How To Use That Disappointing SAT/ACT Score To Your Advantage

Everyone has bad test days. Maybe that extra hour of cramming instead of sleeping didn’t help. Or maybe the SAT or ACT just seemed extra hard that day. Who knows.

In any case, don’t fret! A positive outcome of your test day experience is that you now know what to expect and you have a score report from an official SAT or ACT. You can use this information to create a plan of action to improve your score. Here’s a helpful step-by-step guide on how to use a disappointing SAT or ACT score to your advantage.


No need to be nervous about the essay portion of your SAT/ACT—review the basics with the BibMe grammar guides. These free guides cover the basics, including conjunctions, common nouns, prepositional phrases, and a plagiarism definition.


Step 1: Give yourself a break

This first step might seem counterintuitive, but it’s important to give yourself permission to decompress. It’s tempting to rush into test prep when in fact, it’s more beneficial to take a short break. Taking a breather is important because you need a mental break from the exhaustive process that is prepping for the SAT or the ACT.

Take one week off from thinking about standardized testing. It’s better to rest now so you feel rejuvenated and motivated to get back into test prep. Don’t rush into resuming prep, as you might potentially burnout from studying too much.

Step 2: Reflect on your test day experience

After taking a week off, think about what happened on test day. Try to recall the factors that might have impacted your performance. Did you not get enough sleep? Did you eat a bigger breakfast than normal? Was the clock in your classroom not working? By seeing how these factors might have influenced your performance, you can come up with solutions for the next time you take the SAT or the ACT.

For example, let’s say your classroom had a clock that was located behind you. You might have felt awkward turning around to check the time, thus negatively impacting your pacing. A solution to this problem is to get used to wearing a watch. That way, the next time you take the test, you can use your watch in case the classroom clock isn’t accessible.

Step 3: Look at your score report

Ugh. This step might be the hardest, as you’ll have to see those disappointing numbers again, but you need to do it in order to make a strategic game plan. One way to make this step easier is to remember that you now have the information you need to figure out how to get those numbers to go up. The answer to improving your score is right in the report!

You might be thinking, “I have no issues looking at my score report—I just don’t know how to read it!” Navigating your score report can be challenging, so let’s move on to...

Step 4: Identify where you can improve

Let’s figure out how you can read your score report. Get a sheet of paper so you can answer the questions below. Scroll down to the test you took for a guide on how to interpret your score report.

How to read your SAT score report

  1. What is your total score? This ranges from 400-1600.
  2. What is your Evidenced-Based Reading and Writing section score? This ranges from 200-800.
    1. What is your Reading test score? This ranges from 10-40.
    2. What is your Writing & Language test score? This ranges from 10-40.
      1. What is your Expression of Ideas subscore? This ranges from 1-15.
      2. What is your Standard English Conventions subscore? This ranges from 1-15.
  3. What is your Math section score? This ranges from 200-800.
    1. What is your Heart of Algebra subscore? This ranges from 1-15.
    2. What is your Problem Solving and Data Analysis subscore? This ranges from 1-15.
    3. What is your Passport to Advanced Math subscore? This ranges from 1-15.
  4. If relevant: what are your Reading, Analysis, and Writing scores for the SAT Essay? These range from 2-8.

Now that you have all these numbers, ask yourself the following questions to identify where you can improve the most:

  1. Which is lower: my Evidenced-Based Reading and Writing score or my Math score?
  2. Which is lower: my Reading test score or my Writing & Language test score?
  3. Which is lower: my Expression of Ideas subscore or my Standard English Conventions subscore?
  4. How do my Math subscores rank from least to greatest?

By identifying your lowest scores, you now know that you can focus on these areas when you resume test prep.

For example, let’s say you identify that your Standard English Conventions subscore is lower than your Expression of Ideas subscore. This means that spending time reviewing grammar rules will be more effective than learning new strategies for Expression of Ideas questions.

How to read your ACT score report

  1. What is your composite score? This ranges from 1-36.
  2. What is your Math score? This ranges from 1-36.
    • What is your percentage for Number & Quantity?
    • What is your percentage for Algebra?
    • What is your percentage for Functions?
    • What is your percentage for Geometry?
    • What is your percentage for Statistics & Probability?
  3. What is your Science score? This ranges from 1-36.
  4. What is your English score? This ranges from 1-36.
    • What is your percentage for Production of Writing?
    • What is your percentage for Knowledge of Language?
    • What is your percentage for Conventions of Standard English?
  5. What is your Reading score? This ranges from 1-36.
  6. If relevant: what is your Writing score? This ranges from 1-8.

