So, you are ready to take on the seemingly monumental task of beginning your test preparation for the SAT or ACT exam. Because of the rote nature of preparing for such tests, it’s rare for students to find the process itself intrinsically interesting. That being said, now that you’re about to start, it’s time to get excited about test prep!
First, you need to ask yourself why you’re starting this process, and the answer, “my parents are making me” won’t cut it. Test prep is just one aspect, albeit an important one, of putting together a competitive application to the colleges you’re interested in. Whether you have already begun work with an admissions coach or only have a vague idea of which colleges fit you, it’s important to start thinking seriously about potential college choices now.
You should then check online to find the SAT or ACT ranges for a few of the colleges that you’re interested in. This will allow you to see approximately how many points you need to add to your baseline scores to be a competitive applicant for your schools.
While your score isn’t everything, improving your baseline scores to within the ranges of the colleges you might be interested in will certainly help ensure that admissions offices will consider your application. It’s important to keep this big-picture motivation in mind throughout your tutoring sessions, homework assignments, and practice tests.
So how do you get from your baseline score to your target score? Let’s say you want to raise your SAT Math score from 540 to 600 (out of 800) or an ACT English score from a 28 to a 32 (out of 36). It’s helpful to know not just the number of points you want to improve, but how many more correct answers that equates to:
For the SAT, a good rule of thumb is that for each score improvement of 10 points, you’ll need to answer approximately one more question correctly that you previously answered incorrectly. So for the hypothetical increase from a 540 to a 600, you’d need to start getting approximately 6 more questions correct on the Math portion of the SAT exam than you did on your baseline assessment. Since the SAT Math portion is made up of three sections, this translates to getting just 2 more correct answers per section to attain your goal.
For the ACT, the rule of thumb is slightly more complex, but still very useful. For each 1 point you hope to improve your score on an individual ACT section, you’ll need to answer between 1 and 3 more questions correctly on that section. The number varies based on which subject you’re setting your goal for, and how high or low your initial score is. You can come up with a more exact ACT improvement goal using the test’s scoring guide.
Having a college or two in mind that you’re excited about, as well as setting a quantitative test preparation goal will help make the nebulous and seemingly overwhelming task of improving your score more manageable and attainable.
Good luck as you start your test prep journey!By Jason Turetsky, Private Tutor