Category Archives: A-List Blog

New York based A-List Education’s Blog for SAT/ACT & College Test Prep News.

Common App 2017-2018 Prompts

It’s the moment we have all been waiting for: Common App released the prompt list for the 2017-2018 application cycle. Unlike in other years there are two all new prompts and some useful revisions to some of those tried and true prompts from years past. One of the big reasons Common App changed the prompt list is “to help all applicants, regardless of background or access to counseling, see themselves and their stories within the prompts. They are designed to invite unencumbered discussions of character and community, identity, and aspiration.” So, with this in mind, check out the prompt list and link to the full Common App article below and let the unencumbered storytelling begin!

2017-2018 Common Application Essay Prompts

  1. Some students have a background, identity, interest, or talent that is so meaningful they believe their application would be incomplete without it. If this sounds like you, then please share your story.
  2. The lessons we take from obstacles we encounter can be fundamental to later success. Recount a time when you faced a challenge, setback, or failure. How did it affect you, and what did you learn from the experience?
  3. Reflect on a time when you questioned or challenged a belief or idea. What prompted your thinking? What was the outcome?
  4. Describe a problem you’ve solved or a problem you’d like to solve. It can be an intellectual challenge, a research query, an ethical dilemma – anything that is of personal importance, no matter the scale. Explain its significance to you and what steps you took or could be taken to identify a solution.
  5. Discuss an accomplishment, event, or realization that sparked a period of personal growth and a new understanding of yourself or others.
  6. Describe a topic, idea, or concept you find so engaging that it makes you lose all track of time. Why does it captivate you? What or who do you turn to when you want to learn more?
  7. Share an essay on any topic of your choice. It can be one you’ve already written, one that responds to a different prompt, or one of your own design.

Full article:

Important Things to Do as You Prepare for Upcoming SAT/ACT Test Dates

check-list(This blog post was written by A-List tutor and SAT/ACT expert, Andrew Golledge.)

So you’ve settled in with your tutor and covered much of the basic content from the Book of Knowledge. Great! Here are some good habits to prioritize as you transition into the next phase of your preparation for those December and January test dates:

  1. Practice tests

Imagine you’re training for a fight in a ring, but your only preparation is to hit a punching bag a few times a week. Would you really be prepared? Of course not. So just like sparring many rounds against a resistant opponent in order to recreate the conditions of an actual fight, you should be taking practice tests on a frequent, regular basis in order to recreate the conditions of your exam, be it the SAT or ACT. Never forget that both tests are also endurance tests, and you need to be as ready for that aspect of the experience as any other.

  1. Error logging

The last thing you want to do after receiving the score report to a practice test is say, “Oh, that’s interesting,” and go about your day. I have all of my students craft a detailed analysis of every single mistake on their practice tests, and it’s called an error log. It must always include answers to three questions: “The right answer is right because … the wrong is wrong because … I chose the wrong answer because …” At the end of the process you have a very clear view of your strengths and weaknesses as a test-taker, and a very clear list of adjustments for your next test too.

  1. Review

Don’t underestimate the value of your Book of Knowledge. Going through it once with your tutor does not take full advantage of that value. Completing the accompanying drills and never looking back does not take full advantage of that value. You need to arm yourself to the teeth with brightly colored pens and highlighters and attack the text, leaving nothing behind but a beautifully annotated and highlighted 2nd (or 3rd) reading of its most important content and exercises. Do this and the ideas will stick.

  1. Reading

Ah, reading. That sweet and precious multivitamin for your intellect. Its many benefits include improved memory, vocabulary and focus, plus sharpened analytical and writing skills. How this translates to standardized tests should be obvious, so if you’re serious about improving your score then substantive daily reading needs to be a part of your preparation. Pithy online listicles don’t count.

  1. Be Good to Yourself

Last but definitely not least. We as tutors know how much stress you’re under during junior and senior years, and how much work gets piled on throughout. That’s why we’re always so proud when you hold yourselves up to the high standards we set for you. But please, don’t burn yourself out over one test, especially your first. Remember to go for a walk, eat ice cream or read a book for fun once in a while. Or watch a good movie, like Highlander. It has sword fights, Sean Connery and a soundtrack by Queen.

