Tag Archives: Standardized testing

What is a Good SAT Score?

In the intricate world of college admissions, the perennial question that looms over high school students and parents is, “What is considered a good SAT score?” The answer, however, is far from a simple number. It depends on your academic profile, college list, and intended major. In this article, Insight Education Head of Counseling Purvi Mody will delve into the nuanced assessment of SAT scores and share her insights into what’s a “good” SAT score.


1. You Academic Profile and GPA Matter

Good SAT scores can add to your GPA and convey academic readiness to college admissions officesYour SAT score reflects your academic rigor. When you decide whether to re-take the SAT or submit your score, consider elements like your high school curriculum and GPA. If your SAT score indicates a stronger academic readiness than your GPA, then it is a good SAT score. A student who has challenged themselves with a rigorous academic coursework, excelled in extracurricular pursuits, and received glowing recommendations might not require an exceptionally high SAT score to shine as a strong candidate. Conversely, a less robust profile may need to submit a strong SAT score to bolster their application.


2. Your College List and the School’s Testing Policies

The SAT score expectations differ from one college to another. It’s paramount to research the admission policies of the institutions on your radar. Are they test-optional, test-flexible, or do they specify certain score requirements? Some universities ask students not to submit their SAT scores unless it is 1500 or higher. Some college admissions offices must review SAT scores if it is submitted.


common data set showing ACT and SAT scores submitted and score distributionIn the quest to define a “good” SAT score, it is imperative to understand how your preferred colleges assess test scores in their unique admissions processes. A good resource is the Common Data Set. If you search “(College name) common data set,” you will find information on SAT score ranges, the percentage of students who submitted test scores, and whether the admissions office considers test scores an evaluative criterion. A thorough research can offer valuable insights into each college’s approach to standardized testing, and whether or not you should share your SAT with this school.

Check out our list on 2023- 2024 Test Optional Colleges and Score Reporting Policies


3. Your Major Choice Plays a Role

The choice of your major also plays a pivotal role in evaluating the significance of your SAT score. For instance, if you intend to major in Engineering or Business, you want to share a good SAT math score with the admissions offices. In contrast, liberal arts colleges may favor a strong score in the Evidence-Based Reading and Writing (EBRW) section. When we help our students decide which school they will submit their SAT scores to, we factor in their declared major choices and their test scores relative to their peers and to the applicant pool.


Should You Submit Your SAT Scores?

With the evolving landscape of college admissions, students often face a conundrum: whether to submit their SAT scores or choose test-optional. Here are some key considerations:


1. Check College Websites:

Visit the official websites of the colleges you intend to apply to. Most institutions explicitly state their test score submission requirements. The admissions office should be your primary source of information.


2. Tailor Your College Application to Each University:

As college admissions become more competitive, customize your application to every college with more thought and care. It is common for students to submit their SAT scores to one school but not the other. At Insight Education, we holistically assess your SAT score within the broader context of your college application. Does the test score add positive data to your profile? Will the college you are applying to view your SAT test score favorably? Is your score competitive in the context of your high school and the rest of the applicant pool?


3. Score Improvement:

If you are a sophomore or a junior, you may plan to take the SAT multiple times. Set a goal and study plan for yourself. If you are unsure about taking the SAT, the ACT, or neither, we recommend taking full-length diagnostic exams before deciding your testing strategy.

Learn more about ACT vs. SAT: Which Test Should You Take?


4. A Holistic Approach:

Remember that most colleges assess applicants holistically. Your GPA, academic history, college essays, recommendation letters, and extracurricular activities all play pivotal roles in the admissions process. Focus on building a comprehensive, powerful narrative of you and your uniqueness will maximize your chance in college admissions.




In summary, there is no magic number for a “good” SAT score. It hinges on your profile, college list, and intended major. As the college admissions landscape adapts to changing times, many institutions now offer flexibility concerning ACT or SAT score submission. Ultimately, your decision should be rooted in a thorough evaluation of your strengths and weaknesses as an applicant. Your SAT score is merely a piece of the puzzle, so ensure that your complete application paints a compelling picture of who you are and what you will contribute.

Still unsure about your SAT score? Contact us today to schedule a 1-hour personalized college planning session or a diagnostic exam to see where you stand!

2024- 2025 Test Optional Colleges and Score Reporting Policies

The list contains the testing policies and requirements that began to change in 2020. Since then,  some colleges have extended their test-optional policies, while others have reinstated testing requirements. These policies primarily focus on ACT and SAT standardized tests for first-year U.S. undergraduate applicants.

Use this as a guide and confirm specific requirements for the colleges on your list.

This list was last updated in March 2024.

Need help improving your SAT scores? Check out our SAT classes here.
Taking the ACT instead? Check out our ACT test prep classes here.

*While we try our best to keep this list complete and updated, please note that this list is not exhaustive.


 FAQ About Test-Optional and College Admissions


1. Test-Optional vs. Test-Blind

Test optional means that you can still submit your scores (and you should if you can) and universities will take them into consideration. On the other hand, test blind means colleges won’t look at test scores at all. In both cases, test scores may be used for placement purposes, so you won’t have to take a placement exam before course selection. In some test-optional colleges, test scores are required for certain programs, majors, and/or merit-based scholarships. You may also need to submit test scores if you do not meet the minimum GPA requirements. Please see the “Notes from Insight Education” section for specific college admissions requirements.

Have questions regarding test-optional? We can help! Talk to our team by clicking HERE.


2. For freshmen and sophomores, should they prepare for SAT/ ACT or wait to confirm if their preferred colleges are test-optional?

For now, some schools extended their test-optional policies for Fall 2025 applicants. Some colleges adopt test-optional policies, too. Therefore, it depends on your college list, which can shift and change over the years. Your college list can change until the moment you finish submitting applications! To keep your options open (and stress level low), it’s good to take the diagnostic test and then strategize to see if test scores can give you an advantage. Also keep in mind that certain majors, athletic admissions, honors programs, and scholarships require ACT / SAT test scores, and you can use your test scores in lieu of placement exams.


