For more than 20 years, we have maintained that “Tests are standardized. Students are not,” so solutions vary by student. However, years of data reveal a striking trend when it comes to practice:
Our best performers take 5+ practice tests. Importantly, 60 to 70 percent of their growth happens after the first practice test, indicating that taking multiple practice tests and learning from them is the key to driving the greatest growth.
Any student athlete, mathlete, or musician knows that getting your reps in allows for enhanced learning and more reliable performance on “game day.” This is an accepted truth, in general, but why is it true?
Tests Enhance Learning
Testing is often thought of as one summative moment that reflects the results of studying over time, but what can be overlooked is that testing is part of the learning process. Learning can be enhanced through testing:
“Test-enhanced learning is the idea that the process of remembering concepts or facts—retrieving them from memory— increases long-term retention of those concepts or facts. This idea, also known as the testing effect, suggests that tests prompt learning when compared to studying.” (Roediger and Butler 2011; Roediger and Pyc 2012).
For tests like the ACT and SAT that are summative of 7th through 11th grade curriculum, there’s a lot of material to learn and recall quickly and accurately. Therefore, taking practice tests to boost recall becomes an important part of a learning process.
At Academic Approach, we recognize the positive impact of test-enhanced learning, so we use a combination of quizzes, homework, and both untimed and timed full-length practice tests to incorporate test-enhanced learning into our tutoring programs.
ACT and SAT Score Choice
In recent years, ACT and SAT developed Score Choice policies, which allow students to test multiple times and send only their best score to colleges. These policies protect the student, minimize stress, and allow students to retest to improve. While Score Choice has evolved for multiple reasons, the change supports research that students learn and improve through retesting.
In fact, ACT has published its own research on retesting, highlighting two important findings:
- 57 percent of students increase their composite scores when retesting.
- Of the 10 test preparation practices investigated in ACT’s research, only the hours spent with a tutor had a significant impact on retesting results and score growth.
What’s important here is that practice testing alone does not necessarily drive growth; instead, growth requires testing and tutoring. It’s testing along with feedback from a tutor—analysis and instruction—that enhances learning and performance.
Students who receive feedback after a test event can make changes, adapt, test again, and grow. It’s like watching tape of your performance in sports—the thoughtful review and critique drive change. As I’ve always said to my students, there is no true learning without the analysis of your errors.
Progress is a Product of Practice
At Academic Approach, we recognize that practice—along with feedback—makes progress. Test-enhanced learning helps grow test scores. Therefore, we thoughtfully incorporate testing into our instructional programs to drive the greatest learning and growth for our students.
Contact us and we’ll schedule a practice test, analyze your student’s test results, and craft an expert plan for your student’s success. We’ll help you navigate the process, as we guide your student through a program of learning, testing, and analysis that drives score growth.
Academic Approach has locations in the Lincoln Park neighborhood of Chicago and in Winnetka. North Shore students have successfully worked with Academic Approach instructors since 2001. For more information visit academicapproach.com/sheridanroad or call 847-616-2446.