College Corner: Use the summer months to boost ACT and SAT scores

Published on Monday, 19 May 2014 19:47 - Written by

With school winding down, and summer just about to begin, the SAT and the ACT are probably the absolute last things that many students want to think about.

After all, the first fall test date for the ACT isn’t until September. The fall SAT schedule doesn’t begin until October. There’s a ton of time to schedule that prep course or start studying, right?

Well, yes and no. Students who are not actively engaged in learning activities over the summer usually backtrack a little by the time school starts in the fall. In fact, multiple studies have shown that the average student scores lower on standardized tests at the end of summer than they did on the exact same test at the beginning of summer vacation. To be more specific, most students lose about two months of grade level equivalency in math over the summer months.

That’s why I encourage all students to engage in some fun learning activities or classes in the summer — but especially those students who are preparing for the SAT or ACT.

Summer test prep doesn’t have to be time-consuming, stressful or expensive, however.

Students who are really motivated can create their own study plan. They might commit to studying vocabulary words an hour or two a week, or taking free practice tests available online, or purchasing a do-it-yourself study guide.

One student I know managed to raise her math test score by 100 points and her reading score by 70 points, just by independently working on it over the summer. Her secret? She studied the curriculum from the prep course she had taken with us the previous spring.

However, many students will benefit from more focused preparation. A formal class or a private tutor is probably most helpful for those students who have trouble with self-motivation, need extra help with core concepts or are nervous about tests in general, particularly those who have trouble finishing within the time limits.

For those students, it’s important to consider their level of preparation, and what special needs they may have. For instance, students who have already taken a prep course may only need a refresher. Students who have done well on one portion of the test, say math, but not as well on the others, should focus on the areas where they most want to raise their scores. Finally, think about your student’s learning style. Some will thrive with a dedicated tutor; others may prefer a fast-paced classroom setting where they’re learning from their peers; still others may get the most out of online, interactive resources.

Donna Spann is CEO of Capstone College and Career Advising in Tyler. A college adviser for 11 years, Donna leads a team of professionals who take a personal approach to advising that helps students navigate through career and college exploration, admissions, financial aid, and find the college that’s right for them. Have a question for Donna? Send it to info@capstoneadvising.com. You just may see your question answered in a future column.