Junior year is about to hit its peak–March is the beginning of “testing season” when most juniors sit for their first SAT and/or ACT. Though you won’t need to submit these scores until next fall, getting an early start gives you months to improve. But what is improvement? Juniors, it’s time to make a goal score. You probably sat for the PSAT earlier this year, which is a great place to start. It is important to remember that there isn’t one perfect method for creating a goal score, but here are a few interesting ones:
The “Prep Class Guarantee”
This is what I call the “lazy man’s goal score.”
Basically, this is when you take what your prep book, prep class, etc. says that their average raise is as gospel. So, say you got a 1470 on your PSAT and you decide to take a weekly prep class that guarantees to raise your score 100 points. Then you would say, “Okay, I want to raise 100 points” and create a goal score of 1570.
Pros: This method is fairly realistic and you theoretically have the methods to complete it.
Cons: This method isn’t individualized and might be selling yourself short.
The PSAT is a better indicator than a test you took at home out of a book because it models the conditions (and pressure) of a real test. However, you learn more as the year goes on, so by March you may naturally be improving your score on the math section simply because you’ve covered more material. This method says that you should take two practice tests (one under test conditions and one not) and average them with your PSAT score.
So if you got a 1700 on your PSAT, an 1800 on a timed practice test, and a 2100 on an untimed test, your goal score would be 1870.
Pros: This method takes many factors into account, and using your PSAT allows for a realistic goal score
Cons: This method takes a lot of work, and your brain might just focus on the highest practice score.
Best Case Scenario Method
This is for all you optimists out there. In this method, you superscore your best practice sections, even those taken not under testing conditions. So, lets say you usually score a 700 on your math, but on one test, you pulled off an 800. The 800 is now your goal score in math, etc.
Pros: This method will give you high goal scores, but ones that you once upon a time were able to reach. It’s perhaps the most common one out there.
Cons: This method is often overly optimistic, and puts pressure on you without taking into account that sometimes you just magically have a good test.
The “Dream School” Method
This method is one that comes straight out of a college guidebook. Whatever the average score of your dream school is, that becomes your goal score. So if the middle 50% score is a 600 Math and 650 CR, then those become your scores, realistic or not.
Pros: This score requires no math; only a big heart and big dreams.
Cons: This score doesn’t take into account your actual abilities, and may give you unrealistic expectations.
There are, of course, other methods for creating a goal score. Or you might not even have one at all. And that’s okay. Goal scores aren’t a science. I created mine on a combination of the Best Case Scenario and the Averaging Method. Mine was simply the highest score that I consistently hit in my practice tests; it wasn’t so much a “goal” as it was an estimation.
The funny thing is that I ended up beating my goal score due to sheer luck and getting a ridiculously good math section when I took my second ACT.