August 27th, 2023

Hello digital SAT!

Are You Ready for the SAT Changes in 2024?

No more worrying about making a mistake bubbling your answer sheet, waiting for proctors to collect test booklets, or waiting a couple of weeks for test results. The new fully digital SAT launches in March of 2024!

International students have already experienced the new test format and report that the digital SAT is shorter and less stressful than the paper and pencil version. Be sure to take the digital PSAT offered in Fall 2023 to see if this option might be the right test for you.


What You Need to Know About the New Digital SAT

Beginning in March of 2024, students can expect to see the following changes in the SAT:

  • Digital test format. To stay relevant to students’ learning (and life) experiences, the SAT will be fully digital, and the paper and pencil version of the test will no longer be available. College Board believes this will make the test easier for students accustomed to learning and testing using digital devices.
  • The new test is adaptive. The level of difficulty for subsequent test sections is based on test performance. This adaptive format improves test security by creating a unique test format for each student.
  • The digital SAT is shorter. Yay! The digital version clocks in at two hours and fourteen minutes, shaving nearly an hour off the pencil and paper test.
  • The reading passages are shorter, too. No more huge blocks of text with multiple questions related to each passage. New digital SAT reading and math questions will be more concise, with one reading question corresponding to each shorter passage.
  • You can use a graphing calculator for the entire math section. Bonus: The exam will have a built-in graphing Desmos calculator!
  • Faster results. You won’t have to wait 2 weeks or more to receive scores. Scores will likely be delivered within days.

Digital SAT Accessibility:

  • You don’t need to own a digital device. Students can take the digital SAT using their own laptop/tablet, a school-issued device, or borrow a College Board device.
  • You won’t lose your work during a power outage. Don’t worry! The new SAT ensures students won’t lose their work during a power outage.
  • It’s not a take-home test. The digital SAT will be a proctored test offered during the school day and on weekends.
  • You’ll get academic/career advice. The new digital SAT score report will also include information about two-year colleges, workforce training programs, and career opportunities tied to your achievements, interests, and financial goals.


What ISN’T Changing with the Digital SAT?

The new digital test format has many changes, but some things remain the same. The test will be based on a 1600-point scale and contain Reading/Writing and Math sections. Although students will have access to a digital countdown clock and a way to flag questions within each section to return to them for further thought, they will not be able to return to previous sections once the time has elapsed.


Test Preparation is the Key to a Great Score

Although many colleges have gone test-optional during the last few years, a great SAT score can help you stand out during the competitive college application process. Remember that test-optional doesn’t mean test-blind; colleges will still look at your great score and can use it for merit scholarships! Contact Test Preps today to talk about the pros and cons of the new digital format. Some students may benefit from taking the pencil and paper version in 2023—but all will benefit from our tried-and-true SAT test-taking tactics and strategies. Contact Test Preps today!

October 25th, 2019

What is “Demonstrated Interest” and how do I show It?

As if sending SAT/ACT test scores, high school transcripts, and applications isn’t enough to do, some colleges (not all) track how much “interest” prospective students show in their institution. This is called demonstrated interest, and while it might not make or break your teen’s admission status, what if it’s one variable that can set them apart from other applicants? So it certainly can’t hurt to show some enthusiasm and interest starting with the college search during junior year.

Traditionally, a campus tour is a great way to show demonstrated interest. If finances and time allow, visit prospective schools, and make sure your teen’s name is checked off on the attendance roster. If visiting isn’t feasible, sign up for an online webinar that might cover the same material and offer a virtual tour. Have your child reach out to an admissions officer via e-mail or phone with genuine, pertinent questions about the admissions process, provided that information can’t be found elsewhere. Other ways for your teen to show demonstrated interest: register for and attend college fairs and engage with counselors at prospective schools’ tables, speak with admissions officers if they visit their high school, and always open e-mails from schools on their application list. Some schools offer alumni interviews, another great way to show interest with the double benefit of also getting an insider perspective on the school.

Colleges appreciate demonstrated interest because it improves the chances of receiving a “YES” response to their acceptance letter. Students who accept offers make the schools look desirable, and demonstrated interest is a great way to predict an enthusiastic “YES.” However, demonstrating interest also has a great stealth benefit. Thoroughly investigating schools, talking to admissions officers, visiting campuses, and reading e-mails can help you and your teen figure out whether a prospective school is truly a good fit.

As always, Test Preps is here to help you lock down that best possible SAT/ACT score so that demonstrated interest is the bow on top of the already-awesome student package. Now get out there, get enthusiastic, and prepare for possibilities!

