SAT & ACT - When & How To Score Big!

Updated: Feb 1

Weekend prep, expensive tutors, and daily drills will not get you a top score!


SAT & ACT are arguably the most stressful -- important -- hated -- fill-in-the-blank-with-your-own-word -- aspect of college planning. That's a shame!

SAT & ACT do not have to be stressful. They may not be needed at all, but when they are needed, there is a way to make them cost effective, relatively stress-free, and successful.


At LeeWay Academy each student takes one baseline PSAT in October of 9th or 10th grade. If they miss those dates, then we wait and take one baseline SAT in March of 11th and one baseline ACT in February or April of 11th.


Depending on the results of those baselines, we may not take any more tests at all. Yet 100% of LeeWay graduates go on to the university of their choice and earn some degree of merit scholarship. How do we do this? We focus on building a testing plan around the individual student instead of trying to force them to squeeze into a one sized-fits-all high school to college plan. (See "SAT Prep" on this blog.)


For these first baseline tests, we do not prep. Instead we keep schooling using custom courses to address any proven weaknesses in class rather than tack on after-school and weekend drills that frustrate or burn out the student. We trust that the brain will mature with time and exposure to good classes. Even in spring of 11th grade when we take the first ACT in early February and the first SAT in March, we still do not prep! It's true. We want an absolute baseline. Only then can we know exactly how to prep for the one real SAT or ACT that our students are going to need for college admissions.

While we do not prep, we do have our students get familiar with each exam. We do this using very specific material plus a great tutor, but mostly following the right schedule.

SAT - for this test we have the student do the following to gain familiarity.

ACT - for this test we do the exact same thing only we add one little twist - science!

Once we have the results of both spring baselines, we compare the ratios (no the scores) to determine which test can produce the best result for this student.

Then we get serious. We sign up to retake just that one test in Aug, Sept, or Oct. of the senior year. Which test and which month is completely determined by our analysis of the ratios found in each baseline SAT & ACT. With assurance that we are retaking the right test and that we know exactly how to prep, we get to work.

  1. We use Khan Academy plus a very specific prep material that will focus on that student's strengths.

  2. We use an in-house vetting system that matches students to the perfect tutor.

  3. If a paid program is preferred, we use PrepScholars' Complete + Tutoring $995.

  4. We prep Mon-Fri for 4 weeks (longer for students who already have high scores).

  5. We take one science section each Saturday for the ACT (using a timer set to 30 min -- we are not trying to complete the entire section, just working sections with timers but keeping to our 30min block schedule.)

  6. Or, if SAT is your target test, take one timed math section each week (using the same 30 minute timer).

THAT'S IT. Once we take our last exam in fall of 12th grade, the student is ideally positioned to make a top score. No stress. No grand expense. No heated exchanges on the way to after school prep. And the results are provably better than the average paid prep program.

Bottom Line? Keeping prep to a minimum and target it with the right tools. This will give you the best payoff.

If this sounds too good to be true then learn the facts. Paid prep can make a difference but just as often it burns out the student, causes major family tensions, and only boost SAT scores on average by 30 points. Unless you have a top score already, 30 points is of no tangible value.


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