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[Parent Involvement] 5 Tips to Help Your Child Prepare for College Entrance Exams

[Parent Involvement] 5 Tips to Help Your Child Prepare for College Entrance Exams

Most children and their parents are familiar with the ACT® and SAT® college entrance exams. While preparing for these exams can be anxiety inducing and confusing, you can do a few things as a parent or caregiver to lessen the stress of everyone involved. If you’re unfamiliar, or just want to refresh your memory, understanding the purpose of these exams and the ways they work is a lot simpler than you think. Here are five tips to help your child prepare for these exams:

1. Familiarize yourself with each test

While you may have already heard of the ACT and SAT exams, you may not know what each one entails or which one is better for your child. Most schools will accepts scores from both the ACT and the SAT, and do not prefer one over the other. When choosing which exam is right for students, consider if they will need to take one or the other as part of their state assessments, what study resources are readily available, and which tests are available in your areas. If you’re curious as to if a school your child wants to apply to has strict rules about which exam it prefers for admissions, the information should be easily found on any college’s or university’s admissions webpage.

2. Take inventory of strengths and weaknesses

Next, have your child map out academic strengths and weaknesses. Be realistic about what areas your child needs more help in, and dedicate more time for reviewing practice questions and testing strategies for those subjects. Don’t be afraid to set up a conference with your child and the subject teachers if you need a better understanding of areas where your students should focus their study strategy. Knowing where your child struggles and preparing to assist in those subjects will help prevent panic on test day.

3. Practice, practice, practice

Practice exams are your child’s friend. There are plenty of tests available online and in print for your child to review. Be sure to browse your local bookstore for subject-specific booklets or search online for practice questions and online flashcards. If your child needs it, help to break down each question and understand what it is asking. While your child will take the test alone, it never hurts to have an explanation or extra help when practicing. 

Look into having your child take the PSAT/NMSQT®, which is a practice exam that can also open up the opportunity for scholarships through the National Merit® Scholarship Program. The school may already offer it or even require it for students, typically around 11th grade. Practice will help your child have a better understanding of what the test will look like when taking it and can provide insight into how a student may perform on the SAT (and ACT) test.

4. Register and prepare for the day of the test

Determine which testing day works best for your child, and plan accordingly. Help your child register for the exam, and gather up needed materials a day or two before test day. Make sure that your child knows where the testing location is, what room it will be in, what items are needed to bring, and what time to arrive. The last thing you want is your child running around the house on the day of the exam looking for a calculator or acceptable identification. In addition, make sure that your child gets plenty of rest and eats a filling and nutritious breakfast the morning of the test. 

5. Maintain positivity

College preparation can be stressful and overwhelming for anyone. As a caregiver, you play an important role in your child’s self-confidence and belief in their own ability. Remind students to try their best, and reassure them that they’ll always have your support, no matter what they score. While it may seem like a high-pressure situation, remind them that their value and intelligence can never be determined by a single test and that their score isn’t everything in the admissions process. After all, if needed, the tests can always be retaken with no penalty, and most schools will allow students to send in their best scores out of multiple attempts.

Preforming well on ACT and SAT college admissions exams can open the door for scholarship and financial-aid opportunities, stand out to colleges and universities, and determine which schools will be the right fit for your child. Looking for more tips to help your child prepare for important exams? Check out our blog post, 8 Tips to Help Your Child Prepare for High-Stakes Tests.

This post was originally published October 2018 by Brita Hammer and has been updated.