Each year, millions of high school students prepare to take the ACT or SAT—and sometimes both. Some enroll in after-school or online test-prep classes. Others regularly review ACT and SAT practice questions or go over textbook material and classwork in the subject areas covered on the test. While scores aren't the only factor colleges consider in admissions, doing well on these tests can make your child's application more likely to be accepted Even though some colleges no longer require students to submit scores, many opt to take the tests anyway because high scores can bolster their applications and place them in the running for scholarships. Here are 5 tips to help your child succeed on test day.
1. Start Early
Launching a plan of attack well in advance of test day will ensure that your child is as prepared as possible. Students need plenty of time to take ACT and SAT practice tests so they can both familiarize themselves with the exam formats and get an idea of their strengths and weaknesses so that they know how to prepare. Starting early also provides some wiggle room, allowing students who don't score well the first time around to retest in time to submit scores before colleges' early or regular decision deadlines.
Both the ACT and SAT test skills that students learn in high school over the course of several years. Encourage your child to take challenging high school courses to cover the knowledge base measured by the tests.
Suggest that your child take the pre-tests that predict how well they'll score on the actual exam. Taking these assessments helps students determine which subject areas they need to work on to score well when they take the ACT or SAT (usually in the spring of their junior year). These pre-tests don't carry any weight in terms of college admissions, but they can help your child develop a study plan.
Delving into a study plan during the spring or summer before junior year is recommended. However, even students who are establishing their study strategies a few months ahead of the test can still make the most of the time available. Talk with your child about how much time he or she can reasonably set aside each week for ACT or SAT test prep.
Tip: save important SAT- and ACT- related dates on your calendar to ensure your child can take the tests with plenty of time to submit scores. In the midst of researching colleges and application requirements, keeping up with ACT or SAT registration deadlines can easily fall by the wayside.
2. Set Realistic Goals and a Workable Study Schedule
Help your child set realistic goals when preparing for the ACT or SAT. If your teen has difficulty with math, for instance, aiming for the highest possible score in that subject area might be asking too much. If your child has already taken the PreACT or PSAT, you can use those results to establish a target score for the actual tests.
Consider when your child should take the test and find out when and where the test is being offered. This will help your teen set up a practical timetable for studying. Ideally, he or she should sit for the tests before college applications are due, so that scores can be sent in a timely manner. Students should also find out if any of the schools they are applying to require scores for SAT subject tests. Individual subject tests can't be taken on the same day as the regular test—just be sure to account for that when establishing a study plan.
3. Help Your Child Stay Focused
On top of juggling everything else that goes with preparing for college, maintaining an ACT or SAT test-prep schedule can be a challenge. Help your child minimize distractions as much as possible. Having a designated study area—away from the noise of the television and younger siblings—can make it easier to stay on task. Make sure everyone in the home knows about your child's study schedule, so they can help hold him or her accountable, or at least stay out of the way during test-prep time.
4. Find Quality Test-Prep Resources
A variety of ACT and SAT test-prep resources are heavily marketed to high school students, but not all of them are created equal, and some come with a high price tag. Consider what each program offers and whether it is a good fit for your child's learning style. For instance, would your teen benefit more from self-paced lessons or a study routine with more structure? You can learn about different programs online, through your child's school, and from other parents. Remember, a well-thought-out test-prep program doesn't have to cost a fortune to be effective.
5. Be Your Child's Cheerleader
Applying to college and preparing for the ACT or SAT can be incredibly stressful. Offer support and encouragement during this time. Help your child keep things in perspective. Getting into college is important, but even if teens don't score well enough to get into their first-choice school, it doesn't mean they can't succeed and have a rewarding experience somewhere else. Re-testing or applying to their dream college later on as a transfer student are other options.
Continue to be your child's cheerleader when you receive his or her score report. Providing emotional support is especially important if the score is lower than anticipated. Try not to pass judgment, point out how you think your child could have done better, or compare the scores to someone else's. Instead, you can discuss your child's strengths and weaknesses and prepare to retake the tests, if time permits.
UWorld offers comprehensive test-prep to help students do their best on the ACT and SAT. Ready to get started? Visit us to learn more.