3. Will I have an advantage with ACT / SAT scores?

This will depend on the particular colleges and your high schools. In some cases, the school may ask you to submit test scores as they are reviewing your applications. Certain colleges require additional essays and/or admissions interviews when you apply without a test score. To learn more, check out our blog on “Top 3 Tips to Prepare You for College Admissions” or “How to Approach Standardized Testing“. 


Insights to the New Digital SAT (DSAT)

In early 2022, College Board announced their plan to launch a new, digital SAT. To many, the timing of this announcement does not come as a shock. During the Covid pandemic, millions of students lost access to testing centers for both the SAT and ACT, and many colleges have moved to test-optional in response to that. In this article, we will walk you through the changes and timeline of the new digital SAT, as well as the best ways to prepare!

Not sure whether to take the SAT or ACT? Check out our insights into ACT vs. SAT: Which Test Should You Take?


Who does this change affect?

If you are currently in the Class of 2025, you will most likely be taking the new digital SAT. It will be administered internationally on March 11th, 2023. For U.S. students, the digital SAT will be administered effectively Spring of 2024.

Want to know how this affects your testing and college admissions strategy? Schedule a 1-hour, personalized college planning session with an experienced admissions expert today!


Why the Change?

the paper and pencil SAT will soon be replaced by the new digital SATAccording to College Board, the move to a new digital SAT offers a few benefits:

1. Shorter test experience for students

Compared to the current pencil and paper SAT, the digital SAT is 45 minutes shorter. You no longer need to devote most of your Saturday morning to taking the SAT. The new digital SAT is a 2-hour-and-15-minute exam with shorter reading passages and fewer sections.


2. Faster score report

No longer will you need to be at the edge of your seat, wondering if you did well or not. In June 2021, the College Board eliminated the SAT essay component, and that expedited the SAT score reports being released in two weeks. Now without having manually scanned each student’s answer booklet, College Board expects to be able to release the scores reports in days rather than weeks.


3. Fewer test cancellations due to security issues

Have you ever wondered how your SAT arrived on your desk at the testing center? From the distribution center, the tests were sealed and shipped to each testing center. The testing centers then have the latest SAT under lock and key until it is the big test date. Each step proposes a security risk, and historically, some students could not take their tests because their SAT tests fell out of a UPS truck. With the new digital SAT, you will use College Board’s software to take the test on an approved personal device or a school device at the test center. At the beginning of the digital SAT, your device will load the test module, and you will be on your way to taking the test.


Our admissions counselors and test prep experts suspect there may be a few other reasons for College Board to make the change now. Here are our insights:

4. Availability of personal devices

Previously, administering a digital exam would be challenging because not many schools or testing centers have access to the number of computers needed. In one way, time solves the problem for College Board, and Covid did the final push. Now, it is common for students to have access to a laptop or a tablet, so schools or testing centers will only need to provide some devices to accommodate those who need a device on testing day.


5. Ease of offering the digital SAT

This can be seen as an extension of the previous insight. Since schools won’t need big computer labs to offer the digital SAT and the test will only take up two periods of class time, it’s easy for more schools to offer the exam. During Covid, we are already seeing some schools having an SAT day during school time, so we expect more schools may be on board to offer the digital test on a school day.


What do students need to know about the new digital SAT?

We’ve already mentioned the shorter testing time and fewer sections. Another good news for students is that the new digital SAT eliminates the no-calculator math section! However, before you throw your study materials away and scream ‘hooray,’ just know that – “a shorter exam does not mean an easier exam.” If you rely on using the calculator for every math question, you may very easily run out of time.

insights into new digital SAT comparison to the paper and pencil SAT

In addition, the new digital SAT is an adaptive test. For the parents reading this, some of you may have heard of adaptive testing if you have taken the Graduate Management Admissions Test (GMAT) or the Graduate Record Examinations (GRE). The digital SAT will be more like the GMAT than the GRE in the sense that it is a “Section Adaptive Test,” not a question-by-question adaptive test.


Understanding the Multistage Adaptive Test

By now, you may be wondering or worried about Internet connectivity. What if you have a bad connection during the exam and your answers weren’t submitted? You’d be right to be concerned. That’s why the digital SAT is a sectional, multistage test, meaning your questions for each stage are downloaded at the beginning of the exam and your answers are uploaded at the end of each section. This means smaller chunks of information go through the internet, and you won’t suddenly lose your test halfway through. For students, this means that the new digital SAT will still resemble the paper and pencil SAT because you can skip a question or go back to review your answers (as long as you are in the same stage or module).


Let’s get to the adaptive part. This means that stages of the new digital SAT will act as the Sorting Hat. On the new digital SAT, there are two sections: the Evidence-Based Reading/Writing (EBRW) Section and the Mathematics Section. These two sections are further divided into two modules each. The first module will have an equal mix of easy, medium, and hard questions. Based on how you did in the first module, your next module will either be a level up or down. What does this mean for students? Doing well on the first module is important! While we do not have insights into how College Board will weigh each question based on difficulties, you want to get to the more advanced questions to ensure a higher score.

Insights into new digital SAT adaptive test module


What content will you be tested on?

Earlier we mentioned that the new digital SAT is broken down into two main sections: Reading/Writing and Mathematics. In each section, there are two modules. Within each module, questions are grouped together either by question type (Reading and Writing) or difficulty (Math). Let’s take a closer look at what each section entails.


Digital SAT – Reading and Writing Section:

The new SAT Reading and Writing Section will be similar to the pencil and paper SAT. Students will need to show their mastery of English in four areas: Craft and Structure (reading comprehension), Information and Ideas (interpretation, inference, and analysis), Standard English Conventions (grammar), and Expression of Ideas (revision and sentence improvement). The digital SAT Reading and Writing section will contain questions from all four areas IN ORDER. In other words, questions that test similar knowledge and skills are grouped together and arranged from easiest to hardest.


