Using Neurofeedback To Improve College Entrance Exam Scores

Posted on July 3 2013

By Brad Oostindie, MA - Clinical Director

Over the past several months several parents of high school age children approached me about using neurofeedback to improve college entrance test scores such as the ACT and SAT.  Over the past 10 years of practicing neurofeedback as a specialty I have run across several participants who reported a significant increase in ACT scores subsequent to neurofeedback training for another issue or concern.  In many of these situations an ACT score increase of 3-7 points was observed.  The most recent report I received was an increase of an ACT score from 23 to 29 upon completing a neurofeedback protocol of about 30 sessions.  In fact, over the course of practicing neurofeedback I do not recall ever running across a situation where a decrease in ACT score was observed post neurofeedback.

Because of the interest in this area I thought it would be good to review the available research on this topic and offer opinions on the topic on our website blog.  Unfortunately, there are very few documented studies of controlled research related to this subject.  In a 2005 study in Hartford, Connecticut, repeat SAT scores improved by 233, 180, and 136 points for three individuals following 10 half-hour neurofeedback sessions. A typical test-retest improvement for SAT is reported to be only 14 points according to Educational Testing Service data.  For those unfamiliar with how to evaluate an effective study, a sample size of 3 is hardly enough to be considered adequate size.  However, the results are very encouraging and in combination with many neuro-therapists observed “results” with participants who report an increase in ACT/SAT scores, it serves as a starting point for identifying a possible usefulness in using neurofeedback as a tool to use in improving one’s performance on these type of tests.

Related to this topic are many controlled studies (with adequate sample size) that show increase in IQ scores post neurofeedback training.  Typically these increases can be in the range of 10-12 points, an increase that exceeds what the test makers would suggest could occur by chance in a test-retest situation.  Since IQ is typically seen as a measure of the brain’s overall intelligence and potential (among other things), an increase in IQ can result in improved test taking abilities and problem solving in responding to test questions.

At this point the neurofeedback community needs a well-defined, controlled, adequately sized study of participants who complete a standardized neurofeedback protocol in between SAT or ACT test completion to objectively measure whether or not significant score increases occur, and whether or not these increases can be reasonably connected with the neurofeedback experience.  Personally, I believe a positive connection will be observed between neurofeedback and ACT/SAT score increase should this type of study be completed. 

If you are interested in using neurofeedback for your son or daughter prior to them taking or retaking the ACT and/or SAT, please contact our office for a 12-16 session package.  1-800-850-0535.