As test scores come back from another round of SAT/ACT testing, it’s inevitable that there will be cases where your students didn’t score as well as they like. As an educator, you may be sharing their sense of disappointment, which is only natural. But now is no time to despair! While this is a setback, it’s definitely not the end of the world. Here are some steps you can take in the face of a disappointing SAT/ACT score:

What went wrong?

When a disappointing result comes back, the first thing to do is to figure out the cause. There are a variety of factors that can lead to a student scoring lower than they’d hoped or expected. Some are external, and largely out of the student’s or educator’s control—if the student had a bad cold on test day, or had received some distressing personal news, this could have affected test performance no matter how well prepared the student was. Other times, an attack of test anxiety could be the culprit, tripping a student up on material they already knew. Finally, there may have been one or more core misunderstandings of the material, such as a conceptual error in math or confusion on the definition of a literary term. Finding where the problem lies is the first step to fixing it as quickly as possible.

Is there time for a retake?

In many cases, a disappointing SAT or ACT score makes a good case for retaking the test. There are some potential time constraints on this, however—there is not only the question of whether or not your student will have enough time to register for the test and receive their score before their college applications are due, but also if the interim is enough time for them to prepare and stand a good chance of rectifying the issues that tripped them up the first time. Look over your students’ schedules, and be realistic when figuring out the potential for a retake.

Planning your next steps together

After a disappointing test result, students and educators should formulate a plan together for what this means and how to best proceed. In some cases, such as a student who had an unavoidable issue like a health concern tripping them up on test day, this can be as simple as scheduling a retake and maintaining a steady prep schedule to retain all they’ve learned for the test. For others, it can mean focusing on relaxation techniques to overcome test anxiety, or doing an extensive review of a misunderstood concept. And for cases where a retake is impossible, this can mean going over your students’ college application plans, and determining what effect a lower-than-expected score will have on them. But whatever the case, the important thing is to be there for your students and formulate an achievable plan that works for them. With a plan in place, a disappointing test score is no cause for panic—just a bit of refocusing, and another step forward.

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