Instead of four long 500- to 700-word reading passages, you are dealing with 54 short passages. On the digital SAT, each question will have its own passage (or passage pair) consisting of three to five sentences. These passages will come from a wide range of topic that represents the college-level content you are preparing for.


Reading 54 short passages may sound jarring and tiring. However, the good news is that if you are stuck on a challenging passage, you may only miss that one question. You may also worry about how to discern between a grammar question and a reading comprehension problem. According to Insight’s SAT experts, the phrasing of the question will give you the best clue about the type of problem you are dealing with.


Digital SAT – Math Section:

Other than answering questions on a computer, the new SAT math section is essentially like the old SAT you may already be familiar with. You will be tested on Algebra, Polynomial, Exponential, Nonlinear Equations, Data Analysis, Geometry, and Trigonometry. The questions in the digital SAT math sections will appear in order from easiest to hardest.


Calculators will be allowed throughout the math section, and a graphing DESMO calculator is built into the digital SAT testing portal. You can also use an approved calculator on the test day, too.


Another good news is for those who dread word problems; the average length of those questions is reduced. If English is your second language or you struggle with word problems in general, the shorter in-context questions will allow you to demonstrate your mastery of math without making you jump through hoops on reading comprehension at the same time.


The following table breaks down all the sectional content, timing, and question distribution.


 Time / Number of Questions Breakdown

  What is being tested on?

SAT Reading and Writing
  • Total 64 minutes and 54 questions (approx. 1.2 minutes per question)
  • The total time and number of questions are broken down evenly into two modules
  • In each module, you will have 32 minutes to answer 27 questions

In each module, you will need to demonstrate knowledge of these content or skills. The questions will be closely grouped in the order listed below:

  1. Words in context, text structure and purpose, cross-text connections (28% of the questions)
  2. Main ideas and details, textual and quantitative supporting evidence, inference (26% of the questions)
  3. Standard English sentence structure, usage, and punctuation (26% of the questions)
  4. Rhetorical synthesis, written expression, transitions (20% of the questions)
Break  You will have a 10-minute break between the two sections of the digital SAT
SAT Math
  • Total 70 minutes and 44 questions (approx. 1.6 minutes per question)
  • The total time and number of questions are broken down evenly into two modules
  • In each module, you will have 35 minutes to answer 22 questions

In each module, you will need to demonstrate knowledge of these content or skills. The questions will be ordered by difficulty level.

  1. Linear equations in one or two variables, linear functions, system of linear equations, linear inequality (35% of the questions)
  2. Equivalent expressions, nonlinear equations in one variable, system of nonlinear equations in two variables, nonlinear functions (35% of the questions)
  3. Ratios, rates, percentages, proportional relationships and units; one-variable data distribution and measure of the center and the spread; two-variable data models and scatter plot; probabilities; statistical inference and margin of error; evaluation of statistical claims (15% of the questions)
  4. Area and volume; lines, angles, and triangles; right triangles and trigonometry; circles (15% of the questions)



Will the new digital SAT have a different scoring system?

No, at the current stage, the College Board states that the scoring system will remain similar to the pencil and paper test. Within days of taking the digital SAT, you will receive three scores: Reading and Writing score, Math score, and the total score. The scoring scale also remains the same, your total score is between 400-1600 in 10-point intervals and the section score scale is between 200-800 (also in 10-point intervals).


How should you prepare for the new digital SAT?

Here are our top insights into how you can prepare for the digital SAT:

studying for the pencil and paper SAT can help you on the digital SATLearn the content and master each question type through pencil and paper SAT

Although you will be taking your SAT on a tablet or a computer, the knowledge and content for the digital SAT are still similar to the pencil and paper SAT. It’s not likely that CollegeBoard will abandon its many years of SAT question bank to create a brand new set of questions to evaluate your college readiness. Take advantage of all the available resources out there to learn the test on paper.


Drill down your mental math

While the digital SAT allows calculators for the entire math section, you have approximately 1.6 minutes per question. If you need to punch out the answer to every question, you will run out of time. In addition, time management is very important. You want to fly by the easier questions in the beginning with accuracy and confidence, so you have time to focus on the harder questions later. Just like sports, practice with intention. Build your mental math muscle.


Get familiar with the digital SAT testing app

The best way to do that right now is to sign up to take the PSAT in Fall 2023 and utilize the sample testing app available on College Board’s website. Getting familiar with the software with help ease the angst on your real test, but don’t focus solely on practicing on your device. Learn and review the content that will appear on the digital SAT. Hone your critical thinking and problem-solving skills. Build a good study routine and devote time to study for the SAT. These will help you prepare for both the digital SAT and college life!


This would be the third revamp for the SAT since Insight Education was established, and our instructors have been working tirelessly to update our SAT curriculum since the announcement. In the meantime, check out our SAT Test Prep Courses or ACT Boot Camps! If you would like a more personalized approach (like 1:1 tutoring) or have questions about test scores in college admissions, don’t hesitate to reach out to us (info@insight-education.net)!

ACT vs. SAT: Which Test Should You Take?

Standardized testing remains a key part of the college admissions process. Many students and parents begin their admissions journey by comparing the SAT and the ACT. One of the most commonly asked questions for Insight Counselors is “which test is easier/better?”

The SAT and the ACT generally cover the same topics. Both ACT and SAT scores are used for college admissions decisions and awarding merit-based scholarships. Most colleges do not have a preference for which standardized test scores are submitted. Neither the SAT nor the ACT is harder than the other. The deciding factor is often your preference.

Before you dive in and pick one test over the other because all your friends are doing it, here is our detailed breakdown of both standardized tests. 

