It feels like the school year just began, but if you have a high school junior this year will be over before you know it. Today I outline some factors to consider when planning for the ACT or SAT. There are some students who should take their test in December and, if that’s you, there’s still time. (The deadline to register for the December SAT is Thursday; the deadline for the December ACT is November 20.)
Should You Take the December Test?
A number of juniors should give serious thought to taking the ACT or SAT in December. Good reasons to take the test and not wait for spring:
- Participation in spring sports (baseball/softball, soccer, etc.)
- Heavy AP or IB course load (AP exams are the first weeks of May)
- Considerable spring extracurricular commitments (performances, tournaments, shows, etc.)
These students are already busy. December might not seem like the ideal time, but when compared with the spring, studying now is preferable.
There are other students who would benefit from extra time to test and re-test. Often these students anticipate trouble with the ACT or SAT. Maybe standardized testing causes anxiety and the ability to test in December then, retest in February and April, makes sense.
But Don’t They Need More Time to Learn…?
No. Two or four more months of classroom instruction is not going to make much difference when it comes to the SAT or ACT.
But what if they are only taking Algebra II? Shouldn’t they wait?
No. A student who is taking Algebra II as a junior might want to give serious consideration to the ACT rather than the SAT. (Both exams are equally accepted at all schools using test scores.)
Here’s the honest truth—most of what keeps students from scoring better on the ACT or SAT has little to do with what is taught in English or math class. More than extra time to learn grammar, math, or reading, student need test taking skills specific to the exam. They need to review the exact content tested on the ACT or SAT. School isn’t going to do that.
A Prep Class Can Help
The purpose of a prep class is to review the content and provide students with specific strategies for these unique exams.
Your math teachers want you to understand the concept and demonstrate it by writing out your solution (showing work.) The ACT/SAT doesn’t care whether you show work. (They don’t really care if you understand it either because you get the same point whether your correct answer was a lucky guess or an actual solution.) On these tests, students have to use problem solving skills to tackle tricky questions under time constraints.
This is the goal of a prep class.
Yes, some kids are naturally good test takers and can teach themselves. Others need just a little help.
Two years ago, a friend called me. Her daughter had been studying for the SAT on her own and made some progress, but she just couldn’t get past a 1400. (I know, some of you are thinking a 1400 would be plenty high!) But the daughter had her eyes on schools like Rice, Duke, and Stanford and a 1400 wasn’t high enough. She joined my traditional 8-session SAT prep class a couple sessions late. By the end of the course, she was in the mid-1500’s.
My friend loved the score improvement, but she kept saying, “Why did we wait so long to invest in the class?” You can try the DIY approach. You can try hiring the kid down the street who is a naturally good test taker (but inexperienced test prep coach). You can wait and hope that somehow next spring’s curriculum will crack the mysteries of higher scores. Or you can invest in a high-quality test prep program and spend some time actually preparing for the ACT or SAT.
Test Prep Options
I have a few options to help you prepare for the December tests:
8-Session Traditional Course for the ACT ($595– regularly $745)
Details here: https://www.collegeprepresults.com/dec-12-act-class/
This is a traditional course compressed to fit into five weeks. It is the schedule most students prefer and is in high demand every time I offer it. The schedule allows plenty of time to master the material and practice, but with a focus on compressed learning.
- Saturday, November 7, 10:00 am – noon
- Sunday, November 8, 6:00 – 8:00 pm
- Saturday, November 14, 10:00 am – noon
- Sunday, November 15, 6:00 – 8:00 pm
- Sunday, November 22, 6:00 – 8:00 pm
- Sunday, November 29, 6:00 – 8:00 pm
- Saturday, December 5, 10:00 am – noon
- Sunday, December 6, 6:00 – 8:00 pm [students are encouraged to take the December 12 ACT]
1-Day Crash Course for the SAT ($250 — regularly $350)
Details here: https://www.collegeprepresults.com/one-day-act-sat-crash-course/
The Crash Course is ideal for students who want the content and key strategies for a test, but don’t want to commit to a longer prep class.
- Saturday, November 21, 9:00 am – 12:30 pm (Central)
Online Prep for ACT & SAT ($695)
Details here: https://brainjazz.net/courses/91/about
The online program includes traditional and crash course content for both the SAT and ACT. It is ideal for the student who can’t attend the live classes due to schedule conflicts and who successfully manage asynchronous learning. (Not everyone is suited for the independent nature of the online program, but others find it to be a perfect fit.)
Private Tutoring for ACT or SAT ($2495+)
Details here: https://www.collegeprepresults.com/private-sat-act-tutoring/
Private tutoring is the most expensive option, but it is also the most personalized. It is ideal for the student with an aggressive score improvement goal or anyone who feels the generalized instruction in a class just isn’t enough for their specific questions and needs.
It feels like the school year just began. If you have a high school junior this year will be over before you know it. Make plans now for taking (and probably re-taking) the test of your choice. If you have one of those students who would benefit from taking the ACT or SAT in December, consider your test prep options.
If you have any questions about these programs, please reach out.