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Ms. Riding Hood

ACT score--how much improvement is reasonable?

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Ds just took his first practice ACT and scored a composite 28. His lowest score was 26 in math, highest was 30 in reading. He is studying, and plans to analyze weak areas and focus on those...but how much improvement can I reasonably expect? I mean, I know this depends on many factors, but is it commonly possible to move from a 28 to a 30 (or 30+) composite? Just curious what you know about this!

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The wild card on the ACT exam is the Science portion. There seems to be a luck of the draw element on that one. I am not sure if one can completely prepare for or predict it.

 

That said, one can probably prep and develop some test taking skills for the other portions. What is your son's age or grade?

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In high school, I took it once (no prep - nobody did prep back then) and got a 28. Two months later, I took it again and got a 30. I think you can move a couple points with preparation. Working on the math portion - learning the math he struggles with, can definitely bring that score up. With my son, although we are very happy with his overall score, he bombed the math section (a 9 point difference between his highest subscore and this, his lowest.) We will be working hard on the math section because he plans on going into the sciences. Plus a couple extra points on the ACT could net him more merit money.

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He is a junior. Quite honestly, I was happily surprised with his score on this test. He is not a good tester at all. But still, the college he wants to go to needs a 30. I think he can pull his math up enough to make a difference, and I think that just getting familiar with the question types, instructions, etc., will be helpful. I guess I just didn't know how hard it is to move that composite score upward. He prepped a bit for the PSAT, and I didn't see great results, but I am very glad to have pushed him toward the ACT over the SAT. I think that alone is working in his favor. Thanks for the encouragement!

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My dd took the SAT in October of her junior year. Her math score was 510 and her English was 650. In December of her senior year her math score went up to 540 and her English went to 750. Her writing score (not usually counted by colleges) remained the same at 690. She did nothing to improve her score; she did not prep. The only thing that happened was that her math skills expanded simply by having another year's worth of math under her belt (and by the way, she is terrible in math, her scores were better than her true abilities--she's a good guesser!) and her critical reasoning skills improved (probably due to age and maturity).

 

Conversion Scale/Increase in one year:

 

Junior SAT 1850 - ACT equivalent 27

Senior SAT 1980 - ACT equivalent 30

 

Those extra points are worth a big difference in scholarship money. If we were to do it over again--too late now--I would have homeschooled dd back from middle-school onwards, as she suffered in math class at public school. So if you can help your son improve his math, go for it.

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My middle son took the ACT cold the first time in spring of his sophomore year and got a 30 composite. He prepped a bit via the PSAT and extra on science/reading for fall of his junior year and got a 33. He's since done his junior year classes and is starting to prep for the April test and is hoping/expecting to boost his score by a point or two.

 

The first test science and reading were his lowest scores as he ran out of time to complete both. In his prep he worked at getting quicker and brought science up 5 points (but still his lowest score) and reading up 9 points (almost maxed reading). English and math switched scores, but were essentially the same. He's had three science courses and AP Stats (important as science is mainly reading graphs and charts quickly and accurately - AP Stats does a lot with reading charts and graphs) this year and fully expects to bring science up a bit this time - as well as maintaining his other scores (hopefully).

 

Time will tell. If nothing else, he'll stick with his 33. Some schools superscore, so with those he'll be higher.

 

Prep can help significantly change scores depending on what they missed and why. My guy had to learn to be quicker.

 

BIG NOTE: NOT everyone has to retake a 33. This guy wants competitive and took it his first two times early to see what would happen. He's now going to take it at the "normal" time. My oldest son took it once at a normal time and got a 31 and we were perfectly happy. It all depends on the student and their goals.

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Ds ran out of time on the science part, too. So yes, working with timing is certainly a factor. And I think really working on chart reading and interpretation could pay off pretty well, too.

 

We have this software which lets you input your answers on four practice tests, and then it analyzes where your mistakes were and gives suggestions for how to improve those areas. It's kind of nice because it not only breaks down and scores each section by the various subsections, but it tells how many questions of each type so you can decide if that part is one you want to focus on, or if your time would be better spent on material that gets more coverage. That makes it easier to see where your real weak spots are.

 

Like I said, I didn't see great results trying to prep for the PSAT with him, but I'm feeling pretty good after hearing your responses. Plus, I think he's a little more motivated for this one. : )

 

Thanks!

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My son took the ACT in Feb 2010 of his junior year and got a composite score of 25, then re-took the ACT in Oct 2010 and scored a 28.

 

The majority of students that re-take the ACT bump their scores up by 2 or 3 points. It's definitely worth a re-take! We practiced with "The Real ACT Prep Book", and would highly recommend it as a resource.

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When my older dd took her first practice test, she scored 22 or 23. Then she took the real ACT, scored 27. Then she did it again, scored 30. So she went from at least 23 to 30. She really did improve that much.

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It's definitely possible to move up a few points. My ds took the ACT 3 times from spring sophomore year to fall senior year. His composite scores went up from 29 to 30 to 33. He did a little prep from a book but not much. Mostly I think it was testing experience and continued learning.

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Our experience has been an increase of 3-4 points every time. It isn't that expensive and release of the pressure on the child of a "one" time test is nice. They go into it with the expectations of taking it again.

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