Gaining acceptance into selective
colleges seems harder today than ever
before, leading an increasing number of students to
turn to test prep for high-stakes standardized
Green, a New York City-based SAT and ACT tutor, experiences
firsthand the lengths to which families will go to improve their
students’ scores. His $1,500-an-hour price tag may seem hefty,
but to the families who want to see significant improvement in
test scores, it’s worth the cost.
“My average ACT students usually goes up by around seven
points, and on the old SAT they were going up around 420, 430
points,” Green told Business Insider. On the new SAT, Green said,
his students average 310- to 320-point increases.
But for families who cannot afford such test prep
costs — and he says he will work only with families for whom his
rate doesn’t cause a financial burden — Green offers his advice
on how to prepare to succeed on the exam.
1. Start early
Starting early, taking it slow and steady, and
focusing on weaknesses are the cornerstones of Green’s
“The trick is beginning really early, and I recommend
freshman year,” Green told Business Insider. “But then keep it to
20 minutes a day — that’s really all it takes,” he said. “You can
even split it up: 10 minutes in the morning, 10 minutes in the
2. Focus on weaknesses
The content areas students focus on is also highly
important, according to Green.
He suggests students obsess over their weak points, rather
than spending time on problems they feel comfortable
answering. “There’s a tendency among everyone to
continue [studying] what you enjoy and what you like,” he
3. Take practice tests
Most people probably know that studying old SAT questions is
an essential part of studying for the exam. But Green says
you must go a step further and take realistic practice tests to
really ensure you will perform well on the real day of the exam.
“The more realistic practice tests you take, the better,”
That doesn’t mean that you must go to a testing center and
take the exam multiple times. Instead, wake up early after a full
night’s sleep and take the exam exactly as you will have to on
the day of the real test.
“Taking plenty of
practice tests improves your familiarity with the exam, enhances
your confidence, allows you to calibrate your prep activities,
and tells you exactly when you should take the real thing,” he
4. Take it one concept at a time
When students come to a test question they don’t know how, they
must drill on this area until they master it.
“If you get something wrong, whether it be a reading
comprehension trick, a math problem, or a grammar issue, make a
flashcard out of it, study your errors, and review it until it’s
second nature,” Green said.
That even means that they shouldn’t continue on to attempting to
learn other new concepts until they have the old concept
down first. “I’d much rather have a student review and
master a single ACT than take ten ACT practice tests without
reviewing them,” he said.
5. Get some sleep
The last tip may sound obvious, but that doesn’t mean it’s
not extremely important. “Most high-school students are
ludicrously sleep deprived,” Green said. And while that may not
seem like cause for concern, Green said sleep deprivation has a
dramatic impact on standardized test scores.
“If most students just added one hour to their sleep
schedule each night, they’d see their scores rise ~5-10% almost
automatically, even without studying,” he explained.