MENA Teacher Summit being held in October: Professional Development Conference for MENA’s American Curriculum Teachers & Administrators 

mena-teacher-summitCheck out the official press release from our team in the Middle East

DUBAI, UAE, September 27, 2016 – On Friday, October 7, and Saturday, October 8, MENA region American curriculum teachers and school leadership teams will convene at the Universal American School in Dubai. This regional event is a platform for teachers to engage and learn from renowned educators and scholars. Topics at the summit will address best practices in leadership, data, curriculum, and English Language Arts and Math Common Core and Next Generation Science Standards implementation. Organized by KDSL Global and the GCC ASCD Connected Community, this first annual conference aims to advance teaching and learning to benefit the region’s American curriculum students. The Association for Supervision and Curriculum Development (ASCD) is a global community dedicated to excellence in learning, teaching, and leading.

The pre-conference and keynote address will be led by Bryan Goodwin, President and CEO of McREL International and an ASCD author.  Bryan is the author of Simply Better: Doing What Matters Most to Change the Odds for Student Success, and co-author of The 12 Touchstones of Good Teaching and Balanced Leadership for Powerful Learning: Tools for Achieving Success in Your School. Day one will be a pre-conference session focused on Going Far By Going Together: Following What Matters Most and Improvement Pathways. Bryan said, “I’m looking forward to joining educators from across the region to learn more about their work—their bright spots and challenges. I also hope to ‘demystify’ school improvement by sharing with everyone what research has identified as the straightforward pathways schools and systems can follow to help their students succeed. I’m excited to join you all in October!”

The summit provides access to top education publishers and education organizations. Alonzo Sherman, Managing Director of A-List Education Services Middle East and summit partner, said, “At A-List, teachers are our greatest assets. We were founded by, are led by, and are built around highly-trained teachers. We are proud to sponsor the MENA Teacher Summit and look forward to engaging with teachers from all over the region.”

Other summit partners include the Northwest Evaluation Association, Smart Education, the UAE Learning Network, Teach Middle East Magazine, Interactive Data Partners, SEN World, Follett, Computers Explorers, ESOL Education, Kidproof, Edubeanz, The Duke of Edinburgh’s International Award, Limitless Education, Sylvan Learning, MISIC, Teacher+Leader Learning Company, BEAM, McREL International, IngeniousEd, Arab Gulf Education, Pearson Middle East, Hachette Antoine, Education Journal Middle East, Envision, RYE Consulting, EDspired, The Global Sleepover, Edarabia, Universal American School, Soh Cah Toa, Makers Builders, MidSchoolMath, Ribbon Events, ArabiCollege, PanWorld Education, Curriculum Associates, GEG UAE, TechKnowledge, Project Purpose, and Professional Minds.

Educators and school leaders from MENA region American curriculum schools are encouraged to attend. Registration closes on 2nd October. To register and view the agenda, sessions and presenter biographies, please visit

PRESS CONTACT Kevin Simpson, KDSL Global,, +971 50 289 8417

Early Decision: What is it and is it Right for Me?

college admissionsThis blog post was written by A-List College Advisor, Callan Suozzi-Rearic.

Fall is here and college admissions season is in full swing! This means only one thing in October: everyone is talking about early decision, or “ED”. But the big question is: what is early decision, and why should you consider it?

So, first thing’s first – what is early decision? Early decision, generally speaking, is when you apply to a specific college before the regular decision deadline. When you apply ED, you sign a contract saying you will attend that school if accepted.

So, if it’s a binding agreement, why would you ever decided to apply early decision? Well, there are a lot of reasons to apply ED.  The biggest, and frankly most important reason, is if you found your dream school and have decided it’s the only place you want to go. Why not apply early and know where you’re headed to college by December if you get in?

Another great reason to apply early is that the applicant pool is smaller, so your chance for your dream school is statistically higher. That being said, though a higher acceptance rate is tempting, always remember it’s not worth applying to a school ED that you don’t love because if you get in, you have promised to attend!

However, here is something to note for all those folks out there that might be a little indecisive, but still want the benefits of knowing if they got into a school early: early action (EA). EA has all the same benefits of ED – applying before the regular decision deadline, usually with a smaller pool of applicants – but it doesn’t have the contractual obligations of attending the school if you are accepted. It’s like ED, without all the strings attached!

Now you know what early decision and early action are and why (or why not) you should apply ED or EA. So go out and rock October by getting all your application materials ready for those ED and EA deadlines!

Taking the PSAT…Seriously

psatThis blog post written by A-List Senior Tutor, Gary Surman.

Once again, we find ourselves at the beginning of a new school year that promises new learning, new opportunity, and new challenges! This is particularly true for those of you beginning your junior year in high school, a year full of difficult school courses and college entrance exams – many of you have already begun preparing to take either the SAT or the ACT, and others will begin to do so soon. One important step in this process is coming up in the middle of October, as you may remember from your sophomore year: the PSAT!

