Parent’s Guide to SAT and ACT Tests

While your child will ultimately take the SAT or ACT independently, don’t underestimate your role in preparing your child for these important exams. The following strategies will help you support your child leading up to these vital tests.

Help Your Child Choose the Best Test for Them

Many students assume that because colleges and universities accept SAT and ACT scores, they should take both tests and then submit their best results. However, this isn’t the best strategy for your child’s academic results or wellbeing.

Preparing for any test is stressful and time-consuming. Preparing for two tests is doubly so. It’s a waste of time and energy when your child only intends to submit one score. It’s much smarter to decide which test your child will take and focus entirely on preparing for it.

No one test is better than the other, so your choice will probably depend on your child’s location and strengths. Many Midwestern states require students to take the ACT to graduate. If you live in one of these states, deciding which test to take is a no-brainer.

Students with an aptitude for science typically prefer the ACT, as this subject isn’t tested on the SAT. If you’re undecided, the SAT’s century-long history may sway you. Your child might also take a practice SAT and ACT and see which felt more natural or yielded higher results.

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Enroll Your Child in a Test Prep Course

Test preparation courses help students feel more comfortable with the testing process so that they can achieve their best results on the SATs or ACTs. Most courses meet once or twice a week for months leading up to the test. The teachers help students comprehend typical test questions. They’ll also run practice drills and timed tests to help students feel comfortable under exam conditions. Struggling students may be able to access one-on-one tutoring through the course’s organizers.

Test preparation courses are helpful but expensive. Some schools offer discounts that can make the courses much more accessible to families. Ask your child to speak to the school’s guidance counselor to see if any discount deals are available.

If you can afford to send your child to an exam prep course, make sure it’s run by a reputable company. Search for reviews and testimonials online to feel confident about the benefits.

Obtain Test Preparation Materials

While test preparation courses are beneficial, especially for children struggling with motivation, there are a few other ways you can access preparation tools.

Many educational companies publish SAT and ACT preparation guides and materials. These guides, available from bookstores and websites, usually offer test preparation strategies and practice tests.

The internet also has some great free and affordable SAT and ACT material. You could compile a list of websites with practice problems, test strategies, and other advice so that your child doesn’t need to spend time researching the best options. The ACT website is a good starting point for students sitting on the ACT. It has sample questions and useful test guides, as well as an affordable paid online test prep program. CollegeBoard, the company that administers the SAT, also posts free test material online.

Encourage Tech-Free Study Time

Our children live in an age of information overload. The distraction of text messages and social media can derail your child’s focus during a study session. Encourage your child to make study time tech-free or as close to it as possible. Make a case for switching off the smartphone and leaving the laptop shut. If your child needs to study online, encourage them to switch off instant message programs and log out of social media so alerts don’t sound. Your child will study more productively without these distractions.

Keep Calm

It’s easy to get caught up in concerns about test preparation and study. But perhaps your more important role as a parent of a child preparing to take the SAT or ACT is as emotional support. Preparing for these major exams can be very stressful. Your child is probably worried about failing and what the test results could mean for the future. You’re likely to be just as worried and anxious, but it’s important you don’t let those feelings show. Keep calm and hopefully, your demeanor will rub off on your child.

Take Care of Your Child’s Health

A nutritious diet, regular exercise, and sleep are all crucial for emotional wellbeing. Make sure none of these elements slide during your child’s test preparation. Ensure you’re making nutritionally dense meals so your child will have no excuse for grabbing take-out. Cook with eggs, which contain memory-boosting choline, and oily fish such as salmon and tuna, which have Omega-3 fatty acids that boost brain function. Dark chocolate desserts contain flavonoids and caffeine, which improve focus during study sessions and testing.

Encourage your child to take active study breaks. Cycling around the neighborhood or shooting hoops with friends will boost serotonin levels to improve your child’s mood. Ensure study sessions don’t run too late; sleep is crucial for reinforcing what’s been learned. Make sure the lights go off early enough for your child to get eight hours of sleep.

Keep the Lines of Communication Open

Let your child know that you’re there to discuss any concerns at any time. You might be able to offer some strategies for keeping calm that have worked well during your life, such as deep breathing, meditating, and listening to classical music.

Remind your child to keep the test in perspective. While it counts toward college admission and should thus be taken seriously, it won’t make or break your child’s entire future. Your child can always retake the test if the results aren’t as expected. Make sure your child knows that no matter what the outcome, you will love him or her just the same.

Your support is essential as your child prepares to take the SAT or ACT. Remember these strategies, and you can both come out on the other side of these academic tests with the best results.

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