Parent’s Guide to SAT and ACT Test Prep: Part 2

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As mentioned in Part 1 of this series, both the SAT and the ACT are widely accepted, and only one part of a larger picture when your child’s application is being considered.  High school grades, the rigor of your child’s curriculum, their extracurriculars and recommendations, etc. are also important, so bear in mind that all the eggs are not in the test prep basket.

Still, to put your child’s best foot forward and maximize test performance, it is important to consider individual learning strengths and personal preferences, to determine which test is the best measure of your child’s academic aptitude.

Developing a Testing Plan:

Most students find that:

o   The SAT is best for students with strong abstract reasoning and problem solving skills, with vocabulary, comprehension, and math sections, and a required written essay.

o   The ACT test is more academic and curriculum based, with math, grammar, reading, and science-based sections, and an optional essay. This is usually a more challenging test for students who struggle with time issues.

o   To decide which test matches a students’ strengths, compare the results of a practice ACT with their PSAT results. (Note: practice tests can be taken and scored in our office, if necessary).

When should we start? The Testing Timeline:

The optimal schedule depends on the student.  In general, beginning test prep early, to make time for regular studying and practice, is the key to achieving better results.  Individual factors such as the demands and timing of school athletics and extracurricular activities, the student’s learning style, and test anxiety are also important factors when determining test prep lead times.

Here are some guidelines:

o   If your student plays a seasonal sport or has extensive extracurricular commitments, it may be advisable to begin as early as the summer before junior year.

o   A longer period of preparation may also be necessary to overcome test anxiety, or adapt to a particular learning issue.

o   For most students, beginning teat prep in January for test dates in the spring of junior year is sufficient.

o   In the case of rolling admissions, early admission or early action applications, you may want to start earlier to insure adequate preparation for Spring of junior year, so take note of likely college application deadlines.

Planning for SAT Subject Tests

In addition to choosing between the SAT and ACT Test, there are twenty SAT Subject Tests to choose from.  Most colleges don’t require SAT Subject Tests, but more selective colleges may require two or three.

o  Check your target list of schools to plan ahead, or simply take the related test after your student finishes each subject at the end of freshman, sophomore, and junior year.

o  Be aware that your child’s classroom curriculum and the test content may not precisely line up.  To deal with that gap, your child may have to do some additional test preparation and study.

o  A list of SAT Subject tests and registration dates is here.

SAT and ACT Test prep is not “one size fits all”; Contact us for a free consultation, if you need help developing a college admissions testing plan for your child.

And, if you are a parent who has already been through this process, please add your tips on SAT and ACT test prep so that other parents can learn from your experience!

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