Want to learn more about the digital SAT? Check our Insights to the New Digital SAT


Insights into the ACT and the SAT






Colleges use the SAT test scores for  admissions consideration, merit-based scholarships, and sometimes placement purposes


Colleges use the ACT test scores for  admissions consideration, merit-based scholarships, and sometimes placement purposes
Test Structure


Writing & Language 

Math (No-calculator section)

Math (Calculator allowed sections)






Essay (optional)


Length 3 hours


2 hours, 55 minutes (without essay)

3 hours, 40 minutes (with essay)


Test Breakdown



 – 52 questions, 65 minutes
 – 5 passages or pairs of passages (literature, historical documents, social sciences, and natural sciences)

Writing & Language

 – 44 questions, 35 minutes
 – Focus on grammar, vocabulary in contexts, writing and editing skills

Math (no-calculator)

 – 20 questions, 25 minutes
 – Topics cover Algebra 1, Algebra 2, Geometry, Trigonometry, and Data Analysis

Math (calculator allowed)

 – 38 questions, 55 minutes
 – Same topics as no-calculator sections



 – 75 questions, 45 minutes
 – Focus on grammar, editing skills, and summarization


 – 60 questions, 60 minutes
 – Topics cover Algebra 1, Algebra 2, Geometry, Trigonometry, and Statistics


 – 40 questions, 35 minutes
 – 5 passages (humanities, social science, natural sciences, and literature)


 – 40 questions, 35 minutes
 – Testing your critical thinking skills and ability to interpret data (NOT specific science knowledge)







40-minute optional essay testing your abilities to evaluate and analyze issues


Test Score System


The SAT test is scored on a scale of 400 – 1600


The ACT test is scored on a scale of 1 – 36
Test Dates


The SAT is typically offered on a Saturday in these months: March, May, June, August, October, November, and December


The ACT test is typically scheduled on a Saturday in these months: February, April, June, July, September, October, and December


Which should you focus on, the ACT or the SAT?

In our previous article, “Should You Be Taking Both the ACT and the SAT?”, Insight Senior College Admissions Counselor Zach Pava listed these three criteria:

Which test are you most comfortable with? 

Which test is the best fit from a timing perspective?

Which test can you score better on?

He also analyzed a few differences between the two standardized tests (summarized below)

 – The ACT tends to be more straightforward in its questions and presentation of material.

 – If you’re a student who is generally science-focused, and you enjoy reading, graphs, & data, the ACT may be a good fit for you.

 – The SAT allows students more time to spend on each question and therefore presents fewer timing challenges than the ACT. If you find time management to be a big obstacle, then you may want to consider the SAT.

 – The SAT contains one Math section in which no calculator is allowed. If you are not very confident with your computational skills, this may also be a point for consideration.

Compare your scores – Click here for the ACT – SAT Score Conversion Table.

However, the only way you would know for sure which test is more suitable for you is through experience. At Insight, we strongly encourage students who have not tried either test to take both for practice before making a decision. Doing this will expose you to the style and structure of both exams, and then we can establish which test you are more comfortable with in terms of content and timing, and ultimately which test youre likely to score better on.  From there, we can plan for when to take the exam, which is important because the SAT and ACT are offered on different dates and in some cases, different months throughout the year. We also want to establish a goal score for each student, as well as an end date when we want students to be finished with testing altogetherIdeally, you should be done before the start of your senior year, because once senior fall starts, your college applications truly will become a full-time class away from school, and you don’t want to have to give up valuable weekends preparing for these standardized tests.


Want to know which tests you should take? Contact us and schedule your full-length SAT and ACT practice tests today and see your score analysis!


Curious whether you should opt for test-optional? Check out our article: To Test, Or Not To Test? and see if your top choice colleges are in our List of Test Optional Colleges

2022-2023 SAT registration is opened! Now what?

For those who check the College Board website often, you’ve probably noticed that the SAT registration is now open for August 2022-June 2023 test dates! Here is a quick guide on when the SAT tests are happening, the deadlines for signing up, and what you should do (depending on your graduation year).


2022-2023 SAT Test Dates


According to the College Board website, the SAT test dates and deadlines are shown below. You can register for all of these dates now.


SAT Test Date Registration Deadline Last Day for Late Registrations & Changes (extra fees apply)
August 27, 2022 July 29, 2022 August 16, 2022
October 1, 2022 September 2, 2022 September 20, 2022
November 5, 2022 October 7, 2022 October 25, 2022
December 3, 2022 November 3, 2022 November 22, 2022
March 11, 2023 February 10, 2023 February 28, 2023
May 6, 2023 April 7, 2023 April 25, 2023
June 3, 2023 May 4, 2023 May 23, 2023


Insight Advice for Rising Seniors (Class of 2023)


If you haven’t been able to take the SAT or the ACT at all, you are not alone. Many schools have extended their test-optional policy to the Class of 2023, and you can find out what your top-choice college decides to do in our Test-Optional Colleges HERE. If you are planning to take the SAT, you should start preparing now. Learn how to maximize your score during the summer with our guide on How to Prepare for the ACT or the SAT this Summer


For Class of 2023 who want to apply for Early Action or Early Decision, you need to take your SAT by October 1, 2022. If you are applying for Regular Decision, you should take your SAT by December 3, 2022


Want a strategic, proven way to boost your SAT score? Check out our popular SAT classes
Taking the ACT instead? Click here to see our upcoming ACT classes!


Insight Advice for Rising Juniors (Class of 2024)


Typically, we see juniors take their SATs once in the fall once and once in the spring (usually after a spring break study crunch). If you already have a score you are happy with, congratulations, you won’t have to worry about the new digital SAT. However, you will get to experience it first-hand as PSAT in October 2023.


By preparing for the SAT now, you are giving yourself time to get a head start on your college admissions process next year. This can significantly lower your stress level (and tasks) for your summer after junior year!