Now that you have all these numbers, ask yourself the following questions to identify where you can improve the most:

  1. How do my Math, Science, English, and Reading scores rank from least to greatest?
  2. For Math, how do my percentages rank from least to greatest?
  3. For English, how do my percentages rank from least to greatest?

By identifying your lowest scores, you now know that you can focus on these areas when you resume test prep.

Let’s say you identify Geometry as your lowest percentage for math. Be sure to spend some time doing extra Geometry problems so you feel confident when you encounter this question type on your next ACT.

Step 5: Re-calibrate your test prep strategy

Now that you’ve figured out which areas have the most potential for improvement, decide when you’ll retake the SAT or the ACT. Figure out how much time you have to prep. From there, you can figure out if you want to take a class, hire a private tutor, or prep on your own. Use this time to also set new score goals for your SAT or ACT retake.

Take advantage of this additional test prep time to try out new strategies. It might be tempting to do what was comfortable before, but to get new, improved scores, it’s essential to try different approaches. Remember, it’s okay to fail when trying new tactics—use this time to experiment until you find the right combination of strategies to help you feel confident on test day.

You got this!


You conquered your SAT/ACT, now what? Use the guides and tools at BibMe.org to prepare for your first college English courses, of course! Review how to put together an annotated bibliography, and practice your APA, MLA, and Chicago citation styles.

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Writers Rejoice! Chegg and the Purdue OWL Have Joined Forces

If having access to expert writing help whenever you need it appeals to you, then you’ll love this news: the esteemed Purdue University Online Writing Lab (Purdue OWL) has partnered with our company, Chegg, Inc., to help students like you become confident and skilled writers through world-class writing education tools.

Through this new partnership, Purdue OWL’s writing rules, standards, and content will be integrated into the grammar feedback of the BibMe Plus paper checker. Soon, you’ll be able to upload a paper into the BibMe Plus paper checker and receive feedback based on guidance provided by experts your teacher would approve of—how great is that?

Purdue OWL will also provide suggestions and feedback to Chegg on product development, like our citation tools and paper checker, as well as other Chegg solutions. This helps ensure that the BibMe services that you know and love will continue to develop in ways that benefit you.

Purdue OWL boasts 43 years of experience supporting writers of all levels and backgrounds in an academic setting. Bringing their expertise together with the writing tools of Chegg—like BibMe—is a win for students, educators, and anyone who values good writing.

Learn more about the partnership, Purdue OWL, and Chegg in the press release linked here.

Have a paper ready for review? Try out the BibMe grammar and plagiarism checker today!


For all your citation needs, visit BibMe.org. Easily create MLA or APA citations, a works cited list, an annotated bibliography, and more!

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BibMe Feature Highlight: Title Page Creator

Your paper is nearly done! You chose a great topic. The paper is written and proofread. It has all the proper citations (usually in APA or MLA format). But have you created a title page yet?

The title page (or cover page) of a report is often the last part of a paper to be completed, but it’s an important finishing touch. Did you know that BibMe can help you create a perfectly-formatted title page for your next writing assignment?

Visit www.bibme.org. In the top toolbar, simply click the link that says, “Title Page” between the links “Citation Guide” and “Support.”

After clicking, you will be taken to a form titled “Create a Title Page.” Here, you can fill in all the required pieces of information that is specific to your work: title, running head, your name, etc. Click “Create Title Page” when you’re finished, and BibMe does the rest!

You have a few options to choose from to make sure that your title page is created exactly the way you would like. First, you can choose what citation style your title page should adhere too. BibMe offers title pages in APA, MLA, and Chicago format. Also, you can choose to export your title page in docx format for easy insertion into a Microsoft Word document, or as HTML.

Whatever options you choose, BibMe has your title page covered!


Haven’t had a chance to proofread your paper yet? Check out the BibMe Plus grammar and plagiarism checker! It can help you automatically spot writing mistakes before you turn your paper in. Along with the checker, BibMe has helpful grammar guides on adjectives, what is an adverb, the differences between coordinating and subordinating conjunctions, and more!

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Four Steps for STEM Majors to Rock that Next Paper

STEM students everywhere feel the pain of writing assignments. As people who would rather spend their time working with numbers and figures, sitting down to write a paper can seem so tedious and boring. But effective communication is one of the most important skills we can learn in college, as it’ll help us stand out when we express ourselves. STEM students with writing abilities are super valuable!

