As a test prep tutor, most of my work deals directly with preparing students.
Nevertheless, I find that parents often need some preparation in order to gain a better understanding of how best to support their child during ACT or SAT preparation.
With this in mind, here are six things a parent can do to provide a supportive, encouraging, and ultimately successful test prep experience for their children:
1) Set a Plan and Follow It: Like most things in life, test prep requires a plan. Though this recommendation is quite obvious, I am surprised at the number of families that do not plan ahead for test prep. Parents do great at scheduling sports practice, musical performances, social events and other things more but they rarely set up a thorough plan for test prep. Ideally the plan should start junior year by taking the ACT and the SAT without prep. The plan should then include a review of scores, a schedule of follow up practice and a retest. Hiring a tutor is a great way to help build the plan but not totally necessary. 2) Nudge But Don’t Nag: The worst kind of student I could have is the one that says “My mom is forcing me see a tutor.” This is a recipe for disaster. The student is reluctant to study because mom or dad is obligating them. Parents (myself included) are famous for telling kids, “well, you better go study or else!” This nagging does not yield positive results. The reluctant student starts to dread test prep which in turn leads to dreading the test itself which in turn leads to poor scores. Instead of nagging, simply nudge your child. “Can you show me your latest essay practice?” or “How is your test prep plan coming?” are great questions and won’t lead parents into a potential conflict. 3) Recreate the Testing Environment: Vince Lombardi is credited with the saying “Practice doesn’t make perfect. Only perfect practice makes perfect.” This applies to test preparation because the student that prepares for the test exactly like the test is administered will be more prepared. This means that when a student is studying, s/he should study in a test-like atmosphere. For example, no cell phones are allowed while testing. So students that are practicing test prep should not use their cell phone. Same goes for the television, radio, computer, etc. Since these items are not allowed during the test, one should not have these items accessible during test prep. Same goes for timing: the test is timed, so practice should be timed. Ultimately, a parent can ensure a student gets the best test prep by practicing in an environment that perfectly matches the testing experience. 4) Be Realistic: Testing is hard. And some students do not respond well to standardized tests. As such, a parent should be very realistic about the potential for their son or daughter to achieve a high score. Any student, with time and practice, can improve. But not all students will get a perfect score. The best parent is one that celebrates improvement and looks for ways to encourage the student to do better. Parents should not add stress to an already stressful situation (see #5). 5) Remove Stress: The key goal in test prep: remove stress. Stress is the enemy of test performance. Cramming the week before the test is the worst way to prepare for the SAT or ACT. Remember, the test is a marathon. Prepare your student for the marathon with ample time, lots of love and encouragement. 6) Read: Simple enough, right? Just read! Seriously, read books. And lots of them. If you model that reading is a normal activity, your kids will follow suit. Even better, read with them. Pick out a book together, read and and have your own personal book club. Reading is the number one skill tested on the SAT and ACT. Even the math section is more reading than math (remember word problems?). So model good reading habits and watch your son or daughter improve his or her test score. All in all, the best way a parent can support a son or daughter with ACT or SAT prep is with love and time. Take the time to prepare a plan, encourage lovingly, recreate the testing environment at home, be realistic, remove stress and read! If you need help, contact CROSSWALK. We know how to prepare students, and parents, for the ACT, SAT, SSAT, PSAT and academic subjects.