ACT Writing Scores Are Up

If your scores are up, can you please send us a screenshot of your scores?

The ACT publishes essay scores in batches, and their website states that they post the scores weekly. I have not been able to independently confirm that they’re only published once a week, but my own essay scores were posted sometime between 5pm PST Sunday night and 10am PST Monday morning.


How to Choose a Goal Score for the SAT/ACT

There are several ways to choose a goal score on the ACT/SAT, but most students defer to beating their older siblings or their friends instead of knowing which score will actually make a real difference for their future.

What we’re ultimately after isn’t one number but two: a minimum and a maximum. We should treat the minimum as exactly that – the minimum you’ll aim for if prep doesn’t go as well as planned but you can still feel good about. The maximum is the number you’ll prep for that if you reach it, you can stop.

1. To find either of these numbers, you’ll need a basic college list in an Excel or Google Sheets list. I prefer Google Sheets as it is not only free, but also easily shared with tutors, counselors, and family members. Aim for a list of around 10 schools (not including repeats of UCs or CSUs), knowing you may not apply to half of them. The goal is to get an exhaustive preliminary idea of the schools, not a perfect list of where to apply to.

2. Once you have created the list, create a column for your rank – where you would like to go most is #1, and every number on down until every school has a rank. Don’t spend too long doing this, as it’s almost guaranteed that your preferences will change as you learn more about each of these schools.

3. What are the 25th-75th percentile scores for these schools? You can find these on College Board’s Big Future (link included). Create a column for the 25th number and the 75th number. I’ve included an example below:

School Name Your Rank 25th 75th
USC 2 29 33
UCLA 3 25 33
Stanford 1 31 34
Cal Poly SLO 4
CSU San Marcos 10 17 23
Pitzer College 5
Chapman 7
LMU 6  25  30


Now that we have a list, we can really dig into how to choose our max and min.

Options include:

1. There’s the obvious choice: take the highest set of scores (average) and the lowest set of scores (25th %). In this example, Stanford would result in a max score of  32.5 = 33, and CSU San Marcos lowest score is a 17. Those are your min and max. Quite a big spread.

2. There’s a sort of qualified version of these scores: maybe you had a look at Stanford and kissed your dreams of Stanford goodbye. But you’d be equally happy at USC or UCLA. This can be your new maximum. And maybe you looked at the scores for CSU San Marcos and figured it wasn’t a very valuable minimum, that you’d likely hit those numbers anyway, so you may as well set your sights a little higher. For your new min, choose the school you’d still be happy going to. Maybe this is LMU. The 25th percentile number can be your new minimum.

3. Another option is also available: research large state schools that are lower down on your list but easier to get into. It’s highly likely that at least one of these schools has a documented scholarship program with a minimum ACT score. Find out what this number is and set this as your minimum. If you can’t find a number like that on the web (or by calling the admissions office), assume that it above the 75th percentile, two points to be safe (there are always variations from year to year). If Cal State San Marcos is of interest, your new minimum would be a 25.

And remember, your SAT or ACT is only one piece of the puzzle. Your essay and your GPA are both arguably more important than your score, as they provide a much more complete picture of who you are as a student. However, the ACT/SAT do serve as the only national measure of students, so they do serve as an integral piece in the process.


Mo Prep Update: 7/27/15

Hi all,

And I hope this finds you well! We are about a month out from school starting for most of you (only a few weeks away for some of you!) and just under 6 weeks until the first ACT.

How does this impact you? That depends: if you’re a senior hoping for this ACT to be the last, it’s time to really put some work in! It also means if you’re an athlete or otherwise schedule-constrained student, it would be in your best interests to nail down your schedule ASAP and get your set weeknight in for the school year. We have already booked in our first school-year session!

We also have a practice test coming up on Aug 8th. I highly recommend some of my SAT test takers to take it, just to see if they might gain from a switch. The test will be $25 and will be in Carmel Valley at 8am that Saturday. Please email info@moprep.com to sign up.

