Strategies to Improve College Entrance Testing Results

High school students are always looking for ways to improve their college entrance test scores. A few helpful strategies may assist in increasing ACT and SAT scores.

Unless a student is naturally gifted, most students will not even score near perfect on the SAT or ACT. The tests are designed to demonstrate a student’s success at the college level. While the validity and purpose of the tests are debated on both sides, many colleges still require one of the two tests for admission.

The best way to improve score results on the SAT or ACT is to practice. By practicing a student gets to know how to be a persuasive essay writer, and becomes acquainted with the format, the timing, and the elements of the tests. This will require a time commitment on the student’s part, but there are several avenues for practicing.

Personal Tutors

A personal tutor is hired to coach the student on the test. The tutor usually has a significant background and experience with standardized tests. Also, the tutor will work with the student on her strengths and limitations regarding the tests.

Before hiring a tutor parents need to check the qualifications of the tutor. A wise practice would be to interview potential tutors to find the right fit for your student. Include students in the interview and hiring process as they will need to be compatible with the tutor to learn.

Tutors can be found in various ways. Local high schools are often contacted by tutors to advertise their services. Contact the schools to see if they have a list of community tutors. Another avenue is to contact local learning centers. Many of these centers will tutor in all academic areas. Lastly, the internet hosts tutoring sites. Some of these sites will link families to local tutors, and other sites will provide tutoring online through chat and/or webcam.

SAT Prep and ACT Prep Courses

Test prep courses are designed to teach several students at one time. Because the class usually has 15 plus students, the teacher is only able to teach to the class and not usually one-on-one.

These classes tend to have each student complete a practice SAT/ACT test to get a baseline score. The classes are divided into several-week components each with specific topics to cover. Topics include reviewing math and reading sections, timing on the tests, and learning strategies for each section.

Test prep courses vary in price from $30-$750 or more. When looking into a test prep course ask for the company’s results. This will provide information on how their students score on the SAT/ACT. Also, ask for references and contact the references. Remember that most of these courses are offered by businesses for profit, so be sure to look at what they can offer for the money.

Self-Paced Practice

Families do not need to spend a fortune to prepare their students for the SAT/ACT. College Board and ACT, the companies for the SAT and ACT respectively, offer free practice tests. These tests are completed and scored by the students. Unfortunately, the students do not gain insight other than an estimated score from this type of practice. The companies also offer study guides for around $20. The guides use past test questions as additional practice for students.

A newer method of practice is online with a paper helper or the use of computer software programs. These programs allow the student to take a practice test and then receive an evaluation of his strengths and weaknesses. The program will then develop a personalized study skills program for the student, which is tailored to his limitations. These practice options are available on the testing company’s website or at your local discount retailer.


Both testing companies offer preliminary tests for high school students. The PSAT is typically given to eleventh graders. The test will give an estimated SAT score and provide feedback on improving within each section of the test. The PLAN is given to tenth graders. This test provides the same elements of the PSAT except the PLAN is geared towards the ACT. The PLAN also has a career inventory embedded into the results. Contact local high schools for the scheduling of these tests.

High school students have many options for SAT prep and ACT prep. Understanding the fundamentals of each test will provide the student with additional test confidence, which may increase her scores. With the vast number of preparation methods, students need to choose the method best fits their learning style. Above all, the student needs to be committed to putting in the time to study and practice.