How Parents Can Help with SAT Prep

How Parents Can Help with SAT Prep

Help your high school student ace the SAT with different steps each year.

By Jasmine Evans

In a 2011 news release, College Board announced that the SAT is still a predictor of college success. Nearly three million high school students take it each academic year. Your child will probably be one of millions to take the test. What can you do to help?

Track your student’s progress and see how you can help prepare for the SAT during each year of high school.

Freshman Year

In 9th grade, your student is entering uncharted waters. He faces new social situations and harder classes, but it's not too early to start prepping for the SAT.

What Your Child Can Do to Prepare

Most 9th graders take Algebra 1, which sets the foundation for most of the questions in the Math section of the SAT. Your student should work hard to understand algebraic concepts.

For the Critical Reading and Writing sections, students need to read. It can be challenging classics or popular novels. For non-fiction material, read The New York Times, which promises enhanced reading comprehension and critical thinking skills.

What You Can Do to Help

As parents, you can assist in SAT prep by providing good resources. A subscription to The New York Times and access to books can go a long way. Encourage him to read in any way you can. For math, check in with your teen and his teacher to get an idea of how he's grasping the material.

Sophomore Year

During sophomore year, teens are typically more comfortable, so there’s room to take SAT preparations to the next level.

What Your Child Can Do to Prepare

Sophomore year is your student's first opportunity to taste the SAT by taking its little brother, the PSAT. Many schools offer the PSAT sophomore year and it's good practice for the real deal.

What You Can Do to Help

Encourage your child to visit sites that provide free SAT questions. Here he can practice SAT questions and together you can review the test setup to avoid surprises and decrease anxiety.

Junior Year

Junior year is critical for high school students who want to go to college. In the fall, most juniors take the PSAT, and these same students take the SAT for the first time in the spring. This is the time to get serious.

What Your Child Can Do to Prepare: 

College counselor Carolyn Doyle suggests taking the PSAT because it can be a, "very good indicator of SAT performance." According to College Board's data, students in the Class of 2011 who took the PSAT scored an average of 145 points higher on the SAT than those who opted not to take the pre-test.

What You Can Do to Help

Mrs. Doyle asserts that the best things parents can do this year are be encouraging and informed. After students get their score reports for the PSAT, College Board gives them an access code for My College Quickstart. This online portal gives students access to the test questions they faced on the PSAT along with their answers and the correct answers with explanations. "It's a wonderful teaching tool," says Mrs. Doyle.

Senior Year

This is the big year! It's stressful and complex, and on top of everything else, many seniors choose to take the SAT one or two more times.

What Your Child Can Do to Prepare

If scores from junior year aren't what your student hoped for, the fall of senior year is the time to prepare and re-take the SAT. He can do practice tests to sharpen their skills.

What You Can Do to Help

If your child is re-taking the SAT, the best thing you can do is support them. Help them relax, figure out how to get to the test location the day before, and have breakfast available. Relieving stress is important throughout the college application process. A study by Harvard University's Family Research Project claims that a parent's expectations are directly linked to his child's performance. A sense of calm and confidence can be contagious.

Every school weighs the SAT differently, but one thing remains clear, despite all sorts of debate, the SAT is still a significant factor in the decision making process for many schools. You as a parent can take an active role in how your child prepares for the SAT and therefore influence how well they do.

Parents and the SAT: Quick Tips

  • iTunes University, which can be found in the iTunes Store, offers podcasts on SAT preparation. Many of these podcasts are free and can be downloaded easily to your child's Apple device.
  • Many schools do not require the SAT or any standardized test score for admission. For a list of these schools, check out Fairtest's "Test Score Optional List".

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