It’s summer time and a young man’s (and women’s) fancy naturally turns to… SAT & ACT prep! Ok, maybe not for your teen, but you may want to gently turn it for them. For Juniors and Seniors, the October SAT, and PSAT are very important tests, and the summer is the perfect time to get ready for them. Don’t wait until school starts; If you do it will be too late to significantly improve your child's scores. Here are a few tips to help plan an effective summer prep program.

 Step 1. Collect All Previous Test Scores

Get an idea of your child’s current performance. Get all old test scores. If you do not have a file with all your child’s results, or can not find it, you can get ACT and SAT scores online (

Step 2. Set a Scoring Goal

There are only a two good reasons to take the SAT or ACT; Students are either trying to get into college (or some other program) or get a scholarship.  To set a scoring goal, do not just rely on friends, counselors and other parents; go to the source. For admissions, go to the websites of colleges your son or daughter are interested in attending- actually do this with them, side by side.  Go to the admissions pages. Information about test scores is often found in a section called something like “profile of incoming freshmen”. Usually the college will post information about the grade point average and test scores for recently admitted students. A review of this information should help you set a scoring goal that will help your child get into that school. Do the same thing for any scholarships. Go to the websites of the organizations offering the scholarship. You should be able to find eligibility criteria including SAT/ACT scores on the site. If you can not find the information you want, do not hesitate to call or email the admissions departments or scholarship organizations.

Step 3. Practice Practice Practice

 Get a practice test book with multiple practice tests. I recommend the study guides put out by the College Board (The Official SAT Study Guide) and ACT (The Real ACT Study Guide). The latest version of the Official SAT Study Guide has 10 practice tests- plenty for any student. The ACT Guide only has 3, and they are not updated as often as the SAT is, but it is still a pretty good guide. Students need to take and SCORE at least 3 test to see any real improvement in their performance. Make sure to have them time themselves. I recommend having them put down start times and  end times for each section, and if they do not finish on time, mark how far they got in the allotted time, but KEEP GOING until they FINISH THE TEST. If they just stop when time is up, they will not learn how to solve any of the later (usually harder) problems. They should give themselves two scores, one if they had stopped on time, the other if they had all the time they needed. By writing down the start and stop time, they can see if they are improving on time as they practice.

4. Budget Enough Time

For each section, budget at least 6 hours of test taking and review. This would be about 18 hours of study for the SAT.  A similar amount of time is required for the ACT. This equates to about 2 hours of study per week 8 or 9 weeks.. This could be scheduled as one hour twice a week, or 40 min 3 times a week. This will give your teen plenty of time, but make sure to put study times on the calendar fgr specific days and  times. Based on my observations, the earlier in the day the better. Most teens don’t want to start their summer days much before noon. A 10am to noon study time would give them plenty of studying an leave the entire day for… whatever.

5. Accountability:  Effort and Achievement

The only way to know if your child is making progress is to look at practice test scores. The practice books have answer keys and instructions on how to score the tests. By asking to see your child’s scores you will: 1. Know if they really did the test or not and 2. See if they are improving!  You should ask to see one test section score (Math, Reading, Writing/English, Science) every week. Another way to encourage accountability is to form a study group. Students are more likely to stick to a routine if they are part of a group. They also do not want to look bad in front of their peers so they have a higher likelihood of being prepared.

6. When to get help

If the practice test scores do not go up, or up to where they need to be, consider coaching or classes.


I hope this helps you help your child get off to a good start.

Good Luck!