Conventional wisdom says that students should take their SAT/ACT exams sometime during junior year of high school. Parents typically pick a testing date for their student based on this advice and then race to enroll their student in a prep class, or private tutoring sessions, 4-6 weeks before the test date.
But this isn’t the best strategy.
A month or two of test prep isn’t enough to actually make a substantial difference in a test score. Students only learn broad strategies and a handful of concepts and don’t have adequate time to do enough homework or practice to make this baseline prep effective. This is part of the reason why national average improvement on the SAT is so low: only about a 30-point improvement after the test is taken again.
The 4-month rule of thumb
At Streamline Tutors, we know that the strategies and concepts on the SAT/ACT need to become second nature in order to deliver the 200+ and 5+ point improvements (respectively) that we see on average with our tutees.
Years of working with a wide array of students have shown us that 4 months of 1.5-hour weekly sessions is the sweet spot that guarantees the best test results.
Of course, this is a general recommendation -- some students will need more prep, and some will need a little less. Some factors that affect this are:
Conceptual knowledge. Major holes in conceptual knowledge -- concepts that are learned over years of middle and high school courses -- will necessitate longer tutoring commitments. It’s naive to think that a student can pick them all up in just a few months.
Baseline reading abilities. Because the reading section tests both comprehension and critical thinking, strong readers just need to assimilate the logic behind each reading question type to optimize their performance. Weak readers need far more time to develop the baseline skills to make strategies impactful.
How to make a meaningful difference in your SAT/ACT score
In addition to the 4 month rule of thumb, there are a few other important points to keep in mind about raising your SAT/ACT score:
Speak with an expert first. Before signing up for a test -- or simply following what your friends are doing by signing up for a test prep class -- speak with an expert. He or she can can advise you on the best test prep schedule for you, as well as which test to prepare for (SAT/ACT).
Know that excellent prep involves three facets. Prepping for your SAT/ACT is much more than just memorizing a bunch of facts. It involves the three key facets of concept review, best practice instruction, and strategic instruction.
You must put in the work. Test prep isn’t magic; you need more than just an expert tutor (although this helps tremendously). To make a meaningful difference in your test score, you have to put in the work to prepare -- this means 3-4 hours per week of homework and studying for the exam.
Every student is different, and there’s no one-size-fits-all approach to SAT/ACT preparation. Give Streamline a call for a free consultation to ensure your student’s method of preparation is the right approach for her optimal success.