Just starting your SAT preparation? Our SAT Advantage Classes are designed to give you comprehensive topic review as well as test-taking strategies. 

Read more: Why Summer Study Can Be A Great Thing!


Insight Advice for Rising Sophomores (Class of 2025)


It may seem too early for you to even think about the SAT or the ACT. But it’s not! While these standardized tests are designed to challenge your English and Math abilities, their structures, formats, and timing are very different. With the new digital SAT on the way, you may want to take the SAT early to utilize all the resources that are available to help you get ready for the current SAT.


If you have already taken Algebra 2, which covers polynomials, trignometry, exponentials, you can start your SAT test prep! The best way to decide if you should take the SAT or the ACT is to take diagnostic tests for both. Taking both diagnostic tests can help you decide which test you are more comfortable with. You may like the SAT better because it allows for more time per question, or you may be an ACT person if you prefer to always have access to a calculator. Once you’ve figured out your style, you can focus on preparing for that!


Want to schedule your ACT and SAT diagnostic tests? We simulate the real testing environment to help you know how you will perform on the big day. Email us ( info@insight-education.net ) today or CONTACT US to find out more!

What You Need to Know About Advanced Placements (APs)

If you or anyone in your family are currently in high school, you must have heard of Advanced Placement (AP) classes or exams. From AP tests vs. AP classes to how many APs should you take, in this article, Insight’s Head of College Admissions Counseling Purvi Mody explains all the essential facts you need to know about APs and their role in college admissions.


(Prefer to watch a video instead? CLICK HERE to watch Purvi’s interview on all you need to know about APs)


Why AP classes in the first place?

AP classes are college-level courses that you can take during your high school years. Taking AP courses is one of the many ways you can show that you are ready for challenging academic materials, as well as your interest in a particular school subject. You can focus on subjects that you may want to pursue in college, such as taking AP Computer Science if you are interested in CS-related majors. Taking AP classes may also be a way to show your talents outside of academic interest. If you really love Psychology, you can incorporate AP Psychology in your schedule. The key is that APs can show your content knowledge and your ability to be successful at higher-level courses.


What’s the difference between AP exams and AP classes?

AP exams and AP classes are two distinct things. An AP class is like any class you’ve taken in your high school or online school; the class has grades, a structured curriculum, assignments, quizzes, and tests. The grade that you get from your AP class is on your transcript, and colleges can see these grades.


The AP exam is a two- or three-hour long test that you take to demonstrate your knowledge of the subject that you’ve been learning for the past academic year. The AP tests are typically held during the first two weeks of May. These exams are scored on a scale of 1-5, with a score of 3 or higher being a passing score. Unlike AP classes, you can self-report AP test scores. How should you report your AP exam scores then? We recommend our students report their highest AP scores, so report anything above a 3.


Need help preparing for your AP exams? Check out our academic tutoring options!


How many APs should I take?

This is the most popular question we get, and the answer is “it depends”. There is no magic number when it comes to AP classes or exams. It varies from student to student, and it also varies from school to school. Some private high schools offer no AP classes at all! The three golden rules to picking the right classes for you are interest, growth, and challenge. You want to pick courses that you are interested in while selecting the classes that you will thrive in. Lastly, your course selection should show that you are continuously challenging yourself intellectually.


Read more: How Many AP Classes Should You Take?


Now, is it possible to take too many APs?

Yes! The first thing you should know is that AP classes require more study time outside of the classroom. The content is challenging, and suddenly you find yourself with less time. If you find yourself spending most of your time on your AP classes, it’s a warning sign that you are taking too many APs. If your GPA drops, that could be a negative sign to send to colleges. At Insight, we emphasize the importance of finding the right balance, whether it is your course load or your college list.


Read more: Balancing Your High School Course Load


What if my high school doesn’t offer the AP class I want?

Let’s take a step back to the rules of course selection. An important factor to keep in mind: think about the skills you want to develop. You may not find AP U.S. History or AP European History all that interesting, but the reading and writing skills you develop during the courses are essential! Of course, this rule applies to regular or honor courses at your high school, not just the AP courses.


If you are really limited by your high school’s options, there are accredited institutions that offer online AP classes, so you can take them outside of your high school. In addition, if you are comfortable setting your own timeline, you can skip the online AP classes and grab an AP test prep book and self-study. If you opt for the self-study route, don’t forget to register for the AP test in May to show your result.


Read more: Should I self-study for AP?


Do I need the perfect 5 on the AP exam?

As we mentioned earlier, a score of 3, 4 or 5 is a passing score in college admissions. Depending on the university and the major choice, you may receive college course credits for an AP score of 3 or higher. When would we advise the student to re-take their AP exam that they got a 3 on? For example, the student wants to major in Biology and got a 3 on their AP Biology exam. If this student doesn’t have any extracurricular or other means of showing subject mastery, we MAY suggest the student retake the AP Bio exam next year. However, it depends on multiple factors. This depends on their current grade, their course load next year, their other commitments during the school years, and more. In most cases, we don’t advise students to retake their AP exams. Use that time to study for your other courses or focus on activities.


Want to show your best on your AP exam? Meet with a tutor to strategically improve your score!


Written by Purvi Mody

This article was transcribed from an interview with Insight’s Co-Founder and Head of Counseling Purvi Mody.

Since 1998, Purvi has dedicated her career to education and is exceedingly well-versed in the college admissions process. Her philosophy centers around helping kids identify and apply to the schools that are the best fit for them and then develop applications that emphasize their unique attributes and talents.

Disclaimer: Advanced Placement® and AP® are trademarks registered by the College Board, which is not affiliated with Insight Education.

2021-2022 SAT Registration is opened! Now what?

For those who check the College Board website often, you’ve probably noticed that the SAT registration is now open for August 2021 – June 2022 test dates! Here is a quick guide on when the SAT tests are happening, the deadlines for signing up, and what you should do (depending on your graduation year).


