testSo what is the ‘magic formula’ to significantly improve test scores. It’s not really magic; it’s based on motivation, commitment and time invested.

  1. I believe that the foundation piece for test-taking success, is being MOTIVATED to score well. In order for a student to improve, effort can’t be half-hearted – as I often say, “’Drop in test prep’ doesn’t cut it.”

To really improve, students must light a fire to their motivation. What do I mean? They need to create an INTENTION to get that desirable, yet realistic score. This comes from writing that desired score down and journaling about what they intend to do on a daily basis to ensure that score becomes a reality. This is how students come to BELIEVE that score is achievable and not just a mere ‘wish’.

A daily visualizing of life at the college dream school also helps to light a fire under their motivation.

  1. Now that your student is truly motivated, it should be easy to make the COMMITMENT to what’s necessary to get that desired score goal. What does that entail? A minimum of 40 hours of study preferably done on a daily basis – 20 to 30 minutes per day over a 2 to 4 month period (depending on level). This study should be tailored to the students skill level as well as goal.

For example, some students who are what I call Accelerated Learners and who have already scored 680+ in each section (on a PSAT or SAT), could begin 6-8 weeks prior to a test date and commit to a practice test a week. (See Types of Learners to learn about the 6 types.) If scores don’t get to the desired level after 2 practice tests, engage with a a tutor who is adept at troubleshooting.

A student who is a Sound Learner, and who has scored 550+ on each section, would need more foundation building as well as strategy. That said, it’s best for that student to begin with a tutor who has a program that is predicated on teaching critical reading and problem solving skills as well as strategies. Most students at this level would require training over a 3 month period to maximize their desired results.

  1. I cannot stress this enough – TEST PREP MUST BE TARGETED TO YOUR TEEN’S INDIVIDUAL STREGTHS AND WEAKNESSES. Some students, i.e., the Hands-On Learner, require a 4 month commitment as the first 6-8 weeks are foundation building alone – improving the mandatory critical reading skills that were never learned!

One size fits all programs rarely raise scores significantly.

  1. Practice using ONLY material written and published by the College Board or ACT – the companies that administer the tests. The College Board offer 6 free exams on their site; ACT offers one and Crackact.com has archived dozens of old ACTs.)

Most of the other companies’ practice material does not truly match the ‘flavor’ of the real exams. I’ve had students tell me that they have been practice testing with such material and found glaring errors and their scores keep on dropping. Not good for morale!

  1. As students go through their practice what becomes their most effective teacher is not their teacher, but themselves – what they learn from their mistakes can often have the most impact on improving test scores.

In session, we use a Take-Away Sheet where students record what strategy should have been implemented to avoid making a similar mistake in the future. (Very often they are writing the same thing several times throughout their program!) At the end of each lesson, I ask them what was THEIR biggest Take-Away. This has proven exceptionally helpful as well as often it was something that I wouldn’t have thought resonated with them.

I hope this helps you get a better understanding of what’s involved for your teen to get a high score on the SAT or ACT. Don’t hesitate to contact me if you have any further questions.


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