The next ACT test is scheduled for September 13th. Undoubtedly, I will field a call from a parent or student looking for test prep help on September 10th.
Same goes for the SAT. With the next test scheduled for October 11th, someone will frantically call me October 8th trying to schedule some test prep.
Here is how the calls usually go:
Parent: Can we schedule some tutoring before Saturday’s test?
Me: We can definitely schedule some tutoring, but I doubt that it will do much good.
Parent: What do you mean?
Me: Test-taking is a skill that takes time. It is hard to learn a new skill overnight.
Parent: Oh (awkward pause follows)
The moral of the story is that learning to improve your SAT or ACT score is like learning a new skill. Standardized test-taking is not a skill frequently practiced in schools. Most tests in school require you to memorize content and spit it out the next day. But the SAT is not a content-based test. Even the ACT relies less on content memorization and more on problem-solving.
And since you don’t frequently practice the skills to manage contextual problem-solving in school, you must put in the requisite practice time in order to get better.
All told, getting better at the ACT and SAT takes time. Lots of time. You can’t do it in one week and you probably can’t even do it in one month.
The CROSSWALK students that move their scores the most work on it for months at a time. Ideally, you have all of junior year to hone your craft. Spending a year to learn a new skill should be a realistic goal.
So avoid the frantic call days before the test. Put together a study plan that covers at least three months. Even better, plan on prepping for a whole year.
This doesn’t mean you need to meet with a tutor for a whole year. There are plenty of things you can do on your own.
But the most important thing is to schedule the time. When time is on your side, you can vastly improve your score.
Learn more SAT and ACT study tips by contacting Brooke Higgins and CROSSWALK, the Monterey Peninsula’s local resource for test prep and academic tutoring. Brooke Higgins is the founder and lead instructor at CROSSWALK as well as the author of 2400 SCORES: 24 Life Lessons to Demystify the SAT and Boost Your Score.