Optimizing Test Prep Strategies for the Class of 2026

Optimizing Test Prep Strategies for the Class of 2026

As the Class of 2026 navigates their way through the intricate world of college admissions, one of the key decisions they face is which standardized tests to prepare for – the ACT, SAT, or PSAT. Understanding the nuances of each exam and crafting a strategic approach to preparation can significantly impact their success. Here, we outline tailored recommendations to guide students effectively:

  1. Focus on One Test:

We strongly advise students to concentrate their efforts on either the ACT or the SAT/PSAT. Attempting to juggle preparation for both can lead to a diffusion of energy and resources, potentially compromising performance on both exams.

  1. Emphasize ACT Preparation:

During the current landscape characterized by a scarcity of quality SAT materials and the significant challenges introduced by the revamped SAT in March of this year, our recommendation stands firm: prioritize preparation for the ACT. Resources for the ACT are more abundant and well-established, offering students a clearer path to readiness.

  1. Leveraging PSAT Prep for SAT Success:

For students interested in preparing for the PSAT, we suggest aligning preparation efforts with the November SAT. The content, structure, and question types are quite similar on the two, so it only makes sense to continue preparing in the same direction for an official SAT. Don’t spend time on the ACT, per #1.

  1. Sequential Preparation Approach:

If students opt not to follow the initial recommendation, we discourage simultaneous preparation for the ACT and PSAT/SAT. Instead, we propose a sequential approach, with ACT preparation taking precedence during the summer months, followed by PSAT preparation post-September 14th ACT, leading up to the PSAT at school on October 11th.

  1. Strive for Excellence:

Before embarking on PSAT preparation, we advise students to target a score in the 95th percentile on practice tests. The true value of PSAT performance lies in the opportunities for scholarships and recognition associated with achieving scores in the 99th percentile.

Tailored Guidance:

It’s important to recognize that each student’s journey is unique, and their specific goals will influence the path they choose to follow. Our recommendations serve as a framework to inform decision-making, but individualized guidance based on personal goals and circumstances is important.

By adopting a strategic approach to standardized test preparation, students of the Class of 2026 can navigate the complexities of the admissions process with confidence and clarity.

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Don’t Waste Time in College: A Guide to the ACCUPLACER Test

The ACCUPLACER test is an important step for many college students. It helps ensure you’re placed in courses that match your current skill level, saving you time and money. Here’s what you need to know about the ACCUPLACER to ace it and get started on the right foot in college.

Why Take the ACCUPLACER?

Many colleges use the ACCUPLACER to assess your reading, writing, and math abilities. This helps them determine if you’re prepared for college-level coursework. Earning a good score can mean skipping unnecessary developmental classes and jumping right into classes that count towards your degree.

How to Prepare for the ACCUPLACER

Most schools offering the ACCUPLACER also provide free study resources. These might include practice problems, review materials, or workshops. Check your school’s website or visit the learning center to see what’s available.

The College Board, which designs the ACCUPLACER, also offers free practice tests online. Taking practice tests familiarizes you with the format, identifies areas needing improvement, and boosts your confidence on test day.

Understanding Your Scores

The ACCUPLACER scores vary depending on the test. Reading, writing, quantitative reasoning, statistics, and advanced algebra/functions tests are scored between 200-300.

For the writing portion, there’s a separate scoring system (1-8) based on your essay’s clarity and persuasiveness.

There’s no “passing” or “failing” the ACCUPLACER. However, your score determines your course placement. Lower scores might mean taking developmental courses before tackling regular college classes.

What to Expect on Test Day

Most ACCUPLACER tests are multiple choice, with the exception of the writing test which requires an essay. There’s no time limit, so focus on giving your best effort and demonstrating your abilities.

The test is adaptive, meaning the difficulty of each question adjusts based on your previous answers. So, take your time and think carefully before selecting your answer.

The Different Sections of the ACCUPLACER

  • Reading: Tests your ability to understand different types of text and vocabulary.
  • Writing: Evaluates your editing and revising skills in a multi-paragraph text.
  • Math:
    • Arithmetic: Covers basic calculations, order of operations, and recognizing equivalent values.
    • Quantitative Reasoning, Statistics, and Advanced Algebra/Functions: These cover topics like linear equations, inequalities, exponents, and factoring (no calculator allowed!).