If you don’t remember taking the PSAT in 10th grade, you either didn’t take it or just didn’t take it seriously. This is understandable! Your sophomore PSAT is basically just your first chance to see what these tests are like; however, in your junior year, the PSAT carries more importance.

First of all, this is an excellent opportunity to sit through an officially administered exam, so you’ll get a taste of what it’s like to sit for the full SAT or the ACT. Because taking these exams is such a different experience from taking tests in school – even longer midterms or finals – it’s very important to take full-length practice exams, especially ones that replicate the environment of an official SAT or ACT.

Second, for those students who will take the SAT in the spring, the PSAT is an essential way to practice the format and timing of the full-length test, particularly since the new formats of these exams are more similar than ever.

However, many students who are preparing for the ACT may consider the PSAT a distraction or an unnecessary burden that would be better ignored. This is a mistake! The new PSAT is also very similar to the ACT, so the experience you’ll gain will be extremely valuable. Also, if you jumped into the ACT without taking a look at the SAT, this could prove to be an eye-opening experience: perhaps the timing of the PSAT will prove to be more forgiving than that of the ACT, or perhaps you’ll find the test easier for you. Every student is different – although you may hear from your friends and family that the ACT is the easier test, that may not be true for you, and it’s worth trying the PSAT to find out.

These points by themselves provide a strong argument for taking the PSAT, but for those students who are looking for a way to differentiate themselves from their peers and give their college applications an extra boost, this exam provides another opportunity: the National Merit Scholarship Program. Every year, the National Merit Scholarship Corporation, or NMSC, selects the 50,000 top-scoring juniors who will qualify for recognition. Two-thirds of these students will receive Letters of Commendation from NMSC, a distinction that will help their applications stand out amongst the thousands that colleges will receive. The remaining third of these students will qualify as National Merit Semifinalists and will be invited to apply for the National Merit Scholarship. This is an even greater accolade that will certainly help these students stand out from the crowd of their peers – many of whom will have similar test scores, GPAs, and extracurricular activities – regardless of whether they receive the additional financial bonus of winning a scholarship.

All of this really amounts to a single statement: the PSAT is great opportunity for experience and practice for all students, as well as a chance to demonstrate excellence for some. Every student should take it – and take it seriously!

A-List is Proud to be Part of the A.G.R.E.E. Initiative with UN Women & The Rotary Club of NY

scott-agree-nightA-List is proud to have teamed up with The Rotary Club of New York and UN Women for the Adolescent Girls Renew Educate Empower (A.G.R.E.E.) initiative. The remarkable program will increase empowerment and education for adolescent girls and young women in Sierra Leone and other developing countries, in the context of poverty eradication and the achievement of gender equality.

On Thursday September 22nd, we had the opportunity to witness the official signing of agreement as The Rotary Club NY entered into partnership with UN Women and the RCNY Foundation to formalize the A.G.R.E.E. initiative. A-List President Scott Farber was honored to stand alongside UN Women Deputy Executive Director Lakshmi Puri, the Honourable Ambassador Choong-hee Hahn of the Republic of Korea, President of RCNY Jon Erbilgin, and Rotary International’s representative to the United Nations Helen Reisler.

We had the privilege to hear from Lakshmi Puri at the signing event as she detailed some of the goals of the initiative:

We must promote the participation, voice and action of adolescent girls and young women, such as clubs and community groups and other organizations and networks, led by adolescent girls and young women.

The A.G.R.E.E. initiative will empower adolescent girls through education and give them the confidence to amplify their own voices and increase their economic and civic participation.

A.G.R.E.E. is grounded in UN Women’s youth and gender equality strategy and proposes a clear pathway to empower adolescent girls and young women in their education and skills development. (Source:

We look forward to working with these wonderful groups as we all A.G.R.E.E. to change!

(Learn more about the event at the NY Rotary’s website:

Upcoming Conference: MENA Teacher Summit

alme-twitter-photoA-List is thrilled to have the opportunity to participate in the MENA Teacher Summit. An initiative of the Association for Supervision and Curriculum Development (ASCD) Connected Community in the GCC, the Teacher Summit seeks to improve teaching and learning and connect education professionals throughout the MENA region to the resources provided by ASCD.  The event is an opportunity for American Curriculum teachers to engage and learn with renowned educators and scholars. Summit topics will include best practices in leadership, data, curriculum, and English Language Arts and Math Common Core and Next Generation Science Standards implementation.