Even if you are only required to take one writing class, it’s important that you use this opportunity to enhance your skills and build confidence in your own writing. With online tools like the BibMe Plus grammar and plagiarism tool, writing becomes much less intimidating.

While you’re working on your writing, approach the assignment like any other math problem you would tackle. You can work out your writing using four steps: identify the problem, show your work, cut out unnecessary steps, and check your final answer.

1. Identify the problem

The most crucial part of your paper is your argument or the problem to be considered. When thinking through your thesis, go through and review several, peer-reviewed sources. Academic sources can be scary, but they contain the research you need to make your points.

After you’ve done research, craft your thesis statement to capture the essence of the problem. One trick is to rephrase the assignment as a question and then make sure your thesis answers that question. Clearly identify the problem or discussion that is of interest and communicate that you understand the problem from all angles.

Writing your paper will be so much more exciting if you can find a topic that interests you, too. You might even be able to find a subject that relates to science or math in some way.

2.     Show your work

Showing your work means that you provide clear and reasoned evidence as to how you are developing your argument while incorporating outside information. This evidence should come from outside sources and try to show various views of an argument.

This will make the stated claims clear and your writing easy to understand. Clearly point your reader in the correct direction, using logical steps that follow one another.

Also important: cite your sources so others can confirm or read more on the evidence you’ve used. If you don’t know which citation style to use, ask your professor. Commonly used citation styles include MLA format, APA format, and Chicago Manual of Style.

3. Cut out unnecessary steps

It’s tempting but don’t try to impress your teacher by using the biggest words or the longest, most complicated sentences you can think of. This will make the paper hard to follow. Simple and clear is always better, just like when solving an equation.

Even if you have a gigantic assignment, you still have to cut out the fluff. This means actively checking for lengthy or wordy sentences and avoiding passive voice. For example, instead of:

The cake was baked by Mary.

You’d write:

Mary baked the cake.

Writing assignments in college require active voice, which can be a tough transition from the lab reports that require passive constructions. After you’ve written your draft, read it aloud. Listen for passive voice, and circle any words that you’re not quite sure about. After that, cut out any words that are unnecessary and revise until your writing is as clear as you can make it.

4. Check your final answer

Any time you solve a math problem, it is a good idea to check your work to make sure that your answer makes sense. Writing is no different!

Nailing a smooth flow and good writing transitions on the first try can be tough. Try making a flowchart with one-word descriptors of each paragraph, and rearrange them until you find the order that makes the most sense if your organization doesn’t seem right. Your topic sentences should serve as your roadmap, so ensure that these follow each other logically. Reviewing the flow of your argument is always a great last step in writing!

Being a mathematician or a scientist means that you will have to explain your work to the world, and mastering writing is the key to spreading your ideas and your accomplishments. The good thing is that there’s likely no need to drastically change or enhance your writing. Approaching your assignments like any STEM exercise is a great way to make you feel more at ease. And don’t be afraid to ask for help, whether that be from your TA, a tutor, or your campus writing center. Just take the assignment one step at a time.


Trying to remember how linking verbs work? Need a refresher on what is a prepositional phrase? Looking for an interjection to use in your next paper? Check out our BibMe grammar guides for help with the above and more!

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How to Bounce Back from a College Rejection

You spent months completing your college applications, and then more months waiting for a reply to the big question: did you get in? And even though you are amazing and well-deserving, sometimes the answer is going to be no.

Whether you’re dealing with your first heartbreak or have just been denied your dream school, facing rejection is never easy. College rejections can feel like a slap in the face.

Although it’s hard to rally in the wake of a denial, you can use your college rejection as an opportunity for personal growth and learning. It’s OK to take a little bit of time to wallow. After all, rejection is a tough pill to swallow! Just remember that you are not alone—most people don’t get into every college they apply to—and still end up loving the schools they end up going to.


If you’re still applying to colleges, many applications require a written essay. Why not try the BibMe Plus grammar and plagiarism checker before submitting it? Or kick your writing into high gear by mastering the usage of subordinating conjunctions, interjections, determiners, and more with our free grammar guides!


Here are smart tips for staying positive and bouncing back from a college rejection:

Consider what’s the best fit for you

Any college that doesn’t admit you probably wasn’t the right place for you to go. There are hundreds of well-regarded colleges out there. Chances are high that you’ll have a great experience at a school that does want and appreciate you! Think about the characteristics that made your top school your No. 1, and consider whether there are other schools that might have similar qualities.

