What are the specific steps to take (and avoid) for your student to achieve his or her best results on college entrance exams?
1. Start right after sophomore year or as early in junior year as possible.
2. Figure out whether to start with the ACT or SAT.
3. Don’t take a real test without proper preparation.
4. Plan to take the test on two consecutive test dates.
5. Start test prep about eight to twelve weeks before the first test date.
6. Practice, practice, practice – and avoid shortcuts
1) In general, start test prep process as early as possible in junior year. Families are
much happier when senior year doesn’t include ACT or SAT testing. If your junior is
currently taking Algebra 2, wait at least until winter break because there is so much
algebra on SAT and ACT. Look at the workload throughout the entire school year. If he
plays football, wait until the season ends. If she has time-consuming activities in the
spring, schedule test prep early in the year. You don’t want to add test prep to a
schedule that is already fully committed.
2) Colleges and scholarship providers accept ACT and SAT scores on an equal basis.
The Achieve Academics approach uses practice tests to help determine your students’
strengths and weaknesses. In MN, we generally start out with ACT tests. You can also
have your student take an SAT test to determine if your student is better on one test
versus the other. You can also use results on a recent PSAT (the SAT practice test) as
a predictor of SAT performance. In late 10th grade or early 11th grade, students should
take a full-length ACT practice test with Achieve Academics to experience the faster
timing and feel of the test. The ACT Science section is unlike any test taken in school,
but don’t let that scare you away. ACT is the more popular test these days. The
proctored practice test takes four hours, usually on a Saturday or Sunday morning. See
whether ACT or SAT/PSAT feels like a better fit – and which test yields a higher score.
When we meet with you and your student for your follow-up consultation, we’ll evaluate
those detailed test results along with their academic strengths and other practical
considerations to select which test to prepare for first. Avoid bouncing back and forth
between the ACT and SAT. Pick one test, take it twice and then decide your next
course of action if your student has not met their score goal.
3) It’s a bad idea to take a real ACT or SAT test without proper preparation. Repeat —
don’t take a test cold. At Achieve Academics, we know that private tutoring or small
group classes are the best way to do test prep; that’s what we do. There are other ways
to do credible test prep, however, including free online services like ACT Academy or
SAT Prep on Khan Academy. One-on-one tutoring is best; small classes can be very
helpful as well; online prep can be appropriate if students are either very diligent or
supervised by an adult.
4) Students should plan to take the real ACT on two consecutive test dates in junior
year. Avoid skipping a test date because that can leave a 3-month gap between tests–
long enough for students to lose their edge on the skills learned. If you’re thinking of
switching from ACT to SAT or vice versa, take a practice test with Achieve Academics
5) During ACT test prep, Achieve Academics tutors work with students to strengthen
their math, reading and writing skills. They also teach test-taking strategies tailored to
match each student’s strengths. After each session, the tutors send progress notes to
parents to show what was covered and homework for the next session.
6) Make time to practice, practice, practice. Just like improving skills in athletics or the
arts, students get better at testing by taking practice tests. In addition to the session
time with tutors, students are assigned parts of a full practice test (3 hours with standard
time) to take at home between their weekly sessions. Our tutors do a great job of
coaching students and holding them accountable, but it’s up to students to take
ownership of the test prep process. It’s hard work and there are no shortcuts.
Call Achieve Academics at 763-559-8378 or email firstname.lastname@example.org to
discuss strategic options for moving forward with testing. We look forward to working
with you to help your student prepare to continue their academic goals!
Written by Achieve Academics, Plymouth, MN in conjunction with Dogwood Tutoring
and Test Prep, Sandy Springs, GA.