College Readiness: Writing 101

Now that all the thrill and pain is through with college admission decisions, you are probably starting to think through the next steps. Besides all the fun of visiting and choosing you/your child’s future college, placing deposits and filling out roommate matching forms, some of the other realities are probably starting to set in as well, such as new friends, your child being away from home, holiday visits, etc. There’s also the question of preparedness. You’ve worked so hard to prepare for and select a college that is the right or best fit, that you also want to make sure that you’re as ready for success there as possible!

We are fortunate to have someone on staff who has been instrumental in the college writing entrance requirements as part of her previous experience. Amy Hicks holds her PhD in English Literature from University of Illinois – Urbana Champaign. She has 10 years experience teaching university level composition and writing intensive classes, and has helped students with their individual assignments across all major disciplines, including for major classes in business and STEM. She is our go-to resource for all things English and Writing, and she has proven an invaluable resource to some of our senior students looking towards their University level courses next year.

If you are interested in working with Amy, either on an individual essay or as part of a college preparation program, please call us at (858) 951-7149 or email us at info@moprep.com.


Subject Tests vs. APs

Many of our families have been pushing off their Subject Tests to the month of June instead of stacking them right before the AP exam, and we applaud that move! The additional month will allow students to study separately for the exam and really knock it out of the park. Of course many students don’t want or need to take the subject tests in the first place, but for those of you who are planning on using them as another indicator of academic success or who are applying to the few schools or majors who require them, it is best to study, be prepared, and ace them.

Many of our families have asked why they should study separately for the AP’s, because the AP test is the end-all, be-all exam for their content. It’s 3 times as long and not only requires deep understanding, it also has a multiple choice section similar to the Subject Test, so isn’t that enough?

It’s enough to do moderately well on the test, around a 670/680, without additional studying if they are at the top of the AP game (4 or 5). However, that’s what almost every student is scoring who is a strong student. It’s not enough to stand out from the pack at the top schools or majors. And for so many of you who find it helpful but necessary, why would you want to take time out of your weekend and take a non-necessary test to not-stand out? Especially because not that much additional time is needed to ace the tests.

The next question is how much additional time is needed. It depends on the test, and it depends on where your student is with the material. The fastest way to answer that question is to take an official practice test with us for $10 each (or order the book from Amazon for $17 and take at home) and see where your score is. And then we can go from there to determine what the best course of action is. But at least you would know what score you’re expected to hit without studying and make a decision that’s best for you, instead of showing up test day unprepared.

Any questions? Please reach out to us via phone or email and we’d be happy to help.


Saturday’s ACT: Apr 2019

Well this ACT was a bit of a doozy, wasn’t it?

While we don’t know scores yet, traditionally feelings about the ACT have tracked relatively well with scores on the ACT. Also traditionally, the April ACT has been a little more challenging than most. Whether it’s the time of year with AP’s headed their way / the accumulation of the stress of Junior year, or it’s simply that the ACT organization tends to offer a more difficult examination at the end of Junior year to keep their numbers where they want them to be, April isn’t usually where students hit their goal scores. That being said, every year we always have at least one student hit their goal score on this test, so it’s not completely a wash either. There’s also something to be said for students struggling through and learning from a difficult test. Perhaps this will push them just that little bit more as they stare down their next test.

So, what did we learn from this test? We learned that the Science section was extremely hard. Mixed reports came back from students about English and Math, which can reflect level of preparedness as well as high school curriculum (or even sleep levels!). For the Reading, not much was said at all. Either it was dwarfed by the difficulty of the Science section, or it really was unremarkable and exactly as everyone expected it to be.

So in all we expect English and Math scores to come back relatively well, depending on how students individually felt about them, and improved but not significantly high Reading scores, coupled with perhaps a slight bump in Science to reflect the level of difficulty. It is of course possible that none of our predictions are correct though! And we will learn more as scores pour in and when the test is released at the end of May, but for now know that if you thought Science was hard, it was indeed.


Deleting or Canceling Scores

The rules are different for the SAT and the ACT, so we put together a primer on what’s possible if you’re not happy with how a particular test went.

Question: I don’t feel too good about my test, although I don’t have my score yet – what can I do?

Answer: Putting aside all of the things you can do to improve your test score for your next sitting, you have the option, depending on the test and the timeline, to cancel or delete scores. If you took the SAT, you have up until the Wednesday after to cancel your scores. This means your test will not be scored, and no record of it will exist. If you took the ACT, the only day you can cancel your score is the day that you took the test, at the test site itself.

Question: I have my score and I don’t like it. What can I do?

