Updated on October 10th, 2018
For high school students interested in going to college, taking the SAT or ACT can be a critical step toward securing their future. Many schools use the results of these exams to determine which applicants gain entry, making strong scores on these nerve-racking 4+ hour exams particularly important. And that fact may have you wondering if SAT and ACT online prep courses might be beneficial to your child.
To help you see the full value of what these programs can provide, here are some key points to consider before you select an SAT or ACT online prep course for your high schooler to help boost their test scores.
Why Test Prep is Important
Aside from the importance of the score itself, SAT and ACT online prep programs assist in ensuring your child has the specific knowledge that will be tested. While it’s true that much of the information is covered during standard high school classes, the coursework isn’t focused solely on the SAT or ACT. Choosing to have them take part in a test prep course means they get a direction refresher on the exact knowledge they will need to succeed in the exams, and that can be very useful for separating that information from the rest of their education.
Another important point is that the tests themselves are actually pretty intimidating. Not only are they at least four hours long, but they are also critical to your child’s college applications. Together, that can form a lot of pressure. If you add to that the fact that the test format may be somewhat unfamiliar, and it’s no wonder not every high schooler performs at their best when the clock starts.
SAT and ACT online prep courses help alleviate some of the stress by covering key information while also taking some of the mystery out of what the tests are actually like. By cementing their knowledge and familiarizing them with the format, your child can be more confident when test day actually comes.
How to Approach SAT and ACT Online Prep Courses
With the wide variety of SAT and ACT online prep courses, it can be difficult to figure out where your child should begin. A strong first step is to have your high schooler take a free practice exam. This gives them an opportunity to evaluate their current strengths and weaknesses before they start a program.
Why is this approach to SAT and ACT online prep ideal? Here are just a few reasons:
- Gives them their first experience with the test format
- Let’s them know which areas require the most work
- Allows them to bypass subjects they already have nailed down
- Creates a baseline upon which progress can be measured
Once your child completes the practice exam, you are better prepared to select a general or targeted prep program that will give them the biggest boost to their overall test score.
Your next step is to actually pick an SAT or ACT online prep course that will meet their needs based on your budget. Test prep is actually a $4+ billion per year industry. After hearing that, you likely aren’t surprised to hear that some prep courses can cost thousands of dollars, but they aren’t the only options available. For example, Khan Academy has an Official SAT Practice section that is provided in partnership with College Board, the organization behind the exam.
Quesbook offers free ACT lessons and practice questions divided into small subsections, allowing students to work on specific skills to bring up their scores. As an added bonus, Quesbook also has a scholarship program for eligible ACT online prep service users. That means your child can get the study time they need AND may also qualify for scholarship funds for college. Not a bad deal!
So, before you decide to go with a program you have to buy, consider exploring some free options with your child. Not only is the information reputable in many free programs, but it also comes with the best price tag available.
If, after going through the free preparation, you decide a more in-depth preparation course is right for your child, we highly recommend Higher Scores Test Prep with Lauren Gaggioli. She has both ACT online prep and SAT online prep at affordable pricing (as low as $47.) More importantly, she knows what she is doing, working with students for nearly a decade to raise their scores.
Your high schooler’s final step after taking some SAT or ACT online prep courses is to take another practice exam. This will let them see how far they have come and whether additional study in certain areas is required. If they need more study time, they can either continue with their current education program or seek out another option if the first approach wasn’t ideal.
Once their score has reached a comfortable level, then it’s time to take the exam.
The SAT and ACT test schedules are available at the link below:
How Many Times Should You Test?
Many students and parents wonder, “How many times should students take the SAT or ACT exam?” While the question may seem simple, the answer isn’t always easy.
Ideally, if the SAT and ACT online prep courses were effective, your child may only need to take the test once. However, if their scores aren’t strong enough for their target school(s), then additional tries may be necessary.
A first step for determining whether once is enough is to find out what the minimum score requirements are for their preferred colleges and universities. If the results from their first SAT or ACT are clearly sufficient to qualify them for their first-choice schools, then that one try may be all it takes. However, if they either don’t meet the minimum cut off or just barely make it over the line, taking the test a second time could help boost their application.
If your child needs to boost their scores, then the next step is to have them take additional SAT or ACT online prep courses before they retake the exam. Use the same mentality as before by focusing on areas that need improvement and taking practice exams to monitor progress. Finally, they can take the exam again once their practice scores reach the proper level.
In most cases, taking the SAT or ACT more than three times isn’t going to be of much help. First, going beyond that point could be seen as a red flag by admissions departments. Additionally, there is always a chance their score could drop on any subsequent attempts. So, if only a minimal increase is likely to be achieved in the best of circumstances, it may be wise not to go through the stress of an additional 4+ hour exam.
Still, according to ACT.com, 57% of students who retook the ACT improved their score. A similar percentage of those who retake the SAT experience a boost as well – so we recommend taking the test at least twice, if possible.
Do You Need to Take Both the SAT and ACT?
Most colleges and universities don’t require SAT and ACT scores; however, there are benefits to taking them both. Certain schools may view an applicant more favorably if they submit scores from both exams, increasing your child’s odds of being admitted. Some students also perform better on one exam over the other based on some of the differences in the formats. So, by taking each exam at least once, your child can determine if one test gives them a better chance at meeting admission standards.
Your child might also need to take both if they are applying to multiple schools with different preferences. So, if your child has certain schools in mind for their applications, then check and see if the college or university has specific preferences or requirements regarding exam scores. Then, you can plan accordingly.
Looking for more useful articles to help your child get ahead before applying for college? Here are some to get you started!
- 5 Things You Need to Know About the Scholarship Process
- 10 Great Books to Read for the College-Aged Kids in Your Life
- When Your Child Should Start Applying for Scholarships