Happy last-week-of-July, and see you all soon!



AP Credits at the UC’s

For those of you who are contemplating switching your classes around before the school year gets underway, it might be useful to take a look at which classes the UC system accepts for credit.

The information is available here: UC AP Credit.

Highlights include the minimum score required to earn credit (a score of 3) as well as the statement that lower than that will not adversely impact your application for admission (good news for you students over at Cathedral!).

Another thing to look for is how much credit is offered per class. A successful APUSH exam will give you 8 credits, while a successful APES or AP Pych will only give you 4 credits. AP Lit and AP Lang both offer 8 credits, but you will max out at that 8 credit in the English department, which means if you’ve scored successfully on one, you’ve already earned the 8 credits you can possibly earn from the English exams. Of course it’s still potentially helpful to do well on the other test to bolster your chances of admission, but know that the only goal would be for admissions at that point, not credit.

Any questions? Email us at info@moprep.com.


Which Calculator Should You Get?

Students can be successful with many different calculators, and we’ve seen some students be fervently passionate about their particular calculator on more than one occasion (e.g. the Ti-Inspire comes to mind).

However, we over here at Mo Prep recommend the Ti-84 Plus. We recommend this for several reasons. Primarily, it’s because it’s the most powerful, yet still user-friendly calculator on the market today, but also it’s the most common model, which can be useful when you’re stuck on something and need help. And above all else, the Ti-84 Plus is accepted on all math tests, including the ACT (in contrast to the Ti-89, which is accepted on the SAT but not the ACT).

Why is a graphing calculator useful at all? Read this post for the answer to that question.

And finally, what are the primary differences between a Ti-84 Plus and a Ti-84 Plus C?

1. Price: Current market prices (07/15) have the Ti-84 Plus at around $100, and the Ti-84 Plus C at around $120.

2. Display: The “C” in Plus C stands for color, so the Plus C model graphs in color. The regular does not. The Plus C model also displays graphs more crisply and finely, and it’s often easier to read from in graph mode.

3. Batteries: The Plus C model uses a USB cord to charge – so you can charge it either with your computer or with the wall outlet. The regular model uses batteries. The big plus/minus here is that you may run out of batteries during a test, but this can be compensated for by bringing an extra set. For the Plus C model, the battery runs down a lot quicker, and you’re not able to bring a charging cord with you the day of the test, so it’s best to charge it the night before the test (or two nights, to make sure you remember to pack it the night before) and/or to have a dedicated wall socket to charge it.

4. Wake Up Time: The regular model starts to dim before it fully turns off. In this “sleepy” state, if you type something in, it’s captured. This can be especially useful if you haven’t used the calculator for a few questions, but then in a flurry of excitement for the new question, you start typing without checking if it’s awake. The Plus C model, however, doesn’t capture data in its sleepy state. I have often caught myself having to retype the first few digits because I haven’t gotten used to this.



Q1: Does Silver Edition mean anything?

A1: Yes, from what I can tell, it means that you have the most recent (as of press time) operating system, which is useful for a few questions on the SAT and ACT. However, unless you’re inheriting your calculator, almost all Ti-84s purchased today have the most recent operating system.

Q2: What if I’m inheriting my calculator from an older sibling?

A2: Check the operating system according to this link:


  • Press 2nd Mem on your TI-84 Plus family calculator
  • Select 1:About
  • Press Enter
  • You should see TI-84 Plus 2.55MP

If you are in fact on 2.55MP, then you’re good to go. If you’re not, you can use a cord to obtain the newest operating system from any of your friends (or your tutor) who have that operating system.



In summary, the differences 3 and 4 may seem like a small deal in the scheme of things, but some students may feel a strong preference because of them. I personally have a strong preference, but you should make the $20 decision that’s best for you, as there is admittedly no huge price or features difference between the two.