Getting Ready for the SAT, ACT: How Parents Can Help

Parents play an important role in their students’ ACT and SAT preparation. In addition to providing encouragement and support, they can also facilitate the review process.

Here are six specific goals that parents can use to effectively guide their involvement in their child’s ACT and SAT 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 PreACT or PSAT. As these exams are diagnostic in nature, students need not engage in intensive review sessions to prepare.

[Read: ACT vs. SAT: How to Decide Which Test to Take.]

However, you can assist your child by explaining the purpose of either test and ensuring that your student is calm and well rested in the days leading up to the exam. For example, the PSAT/NMSQT — the Preliminary SAT/National Merit Scholarship Qualifying Test — is the first step in determining eligibility for the prestigious National Merit Scholarships.

Once students receive their PreACT or 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 PreACT or PSAT score report, parents and students should work together to formulate an initial target score for the ACT or SAT. Target scores should be realistic, meaning that they should consider the student’s performance on the PreACT or 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 ACT or 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 — and the ACT now superscore. This means that prospective colleges consider only a student’s best test performance.

Know the Latest Version of the Test

The ACT and SAT have evolved considerably since their respective debuts many decades ago. If you have taken either exam before, do not assume it is the same now as it was when you knew it.

[Read: 6 Tips for SAT, ACT Test Prep Procrastinators]

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 ACT and SAT are lengthy exams, both 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 either test.

In fact, students should take at least three full-length practice exams before taking the real assessment.

[Read: Learn From Your ACT, SAT Practice Test Results With These Tips]

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 ACT or SAT, there are plenty of ways you can help your high schooler adequately prepare for either.

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