By How Much Does ACT Prep Improve a Score? Students, Parents and Expectations

Students always want to improve their scores, often, by a lot. While this is possible, I usually aim for that sort of improvement over the course of a year, not just a few weeks. Parents similarly want their kids’ scores to soar as high as possible.

Reasonable Score Improvement Expectations

             Original Composite Score       Reasonable Expected Improvement

18-21       +3-6

22-25      +2-5

26-27      +2-4

28-29        +2

30-32    +1-2

33-35      +1

The table above works as a good barometer for student improvement. That said, students can improve by more, or less, than described above. The table doesn’t lay out the average improvement either, just a pretty good measure of where a student should land post-tutoring. This is a table for regular, mainstream students without any learning disabilities or extra time on the test.

Of course, every student is different. There are no guarantees, but over the years I’ve learned I can be pretty confident that my students will improve their scores. Students who do well on the test post-prep are hardworking: They did the homework, came prepared to session, employed the strategies and content knowledge.

My personal record is an 11-point increase. I don't advertise it because I don't want to unrealistically raise expectations, but I’ve had my share of successes with students skyrocketing up in score. I’ve also had some let-downs.

I want to see the improvement listed in the table (and more!) Yet two points to me is a victory. A two-point increase can be the difference between the 50th and the 65th percentile (a 21 to a 23) or the 90th and the 95th percentile (a 28 to a 30). I’ve had my share of two-point increases. I had more of those in my first years, but they still happen. A one-point increase for a student scoring below a 28 is disappointing. It has happened, but rarely. Even more rare is no increase. I’ve only had it happen once.

Negligible increases can be due to a range of factors. Students who don’t substantially improve their scores are often the ones brought kicking and screaming to their ACT sessions. Student buy-in is crucial. Sometimes undiagnosed learning disabilities get in the way as well. Also, test anxiety is real. A rare student will look confident in session but because of pressure from either peers, adults or themselves, seize up and perform poorly.

The nice thing about ACT prep is that it is usually easy for me to gauge my students. If student improves in session, they should improve on the test. I get my students to confirm their improved score at least twice, if not three times. If they can bump their score up on an in-session test three times, they’ll most likely do about the same on the actual test.