A-List president and founder, Scott Farber, will be presenting among a well-rounded group of classroom teachers, department heads, school administrators, and program coordinators; he will host a workshop for educators about “Cultivating Grit and Non-Cognitive Skills through the Common Core and SAT/ACT.” The presentation will explore how to integrate instructional practices focused on what an expanding body of research indicates is necessary to improve persistence and success rates once students leave high school.

We couldn’t be more thrilled to have the opportunity to partake in the MENA Teacher Summit with our team in the Middle East. We look forward to meeting other educational professionals and sharing our knowledge to help more students in the region become college ready!



A-List is Now an Approved Service Provider for the NYC DOE’s College Access for All Initiative!

college-access-for-allWe could not be more thrilled that A-List has been selected as an approved service provider for the NYC Department of Education’s  College Access for All Initiative (CA4ALL). College Access for All is a component of New York City’s Equity and Excellence Initiative. The project is expected to develop the capacity of all NYC high schools to deliver high-quality college and career planning and significantly raise the numbers of students who graduate ready for post-secondary education. College Access for All underscores the City’s commitment to strengthening college access for all students by ensuring that all students graduate with a post-secondary plan and resources to enact that plan.

We are so excited to have the opportunity to work with more NYC schools and help more students reach their academic potential and realize their college goals!

Check out the full list of College Access Partners

The New SAT – Should I still take it?!

Written by A-List tutor, Dory Schultz

With the recent update to the SAT, one question we have frequently heard over the past year is, “Do the changes to the SAT affect which test I should take?” Because the newest iteration of the SAT is still a somewhat unknown quantity, some students (and parents!) are worried that colleges will perhaps prioritize accepting ACT students over SAT students. Our sources tell us that this worry is unfounded: an impressive SAT score is still an impressive SAT score, and an SAT score at any percentile will not be prioritized above or below a similar ACT score. For most students, there will not be a substantive difference between performance on the two tests, but knowing the biggest differences between the tests can guide us as to which test might be better suited to each individual student. In some ways, the redesigned SAT has become more like the ACT, but in other ways, the changes to the SAT have increased the elements that differentiate it and actually made it friendlier!

If you struggle with timing, you might have an easier time on the redesigned SAT. The SAT has always allowed more time per question than the ACT, and the redesigned SAT emphasizes that difference. One of the big changes was a total revamp of the English section, making it very similar to that of the ACT. However, the ACT asks 75 English questions over 45 minutes (giving us 36 seconds per question) while the SAT asks 44 similar questions over 35 minutes (approximately 48 seconds per question); this works out to 32% more time per question than the ACT! The timing differences on the other sections have widened even more. On the Reading test, the ACT allows 52.5 seconds per question, while the SAT offers 75 seconds per question (almost 43% more time!) while the SAT math test(s) average out to over a minute and 22 seconds per questions vs. one minute per question exactly on the ACT (about 38% more time). Students who prefer a faster pace certainly may perform better on the ACT, but the expanded time cushion offered by the redesigned SAT gives test-takers way more time to focus on nailing each and every question.

One element of the redesigned SAT that might turn off some students is the no calculator math section. Calculator addicts hate the idea that they will not have access to their trusty companion, but informed students recognize the helpful secret of the no calculator section. Instead of thinking about the section as a scary set of questions where we can’t use our calculators, a savvy test-taker uses one crucial fact to speed up his or her process: the no calculator questions don’t require calculators! Paradoxically, many questions on both tests should be done without a calculator, but students tend to waste time spinning their wheels by performing unnecessary calculations. Knowing a calculator is not required frees up many students to more quickly identify the most efficient steps to a correct solution.

Ultimately, every student should try both tests and see which one works better for them. Though the format of the SAT has changed, the content is mostly the same, and many students will find that the new format actually makes it easier than ever before for them to prove their brilliance!

Friend and Partner, Hakeem Rahim, Presents at Capitol Hill’s Senate Summit on Mental Health

Hakeem-Rahim-capitol-hillWe’re so proud of A-List friend, partner, and mental health awareness expert, Hakeem Rahim, Ed.M, M.A.. Today, he made his way to Capitol Hill (again!) to help further raise awareness for mental health issues. He spoke on a three-person panel at the Senate Summit on Mental Health: A Call to Action for Comprehensive Mental Health Reform offering his wisdom and a lived experience perspective. The efforts of Hakeem and his fellow presenters and advocates are moving mental health front and center. We encourage you to watch the Senate’s Summit on Mental Health (check out Hakeem speak right around the 2 hr. mark!)– being informed is part of raising awareness. Way to go Hakeem!