Knowing how to step in and help your child prepare for the SAT can a slippery slope and emotional for both you and your child. They have reached an age of independence and by all accounts are so capable of managing a full schedule and a school load that is beyond what we can even imagine when you were their age. The pressure on our students today is unfathomable and there are times like SAT prep that may throw them into a whirlwind of insecurity, anxiety, and confusion. Student loans and the rising costs of education have exacerbated the problem, particularly for students who do not qualify for need-based aid. This is absolutely the time when parent’s need to step in to help them succeed on the SAT.
This time in a high school student’s career is beyond challenging with so many life decisions hinging on their SAT score. So, how can you actually help your child succeed on the SAT while keeping everyone’s sanity in check along the way? Try your own PREP – Prepare, Rest, Encourage and Plan – you will see how smooth this process can be if you are prepared going into this season.
We all know the old saying, fail to plan, plan to fail, and even though the SAT isn’t a pass or fail test, it is an indicator as to how much preparation was put in to be ready for the rigor of this standardized test. The key to the SAT is to prepare at the beginning of high school, looking at the classes that are offered and making sure your child is enrolled in challenging classes which will naturally build a foundation of higher level thinking and study habits. Since the SAT is a standardized test for students who have attended school all over the world, it is only used to measure a student’s ability to understand and process material in reading, writing and math. If they have enrolled in honor classes and above, they will be laying the foundation needed to be prepared for the challenging questions presented on the test.
Test prep will be a key component in helping your children succeed, nothing beats practice, becoming familiar with the type of questions asked and brushing up on the math/reading and writing concepts they may not have seen for a year or not at all. Unfortunately, so many parents skip this step because they don’t understand the difference between the SAT and tests their children are taking in school every week. The test they take in a classroom covers a topic they have been focusing on for several weeks and it is a measure of their understanding in order for them to be prepared to move on in the class. Most students can master these tests, even cram the night before in order to learn just what they need for that one test. The SAT is a very different model and will require a completely different level of study and preparation, not to mention practice. It is designed to measure a student’s proficiency and skills within a few academic areas, testing their endurance along the way to manage a 4-hour exam. Prep Expert has designed a curriculum with 100 strategies that will help a student manage the test and focus on the type of questions on the test, which is a very different type of preparation than that of a high school exam.
A large part of preparing for the test includes being ready for the actual test day, and that is the largest role a parent can play. All the work has been done, you have registered and know where and when the test will be administered. You have gathered all the supplied needed, #2 pencils, calculator, approved watch, snacks, jacket (in case the room is cold) and now is the time to get your child mentally and emotionally prepared for the SAT test day.
It might seem impossible to get your teenager to bed at a decent time the night before the SAT, but this should not be overlooked. Try not to succumb to the complaining and let your child talk you out of making them go to bed early, with the goal of getting at least 8 hours of sleep. We all know teenagers do not get enough rest as mentioned earlier. They can stay up all night studying, go take a 45-minute test and be fine. The SAT will not have any grace for those students who do not get enough sleep and they will begin to struggle half way through because they’re exhausted.
While you’re at it, consider not just sleep as a form of rest, but also meditation. Check out this New York Times article, which advises parents to encourage their students to meditate in order to build stamina, focus, and self-control.
This is a test of endurance and if your child doesn’t finish strong, then they run the risk of performing poorly on the last sections, which are equally as important at the first. As encouragement to parents, if your child has spent time preparing, giving them adequate time to learn the material and practice, then the night before the SAT will not be stressful. This is the night they should can go to a school athletic event, enjoy their friends but make it an early evening. It is okay to say “no” to their pleading requests to stay out late and false promises of getting up on time. Another possible way around this would be to create fun family night, find an activity they will want to stay home for and avoid the struggle of getting them home on time and to bed.
Your child wants to please you, make you proud, maybe even follow in your footsteps, simply stated they want your approval no matter what score should arrive from the College Board. Try to avoid statements like “I can’t believe you didn’t know how to do that problem” or “I spent so much money getting you ready for this, you better get a good score”. Kids hang on our words, why not make those words work in their favor. Nagging and sarcastic remarks do nothing for your child’s self-esteem; they will take those words and assumed opinions with them to the test, creating unnecessary anxiety. Now, to balance that, it is also the parent’s responsibility to set the bar high, keeping in mind if they don’t hit it the first time they know you are still their best cheerleader. Limitations tend to live in the mind of a teenager, but you hold the key to unlock those limitations through encouraging words. Do your best to send your child to the SAT with a clear mind and assurance they have your unconditional support. Now is that daunting time you wonder if you did all you could to help your child succeed on the SAT. If the results come back revealing more work needs to be done, then put a plan in place to do that will close the gap.
When they wake up rested, be June Cleaver for the day and have a healthy breakfast ready for them. We all know what the weekday rush looks like and this is not the day to recreate such a scene. It can be quite a distraction when their stomach is growling at hour two and then their focus turns to daydreaming about where they will stop for food after the test.
Now you’ve taken care of all their physical needs yet the most important help you can give your child to make it through the SAT is encouragement.
It is common for students to take the SAT at least two times, so no need to get overly frustrated if you find yourself looking at more hours of test prep and practice. Once you get the scores back from College Board, sit down with your child and go over them together. You will quickly see where they need to focus their attention. The plan may be as simple as hiring a tutor to work on a specific subject area or realizing they need a better understanding of how to take the SAT. Enrolling in a full six-week Prep Expert course will give them clarity now that they have lived through the test and know what to expect. In addition, take a look at their upcoming schedule and determine when the best time will be to carve additional practice and preparation time. The flip side of this scenario is getting the score your student is thrilled with and you can exhale a sigh of relief. Praise them for their hard work and now get those college applications completed and brace yourself for another round of PREP.
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