No, this heading is NOT clickbait. I know it might sound too good to be true but if you continue to read on, you will find the best tips to raise test scores very quickly. But please don’t misunderstand, this is not a magic pill. It will take effort, a plan, and commitment but I guarantee if you implement these tips, you will see an increase in your score. Let’s begin……
Take an ACT and SAT test cold
This might sound counterintuitive but I’ll explain what I mean. If you’ve given yourself enough time (meaning you aren’t a senior and this is not the absolute LAST opportunity to take a test before applying to colleges), take a test with no pressure about the score or outcome. Take the test for record in order to get a baseline score (more on this later) AND to get a good understanding of how the test is written. Now, if you would like to take some practice tests online through the SAT and ACT websites, that’s fine. Try not to invest hours into prep just yet. This is a marathon, not a sprint. You will get a better feel on where you are at, what you need to work on, and it just gives you an overall comprehension of how the test works.
Get into a formal test prep program
Once you have your baseline score, this is when you want to look into getting serious about test prep. Pending your scores and what your college ambitions are, consider your test prep program options. There are free resources online and even through your school, there are tutoring centers where a tutor will sit with you and go over practice questions and help you prepare that way, and there are online courses (if you are looking for a good one, we have you covered) that can help you bridge whatever test gap you might have. Depending on your scores, my advice is to not try to attempt this on your own. Save yourself time and effort to get trained to raise test scores fast! It could be the difference between getting into your dream school OR hundreds of thousands of dollars. Below, I will discuss some free and paid course options.
Khan Academy has full-length SAT practice tests available and offers free, personalized practice based on your diagnostic results. You can also find resources such as booklets, videos, etc. all through their site. No email is required or personal information is required.
Pros: free, Collegeboard approved practice tests, Collegeboard partnership, options for additional academic learning if needed through their site.
Cons: Increase scores through academic practice alone, hard to raise test scores quickly, confusing if you don’t understand their explanation, no ACT option.
This website offers pretty basic prep in the form of flashcards, practice tests, and study guides. It is nothing in-depth, but it is a decent free option for the ACT only. Again, no email or personal information is required.
Pros: free, easy to navigate through the site because it is simple and only offers ACT prep.
Cons: Not approved by the ACT organization so the practice tests are probably not official due to copyright issues, hard to increase scores quickly, no foundational learning options, only ACT test prep.
What kind of organization would I be running if I didn’t recommend my own course?! Our course is designed to increase speed and raise test scores fast! Through strategies and techniques instead of academic learning, we are able to have our students jump their scores significantly which increases their college admissions and funding options in a very short period of time. Here are a few examples of what we do.
Pros: Increase scores fast for Juniors and Seniors who are looking for a quick jump in scores, strategies vs relearning high school, most students are in line for top tier admissions or significant scholarships due to their scores, offers ACT & SAT/PSAT test prep courses, can add application/essay/funding/selection help if needed
Cons: It’s not free and it is not a magic pill- you MUST do the work in order to get the results, can be pricey depending on how much help you need.
The Princeton Review offers a few options for the ACT and SAT test prep. You can choose between a completely self-paced course, an expert-led program, or a personalized, private tutoring program.
Pros: Different pricing options for all budgets, guarantee, in-person options available for students who need a little extra help, long history of success
Cons: Relearning high school, hard to increase scores quickly, takes a more academic approach to their tutoring, can be expensive if you need more help than an accelerated student.
Evaluate your current score
So there are 2 parts to this evaluation. The first step is to answer the following questions within 72 hours of taking the test:
- How comfortable were you taking the test?
- Did you feel like you had enough time to take the test?
- Were the questions harder than you expected?
- Which section, if any, did you feel the least confident about?
- Did you experience any test anxiety?
- Did you feel academically prepared?
- Which section did you feel the most confident in?
Once you get your scores back and see your results (hopefully you took your baseline test when a TIR or QAS was offered) look back at the answers to these questions. Did your scores accurately depict your feelings around the test? After this brief evaluation, you can really get to work with the second step.
The second part of evaluating your score would be to take your TIR/QAS and dig deep into the questions that you got wrong. I would suggest you go section by section, beginning with the section you need the most improvement or had your lowest composite score.
