3 Reasons Your Test Scores Aren’t Improving After Practicing

Matt Larriva
Jan 20, 2021

“I’ve been studying but my practice test scores are not improving…can you advise?”

First, I’m sorry that’s happened to you, and I can totally understand why you’re feeling disappointed.

Rest assured, there are many ways to work through your plateau and get those test scores up.

I don’t know much about your specific situation, but I can tell you that most people hit a wall for a few reasons:

You either have:

  • an accuracy issue
  • a timing issue
  • or a test-stress issue

Top 3 Reasons Your Test Scores Don’t Improve Despite Studying

1. Accuracy

The issue: You’re not able to answer questions correctly, even if you had tons of time and no stress.

This means you don’t understand the material. This is probably because you’re not focused on learning and you’re more focused on simply testing.

Testing is attractive because it feels productive and you have the chance to score well and then you get to feel accomplished and stop practicing.


“Unfortunately, taking practice tests when you haven’t studied the material is like trying to learn to fly a plane by stepping into a cockpit rather than having someone teach you how to fly.”

Matthew Larriva, founder, Powerful Prep

How To Fix Accuracy Issues

Focus on mastering the concepts that will be tested. Practice problems, then try testing.

2. Timing

The issue: You could answer questions accurately if you had lots of time. This simply means you need to get faster.

Here is the advice we give Powerful Prep students who face this same issue:

How To Fix Timing Issues

Identify the question types that take the longest and practice those.

Then start taking the test with 110% of the time, then when you get comfortable there, move to 100%, then move to 90%, etc. If you can successfully answer the questions with only 90% time, then you’ll be set.

3. Test-Stress

The issue: You could answer the questions accurately, in the appropriate amount of time, if you were at home, calm, and well-rested, in an isolated environment.

How To Fix Timing Issues

The solution to this issue is a little harder, and it could be a deeper psychological or psychiatric issue. But to the extent, you can address the issue yourself, look into some of the Test-Stress literature, software, and meditation programs out there.

Identify which section you’re having the most trouble with and begin there.

Put An End To Test Stress

Students are under constant pressure, especially during their SAT and ACT tests. While some stress is helpful for focus and concentration, too much can have unexpected consequences.

Review these tips to help you translate all your hard work into high scores, and leave test stress behind

Still Need Help?

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