2021-2022 SAT Test Dates


According to the College Board website, the SAT test dates and deadlines are shown below. You can register for all of these dates now.


SAT Test Date Registration Deadline Last Day for Late Registrations & Changes (extra fees apply)
August 28, 2021 July 30, 2021 August 17, 2021
October 2, 2021 September 3, 2021 September 21, 2021
November 6, 2021 October 8, 2021 October 26, 2021
December 4, 2021 November 4, 2021 November 23, 2021
March 12, 2022 February 11, 2022 March 1, 2022
May 7, 2022 April 8, 2022 April 26, 2022
June 4, 2022 May 5, 2022 May 25, 2022


Insight Advice for Rising Seniors (Class of 2022)


If you haven’t been able to take the SAT or the ACT at all, you are not alone. Many schools have extended their test-optional policy, and you can find out what your top-choice college decides to do in our Test-Optional Colleges HERE. If you are planning to take the SAT, you should start preparing now. Learn how to maximize your score during the summer with our guide on How to Prepare for the ACT or the SAT this Summer


For Class of 2022 who want to apply for Early Action or Early Decision, you need to take your SAT by October 2, 2021. If you are applying for Regular Decision, you should take your SAT by December 4, 2021


Want a strategic, proven way to boost your SAT score? Check out our popular SAT classes


Insight Advice for Rising Juniors (Class of 2023)


While some universities are extending their test-optional policy to fall 2023, many colleges will start to require standardized test scores as part of the admissions process. In addition, many financial aids and scholarships opportunities require you to submit an SAT or ACT test score. The best course of action is to start preparing the summer before your junior year. Typically, we see juniors take their SATs once in the fall once and once in the spring (usually after a spring break study crunch). 


By preparing for the SAT now, you are also working on your PSAT, which can potentially lead you to a National Merit Scholarship! CLICK HERE to learn more about the PSAT and SAT.


Just starting your SAT preparation? Our SAT Advantage Classes are designed to give you comprehensive topic review as well as test-taking strategies. 


Insight Advice for Rising Sophomores (Class of 2024)


It may seem too early for you to even think about the SAT or the ACT. But it’s not! While these standardized tests are designed to challenge your English and Math abilities, their structures, formats, and timing are very different. You may want to set aside time in spring 2022 to take both diagnostic tests. Taking both diagnostic tests can help you decide which test you are more comfortable with. You may like the SAT better because it allows for more time per question, or you may be an ACT person if you prefer to always have access to a calculator. Once you’ve figured out your style, you can focus on preparing for that!


Want to schedule your ACT and SAT diagnostic tests? We simulate the real testing environment to help you know how you will perform on the big day. Email us ( info@insight-education.net ) today or CONTACT US to find out more!

How to Prepare for the ACT or the SAT This Summer

It’s the beginning of summer! And for many of you, you just finished a tough school year and conquered some AP exams. The last thing on your mind is preparing for another test. You may think, “It’s okay. Many schools are extending their test-optional policies.” But the reality is many admissions offices are overwhelmed by the number of applications flooding in. In this article, Team Insight will answer 4 common questions to guide you through a quick evaluation to see if the SAT or the ACT will help strengthen your college applications!


When should I start preparing for the ACT/SAT?


Typically, the best time to start your SAT / ACT test prep is the summer before your junior year. In other words, if you just finished 10th grade, you should consider spending part of your summer on the ACT / SAT test prep.

How to Strategize Your SAT or ACT Test Prep Plan this Summer

From Insight’s 22 years of college admissions experience, we know that our juniors usually have more challenging course work and are more involved in their extracurricular activities during their school years. The summer before junior year gives you the flexibility and the time to focus on test prep. Furthermore, preparing for the ACT / SAT helps you build the stamina and study habits to handle the junior year course load. During test prep, you also strengthen crucial skills, such as time management, problem-solving, and analytical thinking. All these skills can help you handle the more challenging academic work in your junior and senior years.


Need help boosting your SAT scores? Check out our SAT summer programs here.


If you just finished your junior year (rising senior) and last year derailed you from taking or preparing for the SAT/ACT, do not freak out. You are not behind. You still have time to study for these standardized tests over the summer. Yes, you may need to balance the ACT / SAT test prep with your summer program and activities. But it is not impossible to achieve.


Taking the ACT instead? We got you covered, too, with our ACT summer boot camps.


Why should I bother with test prep now if my ACT/SAT is in the fall?


It’s a tricky scenario: a 4-hour test, targeting knowledge you’ve already learned in 8th-10th grade. It’s June and you’ve just finished school. The test date isn’t until August or September. Doesn’t sound too bad, does it?


For at least a century, researchers have debated the impact of “summer learning loss.” According to a recent study, the average student lost 17-34% of the prior year’s learning gains during one summer break. In other words, you probably don’t remember everything you’ve learned in 8th grade as vividly as your previous semester.


Get SAT Ready over the Summer with Insight

You may need to devote some time reviewing a couple of years of math and English. What’s the big deal? The challenging component of the ACT/SAT is time management. On the ACT, you have 36-60 seconds per question (depending on the section of the test), whereas you have 47-86 seconds per question on the SAT. During the time frame, you have to break down the question, recall what you’ve learned, and deduce the best answer. How can you achieve that? Like a pro-athlete, it comes down to practice, practice, and practice.


Read more: Do you need to take both the ACT and the SAT?


A strategic method to prepare for the SAT/ACT involves reviewing concepts, going through different exercises, taking full-length practice tests, and improving weak points. None of these can be accomplished in one day or even one week. It takes discipline, grit, and endurance. (And can you think of other things in your life that also take those three qualities?)


How can I build a successful test prep or study plan?


