Setting SMART Goals in Test Prep

Goal setting is an important part of the test preparation process. The SMART goals process gives students an effective process for setting achievable SAT and ACT goal scores. Give it a try! It really has helped my students achieve their best test scores on the SAT and ACT exams.

Strategy #1: Be Specific

The more specific the goal, the greater likelihood of achieving the goal. So rather than saying, "I want to do really well on the SAT or ACT", I encourage students to write down a specific goal score. If you need help, find your SAT and ACT starting point. If you are taking the SAT, add 150-200 points; if you are taking the ACT, add 3-4 points to the score.

Strategy #2: Measure It

You are more likely to achieve your goal, if you have a feedback system that can measure your performance. With test preparation, this can be very easy to implement. First, you can track how much time you are actually spending on studying for the SAT or ACT test. Second, you can use practice tests to measure the effectiveness of your studies, adjusting accordingly. 

When measuring your progress, it is really important to work with materials that will give you accurate feedback. Please read my recommendations for SAT test prep and ACT test prep resources.

Strategy #3: Make It Achievable

Too often I see students set unrealistically high score goals, only to become discouraged early in the process. With my students, I use the analogy of the bench press. You can set a goal to bench press 250 lbs, but you cannot expect to walk up and just lift that amount without steadily building up to that strength level.

So create a reasonable and achievable goal. You can always increase the goal score if you find achieving it was fairly easy and you want to additionally challenge yourself.

Strategy #4: Reward Yourself

Everyone needs to remember to celebrate the little victories along the way to success. So what rewards might motivate you to study more? Or keep you interested in the test preparation process? There are so many fun distractions out there (hello Netflix streaming!), but can I delay reward gratification and use it as a reward for my effort? And the ultimate reward are those college acceptance letters.

Strategy #5: Make it Timely

Again, test preparation already has built-in test dates and deadlines. Before you begin preparing for the SAT or ACT, create a really good test taking schedule. Once you are registered for an actual test, you will feel much more motivated to study.

Smart Goals = S.M.A.R.T

Just so you an remember all of the elements of setting SMART goals, use this mnemonic device.


M = Measureable

A = Achieveable

R = Rewards

T = Timely

So now you have everything you need to create effective and achievable SAT and ACT score goals. But remember: Knowledge is NOT power. Applied Knowledge is power! So start cracking open this test prep books!