SAT or ACT: How to help your child get ready
There is no secret trick to getting a high score on the SAT or ACT, but there are ways you can help your child get ready for these tests.
Have an LD?
Students with a documented learning disability can get accommodations on the SAT. Go to the ETS website to download the documents your child will need to submit. Make sure to get them in.
If your child's last evaluation for an LD is more than five years old, he may need to get retested, so figure that into your timeline.
Some common accomodations include: extended testing time, additional breaks, scribe, reader, and sign language interpreter.
By GreatSchools Staff
Test day is the worst time to learn what kind of questions appear on the test. Your child can become familiar with the test format and decrease his anxiety level on test day by practicing with questions like those he will encounter on the test. But real preparation begins years before. Generally, your child should:
(1) Take challenging courses
Encourage your child to take academically rigorous classes in middle and high school. The SAT is designed to measure reasoning and problem-solving skills. The ACT is designed to measure a wider range of subject matter learned in school. Although they are different tests, each measures skills learned in the years — not weeks — before the test.
The most effective way your child can improve his score on the reading portions of the tests is to improve his vocabulary. The best way to do that is not with flash card drills in the two weeks before the test, but by reading — books, newspapers, magazines, and, yes, textbooks.
(3) Get familiar with the test format
Taking tests is a skill, and you can help your child learn strategies that will help him on this one. For example, there is no penalty for making a wild guess on an ACT test question. On the SAT, your child will get one point for each correct answer to a multiple-choice question, zero points for every unanswered question, and a .25 point deducted for every question answered incorrectly. In other words, wild guesses aren't good strategy. Does that mean he should never guess? No, it means he needs to guess intelligently. Many test experts explain it this way: If your child can eliminate even one of the multiple choices, he probably ought to guess.
(4) Do homework before paying for test prep
Where does your child learn more about the tests? Test preparation is big business, and there's no shortage of resources, from online to group tutoring and one-on-one sessions. But commercial test-preparation services can be expensive. Test experts caution that you should be wary of any that claim your child will increase his score by a specific amount.
You should also note that spending money on test preparation won't be worthwhile unless your student puts in time preparing.
When researching test-prep options, take into account the way your child studies best. Some students benefit more from one-on-one tutoring, particularly if they need work in specific subject areas. Some benefit more from a group setting in the company of other motivated students. Others will quite happily work independently online.
There are many free or low-cost prep classes offered by local universities, community colleges and high schools. Check with your high school guidance counselor to see what resources are available near you.
Whether you decide to invest in test preparation is a personal decision. Consumer Reports WebWatch, which assessed online services in 2006, concluded that costlier options are not necessarily better than free ones when it comes to online services.
The WebWatch report also cautioned parents to:
- Confirm who runs a test-prep service before buying.
- Make sure it's possible to get a refund if your child can't successfully log in.
- Make sure your browser, computer and Internet connections are up to date before you enroll, or you risk paying for a frustrating experience for your child.
- Make sure that during the registration process your child does not accidentally authorize the release of his personal information unless you approve.