Just like any project in your life, big or small, if you want to complete the project, you need a plan. Build your test plan with a solid timeline and realistic goals. Ask a friend or a family member to check in on your progress and keep you honest. Include methods to evaluate your knowledge and your progress. In this case, you can take a practice test every day and a quiz after every review session. When you take the ACT or SAT practice test, you want to simulate the real test environment as much as possible. That means no music and no texting. Wear a mask and time yourself.


Read more: Studying in a group is scientifically awesome.


If you want to submit SAT/ACT scores to colleges, here are some first steps towards making a solid study plan:


  1. Take a full-length previously administered SAT or ACT exam, under realistic conditions – a quiet space, each section timed, wear a mask
  2. Figure out which aspects or sections are giving you the most challenge – timing, multiple-choice format, language arts, math, etc.
  3. Make a plan to address how you want to improve your score based on how you are doing on the practice questions


How to Prepare for the SAT or the ACT over the SummerAfter each practice test, remember to learn from your mistakes. Go over your SAT or ACT practice test again. Check your mistakes. Work on those questions again. Be sure to figure out if you need to adjust your goals. You may need to work on your geometry or do more word problem drills. Or you may simply need to improve your speed. Much like sports, athletes devote practice sessions to work on their pitching stance or landing a quadruple jump. After every test review, you need to be honest with yourself and work through the tough parts.


Psst! Insight ACT / SAT Boot Camps offer daily diagnostic test to keep track of your progress. After the test, our expert instructors lead you through detailed test review sessions to help you learn from your mistakes. Check out our ACT boot camp schedule or the SAT boot camps.


Who benefits from preparing and taking the ACT/SAT?


Ultimately, you are studying to enrich yourself. Don’t look at standardized testing as just another assignment. The SAT and the ACT are designed to evaluate your academic college readiness – your ability to combine years of language arts and math knowledge, recall the concepts, and apply them accurately in a given time frame.

Best Ways to Study For Your ACT or SAT over the Summer

From the college admissions standpoint, having a strong test score may help your admissions chance even for test-optional colleges. Recent data has shown a higher chance of acceptance rate for those who submitted test scores than those who did not submit. Many scholarships and funding opportunities may also require test scores. More importantly, you want to provide as many, if not more, positive data relative to your peers.


Remember that your test score is just one piece of the puzzle. And as you work on each aspect of your academic profile, you are helping admissions officers understand you better. Have compassion for those in the colleges and universities to which you are applying! Let your test score support and verify the trustworthiness of your transcript – your hard-won grades.



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GPA Test Prep College Admissions

Top 3 Tips to Help You Start to Prepare for College Admissions

The COVID-19 pandemic has brought changes to every aspect of our lives, from how we socialize to how we learn, and of course, to how we need to prepare for college admissions. If you are still unsure about which path to take on your college admissions journey, don’t worry – you’re not the only one.


While we don’t have the superpower to predict the future, Team Insight has been keeping a close monitor on the latest college admissions news and making projections that can help keep your options open as we gear up for the 2021-2022 admissions cycle.


Now, let’s dive in!


Insight Advice #1: Provide Positive Data (as much as you can).


A solid GPA, a progressively challenging curriculum, and well-written college essays – all of these are considered positive data about yourself. College admissions offices want to see that you can handle the academic work, but they also want to get to know you. What are your values? How do you spend your spare time? What are you devoting your time to during the summer?


In addition to GPA, academic profile, college essays, extracurricular activities, and awards, another positive data you can provide on your college application is test scores. A strong ACT or SAT score adds value to your college application, even for test-optional schools. In 2021, more than half of the applicants chose to submit their test scores. From the data, those who included their test scores have a higher chance of acceptance. Approximately 60% of the students who applied for Rice University submit a test score. Of the students accepted by Rice University, 80% submitted an SAT or an ACT score.


Insight Advice #2: Stay Informed. Prepare Ahead.


While we are uncertain whether test-optional admissions policies will continue, what you can do is research thoroughly into the school of your choice. Stay informed about their testing policies. Check the admissions website and their emails to see if there are any changes in test-optional policies. Most importantly, don’t wait till the last minute! It takes time to prepare for the ACT or the SAT, so plan enough time for test prep.


Read more: How to approach standardized testing this summer


At Insight, we use the term “relative to your peers” as a guide. What does it mean? In the case of testing, if your friends are planning on taking the SAT or ACT in the fall, it may be a good idea for you to take the test, too. When the admissions office evaluates your college application, they are comparing you to those similar to you, such as your high school’s graduating class. In addition, if you are applying to a competitive school or program that may have many applicants with test scores, you should also prepare for the ACT/SAT.


Need help improving your SAT test scores? CLICK HERE to see our summer programs

Taking the ACT instead? CHECK OUT our ACT summer boot camps


Insight Advice #3: Research. Research. Research.


The biggest 2021 college admissions trend we’ve noticed at Insight is the rise of virtual sessions. Learning about your potential school is now as easy as tapping a few keys. Attend virtual college tours. Ask your questions at virtual info sessions. Use different websites to gather information about a school of your choice. At Insight, our counselors guide students to conduct college research starting in May or earlier, and we continuously revise their list with them.


Read more: How to conduct virtual college visits?


Another trend that has been accelerated during this time is more students are applying to selective schools, which leads to decreasing acceptance rates. For example, the acceptance rate at the University of Pennsylvania in the 90s was 39%; the acceptance rate in 2021 for UPenn was 9.9%. So be practical when building your college list. Remember, every college on your list, even your safety school needs to be a school you can see yourself in.


Read more: Why is it important to find your Best-Fit college?


Concluding Thoughts


Even if your top schools remain test-optional, remember that test scores may still be required for scholarships or other funding opportunities. During transitions like this, you want to remain flexible and keep your options open. This may mean spending part of your summer doing test prep, but the upside is that you will not be scrambling to take the SAT or ACT at the last minute. Keeping your options open may also mean joining a virtual tour of a college you have not heard of, but you may be pleasantly surprised at what you find. As always, we are here for you! Reach out if you have any questions!

