What is a good test score? While families are often looking for a one-size-fits-all number, ultimately, a good score is one that gets you where you want to go. Go through your student’s college list with them and look at the average test scores of each school’s most recently admitted class. Do his or her scores match those of most admitted students, or are they higher or lower? Your student should try to achieve a score that is at least as high as the average at your top choice school. Pay attention to national averages as well – they will indicate where your student stands relative to their fellow applicants nationwide.
After you and your student have a good idea of what their dream schools are looking for, take a look at how their GPA matches up. If your student’s GPA is lower than it should be, they will need to aim for higher test scores. The reverse is true, too – if their test scores are lower but they have a higher GPA, they will still want to raise their scores, but their goal score can be a little more modest than it might otherwise need to be. Ideally, GPA and test scores should strike a balance. Naviance provides great scatter plots that compare GPA and test scores for various schools. If you don’t have an account, you can always search for those scatter plots online.
Once you both have an idea of what scores will be necessary to get into your student’s top colleges, it’s time for your student to start working toward those numbers! Keep in mind that score increases vary widely based on effort, time, and practice, so think about how your student learns best and help them come up with a test prep plan that will get them where they need to be. Do they need just a few sessions to brush up on math and grammar concepts, or do they need more sessions to practice pacing, strategies, or new concepts? Practicing regularly with real materials from the testing company and keeping track of their scores will help them gauge their progress.