When I was in high school, “studying” usually meant copying down my notes until I had memorized them. This method had served me well since 6th grade. But, before I knew it, the summer before junior year rolled around and it was time to get serious about SAT prep. I knew my usual study tactics weren’t right for a standardized test, but I had no idea where to start!

Eventually, my parents signed me up to work with a local math tutor recommended by a family friend. While the tutor helped me raise my SAT math score slightly, I had been hoping for dramatic improvement. What could I have done differently?

My work as a Student Success Advisor has allowed me to pick up some tips for acing the SAT and ACT. These “secrets” may not be what students and parents hear at local tutoring centers, but at Testive, we’ve seen many students improve their chances at admission to their chosen schools when armed with this unconventional wisdom.

So, here are three things I know now, and wish I had known back in high school about prepping for the SAT and ACT:

1. You don’t need to take the real SAT or ACT to get a “baseline score.”

A baseline score is essential for creating an effective prep plan. It helps you identify the sections of the SAT or ACT that are most challenging for you, allowing you to craft a prep plan that targets those areas. As a sophomore, I took the SAT “cold,” before doing any studying. Although I was a strong student, my scores were not where I wanted them to be. (I wasn’t prepared!) I wasted money on taking the actual test, whereas I could have gotten a baseline score through taking a practice test, and then used the findings from those results to prep more effectively and be better prepared for the actual test.

Many parents ask if their child should register for an official SAT or ACT (or both) and take it with no prior preparation. While this would certainly give you a valid baseline score, it’s not necessary. A cheaper and easier alternative is to take a timed official practice test instead. Indeed, this is what my colleagues and I always recommend doing. Unlike taking the “real” SAT or ACT, completing a practice test is free and gives students instant access to their scores. So it’s much faster way to determine what a student needs to work on, freeing up more time to improve!

When students sign up for Testive coaching, their first assignment is to complete a practice test. After uploading their answers onto our software, students meets with their coaches one-on-one to determine their prep plan. Rather than waiting weeks to get a baseline score, this student has immediate access to a personalized curriculum and can get to work!

2. You don’t have to study everything

Some students think they need to divide their prep time equally between each section of (and question type on) the SAT or ACT. In reality, the typical student will score significantly higher or lower on different areas of their practice test. For example, the first time I took the SAT, I scored almost 200 points higher in reading than in math.

Testive recommends that students spend their time studying those concepts they struggle with most. Strengthening content knowledge in weak areas is the best way to create major score improvement. This is why group classes often don’t deliver major score improvements: they teach the same content to everyone.

When a student in a Testive program meets with their coach for the first time, the coach has already created a personalized curriculum that targets the student’s weakest areas. Working with a coach who is armed with great information about their students’ performance, ensures that students will be practicing the areas that will net the largest score gains, making study time more productive, right from the start.

3. You don’t need to be in the same room as your tutor for tutoring to be effective

While one-on-one tutoring is typically more effective than a group class, tutoring doesn’t need to happen in your dining room or at the local library to be effective. A great tutor, or coach, will tailor their student's curriculum to each student’s individual needs. While many parents are most familiar with local tutoring as the gold standard of a personalized option, that’s not always the case. Testive provides one-on-one tutoring, but online with benefits that are out of reach of almost all local tutors.

While local tutors provide the “facetime” many families are looking for, facetime doesn’t always mean productive time. Most local tutors do not have the resources to design a customized curriculum for every student. Testive coaches use our software to analyze students’ baseline scores and create a unique prep plan targeting weak areas. As a result, the time students spend prepping with Testive is exceptionally well-spent.

Most local tutors are also hampered by a communication gap between sessions. They are left waiting until the next scheduled session to determine if their student has or has not completed the assignments. Testive’s platform removes that obstacle, allowing coaches to monitor student work 24/7 and intervene with a motivational boost if they see a student is missing practice. And, coaching sessions happen from the comfort of your own home or wherever you happen to be. While local tutoring may be a familiar option, it isn’t always the most effective or the most convenient.

If Testive had been around when I was in high school, I would have definitely signed up!

So, if you aren’t sure how to get your student started with SAT or ACT prep, give us a call. It’s my job to help!

Click here to book a call with a Student Success Advisor and get started on a customized study plan for your student.