The SAT exam is one of the most important exams a student will take in preparation for college. With a solid SAT score and a robust academic and extracurricular background, your child could have the opportunity to attend almost any university they want.
Much of the responsibility is going to fall on your child. They’re the ones who will have to attend the exam, read the questions, and perform under pressure. But there’s a lot you can do as a parent to support your child in getting higher SAT scores – and help them prepare more effectively.
Get a Baseline Score
Before you do anything else, get a baseline score. You can take a practice test or an iteration of the SAT itself (though a practice test is recommended) to see how your child performs. This is important for several reasons.
First, you’ll get exposure to what the test is like and you’ll learn some of the strengths and weaknesses your child has; are they very familiar with math, while struggling with English? Do they feel confident about the level of knowledge they have, while struggling with performance under pressure?
Second, you’ll have a number you can focus on improving. If your child scores a 1000 on the first SAT exam they take, you can set 1200 or 1300 as a reasonable goal. From then on, you can continue taking practice exams to see how the score improves.
Enroll Your Child in a Prep Course (or Create One of Your Own)
Exam prep courses are excellent tools for teaching students all the knowledge they need to perform better on standardized tests. Consider enrolling your child in one of these preparation courses, so they have accessible materials and individuals to teach them all the fundamentals. If you don’t want to enroll your child in a formal prep course, you can create a preparation course of your own, pulling online studying materials and getting involved in both education and practice.
Help to Manage Timelines
The SAT is available seven times per year in the United States, which means you’ll have plenty of opportunities to sign up for the exam and plenty of time to study. However, most teenagers aren’t especially good at time management. It’s your responsibility as a parent to help your child manage timelines, making sure they study consistently in the weeks and months leading up to their target exam date.
Set Mini Goals and Milestones
As a parent, you can also help your child by setting smaller goals and milestones. Studying for the SAT can be daunting, especially if you’ve never taken a standardized test before. It’s much easier and much less stressful if you have smaller goals to focus on along the way.
- Reading and studying objectives. Instead of only striving for a specific score on the exam, focus on achieving reading and studying objectives. For example, can you challenge your child to study for one hour each day for a week?
- Practice exams. Set dates for practice exams and follow through on them. Can you set an attainable score goal for each of them?
- New areas of competency. You can also set goals and milestones for new areas of competency. For example, you can set the goal to learn a new skill or master a certain type of question.
Avoid Adding Too Much Pressure
As a parent who cares about your child’s future, it’s only natural to add some pressure to the situation. But it’s important not to go overboard. Adding too much pressure will add significant stress to your child’s life in an already stressful time.
Here’s how you can better support your child:
- Don’t focus too much on objective scores. The average total SAT score for the class of 2021 was 1088, with a 541 in ERW and a 538 in Math. A score of 1350 puts a student into the top 10 percent of test takers. A 1600 is a very rare perfect score. It’s totally fine to understand these scores and strive for a specific score, but it’s often more effective to focus only on improvement.
- Watch your child’s emotions and reactions. Pay attention to how your child is feeling and how they react to things. Watch for signs of stress and back off if they’re starting to feel overwhelmed.
- Take breaks. Take days off and spend some time doing things other than studying.
- Celebrate wins. When your child achieves a breakthrough, take the time to celebrate!
There’s no guarantee that your child is going to get a perfect score on the SAT exam just because you had an effective studying plan. But suffice it to say, students with supportive parents and consistent studying patterns tend to perform better than their counterparts.