The most obvious and most important way of measuring success and progress on the ACT or SAT is through the score on an official sitting of the SAT or ACT.
My ultimate goal when I work with my students is always that they achieve high scores on their tests, and this is almost always the ultimate goal of my students and their parents as well. However, I find it to be counter-productive for students to be excessively focused on their final scores both during preparation for their tests and, to an even greater extent, while taking their tests.
I assign many sections of retired official practice tests to my students to do for homework between our sessions. When they do these sections, my primary intention is for them to practice the strategies that we worked on together during the session. If students are excessively concerned about how they are going to score as they do practice sections, they are going to be less inclined to practice new skills, to take risks, and to learn from the process. Some students become very locked into unproductive patterns when they are tense about how they are going to score on each individual practice section.
This is not to say that I don’t pay any attention to the scores on practice sections. In fact, I track how my students score on practice sections over time, and I like to see a gradual trend towards improvement. However, I’m unconcerned about dips up and down from week to week as we practice and experiment to optimize the strategies for that student.
I sometimes tell students that every thought that they have about their scores as they take their tests is one less thought that goes towards doing what they need to do in order to get high scores. In other words, while students are taking the SAT or ACT, giving any attention at all to how they think they’re going to score is at best distracting from actually using their strategies and answering questions well and efficiently. At worst, it’s anxiety-inducing.
I also tell students that if they are going to think about any score, imagine that I am standing behind them scoring them on how well they execute the strategies that we perfected. I ask them to pay attention to executing their taking of the test so well that I would give them a perfect score for execution.
A perfect score on execution is the means to a high score on the SAT or ACT.
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