Every student, parent, and school administrator always asks us, “how long does it take to improve an ACT or SAT score?” Asked to anyone else, the generic response that you’ll usually get for this admittedly broad question is “experts say about 10-20 hours.”
But who are these experts and what does that mean? Can every child in America simply log into Piqosity, browse for 10-20 hours, and magically score higher than the 99% of the population that didn’t know this statistic? Absolutely not. The time it takes for you to improve your Digital SAT or ACT score is going to vary, depending on a few key factors:
- What score do you want to get?
- What is your current score?
- How big is the gap between your goal score and current score?
The easiest way to think about how much time you will need to study is to simply look at how many more questions you need to answer correctly after taking a diagnostic practice test. However, based off our 20 years of experience and analysis of aggregate student data, we estimate:
An average student can generally expect a 40 point improvement in SAT score for every 7 hours of quality studying.
The quality of your studying is important. You cannot spend those 7 hours passively watching a talking head on the screen. Instead, you need to apply what you learn by continuously working realistic practice questions under timed conditions. The SAT is a timed test—not only do you need to know how to answer the questions, you need to be able to do it quickly.
Furthermore, timing is also key with regards to your calendar. The less time you spend preparing for the SAT, the closer to the test you should be. If you’re only going to spend 7 hours to get a 40 point improvement, make sure you do that cramming all in the 1 or 2 weeks before you take the SAT. If you have more time to prepare, like 20 hours, spread that time over a couple of months and you’re less likely to quickly forget everything.
Let’s see why our recommended study time calculation makes sense by breaking it down.
The Math and Logic Behind the SAT Study Time Recommendation
If you’re an average student already scoring around the 50th percentile (about a 1050 on the SAT), every one or two correct answers will net you about 10 additional points. You can probably look at a question you missed, identify what you did wrong, and re-learn the basic math or English concept tested in about 45 minutes to an hour.
Multiply those 45 minutes to an hour per question by the 2 questions you need to figure out, and you’ll see that you roughly need to spend 1.75 hours to earn yourself 10 points. To turn the hour metric into a nice, whole number we can multiply both numbers by a factor of 4. As a result, we find that you must spend 7 hours to earn 40 points on the test.
Expected Improvement From Common SAT Prep Course Formats
Let’s take this recommendation of 7 hours of study time for 40 point score improvement to look at a few common study scenarios:
- 1-day, in-class “Boot Camp” = 7 hours of prep for a 40 point gain
- 2 Month Prep Course = 8 weeks or 16 hours for a 80–100 point gain
- 5 Months of Private Tutoring = 20 weeks or 40 hours for a ~250 point gain
Boot Camp. Many schools will hire an outside provider to teach a one-day “boot camp” in school, which lasts about 7 hours. Based on our calculations, you’re likely to see a 40 point improvement from actively participating in that boot camp. For best results, complete this boot camp no more than 2 weeks before you take the SAT.
2 -Month Prep Course. Maybe your school is able to commit a few more resources into getting you ready for the SAT. They might offer a teacher-led prep course that provides two, 1-hour classes a week to help you prepare for the SAT. These 16 hours could net you an improvement of over 80 points.
Private Tutoring. In Houston, where Piqosity is based, students able to hire an SAT tutor often start preparing in November before an April test date. The student will spend about 2 hours a week studying during these 5 months and expect a roughly 250 point improvement after 40 hours.
These estimates work pretty well for you if you’re an average student starting around an 1050 and looking to boost your score to the mid to upper 1300s. But what about if you’ve already spent 40 hours getting to a 1350 (90th percentile) and you’re looking to get higher than a 1550 (99th percentile)?
Diminishing Returns if You Already Have High SAT Scores
If you’re fortunate to already be scoring in the top 10 percent, how much studying you’ll need to do to get an even higher score gets a little foggier and there’s admittedly a diminishing rate of return—instead of studying 7 hours to go from a 1350 to 1400, you might have to spend 10 or 12 hours!
The primary reason for this extra work is that you’ve already picked all the low-hanging fruit. For example, you already know that you need to answer every question on the test, and you already know how to use a comma.
The additional questions that you need to answer correctly in each section to move from the top 10% to the top 1% would be the most difficult ones on the Digital SAT test’s hard module, and getting them right isn’t as straightforward as relearning how to find the slope of a line. Instead, you have to find the slope of a line and follow 5 additional steps, weaving in 4 other math topics including maybe something you haven’t learned yet—and almost definitely asked in a way you’ve never seen before.
Furthermore, there are also less-academic factors that might prevent you from getting that perfect score. Maybe the testing room is too cold or you nearly got into a car wreck on the way to school. Maybe your testing neighbor accidentally distracts you by grinding their teeth. Maybe there’s an eyelash in your eye. All of these little things could easily cost you a few correct questions that you can’t prepare for so easily. So don’t stress out if you end up with a 1550 instead of a perfect 1600.
Nevertheless, you can and should prepare for the SAT; no matter what your starting point is, you will improve your score. Start as soon as you finish reading this article, because time is your most finite resource!
How to Prepare for the Digital SAT Exam
Now that you understand the amount of time you should prepare to spend practicing for the Digital SAT, you’re ready to start test-prepping. If you haven’t taken an SAT practice test yet, that’s where you should start—understanding your current abilities by getting a baseline score will help you plan how to get to your goal score. Piqosity’s eLearning software recreates the benefits of private tutoring; if you’re looking for that 250-point gain on the SAT without the steep cost of 40 private tutoring hours, Piqosity can help!
Piqosity is in the process of publishing 12 Digital SAT practice tests, and these tests are available for free while the Digital SAT Course is under development! Just like the real Digital SAT, Piqosity’s full-length Digital SAT tests are comprised of 54 Reading and Writing Questions and 54 Math questions spread across multiple adaptive modules.
- No credit card or phone number required
- Full-length and adaptive
- Completely free through March 2024