Photo by bruce mars from Pexels
August 16th, 2018

Superscoring: What you need to know!

Is your teen currently preparing for the SAT or ACT and wondering how colleges will consider all their scores? They are not alone! One question we are often asked by both parents and students is about superscoring.

Superscoring is the process in which colleges will only consider a student’s highest section scores from each SAT or ACT test they’ve taken.

Let’s illustrate superscoring with this example: On Jennifer’s first SAT, she scored 650 on the critical reading section and 550 on the math section. On her second SAT, she scored 610 on reading and 590 on math. A college that superscores will only look at Jennifer’s two highest section scores from both test dates, which would be her 650 reading score and 590 math score.  Although her composite score for both sittings was 1200, her superscore is now 1240. As you can see, superscoring can benefit students who have taken the SAT or ACT several times, as only their highest section scores will be considered in the admissions process.

Superscoring can also offer an advantage for test preparation by targeting more time and attention on a specific area of weakness. In Jennifer’s case, she may decide to focus her studying for the second SAT mostly on her weaker section (math), since she already scored well on her reading section the first time around.

Remember that only some colleges utilize superscoring, and colleges have very different test score policies. Check their website or call admissions directly for clarification. You can also google a list of colleges that superscore the SAT or ACT. Most colleges only consider a student’s highest score from a single test date, and some elite colleges even require all test scores from all dates. The good news is that more and more schools are becoming “test-flexible” and embracing superscoring each year. Therefore, it is important for students to fully understand the test score policy at each college to which they are applying and prepare accordingly.

Got questions?

We have answers! Contact us today at or call Melissa Cook at (716) 574-7349.


March 8th, 2018

Think it’s too early to make summer plans? Think again!

Summer may seem far away, but the school year will end in the blink of an eye, and June will be here before you know it. How you spend your summer can make a difference during the college admissions process. Will you seek out a job or internship? Will you volunteer in your community? Or will you just lounge by the pool with your friends every day? Taking some time to plan ahead will ensure you spend your summer productively while still having fun and enjoying your time off from school.

Now is the time to consider these college and career-building opportunities when making your summer plans:

Internships and academic programs.  Many companies and colleges offer formal internship and academic programs specifically designed for high school students. Depending on your interests or passion, pursuing a structured program during the summer may be valuable. There are many options to consider, such as hospital internships, STEM programs at a college, writing workshops, theater/music camps, and so much more. These can be in your hometown or even abroad! It’s important to note these programs often have early application deadlines. Therefore, you must begin the research and application process in the late winter or early spring.

Volunteering.  You don’t have to be enrolled in a formal program to acquire new skills and learn more about yourself. Volunteering is one of the most underrated (and cheapest) ways to get exposure to potential academic majors and career paths. The best part is that the opportunities are endless. Whether it’s working with animals at a local SPCA or lending a helping hand at a nearby hospital or nursing home, volunteering allows you to take on new responsibilities and gain experience in a real-life work environment. Be sure to track your volunteer hours and have a supervisor document them.

Employment.  Never underestimate the power of a summer job in building your resume and college admission profile. Any employment – from babysitting or mowing lawns to working at the local ice cream shop or mall – can be a valuable way to spend your summer. In addition to earning money, summer employment promotes independence, team-building skills, and time management, helping to prepare you for college life. Some large employers (like Wegmans) offer scholarships for students who work there throughout their high school tenure.

Do your summer plans also include preparing for the ACT or SAT? Summer is a great time to prep as the ACT is now offered in July, and the SAT is held in August! Learn how Test Preps’ small group classes and/or private tutoring can help you prepare for your upcoming test. Contact Melissa Cook today or call (716) 574-7349.

February 13th, 2018

College Scholarships – Get started now!

Scholarships, scholarships, scholarships! That’s the bulk of what I see in my X (Twitter) feed lately – and for good reason! With rising tuition costs at all colleges, it’s never been more important for students to pursue scholarships and maximize their chances of earning money for college. In fact, it may surprise you that high school students are encouraged to start the scholarship search as early as junior year.

Feeling overwhelmed? Take note of these tips to get your scholarship search into full gear:


Diversify your search. You may be surprised to learn about all the different scholarship opportunities available. There are scholarships offered in your local community and high school, as well as thousands of scholarships you can apply for online.

Typically, students should start their search locally first. This involves exploring scholarships awarded at your high school through your guidance counselor or career center. At the local level, many employers and chambers of commerce award scholarships yearly to students in their communities. Talking with family members and researching your city or town will help you learn about worthwhile scholarship prospects (Examples: Churches, civic organizations, clubs, etc.)