Top 3 Tips to Help You Prepare for College Admissions



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Schedule Your 1-Hour College Planning Session

What Do the New UC and CSU Standardized Testing Requirements Mean For You?

Insights into UC and CSU Standardized Testing Requirements for the 2021-2022 Admissions Season

According to the University of California Application Center, “UC will not consider SAT or ACT test scores when making admissions decisions or awarding scholarships.” In other words, UC is test-blind for the high school class of 2022.


Because UC is test-blind, this may mean that other factors such as grades, strength of curriculum, essays, and extracurricular activities might hold even greater weight. So, please consult with your Insight counselor and make sure you are keeping your grades up, taking the strongest curriculum you can handle, writing great application essays, and doing meaningful extracurricular activities.


Regarding the California State Universities (CSUs) there is not currently an official stance on standardized testing requirements that applies to the entire CSU system, so please contact each CSU that you are applying to, in order to find out what their standardized testing requirements are. However, I spoke with the admissions office at Cal Poly-San Luis Obispo, and it is not considering SAT or ACT scores for the high school class of 2022. So, like the UCs, Cal Poly-San Luis Obispo is test-blind for the high school class of 2022.


The most important factors Cal Poly-San Luis Obispo will be considering for admission include GPA, extracurriculars, work experience, and strength of curriculum (what a student does beyond the minimum course requirements).


If you have any questions about the UC and CSU standardized testing requirements for the high school class of 2022 and about how you can make your applications stand out, please contact your Insight counselor.


Finally, it’s very important to remember that just because the UC system and many CSUs are test-blind for the high school class of 2022, this doesn’t mean the end of standardized testing. In fact, the data shows that for the high school class of 2021 (when many schools were test-optional) the students that submitted good SAT or ACT scores—especially to elite colleges and universities—were more likely to have gained admission. In other words, it is still important to prepare for and take the SAT or ACT.

Need help preparing for the SAT or the ACT? Check out our ACT Boot Camps or SAT Classes.

Are you worried about the recent cancellations/postponements of the SAT and ACT? 

Are you wondering if any schools have changed their testing requirements and whether you should still take standardized tests?  If so, please read on for important information from Insight counselor Jason.


The University of California system has been debating for years about whether to eliminate its SAT/ACT requirement.


While standardized testing advocates say the tests predict college readiness and can help identify promising disadvantaged students with lower GPAs, anti-test advocates claim that standardized testing makes admissions less fair since higher test results are correlated with higher family incomes. Earlier this year UC decided to keep the SAT/ACT requirement. 


However, due to the coronavirus pandemic and all the uncertainty students now face, both the UC and CSU systems have decided that the SAT/ACT will not be required for students applying for Fall 2021 freshman admission. 



University of California Testing Policies

According to UC’s April 1, 2020 Counselors and Advisers Bulletin:


“UC will suspend the standardized test requirement (SAT and ACT) for students applying for fall 2021 freshman admission. This modification is not intended as an admissions policy shift but is rather a temporary accommodation driven by the current extraordinary circumstances.”


Additionally, according to a FAQ posted on the UC admissions website:


“Students applying for Fall 2021 are not precluded from taking standardized tests (SAT or ACT) and sending scores if they are able. Doing so can support their statewide UC eligibility, application for certain scholarships, and help them fulfill some University graduation requirements.


Campuses will adjust their internal processes accordingly to ensure that no student is harmed in admissions selection should they not submit a test score.”




California State University Testing Policies

Not long after the UC’s announced their policy, the California State University (CSU) schools followed suit.


The CSU system announced that they will not use test scores to determine eligibility for the fall 2021 class.


According to CSU Chancellor Timothy P. White, “This temporary change will ensure equitable access to the university and should provide some measure of relief to prospective students and their families.”


Under the new CSU admissions policy, first-time freshmen for the term of fall 2021 must meet the new requirements to have earned a high school diploma, completed their “A-G” requirements, and have earned a GPA of 2.5 or better. 



What Does this Mean for Me?

In other words, if you are a student applying for freshman admission to a UC or CSU campus for fall 2021, you do not have to take the SAT or ACT. 


However, if you have already taken the SAT or ACT or are able to take the SAT or ACT in the future, submitting your score may have a real positive impact on your application and UC graduation requirements. 


As a result, people should not assume that getting into a UC will be significantly easier next year – that would be a mistake.


Additionally, as of now, this does not impact the class of 2022 or 2023 – so current sophomores and freshmen should not work under the assumption that testing will not be required for admission to the UCs or CSUs.  


What are Other Colleges Doing?

Also, it is important to note that not all colleges have dropped the testing requirement. As a result, students should plan to test if they will be applying to even one college that has not made that announcement.


Students applying for very competitive and specialized programs should still be planning to take the appropriate tests.  If you are wondering whether you should be testing, please consult with an Insight counselor.


Finally, although this latest news about the UCs/CSUs may be great for current high school juniors that don’t test well and that want to attend a UC or CSU, this is definitely not the time to stop testing. 



Concluding Thoughts

We want to emphasize that even though the UCs and CSUs have dropped their testing requirement for students applying for fall 2021 freshman admission, as of now this change only affects that group. 


Many colleges and specialized programs still require standardized testing (including the UCs—except for fall 2021 freshman admission).


During these unprecedented and uncertain times, please remember that Insight counselors are here to discuss your college admissions and testing plans. Overall, this UC and CSU news is good, but should be taken cautiously.  



Written by Jason Katz

This article was written by Insight Counselor Jason Katz.

Jason has helped hundreds of students gain admission to their best-fit universities. In addition, he wrote more than 170 college admissions/college life columns for the Palo Alto Daily News and the San Jose Mercury News. Read his full bio here.