Improving Your ACT or SAT Score

Category : College , My First Job

If you are considering a selective college, odds are that you must take one of two standardized tests: the ACT or SAT. Along with your grades, colleges pay a lot of attention to your scores on these tests. So the stakes are high.

It may seem unfair that you have four years of high school to earn your grades, but only four hours on a Saturday to generate your test scores.  We understand, and we’re here to tell you that a little preparation can avert potential disappointment.

You need three pieces of information to prepare for the ACT or SAT: (1) the score you have (2) the score you want and (3) a plan to close the gap.

The ACT or SAT Score You Have

Take a practice test and take it seriously.  Establish exam-like conditions.  Do each section successively and time yourself.  Take a short break if you need to, but don’t stop for lunch. The ACT and SAT are endurance tests.

Now, consider that score your baseline. This is the score you would earn if you showed up at the exam site today.

The ACT or SAT Score You Want

Compare your baseline with the range from the incoming freshmen class at any of your prospective schools.

Unless your score far exceeds the average at all of your prospective schools, expect to spend a fair amount of time preparing before the real test. Improving your score by even a hundred points can significantly improve your chances of admission at many schools.

A Plan to Close the Gap

To improve your baseline score, you’ll need to determine the problem.

You’re careless Did you miss questions because you didn’t read carefully? If so, you need to practice and drill.
You’re crunched Did you miss questions because you ran out of time? If so, you need to work on pacing.
You’re clueless Did you miss questions because you had no idea how to answer? If so, you need to focus on a content review.


Finally, it’s time to find the solution that works best for you. We recommend The Princeton Review’s ACT and SAT test preparation resources (sure, we’re a little biased). Whatever approach you choose, start planning well in advance. You’ll do better if you set aside time each week to prepare rather than cramming it all in at the last minute.

Image: Flickr