Test Prep

3 Ways to Help Your Child With Test Prep

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Given the levels of stress involved with the entire college application process, it's likely that your child will at some point turn to you for help. But what exactly does your role in the process entail? There's a lot you can do, but one great place to start is with your child's test preparation. Now, of course your child will be the one taking the tests — both real and practice — but that doesn't mean you can't help out along the way. Here are three ways you can be an asset to your child's test prep strategy.


1. Familiarize Yourself with the Tests

One piece of advice I always give students is to become familiar with the SAT and ACT early on in their prep. The same goes for you as the parent! It's likely been quite a while since you last took one of these tests, and you definitely don't want to pass down outdated information. The tests are constantly changing, which means that your previous notions might not hold up. Still think there's a guessing penalty on the SAT? Not anymore! Think the ACT is just for schools in the Midwest? Nope! In fact, schools will almost always accept scores from either test, and each test has its benefits and drawbacks depending on the student. Knowing what options are available for your child will help you help them make decisions on the testing front should they look to you for advice.

Furthermore, simply knowing the overall structure of each test will help you understand what your child is learning should they ask for your help understanding a concept, strategy or technique. Trying to explain these without the context of the test will be tricky and may only lead to you both being more confused.

2. Focus on Improvement

The goal of preparing for any test is to score higher than you would have otherwise. So, keeping track of your child's progress is crucial in order to boost morale. Regardless of an improvement in overall score, students will typically focus on what they're doing wrong rather than what they're doing right. That's where you come in! Your role in this whole process might simply come down to providing encouragement.

Take time to remind your child of everything they've done to improve. After each practice test (or real test), you can take time to point out what went well — especially if they're feeling down about what might still use improvement. Depending on the practice materials you're working with, or if your child has taken an official test, you may receive a score report or answer key that can clarify which questions and categories need more attention.

3. Use What You Know About Your Child

Even if your child has a detailed test-prep plan, that doesn't mean you should just take a backseat! Whether they're taking courses online or attending outside classes, it's important for you to cultivate an environment conducive to proper studying while they're at home. Recognize which patterns may hinder their progress or productivity and do what you can to help your child work around them.

Do you find yourself giving reminders that it is, in fact, time to study? Does your child become easily distracted by the TV or computer? Or maybe their phone? Help create a schedule with set study time, or even consider booking a room at a local library to avoid these distractions altogether. You can also offer to stand in as a proctor on practice tests, timing and scoring when necessary. Your child might not do these things on their own, so any effort you put in to help will go a long way.

Overall, your role may just come down to providing the tools your child needs to succeed. Help them enroll in those practice tests, help them find study guides like our Cracking the SAT and ACT Prep to help them with strategy and content.