The WritePlacer Essay

This section assesses your writing skills, crucial for college success. Your score reflects your ability to express, organize, and support your ideas. Focus on conveying your thoughts clearly and using proper grammar and mechanics.

By understanding the ACCUPLACER, preparing with practice tests, and familiarizing yourself with the different sections, you can approach the test with confidence and get placed in courses that challenge you and help you succeed in college. If extra help is needed, we offer one-on-one private tutorials to help you reach your goals.



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Grade Inflation

Grade Inflation and Test Optional Policies

Over the past 15+ years, Get Smarter Prep has helped thousands of students achieve their goals of academic excellence, whether that means getting accepted into their reach school or bumping up to a higher scholarship bracket. How important are ACT or SAT test scores in today’s college admissions process?

We continue to recommend that students work towards achieving their best ACT score, even when their top choice schools are currently test-optional. Here are a few reasons for that recommendation.

Policies change every year.

Admission requirements have been in flux since ACT and SAT testing was disrupted in 2020. Even though regular testing has resumed, colleges and universities have largely continued to maintain test optional policies. However, that trend has begun to reverse for the class of 2025, as more colleges are reinstating their ACT and SAT requirements. Yale, Dartmouth, Harvard, and UT Austin are just a few of the schools which have gone back to requiring standardized testing in recent months, and we expect more announcements to follow. 

Because changes are still being announced that impact the admissions process for the class of 2025, students who planned to apply without scores may find requirements and recommendations changing at their top choice schools. We want our students to be as prepared as possible, and that includes having solid test scores ready as requirements change.

Even at schools that are test optional, good scores can set a student apart.

Even when applying to a school that is test optional, giving the admissions team more information about what makes a student a great fit is always a good idea. When a student has competitive scores, those scores provide a boost in the admissions process. 

Even at schools that are test optional, some programs or scholarships may not be.

Students may plan to apply without scores, only to find that a specific scholarship or program requires them. In addition, while some schools offer test optional admissions, they may require ACT or SAT scores for placement purposes after a student has been admitted. Working now to achieve the best possible score will help ensure a student is prepared for whatever the admissions process throws at them.

Good grades may not be enough.

We’ve collected GPA information from hundreds of local students to better understand the connection between grades and test scores, and we’ve found that there isn’t much correlation between them. While we work with students across the entire range of ACT scores, 50% of our students have unweighted GPAs of 3.9 or higher, and 85% of our students have weighted GPAs of 3.9 or higher. How is a student with a 3.9 supposed to stand out, when so many other students have similar transcripts? 

GPA Inflation
Grade Point Average vs ACT Pretest Scores

Even if a student works hard and gets great grades, those grades alone may not make them competitive in a crowded admissions ecosystem. The average GPA for admitted students at the University of Arkansas is 3.8. At Creighton, it’s a 3.9. Indiana reports their average GPA as 3.97.

Grade inflation, unfortunately, is an ongoing problem that plays a role in these numbers being so high. Some colleges and universities have begun to rely more heavily on class rank instead of GPA, when class rank is available, as a way to differentiate between students when so many have high GPAs. Class rank, however, is not calculated at many schools. In situations like this, competitive test scores can provide a critical boost to an application.

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ACT Test Dates 2024-2025

ACT Test Dates for 2024-2025

Act.org just released their National Test Dates for 2024-2025, including the regular registration deadline, late registration deadline + late fees, and the photo upload and standby deadline. Do you know which test date(s) is right for you?

ACT Test Dates 2024-2025

Which Test Date is Right for You?

As we all know, planning for the ACT is the key to success. Choose a test date that is right for you. What does that mean? Look at your class schedule and determine where you can manage to add in test prep on top of your academic load. Students will want to prioritize about 8-10 weeks prior to the chosen test date. Typically, students meet with their tutor once a week for an hour and a half session. Keep in mind, you will have about 2-3 hours of ACT homework to finish each week before your next tutoring session.

