When Should My Student Start Preparing for the ACT?

 By Greer Milam
Owner, SPARC, LLC

Every year, parents ask me the same questions. How many points do your students’ ACT scores improve after taking your course?  How long have you been doing test prep? What is your education background?  And my favorite, Greer, what’d YOU get on the ACT?

This article addresses another commonly asked question: When should my student begin prepping for the ACT?

A roundabout approach to answering this question is to identify first when is not the right time. Too often prep is started too early. There are a couple of things to keep in mind. Be careful that the motivation for starting prep is not too parent driven. There needs to be a balance. The thresholds of urgency between parents and students for a strong ACT score are usually offset by three to six months. Also, beware of peer-driven prep. Students will naturally measure themselves against the test scores of their peers. Each junior class will have two or three natural test takers who receive high ACT scores early in the year. These academic elites will proudly announce their scores to their classmates. Students may rush to enroll in prep classes out of a panicked response; more focused on someone else’s score rather than their own. They start off feeling behind.

More naturally, students will give their best energy to test preparation toward the end of their junior year or the summer following. There are a few reasons for this. The educational development that occurs over the course of a student’s junior year can contribute significantly to a higher test performance. They feel more prepared. Also, college is suddenly real. College is a frequent topic of conversation in their homes and classrooms. They might by this time have visited a college campus. They see their senior friends graduating and gearing up for college life. On top of this, a social component begins to weigh in – athletics, prom, class elections, first cars, first jobs, dating! Somewhere in the mix of all of this, students begin to view themselves as independents. They take ownership of their college goals. Their target ACT score becomes a number linked to where they see themselves after high school. The motivation comes from within. Now they are ready.

So, after twenty years of coaching parents and students on the ACT, here is my honest answer to original question. When should my son begin a structured prep program? Trust me.He’ll tell you. When is my daughter ready to achieve her best ACT score? Be patient. She’ll let you know.

And when they do, please visit our website at sparctestprep.com or give us a call at 256-724-0808.

SPARC Test Prep is a leading provider of test preparation in the state of Alabama since 2002 offering a full range of tutoring and college admission services specializing in preparation for the ACT, SAT, PSAT and AP exams. SPARC, LLC is exclusive to the Huntsville/Madison area of North Alabama.

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