How Much Can My Score Improve?

One of the most common questions we field from prospective clients, especially at this time of year when many rising juniors are just starting test prep, is “how much will my son or daughter’s scores improve from tutoring?” This is a complex question, but it is important to set expectations at the beginning of the tutoring process so that progress can be measured. Three general cases exist.

For the junior who takes a mock test cold, scores within the normal range – 16-28 for ACT and 900-1350 for SAT – and then starts tutoring, a standard package of 12-16 tutoring hours usually yields 3-5 points of improvement on the ACT and 100-140 points of improvement on the SAT.

If the number of tutoring hours is increased and the process is extended across several months, then a student may expect 4-6 points of ACT improvement and 120-180 points of SAT improvement.

While they do happen, improvements of more than 7 points on the ACT or 200 points on the SAT are relatively rare. I could fill our testimonials page with stories like these from each year, but the truth is these results account for only about 5% of cases.

Most of these improvements occur relatively early in the tutoring process, say within the first 10-12 hours. Beyond that, score improvements become increasingly harder to achieve. Many students take their first ACT, for example, and improve by 4 points; then parents expect that another round of tutoring may add an additional four points. That is not the case. Usually, additional testing yields a point or two on the ACT, and 40-80 points on the SAT. Past the second or third testing, students are unlikely to improve.

For seniors who have already had tutoring, those few points are usually the goal. By senior year, most students are just trying to scratch an extra point or two here or there. Sometimes you may see a bigger jump, but not frequently.

Understanding the range of likely score improvements is very important, because setting unrealistic score goals is both demoralizing for student and counterproductive. If a student comes in with an 18 and wants a 30, I will usually tell them right off the bat that that result is highly unlikely. Otherwise, the student will consistently fall short of his or her goal in almost all cases, and the test preparation process will become a frustrating experience. That is not necessary if reasonable goals are set from the outset.

*Sexton Test Prep & Tutoring does not guarantee score improvements for our clients. The above information is based on our experience with most students but is not true for all of our clients.

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