Extracurriculars also play a factor in choosing a test date. Students won’t want to choose a September or October test date if they are in football or any type of fall sports. You’ll feel overwhelmed studying for the ACT while attending practices and games and keeping up with your classes. Plan out your year and decide which test date is most suitable for you.

We have multiple options to help you reach your goals including Private TutoringSemi-Private Tutoring or our ACT Prep Course. If you have no idea where to start with the process, we always recommend establishing a baseline score by taking a Free Practice Test at one of our locations.

If you need help figuring out which test date is best for you and how best to prepare for the test, please reach out to us.


Contact Us Today.

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Make the Most of Your Spring Break

Make the Most of Your Spring Break: A Guide for High School Students

Spring break is finally here! While it’s a well-deserved time to relax and recharge, it can also be a strategic opportunity to get ahead of the curve, especially for high school students approaching college applications. This guide offers a mix of activities that combine both future-focused preparation and well-deserved rest and enjoyment.

Gearing Up for College:

  1. Craft your college list: Brainstorm colleges that align with your academic interests, desired location, and campus environment. Research their programs, costs, and unique offerings. Narrow down your choices to a manageable list for further exploration.
  2. Explore potential schools: If possible, schedule a campus visit to get a firsthand feel for the college environment. Talk to admissions officers, current students, and faculty to gain insights into the academic culture and student life. Even virtual tours can provide valuable information.
  3. Polish your high school resume: Update your resume to highlight your academic achievements, extracurricular activities, volunteer work, and any relevant skills you’ve acquired. This will be a valuable resource later in the college application process.
  4. Chart your course: Develop a game plan for the remaining semesters in high school. Identify any challenging courses that require extra attention or opportunities to excel through internships or independent projects. This will help you stay focused and make the most of your time.
  5. Prepare for standardized tests: Spring break can be a good time to dedicate focused study time for the ACT or SAT. Utilize practice tests, study guides, and online resources to strengthen your skills and improve your test scores. If you haven’t started thinking about standardized tests, contact us to set up a game plan.

Beyond College Applications:

  1. Give back to your community: Volunteer your time and talents to a cause you care about. Volunteering not only enhances your resume but also allows you to make a positive impact and gain valuable experiences.
  2. Connect with loved ones: Make time for quality time with family and friends. Whether it’s a game night, watching movies, or simply enjoying a conversation, strengthen your personal connections and create lasting memories.
  3. Dive into a good book: Reading can be a source of relaxation, knowledge, and inspiration. Choose a book from your favorite genre or explore a new topic entirely.
  4. Recharge and rejuvenate: Don’t forget to prioritize rest and self-care. Get enough sleep, engage in healthy activities, and take breaks to de-stress. You’ll return to your studies feeling refreshed and focused.
  5. Embrace the fun: Spring break is also a time to have fun and create lasting memories. Plan activities you enjoy, whether it’s playing sports, exploring hobbies, or simply enjoying the outdoors.

Remember, your spring break should be meaningful and fulfilling. By incorporating a mix of these activities, you can use the time to prepare for your future, connect with your loved ones, and enjoy yourself before diving back into the school year.

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Bright Flight Program

Bright Flight Program for Missouri Students

The Bright Flight Program is a great way for Missouri students to get a head start on their college education. It’s a scholarship program that can help students pay for school, and it’s available at all levels: community colleges and four-year universities alike.

Bright Flight is based on your ACT score, so the higher your score, the more money you can get from Bright Flight. The Bright Flight eligibility scores are increased with the class of 2024 seniors. Students will need to score a 32 to qualify for up to $3,000 or a 31 to qualify for up to $1,000.