In addition to your local search, don’t forget about the plethora of national scholarships that can be found online. Making a habit of applying to even one online scholarship per month can potentially result in significant money toward your college education.

Be strategic in your search. While any opportunity to be awarded free money may seem appealing, you’ll run yourself ragged by applying to every scholarship. To effectively utilize your time and maximize your chances of being a scholarship recipient, you must be strategic in your search. This means applying only to the opportunities aligned with your academic strengths and interests. One way to do this is by using specific academic and geographic keywords when searching for scholarships online. For example, rather than search “Scholarships, New York State,” a phrase that would yield much more targeted results would be “English Scholarships, Syracuse, New York.”

Avoid scams. Unfortunately, there are many scholarship scams, especially online. You must know how to identify scams before it’s too late and your personal information is at risk. Generally, the most reputable online scholarship websites include,,,, and Before applying for any scholarship on the Internet, remember these tips for avoiding scams:

  • Never pay to apply for any scholarship
  • Never provide a credit card number for any scholarship application
  • Never sign up for a program
  • Never provide highly personal or sensitive information, such as a social security number
  • Beware of “claims or guarantees”
  • Beware of free seminars or classes

Being smart and using common sense will go a long way. If something doesn’t feel quite right, don’t apply.

Start now!

When it comes to acquiring free money for college, time is on your side. The sooner you start applying for scholarships, the better off you’ll be financially when the tuition is due.

Also, remember that SAT and ACT scores are important criteria when colleges award merit scholarships. Learn how Test Preps can help raise your SAT or ACT scores well before you apply to college. Contact Melissa Cook or call (716) 574-7349.

April 20th, 2015

Are my ACT scores good enough?

Students and parents ask me this all the time. My quick answer is “It depends”. Your test scores are important for getting into college and should not be underestimated. Consider the chore college admissions officers have in comparing grades from high schools nationwide or weighing the merits of one student’s participation in a band versus another student’s spot on the football team. And let’s not forget that colleges are getting thousands more applications per year due to the ease of the Common Application. The test scores alone compare students from all over the country by the same yardstick and provide an easy means for admissions officers to reduce potential applicants.

ACT-AM-I-READYThe quality of your score depends on which universities you are applying to. The more selective a university, the higher the score required to be admitted. Once you’ve begun making a list of schools you’re interested in, visit their websites or call them and ask what scores they require on the ACT. You can also check websites like College Simply. Just plug in your score, and a list of the colleges in every state for which you qualify is generated.

Two other points to keep in mind. First, many colleges superscore the ACT, meaning if you take multiple ACTs, they will combine your top scores on each of the four ACT sections to make a “superscore”.  Therefore, you should take more than one ACT, especially when research shows that students score best on a second test after prep.

A final point to keep in mind is that higher ACT scores can earn you more merit scholarship money, and with no ceiling to college costs in sight, every point you earn means less debt down the road. Besides merit money, higher ACT scores can gain you admittance into honors programs with preferential scheduling or honors dorms as perks.  Our next blog entry will explore these last points in detail.  Stay tuned.

February 17th, 2015

Make the most of your SAT/ACT prep at home

shutterstock_114474988Your parents have plunked down the money for prep; you’ve dutifully attended the sessions, and now that the first practice test is ready to be tackled, Remember that your ACT or SAT score will largely be determined by the work you do at home. Beyond conscientiously working to internalize the taught strategies and tactics and adhering strictly to time limits, what else can you do at home to maximize your prep? Try paying attention to your environment.

Study locations: If you usually complete your homework in your room, stick with it. If not, beware because no room contains more distractions. Then again, if you typically complete your homework in front of the TV, you’d better find a different location. Ideally, you want to approximate the test location as closely as possible. This means finding a location with minimal distractions. Avoid spots where people will talk to you, where there is a lot of movement, or even locations that are too quiet. The test room will be quiet but not silent.

Background noise: Research demonstrates that doing any homework with headphones on decreases retention. Yet, background noise has been found to increase students’ focus. Some studies even suggest that certain types of music – Bach, Beethoven, or flowing instrumentals – may increase intelligence and material retention.

Lighting: The test rooms will be well-lit. Turn the lights on if you are knocking those tests off in your room, or if you are in a library or cafe, sit where the lighting is good.

If you want a great score, then give every effort. Find blocks of time that will allow you to complete entire sections, review the tactics and strategies right before practicing, time yourself strictly, and avoid doing work on the bus or in front of the TV. Environment matters!

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