For 21 years, parents have asked us “When should I expect my student to achieve their best score on the ACT or SAT?” At Academic Approach, we know that “Tests are standardized; students are not™” so the answer varies by student.
We recognize that planning for success requires data, analysis, and a personalized plan for each student. That’s why we begin our programs with complimentary ACT & SAT practice tests followed by a comprehensive consultation with each family to analyze results, assess learning needs, think through priorities, and, ultimately, craft a personalized plan of instruction and timeline for success.
A student’s timeline for achieving their best score is primarily based on three key factors. The student’s: growth goal, math level, and schedule.
Academic Approach strategically plans around these three factors, ensuring a well-designed and well-timed instruction plan that enables students to achieve their best results.
The Student’s Growth Goal
We’ve seen students grow 15 points on the ACT and 500 points on the SAT. However, every student’s success is a function of two critical factors: 1) the number of hours of preparation, and 2) the number of practice tests taken.
If a student’s growth goal is relatively modest (1-2 points on the ACT, 30-50 points on the SAT), then they may have a shorter program length. If a student’s growth goal is more substantial, of course, it takes longer. This can mean as significant a difference in program design as 10 hours of instruction and 2 practice tests to 40 hours of instruction and 8 practice tests. Like any academic achievement, the more substantial the goal, the more time investment is required.
As we described in Earlier Starts, Double the Growth, students who begin preparing for the ACT or SAT in the spring of sophomore year have the greatest growth outcomes. Why? By spacing their learning, students maximize their ability to absorb, retain, and apply both academic content and test-taking strategies. If your growth goal is substantial, start early and invest time in a longer-term program.
The Student’s Math Level
Another factor that influences a student’s performance is thelevel of math a student is taking in school. ACT and SAT math assesses 7th through 11th grade math topics; however, they do so in varying proportions. Therefore, every preparation course must be designed in relation to the student’s current math class.
Below is the average distribution of high school coursework to the ACT and SAT math sections.
What does this mean for program design?
- Depending upon the test the student is preparing for and their performance history in algebra and geometry courses, they may need more or less time to review, master, retain, and apply key concepts.
- For a student taking Algebra II in junior year, they will likely reach their peak math performance by the end of the academic year.
- For a student in Pre-Calc or Calculus in junior year, they may have forgotten math content covered in earlier years, requiring some time to refresh before testing at their optimal level.
Mapping the ACT or SAT’s math content to a student’s personal needs is key in determining the appropriate amount of preparation time for each student.
The Student’s Schedule
The student’s schedule is a key factor in timelining preparation. If possible, you want to front-load work into slow seasons—summer break, semesters when the student is not stretched thin by extracurriculars, etc. As we know, cramming (especially when students are burdened with a maximum academic workload) does not promote peak performance. That’s why we recommend early planning conversations with families.
Planning for Success
At Academic Approach, we take an aerial view of the long road ahead, consider all the relevant factors—growth goals, math level, optimal scheduling—and design a customized plan and timeline for success.
Contact us now. We will help you plan for success and guide your student through a program of learning that drives improved test scores, academic outcomes, and college readiness.
For more information, visit academicapproach.com/hinsdaleliving or call 630-454-9873.