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How Much Time Does SAT/ACT Improvement Take? (And Is It Worth It?)

Test taking, like any skill, takes time to improve.

But how much time, roughly, does it take to do better on the SAT or ACT? And in the world of test-optional colleges, is the time worth it?

Firstly, the question of how much time is needed to improve a score is relative to each student and their particularly goals. In very broad terms, a student can see meaningful score improvement with 20-40 hours of dedicated and focused practice.

Consider that taking an SAT or ACT is approximately a three hour experience. If one were to take a practice test (three hours), score and analyze the practice test (1 hour), then execute a plan to work on weaknesses (anywhere from three to five hours depending on how much work is needed), this could be a very productive 10-hour block of time. Repeat this cycle a handful of times and most students see measured improvement.

Again, this a very generalized estimate of time and results. Students who want to see greater improvement may need more time and students who need just marginal improvement may need less time.

But in CROSSWALK's 20+ year experience, 20-40 hours is a good block of time to achieve score improvement.

Now, is it worth it? Again, the answer to this is relative to the student and their goals. Yes, test scores are not as important as they once were. Nowadays, students can wade into the testing waters with little stress. However, test scores are tied to greater admission opportunities and scholarships which can help quantify this idea of worth.

For example, imagine a student armed with a good test score. This mean they could get admitted into a more selective university. Potentially, their future earnings—because they go to a more academically challenging school—could be greater than the earnings of another student who attends a less selective university that does not review test scores.

As for scholarships, consider that even by conservative estimates, roughly 20% of state-funded scholarships and 33% of institution-funded scholarships require standardized tests scores. So getting a good test score can increase a student's chances measurably.

Hypothetically, imagine a student applying to a private institution with a Cost of Attendance (COA) over $70,000. A good test score could yield that applicant a $20,000 merit scholarship per year or $80,000 for four years. In this scenario, 40 hours of work on test prep would be completely worth the $80,000 of savings. This means $2,000 of savings per each hour of test prep!

Yes, these scenarios a major generalizations. Testing, college admissions and scholarship opportunities are all relative to each student.

Nevertheless, 20-40 hours of test prep seem to be more than worth it. In fact, parents may want to check how their students are spending their time. Chances are, students are spending way more than 20-40 hours on cell phone apps, video games and other unproductive time robbers. Anecdotally, I just heard of a student who has spent 92 days in total time playing Fortnite. 92 days!

Moral of the story: carve out the 20-40 hours you need to get better at the SAT or ACT. It's worth it.

And if you want to join our Winter Test Prep Program (total class hours = 7.5), then sign up here. Financial aid is available. Just ask.

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