Top Five Ways To Help My Child Through The Test Prep Process

As a parent, there are many ways you can support and encourage your child through the test prep process. Here are my top five:

1) Set concrete goals and create a detailed action plan
2) Visit colleges early in the process
3) Do the research
4) Drill vocabulary words
5) Discuss motivation

Set concrete goals and create a detailed action plan

Set very specific, concrete goals early in the test prep process. For example, plan to maximize your child’s SAT/ACT score by having him take the test at least three times. The detailed action plan to support this goal could consist of the following: a) have weekly or bi-weekly tutoring lessons either 6-8 weeks or 12-16 weeks before the first official test date; b) schedule mock tests every 3-4 weeks, working backward from your first desired test date; c) don’t over-commit to the test prep process until you are sure your schedule supports a three to four hour additional time commitment each week. My highest achieving students have almost always been those willing to invest the initial effort to create a clear test prep plan.

Another goal could be to keep preparing for the SAT/ACT until you reach your target score. The specific action steps would likely consist of setting aside enough time each week to master the necessary content. Some specific details within that step could include creating review sheets of the most important math formulas and concepts, as well as the most occurring grammar errors.

Visit colleges early in the process

What pictures come to mind when prompted to think about a 1450 Math and Critical Reading SAT score? That’s anyone’s guess. However, what pictures come to mind when I mention your first visit to your dream school? You may remember the pleasant breeze, inviting scenery, or even cool grass sneaking under your flip-flop while you eagerly explored your preferred four year paradise. I’ve heard stories of students bringing their SAT practice books with them on college visits. Any guesses on whether they do more prep on the ride/flight to the school or the ride/flight home?

Do the research

When I was applying to college, my parents helped winnow down the stacks of college guide books that were crushing our dining room table. They helped me compose a short list of ‘essentials’, ‘negotiables’, and ‘no-ways’. Once they worked with me to clarify the characteristics of my dream school, we were able to shorten the list of choices considerably. We knew the inter-quartile ranges for their SAT scores, their number of students, males to females ratio, percentage of greek life, famous alumni and alumnae, and other differentiators.

Drill vocabulary words

Teenage years are tenuous times, especially when the emotionally charged topics of standardized test scores and colleges are breached. Is there anything a parent can do to support the details of the test prep process? My favorite suggestion is to study the vocabulary words with your child. It may be tempting to just quiz him or her. However, let your child quiz you. It may even be beneficial to reveal occasional uncertainty about a meaning. If the dynamic is simply, “Did you study the words yet?” there may be some really enjoyable exchanges slipping away. Instead, you might get away with saying, “Did you scrutinize your week one vocabulary words with the meticulousness your peers harangue you for, or did you find the lists too prosaic?”

Discuss motivation

Calvin Coolidge once remarked, “Nothing in this world can take the place of persistence. Talent will not; nothing is more common than unsuccessful people with talent.” I’m not sure about you, but I’ve learned the most about myself when things got difficult and the least about myself when things were easy. Winston Churchill shares Coolidge’s emphasis on endurance: “Courage is going from failure to failure without losing enthusiasm.” Initial failures are discouraging. The alternatives to hard work are so accessible. However, the payoff of persistence exceeds the disappointment that quitting ensures.


Applerouth is a trusted test prep and tutoring resource. We combine the science of learning with a thoughtful, student-focused approach to help our clients succeed. Call or email us today at 202-558-5644 or info@applerouth.com.