Raising Test Scores Means Leaving Your Comfort Zone

A baby learning to stand

Just as a baby takes time to learn to stand on his own, learning SAT and ACT specific strategies take time to learn before most students are comfortable with them. Apply those strategies, even when they are difficult, before charging headlong into the questions.

If you are looking to raise your SAT or ACT test scores, one of the best things you can do is go outside your comfort zone. Strategies that have worked for the past 12-13 years of regular school testing do not always work when they are applied to standardized tests. If you want to “beat the test,” you must step outside your comfort zone. Let’s take a look at two of the reasons this is true.

  1. The SAT and ACT are timed tests. The main characteristic separating standardized tests from regular classroom tests is the extreme time constraints placed on test takers. Most students taking the SAT and ACT would significantly improve their scores if they were given an unlimited time to work the problems; however, because the tests have those time constraints, trying to answer every question often lowers scores. To beat the test, most students should count on skipping certain problems to raise their scores, but this so completely goes against everything students have been taught for many years that they rebel against doing so.
  2. Answers are meant to pull students away from the correct answer choice. Answer choices in some sections are designed as “distractors.” These are answers that look right because they remind you of something that was said in the passage or the question stem or because they remind you of something you know from outside knowledge. To “beat the test,” students must come up with their own answers first, but many rebel against this because it does require hard work at first.

So whether you are taking a test prep class or studying on your own, be sure to try new strategies and then give them enough time to really learn and be comfortable with them during practice sessions. Remember, just as a toddler learns to walk slowly in order to run, a new test taker must learn new strategies slowly in order to be comfortable with them rather than charging ahead and blindly applying the same old techniques.