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Is it Possible? Improving on the SAT and ACT

Is it possible to increase your SAT and ACT scores? To find out, either watch the video, or keep reading!

The most common question I receive from students and parents goes something like this…

“I scored X on my last SAT/ACT. I have Y months to prepare. Is it possible to get Z on my next test?”

Unfortunately, it’s usually difficult to answer this question without more info:

  • What’s your academic background?
  • What prep have you done so far?
  • What is the breakdown of your score?
  • What are your goals?
  • What are your strengths and weaknesses?
  • Do you have the drive to succeed?

I’d need to get to know you better to be able to give you advice pertinent for your unique situation – and if you’re a Member of Reason Prep or a tutoring student, that’s what I’ll do!

But to get us started, what I can give you are five key ingredients that will frame your path to SAT/ACT success. Put these five together and you’ll be on your way to achieving your score goals!

S.M.A.R.T – Five Pillars of SAT/ACT Success

S – Start


These are the analytics for my Youtube channel. Note the huge spike on May 1. Know what day that was? The day before the May SAT.

Don’t do all your studying in thisspike – just say NO to procrastination! Getting started can be tough, but it’s so much easier once you do. A week, a month, or a year until your test, it doesn’t matter – commit to yourself and your study program TODAY!

And don’t worry about doing “the wrong thing” when you’re studying. The only thing you can do wrong is to not study at all. Too many students get caught up in finding the perfect program, book, tutor, or magic bullet top secret foolproof guaranteed method (which doesn’t exist, sadly) – these are all just excuses to procrastinate. You’ll figure it out as you go – especially if you have the next four pillars in place.

This is perhaps the most important pillar of the five – if you do nothing, you won’t hit your goal. It’s as simple as that.

M – Mindset


To improve on the SAT/ACT, your mindset needs to be in the right place.

First, you need to have what Carol Dweck calls a GROWTH MINDSET, not a FIXED MINDSET. Someone with a fixed mindset believes their abilities are inborn, innate, and unchangeable. A student with a fixed mindset may think that their SAT/ACT score can’t change much. He or she may also think that a test score reflects intelligence, ability, and even their inherent worthiness as a human being (deep stuff). As a result, they avoid challenges, and they avoid failure…so they don’t grow or improve or change, thereby “confirming” their initial assumptions about themselves.

A growth mindset is much more powerful and liberating. If you have a growth mindset, you believe that your abilities are not fixed but can be improved with practice and effort. Rather than being proof of inadequacy, failure is a key element in learning content and improving skills. The struggle – that temporary confusion and disorientation as you figure stuff out – is not evidence that the student is “dumb” but is actually evidence of learning happening in that moment. Given enough time and effort, a student with a growth mindset believes that any score is possible.

So believe in your potential – and take action to realize it.

Second, you must desire to improve. Studying half-heartedly won’t do the job. Students who are being compelled to study against their wishes usually have a rough time. The desire to improve your scores needs to come from deep within your gut; it truly is something that you can feel. Your dreams and ambition are fuel that help you learn with more focus and propel you through the inevitable setbacks that will come your way.

A – Allies

You need someone in your corner to mentor you, keep your motivation high, point out your hits and your misses, and just simply teach you stuff that you didn’t know. Your allies could include anybody with the knowledge of the test and the desire to see you succeed: a beloved teacher in your school, an SAT/ACT expert friend, a parent, a private tutor – or me! I’d love to help you on your SAT/ACT journey, so feel free to get in touch!

R – Routine

Let’s say that you have 5 hours to spend studying for your SAT. Howshould you use those hours for the most effect?

A) Study for five hours the day before the test

B) Study for two and a half hours each of two days

C) Study for one hour over five days

D) Spend the five hours playing Candy Crush

The answer is C. Spreading out your studying over many days yields more powerful learning than cramming intermittently does. Many students think that a study session needs to go on for hours and hours to have an effect. This issimply not the case; in fact, such marathon sessions might be counterproductive. Your goal, then, is to set up a studying routine. Focus on studying for 1.5 hours per day, 5-6 days per week, from now until your test. Do a little bit every day and your efforts will add up to a whole bunch of points.

T – Tools

Students obsess the most about finding the “perfect” books, courses, and other study resources to guide their study program. While I can’t say that this time is totally wasted, it can be a deterrent to your progress if you get so hung up on the search that you don’t Start.

Of course, some books are better than others, and some courses are better than others, but ANY book is better than NO book, and ANY course is better than NO course. It goes back to S – START. Pick a book, course, or tutor and get moving. Be ready to adapt as you go – if you find the book or course or tutor isn’t working for you, or if you discover weaknesses that need upgrading and strengths that need maintaining, don’t feel that you have to see it through. You won’t know until you try!

One addendum to the above – make sure you’re using REAL SAT/ACT questions from the test makers (College Board or ACT, Inc.) whenever possible, especially when you complete full practice tests. You can use third-party books (Princeton Review, Kaplan, Dr. Chung’s, etc.) for additional problems, but the core of your practice routine should be based on real problems. Above are the two books I recommend without reservations for studying for the SAT and ACT.

And don’t forget – Reason Prep can help too!

If you like watching videos to learn, then make sure to check out my Youtube channel (if you haven’t already). I’ve posted hundreds of videos to help students with all facets of the SAT, ACT, the SAT Subject Tests, and more.

I offer a ton of content on my website, reasonprep.com – including dozens of hours of video instruction, exclusive downloads, and services like essay grading and email consultations. If you want access to all the videos, downloadables, and other exclusive content, check out my website to learn more about becoming a Member of Reason Prep. Once you join, we can chat about how best to tackle your study program.

Check out my SAT & ACT courses!


To end with the question we started with: Is it possible? Is it possible to go from an 1200 to a 1400? Is it possible to go from a 25 to a 30? Is it possible to go from an X to a Z?

Yes, it is possible. But it’s only possible if you’re willing to put in the time and effort. And it’s only possible if you have the five pillars of effective SAT/ACT studying in place.

You need to Start – right now!

You need the right Mindset – believe that you CAN improve and WANT to improve.

You need Allies – teachers, friends, and mentors to help you on your journey.

You need a Routine – consistent, daily, focused practice that will take you step- by-step to your score goal.

And you need Tools – books, courses, videos – to help you study.

Put these magic five resources together…and anything’s possible.

About the Author:

I’m Rob Schombs, the founder of Reason Prep, creator of these videos, and your test prep tutor. I earned a BA in Chemistry (2006) and an MA in Science and Technology Studies (2009) from Cornell University. In 2010 I started tutoring SAT, ACT, math, chemistry, and writing full-time, and Reason Prep followed shortly after!