightened potential of receiving scholarships. A number of colleges and universities have scholarships set aside for students who hit a certain GPA and SAT score minimum. Once you know your SAT score, you can use it to inform your scholarship research, and determine your eligibility for scholarships that require you to submit an SAT score. 

3. Understanding of subject area strengths and weaknesses

You will receive an SAT score report along with your score. This score report will provide a summary of your performance on the SAT critical reading, math, and writing sections. For each one of these sections you will receive a breakdown of the number of correct, incorrect, and omitted answers. The score details section of your score report will allow you to understand how you performed on each type of question. Statistics about your probability of improving your score if you take the test again are also included in the score report. This information can help you plan and study for the next time you take the test.

4. Ability to skip introductory college courses

Getting into a college is only the beginning of your journey. Once you get to college, it is important to continue challenging yourself intellectually. At many colleges and universities, your SAT score can help decide whether or not you have to take certain entry-level math, reading, and writing classes. Placement criteria varies by school. Double-check the policy for the school where you are planning to matriculate.

5. Eligibility for competitive jobs in the years after college

Your SAT score will continue to be relevant even in your post-grad life. In the professional fields of tech, consulting, and finance recruiters often ask recent college graduates to submit their SAT scores. These scores are often one of the criteria used to help potential employers sort through all the resumes they receive every year.

Your ACT score is just as valuable as your SAT score. Look for a future blog post from us about what your ACT score can teach you. If you’re having trouble deciding between the two tests, be sure to check out our SAT vs ACT webinar to learn which test might be right for you.

Tags: For Students, For Parents

ACT changes on the horizon in 2015

Posted by Sybil St. Hilaire on Sun, Jun 29, 2014

Over the past few years the ACT has been growing in popularity. In 2012 for the first timeACT changes ever, more students took the ACT than the SAT. For students planning to take the ACT there are a few changes that they should be aware of. These changes represent an effort by the organization to remain relevant to both college and career bound high school seniors. These changes are slated to take effect in 2015.

Clearer Score Reporting

Each of the ACT’s four sections receives a score between 1-36, these scores are then averaged to arrive at a composite score. This will not change. In 2015 test takers will receive the following additional readiness scores and indicators:

STEM Score: The ACT is the only national college admissions test that measures science aptitude. This score will represent student performance on the science and math sections of the test.

Progress Toward Career Readiness Indicator: For students who may be going straight into a career post-college, this indicator measures career readiness. It will provide a sense of how students will perform on the ACT National Career Readiness Certificate. The NCRC is used to certify that an individual has the foundational work skills needed for work success across industries and occupations.

English Language Arts Score: Students who complete the ACT essay receive an English language arts score. This score is an assessment of student performance on the English, reading, and writing sections of the ACT.

Text Complexity Progress Indicator: This indicator allows students to assess their ability to understand the complex texts that will be presented to them in college.

Optional Constructed-Response Questions

Schools will have the option of having their students answer an additional set of open-response questions. Answers to these questions will be used to link student performance to Common Core state standards.

Online Administration

In April 2014, four thousand students took the ACT online. In 2015 the digital version of the ACT will be offered at all schools that participate in state and district testing.

Enhanced ACT Writing Test

In 2015 the ACTs writing subsection will change its focus and scoring. Students will receive a score for each of the following characteristics: ideas and analysis, development and support, organization, and language use. In order to get a high score students will have to demonstrate an, “ability to evaluate multiple perspectives on a complex issue and generate an analysis based on reasoning, knowledge, and experience”.

Want to learn more about the proposed ACT changes? Check out the press release here: http://www.act.org/newsroom/releases/view.php?p=3183&lang=english

 Sources: ACT Inc, ACT Next Website

Tags: For Parents, For Counselors

About Suniti

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

TestRocker is an award-winning PSAT/SAT/ACT program that empowers students to take control of their test preparation. After taking a diagnostic test, students receive a customized study plan, individualized to their strengths/weaknesses. Students practice and learn concepts through videos. Each of the 2000+ questions on TestRocker is accompanied by a video explanation from Suniti. TestRocker has the largest video library in the world for PSAT/SAT/ACT preparation. 

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