What it Takes to Score 1580 on the SAT, a Student Interview

This year, one of my students scored an almost-perfect 1580 on the SAT! Until then, the record was 1560, held by my former client (now student writer) Preeta Kamat. As we head into testing season, I want to give you as many tips as possible for you to get your dream SAT score, so I went directly to the source! I interviewed my student to ask what really made the difference in her SAT prep and see what she recommends for any student who's trying to earn a competitive score.

My student has asked to remain anonymous until she submits her college applications, so she will be referred to as "student" for the purposes of this article.


Courtney: First of all, congratulations!! What an amazing accomplishment. I'm so excited for you. I want to be sure I give my students the full picture though... so tell me a little about your SAT experience.

Student: I think my experience can be compared to a rollercoaster ride. There were definitely some moments when I just wanted to give up....

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Dos and Don'ts of SAT Prep, From a Student Who Scored a 1560

With standardized testing season in full swing, I’m sure you’re being bombarded with testing advice. I remember feeling pulled in a million directions by conflicting advice while preparing for my first SAT. From family to older friends to online sources, it seemed like there were too many ways to approach this test. Even more confusing was choosing the right one. 

Now a sophomore at Northwestern, I think I’ve ironed out what works and, more importantly, what doesn’t. Funnily enough, some of the popular test taking strategies worked horrendously for me; tips from online don’t necessarily translate to the perfect test-taking strategy. If you’re having trouble deciding what works best, here are some of my test-taking recommendations. 

DON’T: Do every single practice problem available to you. 

DO: Target your practice to areas of improvement. 

While it’s true that practice makes perfect, not all practice is created...

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SAT vs. ACT: Choosing the Right Test for You

With many colleges looking to reinstate their standardized testing requirements in coming years, students are beginning to decide which test is the right choice for them. Since the SAT and the ACT are different in both structure and content, deciding which test suits you better allows you to focus your time on resources on preparation for one exam. So, how do you make the choice? 


Understanding the differences

With the two tests being so different, they may appeal to different students. When I prepared for my standardized tests, I always heard that the ACT was meant for math and science oriented students, while the SAT was better for english oriented students. I don’t necessarily think this is true. While types of questions vary between the exams, neither exam has an objectively harder english or math section; it all comes down to which question types you excel with. Generally speaking, the ACT offers more straightforward questions aimed at testing attention to...

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A Guide to Boosting Your Score on Test Day

By the time testing day rolls around, most students believe they’ve done all that they can to optimize their score. After weeks of practice tests and problem sets, preparation stops the day before exam day, right? 

Actually, it doesn’t. Any seasoned test-taker knows that the 12 hours before the exam are critical. Even if you’ve crammed every SAT/ACT fact into your brain before testing day, preparing adequately on the night before and morning of the exam allows you to put the best version of yourself forward during your exam. Follow this guide to optimize your score on testing day. 


The last dinner

For the sake of your body and mind, try to make good choices when it comes to your pre-exam dinner. Food can be a powerful mood-booster, and you probably know which foods make you feel best. Choose a meal that both makes you happy and fuels you adequately. Nutritionists often cite lean protein and healthy carbohydrates as brain-boosting foods. Centering...

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Why You're Not Seeing Progress with Your SAT and ACT Test Scores

mindset testing May 29, 2020

Part of our culture is predicated on the philosophy that "more is more." Upgrade this, supersize that, get two for one... we have been conditioned to believe that more is better, always.

The standardized testing space is no exception. There is an unspoken assumption that doing more will yield better test results. Unfortunately, that's not always the case.

Sure, there is something to be said for completing some practice. Will a student perform better after completing his or her first practice exam? Usually, yes. But what isn't a given is that expected score increase after completing the tenth, fifteenth, or even twentieth practice exam. 

The reason why students see diminishing returns with extended test practice is not because they're not working hard enough. They actually might be working too hard. Unfortunately, what is usually happening at this point is the student is trying to force something to work: strategy, timing, comprehension, etc. And if it...

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