If you’re interested in applying for Bright Flight, here are some things you should know:

  • The Missouri Department of Higher Education & Workforce Development will begin recognizing Superscores for Bright Flight eligibility.
  • Your qualifying score must be achieved by the June test date immediately following your graduation from high school. Keep in mind, the score achieved on the July test date immediately following your graduation from high school does not qualify for the Bright Flight scholarship program.
  • To qualify for the program, students must enroll full time at a participating Missouri school.  Full-time enrollment is defined as a minimum of 12 semester hours, or 6 semester hours for students who are unable to enroll in 12 hours as a result of a disability defined by Title II of the Americans with Disabilities Act.
  • Bright Flight offers scholarships between $1,000 and $3,000 per academic year (split between the Fall & Spring semesters), depending on your ACT score—the higher your score is, the more money you’ll receive! Scholarships are awarded based on merit; there are no athletic or artistic requirements necessary to qualify for Bright Flight scholarships.
  • There is no Bright Flight application to complete. The MDHEWD will receive your ACT, along with approved Missouri college or university choices, from your ACT records. In order to have your score sent to MDHEWD, students need to enter in the following code when registering for the ACT: 2379. It takes approximately six to eight weeks after each national test date for the MDHEWD to receive assessment information.
  • Not only does this program identify public and private schools, but also individuals who have graduated from Missouri’s virtual public school, have completed a home-school program or have obtained a certificate of high school equivalence by passing the GED exam may be considered for the scholarship program.

Renewal of Bright Flight Scholarship

To renew the scholarship, students must continue to meet the eligibility requirements for initial students. Students must receive the scholarship at least one semester each academic year, beginning with the academic year immediately following your senior year in high school, receipt of the GED, or completion of your secondary coursework, if home-schooled.

Students will also have to maintain a minimum cumulative GPA of 2.5 and maintain satisfactory academic progress as defined by your school. Renewal of the scholarship may be completed annually for up to 10 semesters or until you have completed a bachelor’s degree, whichever occurs first.

For more information about the Bright Flight Program for Missouri students, visit their website. To increase your ACT score with ACT Courses or Private Tutoring, click HERE.


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Yale logo

Yale to Require Standardized Testing Again

Yale to Require Standardized Testing Again

*Updated to reflect Harvard’s choice to return to standardized testing for the Class of 2025.

Yale University will require standardized test scores (again) for students applying for the class entering in the fall of 2025. This makes Yale the second Ivy League university to abandon test-optional policies that were widely adopted during the COVID-19 pandemic.

Yale officials said in an announcement on Thursday that the shift to test-optional policies might have unwittingly harmed students from lower-income families whose test scores could have helped their chances.

While it will require standardized tests, Yale said its policy would be “test flexible,” permitting students to submit scores from subject-based Advanced Placement or International Baccalaureate tests in lieu of SAT or ACT scores.

Yale’s decision follows a similar decision in February from Dartmouth College and in April for Harvard. Dartmouth said an analysis had found that hundreds of students from lower socioeconomic backgrounds who had strong scores on the SAT had declined to submit them, fearing that they fell too far below the perfect score and Harvard’s leading researchers cite strong evidence that testing expands opportunity.

Columbia University is still test-optional. The California university system has enacted a “test-blind” policy, meaning they will not consider test scores even if they are submitted.

The University of Michigan, one of the country’s most selective public universities, recently announced that it was moving to a test-optional policy.

For help preparing for the ACT/SAT, please contact Get Smarter Prep.

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What To Do After a Disappointing ACT Score

What To Do After a Disappointing ACT Score

The sting of a disappointing ACT score can be overwhelming. Weeks of preparation culminate in a number that doesn’t reflect your efforts, leaving you feeling lost and unsure. But, take it from us, don’t let this setback doesn’t define your future. Here are some steps to navigate this situation and emerge stronger:

  1. Acknowledge and Process Your Emotions:

It’s natural to feel disappointment, frustration, or even anger. Don’t bottle up these emotions. Talk to a trusted friend, family member, or counselor. Allow yourself time to process and accept these feelings before moving forward.

  1. Analyze Your Score:

The ACT score report provides valuable insights into your strengths and weaknesses. Review each section carefully, identifying areas that require improvement. This analysis will be crucial for shaping your future study plan.

  1. Re-evaluate Your Goals:

Reflect on the reasons behind your initial ACT goal. Was it driven by college aspirations, scholarship opportunities, or external pressure? Reassessing your motivations can help determine if a retake is necessary or if alternative paths can achieve your desired outcomes.

  1. Consider Retaking the ACT:

If your goal is a higher score, consider retaking the test. However, approach this decision strategically.