Answer: For the SAT, nothing other than hope the schools you’re applying to don’t care too much about the score. For the ACT, you can delete the score. According to the ACT website (screenshot taken today, Apr 16, 2019), you can delete any score of yours by submitting a written request, detailed below.

Question: What about deleting Subject Test scores?

Answer: The same rules apply about canceling day-of or up to three days after the test to cancel scores. However, you must cancel all of your subject test scores if you want to cancel any of them. So test day is not the day to take a test on a whim. Take a practice test to get an idea of if you’d do well! Once you’ve sat for a subject test, it will automatically be scored, so do all you can to ensure each score is a good score!


Yes to TIR!

To all students who took the April ACT and did not pay the additional $20 for the TIR, please consider doing so! The TIR is the service that is only offered for 3 of the tests a year (December, April, and June) that mails out a copy of your test and the answers YOU provided. It can be extremely insightful if you didn’t hit the score you wanted, or if you want to make improvements from there. While it won’t allow us to see the actual work you did (it’s a copy of the test, not your actual test), it does provide an excellent window through which to interpret what happened. Did you miss all the questions in the Differing Viewpoints passage on Science? Did you miss question #13 in math (you know, the one you knew how to do so well that maybe you didn’t write anything out for it….)? Did you actually miss all 5 or 10 or 15 or 20 of the last questions in any section or were the mistakes spread out? And of course, it allows you to revisit your mistakes on a test you’ve already taken. All for $20!

If you didn’t sign up for it originally, you can look for the email that was sent out shortly after this test and still sign up by tomorrow (Thursday) at 10am. If you have missed this deadline, you can print out this page here (2018-2019 link), complete the information, and mail it and a check in up to 6 months after your test date. If you’re not sure if you signed up for it, check your old receipt either by logging in or finding it in your email records. And of course there is still time to wait for your scores and then request the TIR if you’re unsure if you’ll take it again depending on that score.

If you’re unsure of whether or not you originally signed up for it, the fastest way to check is to see how much you paid for the ACT. The original test plus the essay should total $67. If you purchased the TIR, your total would be $87.

I should also note that there is an additional option listed at the back of each TIR (the actual test copy) as well that allows you to pay an extra $20 to receive a copy of your essay. I have never seen a student take advantage of this option, but the only way to get a copy of your ACT essay is through the first TIR payment and then an additional payment.


ACT Extended Time Changes

For those who were unaware, ACT.org has again announced changes to the extended time proctoring of all future ACT’s, beginning with this September’s test. No longer will students be able to parcel out their minutes and breaks according to whim or need on the ACT within the 5 hour time limit. From this point forward, students will be held to a 1.5 times per section limit, just as they always have been on the SAT.


For some students, this is going to be a drastic change for them and will make a significant difference. If you were a student who budgeted all of your extra time to Reading and/or Science, then you will certainly be hurting with the more restricted time limits. However, if you were a student who stretched and stretched for those last few questions in Math (or English, or Reading) and then had too few minutes leftover for Science, then this might actually be a blessing in disguise for you.


One thing that’s definitively changed? The increased need for practice tests before the real thing. You will now be expected to adhere to specific time limits on each section, so it is best to practice  with it once or twice before test day, in addition to more specific timed drills before then, so you’re not surprised by the change and running out of time.

Please contact us if you have any further questions about the change or would like to schedule an extended time practice test.


June 2018 ACT Scores

The ACT began posting scores online on Monday, 6/18/18, night. Scores are posted in batches, meaning that whether your score is up yet is dependent on where you took the test, also known as your test center. So far, we know scores are up for students who tested at the following test centers: San Diego High School, LCC, and Rancho Bernardo High School.

The June ACT is tough on students for a few reasons – APs tend to interfere with prep, end of the year activities are in full swing, and the test itself is often right in the midst of finals. Also, many students felt that the Science section on the June test was especially hard. However, based on the scores we’ve seen so far, it looks like the curve kept up with the increase of challenging questions and allowed students to miss more raw points while maintaining or improving their scaled score. This is pretty on trend with what we’ve noticed about the Science section in general over the last few tests – the questions are getting increasingly harder while the curve is continually nicer.

To see if your score is up, log in to your ACT account on your computer or your phone, and look for the phrase “View My Scores.” And of course feel free to call our office with any questions about accessing or understanding your scores – we are always happy to help!


2018 ACT / SAT Concordance Table

What is a concordance table? 

The word concordance literally means agreement. A concordance table establishes an understandable relationship between sets of data, meaning it organizes the different data sets so that people can see how the data relates or “agrees.”

Why do students need a concordance table for the ACT and SAT?

