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College Affordability and Preparedness

3 Insider Strategies to Quickly Improve Your ACT and SAT Scores

There’s a persistent myth that the ACT and SAT are measures of innate talent. It states that one is either academically gifted and earns a great score naturally or one is not and, well, doesn’t.

Unfortunately, this misunderstanding of the college entrance exams causes students far more frustration and self-doubt than the truth does.

While the ACT and SAT are challenging exams, they can be studied for and past performances can be improved upon.

Improvement on the ACT and SAT is valuable because test scores help students earn thousands of dollars in merit aid and scholarships.

Lucrative financial awards are not exclusively reserved for 99th percentile students. Families that know where to look can earn considerable aid, even with average scores.

But, of course, the stronger your score, the more scholarship opportunities are available to you.

Here are 3 insider strategies to jump-start your journey to higher scores and greater financial awards.

1. Don’t Work Through Every Question

When I counsel students who’ve had poor first showings on the ACT or SAT, they often cite time pressure as their top challenge.

But here’s the secret the test makers don’t want you to know: most students can improve their scores by answering fewer questions in total but answering more of their attempted questions correctly.

All test takers intuitively know that accuracy is more important than speed, but that’s difficult to focus on when the clock is ticking down and the proctor begins to pace at the front of the room.

However, you must remain committed to accuracy at all times. Your score depends on it.

If you choose to take the time to answer a question, work methodically to ensure you answer it correctly. Value accuracy over speed, and watch your stress levels sink and your scores start to climb.

2. Answer Questions In Your Own Words

The ACT and SAT have a reputation for being sneaky, and that reputation is largely owed to the answer choices they provide.

Unlike your teacher’s multiple choice test, many of the answer choices on the ACT and SAT seem partially correct at first glance. If you read a question and go straight to the answer choices, you’ll likely re-read the options numerous times. Over time, this leads to increased fatigue and plummeting accuracy.

To avoid this downward spiral, take a different approach.

Once you’ve read a question, answer it in your own words or work through the problem to completion. Then use your ideal answer to identify the most fitting response provided.

Answering questions in your own words will boost your accuracy and your mental endurance.

3. Fill In Every Bubble

You shouldn’t waste time working through questions that you’re unlikely to answer correctly or on frantically half-solving others when time is running out. However, it is to your advantage fill in every bubble, even if many of them are blind guesses, because there’s no penalty for wrong answers on the ACT or SAT.

So don’t leave any bubbles blank. On questions you choose to skip or don’t have time to answer, fill in a bubble quickly and move on.

But make sure you fill in each section fully before time is called. Even blind bubbling after the section is over is considered cheating.

Just as you wouldn’t step on stage for an opening night performance without first taking time to rehearse, preparation before test day helps build your confidence and improve your scores on the ACT and SAT.

Use the 3 strategies above to guide your preparation and testing efforts, and you’ll be on your way to higher scores and greater financial awards in no time.

Lauren Gaggioli, Founder and CEO, Higher Scores Test Prep, [email protected]

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