  • Identify the Next Test Date: Just like students lose knowledge over the summer (the summer slide) the same goes for the ACT. Typically, the very next ACT test date is best. Jump right back into it and prepare for the test so you won’t lose any knowledge you’ve already gained.
  • Revamp Your Study Strategy: Analyze your learning style and identify areas where your current approach fell short. Explore different resources like online courses, or private tutoring tailored to your specific needs.
  • Seek Expert Guidance: Our tutors can provide personalized support, diagnose learning gaps, and develop a customized study plan to address your weaknesses and maximize your score potential. They help you navigate the test and find new ways to better prepare while retaining what you’ve already learned.
  1. Explore Alternative Options:

Remember, the ACT is just one piece of the college application puzzle. Many colleges consider a holistic review, including your GPA, extracurricular activities, essays, and letters of recommendation. Explore these areas and showcase your strengths to create a compelling application.

  1. Maintain Perspective:

The ACT score is not a measure of your worth or intelligence. It’s simply a standardized test with inherent limitations. Don’t let it define your confidence or future aspirations.

  1. Remember, You’re Not Alone:

Many students face similar challenges. Seek support from peers, mentors, or online communities who can offer encouragement and share their own experiences.

  1. Focus on Growth and Improvement:

View this experience as an opportunity for personal growth. The journey of learning and self-improvement extends beyond a single test score. Embrace the challenge, refine your study skills, and strive for continuous progress.

By following these steps, you can navigate the disappointment of a low ACT score and emerge with a renewed sense of purpose and a clear path towards achieving your academic goals. Remember, resilience and determination are valuable assets that will serve you well throughout your academic and professional journey.


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What is the correlation between GPA & ACT

We hear parents tell us constantly that their student is a really good student who has an excellent GPA, but they can’t seem to get the ACT score they want. So now what? Their student probably is a great student who pays attention in class, completes their homework, and tests well, however the correlation between a students’ GPA and their ACT is wildly different.

There are several factors that lead to this conclusion: grade inflation, test-taking skills, and knowledge of the ACT. Within this blog, we will break down all reasoning as to why GPA has little to do with your ACT score.

Grade Inflation

Does it seem like every high school student you talk to now a days has a 4.0 or higher? That’s because most of them do. Grade inflation is a complex issue with a range of statistics to consider.

The overall trend:

  • Average GPAs have been steadily increasing: Between 2010 and 2022, the average adjusted GPA increased in all core subjects. For example, in math, it climbed from 3.02 to 3.32, representing a significant shift from a B to a B+.
  • More A’s and B’s, fewer C’s and D’s: Across subjects, the percentage of students receiving A’s and B’s increased, while those receiving C’s and D’s decreased.
  • Grade inflation across all student groups: The trend is present for students of all income levels and backgrounds, not just specific demographics.

    Specific details:

    • Math shows the highest inflation: Math grades have seen the most pronounced increase, raising concerns about potential dilution of rigor in these courses.
    • Standardized test scores such as the ACT/SAT don’t reflect GPA growth: While GPAs have risen, standardized test scores like the National Assessment of Educational Progress (NAEP) haven’t shown similar improvements, suggesting a disconnect between grades and actual academic mastery.

    Test-Taking Skills

    The correlation between test-taking skills and the ACT score is moderate to strong, but not perfect. Studies have shown that students with better test-taking skills tend to score higher on the ACT, but other factors also play a significant role.

    Here are some stats to illustrate the correlation:

    • Meta-analysis of test-taking interventions: A 2009 meta-analysis found that test-taking strategies improved standardized test scores by an average of 0.19 standard deviations. Applied to the ACT, this translates to roughly 3 points on the composite score, which can make a big impact for college admittance or more scholarships.
    • ACT research: ACT’s own research suggests a positive correlation between specific test-taking skills and performance on different sections of the ACT. Since the ACT is a timed test, most students tend to run out of time in certain sections of the test. However, students who are good at time management and pacing tend to score higher on the Math and Reading section, which has tight time constraints.

    Test anxiety or specific difficulties: For students prone to test anxiety or struggling with certain question types, dedicated test-taking strategies and practice can significantly improve performance, even with a strong knowledge base.

