Repeat attempts, but stuck at mean...recalcitrant

daughter (near perfect gpa) has tried over and over on practice acts (sat too) but can’t get past the mean score; re:
…any advice on experts that deal with this sort of trouble?

Not an expert, but maybe some more information would be helpful for the experts. Does your daughter take honors and AP classes? What is the average SAT/ACT score at your HS?

Average test scores at different high schools can vary greatly. I recall that in 2019, the average SAT in our district was a little over 1300. At the other extreme, another district in the county had a valedictorian who couldn’t break 1000.

Understanding where she stands relative to her HS classmates may be useful.

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What mean? National or for your school? Is her school rigorous and is she taking the most challenging classes? It’s hard to comment without that information. I think the average ACT is a 20.8 nationally. Is that what you are referring to?

Get “The Black Book” for either ACT or SAT (or both). It covers strategy of taking these tests.

Luckily, you are in a time of test optional choices that was not widely available 22 months ago. I would let her move on and not worry about it.

Not everyone is a great test taker. That is true.

There are also excellent students who work hard and have excellent grades and happen to be in the average normed percentile. Usually when you look back at data they have always been about there.

If she is interested in understanding where her strengths are and where previous assessments have landed in nationally normed data, her school counselor will be able to tell you. It rarely deviates much unless there is an undiagnosed ADD case (child will swing from 30% percentile to 90% percentile and all over in normed assessments) or others really zone in on study how to take that particular test and are already over a certain percentile.

Many kids in the 70% percentile in elementary and middle place at about the same place on the scale on the SAT, ACT, and other HS data. They can gain points by learning strategies to take the tests. Challenging curriculum with supports helps too. Kids in lower percentiles have larger spans for growth and sometimes do go far beyond their data predicted trajectory.

Colleges are finding the tests are not the greatest predictors of college or career success, but indicators of advantages or disadvantages in test preparation. They do see gaps in math even among top kids, but there are different placement assessments they use for that once on campus.

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–If you haven’t done so yet, it may be worth looking into a class or hiring a tutor.

–If she has studied hard with a class or tutor and that is her score then at some point you need to accept that is her ACT score and move forward from there.

–Has she tried the SAT? I’ve heard it said that about 1/3 of the students do better on the ACT, 1/3 of students do better on the SAT, and 1/3 of students do the same on both. It may be worth looking into the SAT if she hasn’t tried it.

– If standardized test scores don’t improve then seek out colleges that fit her academic profile (including standardized tests) or are test optional.

–FWIW my S studied for the SAT (the better standardized test for him), took it twice and got basically the same score. At that point we moved forward to find colleges that fit his academic profile.


If your daughter has a great record otherwise, it’s definitely not worth putting any time or effort into the SAT/ACT. Just apply to test-optional schools.


Op needs to quantify the score. At some point your going to stop improving. Going from a 32 to 34 is harder then going from a 20 to 27 per se… I would study their weaknesses in the subsets but continue reviewing their strengths. I know of someone that just really reviewed their strengths and brought up their score 2 or do points to a 34… If you can afford it a tutor can really help narrow done what needs to be studyed. The 5lb Act book has great explanations and tons of practice

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In addition to some of the suggestions above, your D has to do practice tests and be strict on the time limits. Do you know if she is able to complete all of the questions in the time allotted? Is she rushing to complete the last 10 questions?

ACT is a much faster paced test than the SAT. Has she considered trying the SAT?

Are any schools on the list that are unlikely to be test optional when she is applying? Most notably, that group includes the Florida and Georgia public colleges/unis.

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