Students Look to Various Options to Help Raise ACT, SAT Scores

Junior Hannah Ninan takes a practice ACT during her free period so she is prepared for her tutoring session. Photo: Amy Butler

One of the most time-consuming and frustrating aspects of junior year is the dreaded standardized testing: ACT and SAT. Hours of practice tests and (often) tutoring consume junior year, which piles onto the students’ already arduous schedules, filled with difficult classes, sports and other activities. 

The ACT and SAT are standardized tests with categories such as math, science, reading and English. Each subject is timed, and each question must be answered quickly in order to complete the section.

Time is not the only challenge, however. The ACT science section is notorious for decreasing test takers’ composite scores. “My math, English and reading scores are improving,” said junior Cameron Perchik. “But my science score is unwavering and I always run out of time while taking it.” On the other hand, the SAT’s hardest sections are either the non-calculator math section or reading section. “Doing math without a calculator is especially hard because I am so accustomed to having my calculator at all times while doing math problems,” said junior Sam Delman. 

Some students attempt to receive extra time, which is known for being a life-saver on these time-crunching tests. “I’ve been trying to get ACT extra time for months, but I keep getting rejected,” said junior Marissa Schwarz. “It’s so frustrating, and now I am debating whether or not to switch to the SAT.” Getting extra time nowadays is becoming increasingly difficult. The College Board assigns extra time for the SAT, which is easier to get than the ACT due to it being more of a test based on speed.

The College Board bases applicants’ eligibility by reviewing their grades throughout middle and high school, how long the student has had extra time in school and if the applicant has a learning disability that is included in the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA). “The documentation that a student provides must include evidence that demonstrates functional limitations, which in turn builds the rationale for reasonable and appropriate accommodations such as extended time,” said Pace Director of the Academic Resource Center Michael Callahan. 

Before the highly anticipated day of the test arrives, many students attend tutoring sessions, which can get costly. However, one question that arises is whether or not the tutoring is actually worth the high cost. “I do one-on-one tutoring once a week,” said junior Ben Bernstein. “My score has gone up a lot, and without my tutor, my score would be terrible.” But is there a major impact for those who choose not to do it or can’t afford it?

Junior Erica Tashma has made the decision to not do tutoring for the test. She is planning on taking one ACT cold, and if it goes badly, she is just going to work in a study book by herself. “I don’t feel the need to bring a tutor into the process,” said Erica. “I am overall an independent person, so working individually is going to be more beneficial for me.”

ACT and SAT practice books that include previous tests are one of the best ways to study independently. They allow students to take the test, whether it’s all four sections together or broken up, check their answers and calculate their score. “It’s really interesting how much my score has gone up from when I took my first mock ACT to now,” said junior Jack Wray. 

The ACT and the College Board (SAT) have online resources for test prep that are free. “When preparing for standardized tests, students should focus on three segments,” said Mr. Callahan. “First, is to learn standardized test taking strategies, next is to figure out which areas of the test one needs to improve and focus on strengthening, and lastly is practicing taking the exams with mock tests and questions.”