This is a really good time to figure out if you need more academic help. If so, explore options through your school for additional help, explore outside tutoring, or review material through online options like Khan academy. This is the time to figure out what you need to prepare you for college. If academic help is what you need, this is the time to seek it.
If “running out of time” was your issue, work on speed-taking skills. A strategy approached test prep course might be a really good option for you in order to shave down sometime to avoid aimlessly filling in bubbles during the last few minutes of the test.
No matter the issue, the evaluation process is a very powerful way to quickly and effectively increase your scores. Set goals for yourself, keep to a schedule, and practice, practice, practice in order to get your dream scores.
Understand the testing process
Before we go further into ways to increase your test scores, I feel it’s important to go over how the test process works and how it’s structured. The ACT and SAT tests were originally designed to standardize college admissions procedures and to increase access to higher education. Now, with that being said, these tests are not without their flaws. Some criticisms over the years have included the abundance of cheating, the unfair advantage to wealthy students, misleading questions, test curving, and inconsistent scoring just to name a few. These test companies are not perfect in nature however until most schools move to test-optional, we are stuck making the best out of the situation.
Something very important to understand about both the ACT and SAT is these tests are not academic tests! I know some people reading this might disagree with that statement but let me explain. If you are given the answer, it automatically changes it to a logic and reasoning test. This is not to say you cannot take these tests academically, it simply means that by nature, they are not academic tests because the answer is provided.
This leads us to our final point about breaking down these tests. The ACT organization and the College Board organization(creators of the SAT & PSAT tests) are big businesses. Sure, they are a “non-profit” however please be aware these organizations have extremely deep pockets. They have the ability to hire test writers whose only job is to figure out how to trick students into the wrong answer. It’s important to understand the game before you go to play it.
If you are truly looking for quick results, test-taking strategies are going to be your most efficient option. You don’t have the time to relearn high school. If you need to raise test scores fast, you need a strategy. In the next section, you will be able to see a video that shows you a few strategies to show you how strategies are the best for quick results.
Strategy vs Academic
Now that I have shown you the strategic version of test prep, we are now going to go over the academic approach that most students are familiar with and apply while taking the tests. I want to be clear, I’m not promoting a student who is academically underprepared to take the strategic approach while preparing for the SAT or ACT. This is NOT a good strategy and will lead to many negative long-term issues in the future. If you are struggling academically in any course area, please seek additional help to mend the gap. Test-taking strategies will not help you be a better-prepared college student. They are simply tools to help students who are academically proficient raise their test scores quickly by increasing their speed and reducing test-taking anxiety.
Order the TIR/QAS
Some of you reading this might not know what a TIR or a QAS is so let me begin with addressing what they are. Both the SAT and the ACT offer services that allow students to order their test booklets and answer keys for certain test dates. It’s a simple process to apply for, but it’s not well-advertised by the test providers and is often overlooked because students and parents don’t know the service exists. In our program, the QAS and TIR are single-handedly the most important tool we use for test prep. A student can actually see the right and wrong answers of the test they took so they can prepare for a proper strategy at the next go around.
One thing to note about ordering the TIR and QAS is that this is a strategy for an early test taker. This means you should use this strategy if you are planning on taking the test multiple times and have the time to do so. If you are a current senior, it is really not necessary because you will not likely be using it to study for upcoming tests.
Alright, now that I have given you my best tips, I’m going to quickly recap what we discussed so you can start to raise your test scores fast.
- Make sure you are taking either an SAT or an ACT cold. This will give you a baseline score which indicates where you currently are to where you need to be.
- Get yourself into a formal test prep. Whether it is a paid course/class or a free option through your school or online, make sure you have some structured class.
- You need to evaluate your current score and make sure you are making strides towards your goal score. If you don’t understand what your issue is in regards to your score, it will be unlikely for you to raise your score quickly if even at all.
- Understand how the test works and is structured so you can learn how to beat the test instead of letting the test beat you.
- Make sure you are working efficiently because chances are, you waited a bit to take the test. Make sure that the closer you are to your senior year, you choose a test prep that will get you results fast.
- If given the opportunity to learn test taking strategies or academic skills, choose test taking strategies. Remember, these tests are not academic tests- they are logic and reasoning tests crafted to “stump” students into a low score.
- If given the opportunity, order the TIR or the QAS for additional test prep practice. These are the best tools you can use but are only offered a few times a year.