Test Prep Support: Helping Your Student Make Sense of the SAT

Preparing for the SAT can be nerve-wracking for even the best student.  What can you, as a parent, do to make things easier?  After all, it’s the student who has to put in all the work.  Sometimes, parents can’t help feeling like bystanders who have to watch their students have a hard time but can’t do anything about it. 

However, there are a few things a parent has control over, and there are ways in which they can provide test prep support.  Here are a few things to keep in mind:

1.  Maintaining a Regular Study Schedule: All too often, students start cramming a month or two before the test. They start brushing up on grammar, spelling, vocabulary, complex math skills and essay writing. But rather than do everything in such a rush, it’s better to start earlier, at least three to four months before the test and work for an hour or two every day.  Better still, encourage your student to maintain a regular study schedule all through high school.  She can spend some time each day finishing homework, reviewing what she has studied already in the semester or work that is still to come.  Of course, it’s also necessary to have balance. You don’t want your student to work so hard that she cracks before the test.

2.  Diet and Sleep: Before big tests, students often start staying up nights, drinking a lot of coffee or soda or even taking caffeine pills to help them stay awake and study.  This doesn’t really help in the long run.  Anyone who’s ever had a caffeine high knows that you have to come down at some point.  And the material you take in during this time doesn’t stay with you for as long as the material you study when you’re feeling fresh.  You can help by encouraging your student to have a healthy bed time and to eat regular meals.

3.  Organizing the Study Area:  Don’t underestimate the effect of having an organized study area.  Encourage your student to put everything in its place.  The best way to think about this is to imagine that everything has a home.  The home for fresh clothes is in the closet and the home for worn clothes is in the laundry basket.  In terms of the study area, you can suggest creating a folder for each subject which serves as a home for materials on that subject.  Books can be placed neatly on bookshelves and pencils can be kept sharpened in a pencil holder.

4.  Understanding the Test:  If you examine the SAT, a few things stand out.  First of all, the verbal section generally tests about five or six grammatical rules.  Knowing these inside out will help your student  in test-taking.  In terms of math, it’s better to focus on the first 75 percent of the section and get everything right because these questions are a lot easier than the last 25 percent.  When it comes to the essay, what really matters is having an introduction, a body and a conclusion.  You don’t have to make the essay perfect, but as long as you have a reasonable rough draft, that’s all the test-takers are looking for. Once you understand the test in this way, you can help your student figure it out as well.

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