Keep off your social media

One thing that can amplify feelings of rejection? Checking your Snapchat, Instagram, and other social media accounts. Oftentimes, college decisions come out on the same day, so you might find your feed flooded with posts from peers who’ve been admitted to their top choices. Seeing friends celebrate their admittance when you’ve been denied can feel lousy. So, take a social media detox for a day or two.

Explore other options

When it comes to college, there’s no end-all, be-all. Do research into other schools and get excited about someplace else—especially if it’s somewhere you’ve already been admitted. Attend an admitted students’ day at a school where you’re in to get a feel for the place. Buy a sweatshirt for that school. Research different clubs and activities there. Get used to the idea of going somewhere else that would be lucky to have you, and get excited about it!

Remember that it isn’t personal

While completing your college application is a timely process, remember that the admissions office has very little information on you. Your GPA, test scores, essay, recommendations, and resume don’t convey everything about who you are as a person. Realize that the rejection doesn’t reflect at all on your worth as a person and how awesome you’ll be at another school.

Allow time to be sad

If you feel like crying, listening to your favorite sad song on repeat, or just sulking, it’s 100 percent ok. It’s perfectly normal to feel upset or even heartbroken in the wake of a college rejection. Take some time to mourn, but also think of all the success you’ve achieved in high school. Feel proud of everything you were proud about before letter came—there are still loads of exciting opportunities that await you in college regardless of where you go, and that’s something to celebrate.


College-level writing can feel intimidating, but it doesn’t have to be. Review MLA, APA, and Chicago format citation styles at BibMe.org to help make sure your sources are cited correctly!

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ACT vs. SAT: How to Know Which is Right for You

Say hello to the SAT and ACT! Both are great choices, but deciding which one to take should be a strategic decision. After all, you’ll spend weeks learning strategies and doing practice drills right until test day. So how do you pick one?

Let’s cut to the chase: the best way to decide which test is right for you is to take a practice SAT and a practice ACT. By going through the test taking experience for both, you’ll be able to make an informed decision about which suits you more. What’s great about taking practice tests is that there’s no expectation for you to get a “good” score: you’re simply seeing how the tests are formatted, what types of questions are asked, and what the pacing is like.

In addition, here are a few smart questions to consider when deciding between the ACT and the SAT:

How much time do you want to spend reading?

One big difference between the two tests is that the ACT gives you 35 minutes to do the Reading section. On the SAT, you have 65 minutes. Some would rather get it done quickly, and thus gravitate towards the ACT. Others prefer to not be in such a time crunch, which is why they take the SAT.

It’s also important to consider when you do the Reading section. On the ACT, it’s the third section (out of four multiple choice sections). On the SAT, it’s the first section. Would you prefer to tackle it at the halfway point or tackle it right away?


Worried about the essay portion of your ACT/SAT? Bulk up your English knowledge with the free BibMe grammar guides to nail down irregular verbs, prepositions, subordinating conjunctions, and more!


When it comes to math, do you prefer having a variety of question types, or do you want more algebra-based questions?

Another key difference between the ACT and the SAT is the Math section. On the ACT, the topics you’ll be tested on include pre-algebra, algebra, plane geometry, coordinate geometry, and trigonometry. On the SAT, the topics are called “Problem Solving & Data Analysis,” “Heart of Algebra,” “Passport to Advanced Math,” and “Additional Topics in Math.” It might seem hard to decode what these SAT math topics cover, but a reductive way to describe the SAT Math section is that it has more algebra and less geometry.

How do you feel about not having a calculator for a math section?

On the ACT, you can use a calculator for the whole math section. On the SAT, the Math section is split into two parts: non-calculator problems and calculator problems. Some dislike the idea of having to do math without a calculator. The problems on the SAT non-calculator Math section are designed to be done by hand, but if you prefer the security of having a calculator, the ACT Math section is completely calculator-friendly.

Would you rather have a definitive science section, or have science topics sprinkled throughout the entire test?

A big reason why many are intimidated by the ACT is the Science section. In reality, the ACT Science section is basically reading comprehension, but with graphs and tables. In contrast, the SAT weaves science throughout the entire test. For example, two of the SAT reading passages will be science-themed and contain charts. Don’t let the lack of a clear SAT “Science section” fool you—you’ll still have to deal with science.

After reviewing the above factors and taking a practice version of both tests, you will be better prepared to make an informed choice between the ACT or SAT.


College-level research papers may seem daunting, so why not brush up on the basics now? Check out the comprehensive BibMe guides to the APA, MLA, and Chicago citation styles and try the BibMe grammar and plagiarism tool to help make sure your writing is correctly cited and avoids unintentional plagiarism!

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