    Knowledge of the Test

    While test-taking skills come in handy and can increase your overall score, knowledge of the test and what the test-makers are looking for is key to unlock the test itself. Our expert Tutor, Caleb Pierce, is adamant that once you know what to look for on the test, learn the strategies, and practice the content of which is on the test (a.k.a. do your homework), students will have all of the confidence to meet or exceed their ACT goals.

    • Understanding the format of the test, question types, and timing strategies can be immensely valuable. While a strong knowledge base is essential, test-taking skills can help maximize that knowledge within the limitations of the format.
    • Prioritize solid understanding of the content. Maximize your ACT math score by prioritizing core skills. Algebra II is a crucial building block for success with the ACT. Conquer it first, and the test will be more manageable.
    • Students with a solid grasp of the material may need less emphasis on test-taking skills and can focus on applying their knowledge strategically during the test. Test-taking skills can still be helpful for managing time and approaching certain question types, but thorough understanding of the subject trumps specific test-taking tactics.

    Overall, dedicated students who have an ACT goal in mind and choose to prioritize that goal are the students who will succeed the most. A solid understanding of the content, alongside relevant test-taking skills form the foundation for success on a standardized test such as the ACT.

    No matter what GPA students have, when they prepare for the ACT with Get Smarter Prep, we build a foundation of knowledge from what we know will be including on the test, test-taking strategies to help build confidence in their testing ability, and most importantly, a significant reduction in stress on test day.

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    Recap of the New York Times Article

    Recap of New York Times Post

    The New York Times recently wrote an article about the misguided information surrounding standardized tests such as the SAT/ACT. Now, some experts and universities are wondering if a test-optional approach is truly beneficial for both the student and university or if it’s time to bring back testing requirements. Below is a recap of the New York Times post.. 

    In the wake of the Covid-19 pandemic, numerous selective colleges temporarily abandoned SAT and ACT requirements for applicants. While initially framed as a response to pandemic-related challenges, the shift towards test-optional policies has persisted, sparking debates about their impact on equity in higher education.

    Originally hailed as a victory for fairness, some experts and university administrators are now questioning whether the move was a mistake. Recent research indicates that standardized test scores offer valuable insights into predicting college success, graduation rates, and post-college achievements. Despite concerns about test-related stress and biases, proponents argue that these scores provide a more reliable metric than high school grades, which are susceptible to grade inflation.

    Test-Optional Approach

    Critics of the test-optional approach suggest that removing standardized tests makes it challenging for admissions officers to distinguish between applicants likely to excel at elite colleges and those who may struggle. Research has shown that test scores can be particularly beneficial in identifying lower-income students and underrepresented minorities with great potential.

    The debate over standardized testing in college admissions intersects with broader issues of inequality, affirmative action, and the purpose of higher education. While some view tests as an unfair barrier, others argue that they serve as a critical benchmark, especially given existing biases in other parts of the admissions process.

    Data from studies, including one covering Ivy Plus colleges, indicates a limited relationship between high school grades and college success, emphasizing the predictive power of test scores. However, the reluctance to reinstate test requirements is attributed to political factors, with standardized tests facing opposition from progressive circles concerned about racial and economic disparities.

    The article explores the case of M.I.T., which reinstated its test requirement, emphasizing that scores are not the sole determining factor. M.I.T. achieved a diverse class by using test scores to identify promising applicants from less advantaged backgrounds. This approach challenges the assumption that standardized tests hinder diversity.

    College Admissions

    Ultimately, the debate revolves around whether standardized tests should be one of several criteria in admissions decisions. Critics argue for a more fundamental shift in the admissions process, favoring a lottery system based on minimum requirements. However, supporters of standardized tests contend that they provide an objective benchmark amidst the subjectivity of other application components.

    As colleges grapple with the test-optional dilemma, the article suggests that the progressive rejection of standardized tests may be a polarized position not entirely grounded in empirical evidence. While seeking to reduce inequities, the test-optional trend may inadvertently deny opportunities to lower-income, Black, and Hispanic students who could benefit from these tests.


    In conclusion, the article underscores the complexity of the standardized testing debate, emphasizing the need for a nuanced approach that considers both equity concerns and the valuable insights these tests can provide in identifying talented and diverse student populations.


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