Test Prep and the Student Athlete

March 11, 2020 

Copy of Parents FAQ 1 (1)-1

Many students who play sports in high school hope to compete at the college level, which means navigating a complex maze of deadlines and standards. To make it to the finish line, you will need to understand both academic eligibility requirements and proper test preparation planning, as well as how to apply the useful principles of athletics to test prep.

Eligibility Requirements

According to the National Association for College Admission Counseling (NACAC), “Your academic record and ACT/SAT scores determine your athletic eligibility at many colleges, including member institutions of the NCAA and the National Association of Intercollegiate Athletics (NAIA).”

  • NCAA: The NCAA uses a sliding scale to determine if a student’s GPA in core courses and either ACT sum score (add English, math, reading, and science) or SAT combined score test (add reading and math) meet eligibility requirements for their preferred Division. The highest subscore from each section of any ACT/SAT test will be used to assess eligibility.
  • NAIA: Students must score either 18 points on the ACT or 970 points on the SAT.


Meeting academic NCAA or NAIA eligibility requirements does not guarantee college admission. Students must also meet the admission requirements for each individual school to which they intend to apply. Once you are academically eligible to play for Division I schools, for example, you will still need to have at least a 3.50 GPA and an SAT score of 1250 points to get into Penn State, which has more rigorous academic standards compared to other Division I schools.

Student athletes who currently seek admission to Ivy League universities must contend with the even more rigorous requirements of the Academic Index, which ensures recruits are “within the bands of proximity to the overall profile of admitted students according to grades and SAT scores.” In other words, if you want to play for an Ivy League school, you must meet the same academic standards as non-athletes.

Game Plan for Test Prep

As a student athlete, you will have to approach test prep differently than your peers. Here’s a suggested timeline to follow:

  • Sophomores: Take diagnostic ACT and SAT practice tests to determine which test is right for you. Begin test prep in the summer before your junior year by setting aside at least two months for tutoring or self-guided study. Register for the NCAA or NAIA Eligibility Centers.
  • Juniors: Register for the ACT/SAT and plan on taking either or both tests as many times as possible, beginning with your first test the summer between your sophomore and junior year. Use the NCAA Eligibility Center code of 9999 and the NAIA Eligibility Center code of 9876 to send your scores directly to the Eligibility Center from the testing agency.
  • Seniors: If necessary, take the ACT/SAT one more time to maximize your combined SAT score or your ACT sum score.

Ultimately, when it comes to meeting academic eligibility requirements, the key is to start early.

Test Prep like a Pro

Many of the skills that have made your athletic achievements possible can be translated to test prep success.

  • Coaching: Working with a test prep tutor is like having a coach. Your tutor is an ACT/SAT expert who not only knows everything there is to know about the test, but also knows how to motivate students and help them overcome obstacles.
  • Planning and Time Management: Athletes and coaches work together to create goals and develop a roadmap for success, including a creating timeline for study, practice, test dates, and deadlines. Student athletes are experts at balancing academic and social commitments.
  • Find Your Position: Athletes excel when their position on the team complements their talents. Take a diagnostic ACT/SAT to identify your strengths and weaknesses. Maximize your score by reviewing skills and learning strategies that will address your weaknesses and build on your strengths.
  • Strategize: The same way that you might observe your opponent’s plays to predict and plan a game day strategy, you can use test prep to become familiar with the ins-and-outs of the ACT/SAT. Learn how to spot wrong answers on Reading tests and use answer choices to simplify complex math problems.
  • Practice: Tackle a set of geometry or grammar exercises the same way you would practice the fundamentals. If you approach a practice ACT/SAT like a scrimmage match, you will be able to apply skills and strategies away from the stresses of the real test. And, like a cross-country runner, you will increase your endurance and discover your ideal pace. Review practice tests with a tutor who will help you analyze your performance and learn from your mistakes.


The Finish Line

Student athletes are used to setting goals, meeting deadlines, practicing skills, listening to coaches, and responding with humility and resilience to wins and losses. Prepare for the ACT/SAT like an athlete to meet the NCAA’s or NAIA’s academic eligibility requirements and earn a score that will not only help to secure admission to your top choice schools, but will also open doors to valuable scholarship opportunities.

At A+ Test Prep and Tutoring, our practices are based on the latest developments in educational theory and research. We have an excellent team of tutors who can help you with standardized testing, executive functioning, or achievement in any other school subject. If you want to find out more about our services, our Client Service Directors Anne Stanley and Susan Ware can be reached at 215-886-9188.




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