Helping your Teen Prepare for College Admissions Tests:
A Parent’s Guide
Sources: US News and the Scholarship System
Here are six specific goals that parents can use to effectively guide their involvement in their child’s SAT and PSAT test prep:
- Get involved in test prep at the right time.
- Help create a realistic target score.
- Know the latest version of the test.
- Establish a weekly test prep check-in time.
- Play the role of proctor.
- Remind your student about upcoming test dates.
Get Involved in Test Prep at the Right Time
Some parents make the mistake of involving themselves in their children’s test prep endeavors too early or too late in the process. The ideal time to get involved is before your student takes the PSAT. As these exams are diagnostic in nature, students need not engage in intensive review sessions to prepare.
Once students receive their PSAT score report, you can help interpret the numbers, identify areas of weakness and determine a concrete study plan for moving forward.
Help Create a Realistic Target Score
After receiving a PSAT score report, parents and students should work together to formulate an initial target score for the SAT. Target scores should be realistic, meaning that they should consider the student’s performance on the PSAT and the amount of serious study time that they are able to set aside before the official test.
An important point to bear in mind is that most students sit for the SAT two or three times because very few achieve their target score the first time. Therefore, you should not be discouraged if this happens to your child.
In addition, be aware that both the College Board – which administers the SAT – now superscore. This means that prospective colleges consider only a student’s best test performance.
Know the Latest Version of the Test
The SAT has evolved considerably since debuting many decades ago. If you have taken the exam before, do not assume it is the same now as it was when you knew it.
In 2016, for instance, the SAT was significantly modified. The guessing penalty was removed and the essay section was revamped, among other key changes.
So if you decide to secure printed or digital study resources for your child, make sure they reflect the latest version of the test. Finally, refrain from offering study tips that worked for you but that may no longer be relevant.
Establish a Weekly Test Prep Check-In Time
A lot of students perform better when they feel accountable for their progress. If they know someone will regularly check on their progress, they may be more motivated to keep pace with their studies. For this reason, establishing a weekly check-in time with your child is critical.
Be sure to be consistent about your check-in schedule. Stick to the same day and approximate time each week. Otherwise, unpredictable check-ins may become confusing and less effective.
Play the Role of Test Proctor
Sitting for full-length practice exams is an indispensable step in the test prep process. The SAT is a lengthy exam, lasting about three hours and spanning several disciplines. Therefore, students must get into the habit of remaining seated and focused for long periods if they wish to excel on the test.
In fact, students should take at least three full-length practice exams before taking the real assessment.
Parents can help their student complete practice tests by playing the role of proctor. When doing so, mirror genuine testing conditions as much as possible. This involves reading instructions aloud, monitoring your child, adhering to timing requirements and taking the whole experience seriously.
Remind Your Student About Upcoming Test Dates
As you probably know, high school students tend to be overloaded with responsibilities. Between classes, extracurriculars, sports and the college admissions process, it can be a lot to stay on top of. And unless your child is organized and keeps an updated agenda, he or she may simply forget about important upcoming dates.
In this case, you can lighten your child’s load by keeping track of upcoming deadlines related to test prep, registration deadlines and test dates. Then, occasionally remind your child of approaching dates. If you would rather not do so verbally, leave sticky notes around the house or post a calendar on a wall where your child will see it.
No matter how much or little you know about the SAT, there are plenty of ways you can help your high schooler adequately prepare.