Growth Mindset and the SAT/ACT

“I’m not a math person.”

In all of my experience as a test prep tutor, this is one of the most common self-assessments I’ve heard from students. For better or worse, most students have already developed an expectation for themselves by the time they’ve reached high school, and it can be difficult to overcome. The primary challenge is that the student’s overall outlook needs to evolve into a growth mindset.

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Growth Mindset in the Mainstream

The idea of a growth mindset gained mainstream popularity with the book Mindset by Dr. Carol Dweck in 2006. In the book, Dr. Dweck shows how one’s mindset is the determining factor in a person’s overall success in life. The student who believes “I’m not a math person” is evidencing a fixed mindset. Many students working their way through school on all levels are laboring under the delusion that their way is fixed and there is no possibility for change.

On the other hand, a student with a growth mindset, while still potentially faced with struggles in math or other subjects, believes that they can work through the obstacles and come away better. On a wider scale, mindset can be a determining factor in whether a student sees herself or himself as an average student and persists at that level or a student sees their potential to grow and gain the skills necessary to succeed.

Exam Preparation with a Growth Mindset

In the exam preparation game, one of the biggest hurdles many students must clear early on is the idea that they can–and will–improve. A student who has gone through their educational career with a fixed mindset might see an initial score as an end. In my own experience, these are typically the students who look at a low categorical score on an ACT, for example, and respond with a proclamation such as “I’m bad at reading” or “I’m not good at math.”

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Huntington Can Help

At Huntington, our tutors work through the concepts a student needs to be successful on the test, but they also work to change a student’s mindset on the SAT/ACT when it comes to her or his own ability to improve. “I’m bad at math” becomes “I might still struggle with math, but I know I can work through it.” The result is not only an increased test score, but also an outlook on learning and success that will benefit that student in their academic career and beyond.

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