Preparing for the SAT: Helping your teen achieve academic success

Susan Baldani Education

Getting a good education is often the precursor to a successful career. Parents want to ensure that their children have the best preparation for life after high school graduation. For many, this often means an advanced degree. However, getting into their top choice college can be difficult.

One important factor is the SAT score. Most universities use it as a guideline for how academically successful a potential student may be in their institution.

There are no quick and easy shortcuts that will lead to getting a high score on the SAT. But, there are things that parents and teens can do to make sure they are ready when test time arrives.

Since the SAT measures years of knowledge, it’s important to prepare for the test in not only the months leading up to it, but in the years beforehand as well.

Make sure your teen is living up to his or her potential by taking course that are at the right level and challenging. It’s better for your child to get a B in a course where he or she is really learning the material rather than getting an A and not getting much out of it. If your child has had a solid foundation of education, he or she will have a much easier time answering the questions correctly on the test.

“Encourage your child to take academically rigorous classes in high school. The SAT is designed to test students on the topics they’re expected to learn through regular instruction in school. The more your child masters her fundamental coursework, the better prepared she will be for college admissions tests,” says Sarah-Jane Lorenzo, an education policy researcher with expertise in college and career pathways.

Encourage your child to read. Whether it’s the latest best seller or a classic literary novel, reading can increase knowledge of a subject as well as vocabulary and speed. Since the SAT is timed, the faster students can grasp the meaning of what they are reading, the faster they can move through the test.

Have your child take the PSAT so they will know what to expect and how the questions are structured. Also, give them access to a good test prep book. Test taking is a skill on its own and while the child may know the subject, he or she may not know how to interpret the questions or directions.

If you feel your child needs more help, look into a test prep group course, or if finances permit, a one-on-one tutor, especially if help is needed in certain areas. For instance, your daughter may be a whiz at math, but struggles with reading comprehension.

“You can also check to see if there are any free test prep classes or proctored practice tests in your community. Many libraries, universities, community colleges, and high schools offer free or inexpensive test prep programs. You can learn about local opportunities from your student’s high school guidance counselor or at the local library,” says Lorenzo.

Schedule the test for a day when you know the child will be well rested and relaxed. For example, if you have a big family event the day before or if your teen is going to the prom, make sure the test date isn’t the next day. Being tired makes it hard to concentrate and organize thoughts.

On the day of the test, take some steps to ensure the best possible outcome.

  • Make sure they are up early. You don’t want them rushing around to make it on time. This can lead to frustration and anxiety before the test even starts.
  • Encourage them to eat a healthy breakfast to fortify their bodies and minds.
  • Make sure they dress comfortably and in layers. Being too hot or too cold can be distracting and lead to less focused thinking.
  • Give them confidence by reminding them of everything they have done to prepare for the test.

Give teens the right guidance to achieve success on the SAT. Being well prepared will start them off in the right direction towards their academic futures.