Local governments can invest in this strategy using State and Local Fiscal Recovery Funds (SLFRF) from the American Rescue Plan Act (ARPA).

  • This strategy can help address educational disparities. The U.S. Department of Treasury has indicated that strategies that help achieve this outcome are eligible for the use of Fiscal Recovery Funds.
  • Investments in this strategy are SLFRF-eligible as long as they are made in qualified census tracts or are designed to assist populations or communities disproportionately impacted by COVID-19.

Program overview

  • Improving students’ test scores: SAT and ACT preparation programs are educational interventions that aim to improve students’ scores on college entrance exams. Since many colleges use SAT and ACT scores when making admission decisions and determining financial aid offers, SAT and ACT preparation programs may indirectly influence college access.

  • Building test-taking skills: Test prep programs typically includes four main elements: information on the test’s format; general test-taking strategies, like time management; strategies specific to a given test, such as whether one should guess when they do not know the answer to a question; and skill-based math and literacy drills.

  • Offering varied preparation models: Test preparation programs are typically led by an instructor either online or in-person at a school, community-based organization, or for-profit test preparation center. Program formats vary, but common models include one-on-one tutoring, small group instruction, and whole-class instruction.

Cost per Participant

Multiple studies with rigorous designs demonstrate that SAT and ACT preparation programs are a well-supported strategy for increasing college readiness.

  • A 2016 systematic review identified ACT/SAT test preparation programs as a scientifically supported strategy for improving high school academic achievement.
  • Assess students’ initial skills: Instruction is most effective when it is just beyond each student’s current level of capability. Test preparation programs can use students’ past performance on the PSAT or administer a pre-test practice exam to assess each student’s ability and tailor subsequent instruction.

  • Prioritize the skills being taught: Instructional time is limited and certain skills appear more often on some exams than others. As such, programs should focus instruction on skills that are most likely to appear on their exam of focus. When feasible (e.g., for one-on-one and small group instruction), programs can prioritize skills based on a student’s past performance on practice exams.

  • Incorporate full-length practice exams: Research suggests that practice tests are among the most effective forms of preparation for standardized exams. As such, programs should include at least one full-length practice exam as part of their ACT or SAT preparation curriculum.