The ACT and SAT are different tests used to assess students’ college readiness levels, and many students take both tests. The tests are similar in some ways but different in others, including in their distinct scoring scales: the ACT is scored on a scale of a 1-36, while the SAT is scored on a scale of 200-1600. So, students need a concordance table to see how their ACT scores stack up to their SAT scores, and vice versa, in order to determine which is the best score to send to colleges.

What does the 2018 concordance table mean?

This table means students can compare their ACT and SAT scores! Students will notice that a single ACT score is equated to a range of SAT scores in order to account for the different scales. For example, a perfect 36 on the ACT is equated to the range of 1570-1600 on the SAT. This is exciting news if we interpret it to mean that schools will consider a 1570 as a “perfect” standardized test score. However, schools might choose to still hold the 1600 as the only score truly equivalent to a 36 on the ACT, even in light of these tables.  So, while concordance tables are an excellent tool in helping students understand and equate their scores, they are not absolutely determinative, and score interpretation will ultimately remain in the hands of individual schools and their respective policies. With that in mind, students should not rely on these tables alone when deciding what test to take or which scores to submit but should consider the tables as another piece of helpful information as they prepare for and apply to college.

View the tables to see how ACT and SAT scores compare, or click here for more information directly from the makers of the ACT.





The Best Testing Site For You

For every test date, we are peppered with questions regarding which test site is better to register for. From what we’ve gathered, there are certainly better and worse experiences, but a lot of them depend on your individual circumstances. Here are some ideas to consider when choosing a site:

1. Too far from your house – Having to drive an hour to get to a testing site you’ve never been to is never optimal: avoid it at all costs. However, if you must drive far, do a trial drive the Saturday beforehand to know how long it will take. Or you can use Google Maps to estimate the time it would take using the “Arrive At” feature.

2. Too close to your house – Testing at your high school or another local school (San Diego HS for our Point Loma Students, LCC for our CCA Students) can sound great, but the likelihood of running into someone you know increases dramatically. This can be good if it’s a friend you regularly compete and study with, but disastrous if the friend is either no longer very friendly with you or on the other side, entirely too friendly with you and serves as a distraction.

3. At a University – This one’s a pretty mixed bag. We have heard pretty positive results from SDSU and from Palomar College, but mostly negative reviews from UCSD. The desks at UCSD are tiny college desks, and the classroom in which you’ll be taking the test will likely be a lecture hall, slanted so that everyone can see everyone else’s answer sheets. Hardly helpful to have someone’s eyes all over your test, distracting you from getting in the zone, nor is it great to have to tuck your answer key into your test booklet and keep your calculator on your lap!

4. Where parking is a problem – This can easily be avoided if you have your parent drop you off and pick you up from your test site. I would highly recommend this option if it’s available to you. It will significantly cut down on test day stress. However, if it’s not an option, I would recommend doing some Google Satellite sleuthing to determine where the possible parking lots are near the site so that, in case the main lot is full or roped off, you know a few backup places to park just in case. Nothing like worrying about your car being ticketed or towed while you’re taking a high stakes test!


Any questions about specific test centers? We’ve probably got answers! Text us at (858) 951-7149, no matter how last minute and close to the deadline.



What Do My PSAT Scores Mean?

So you’ve received your PSAT scores – great! But there is a lot of information in your score report, so much that it feels overwhelming. Let’s break down the main scores you’re seeing and their significance.


Your Total Score

  • Located on the top center of the second page.
  • This is the score that looks like an SAT score and is intended to predict what you would earn on the SAT.
  • Ranges from 320 – 1520 (lower than the SAT).
  • Tells you separate scores for the Reading / Writing and for the Math that add to the total score.
  • Historically has been less accurate than real SAT’s. In 2016, scores seemed fairly accurate, but in 2015, scores were heavily inflated.
  • Usually increases from Sophomore to Junior year.


Test Scores

  • Located on the second page below the Total Score section.
  • Split out by Reading, Writing, and Math scores.
  • Range from 8 – 38 each.
  • These are the scores we at Mo Prep will ask you about!


Your NMSC Selection Index

  • Located on the top center of the third page.
  • Ranges from 48 – 228.
  • A sum of your Test Scores.
  • Used for the National Merit Search in both the state cutoffs and the national recommended searches.


In order to qualify for the NMSC, you must be in the top 1% of your state. For us in California, the standards have traditionally been amongst the highest in the nation, so you will likely need a score of 222 to be in this group. However, to qualify for National Merit Commended, there is a separate cutoff (to be released at a later date) that is lower, and has in the past been around 207.