Preparing your teen for the SAT does not necessarily require official “SAT prep” courses or months of fretting. As a tutor doing SAT prep, it is my experience that a familiarity with the test is very important. Beyond a basic familiarity with the test, a student should practice to develop the specific skills that the SAT exam seeks to assess.
As a parent or a teacher, it is important for you to be familiar with the format of the SAT exam and gain an understanding of what skills the SAT is testing. With this information, you will be able to put yourself in the student’s position and provide helpful advice and guidance.
Generally speaking a parent’s role is to provide opportunities for your teen to practice the skills that will be tested on the SAT exam and to familiarize your child with the test.
Encourage your teen to read every day, do his or her math homework without fail, and ask questions in class. These are the easiest and the best means of preparation for a student getting ready for the SAT and are also easily monitored, prompted, and verified by parents.
An often overlooked bit of preparation for a test like the SAT relates to waking up in time for the test. If your child usually sleeps in on Saturday until ten in the morning, he will be out of sorts on test day when he will have to wake up much earlier.
For the weeks leading up to the test, make sure your child is waking up at the same time he will wake up for the SAT. You don’t want to add being awake to the other challenges of the test.
This article will examine the different sections of the test and outline several specific methods of preparation for the SAT that you can do with your child, further outlining the practical role that a parent can play in this SAT test preparation.
Get Familiar with the Test
The SAT is made up of three types of exercises: math, reading, and writing. The exercise types are broken up and dispersed through the test. The test goes back and forth from math to reading to writing to math, etc., so the SAT is not sectioned into big blocks.
It is helpful when taking the test to be familiar with this format. Imagine how disheartening it would be to think that you are all done with the math part of the test only to find an equation staring you in the face a few pages later.
The test has changed over the years, so it is a good idea for you to take a look at the new format. Don’t assume your child is taking the same SAT test you did.
Currently, the highest possible score is 2400 with 800 points assigned to each category of the SAT.
Detailed information and practice SAT tests are available for free at numerous sites on the internet including the College Board’s own site.
Practice tests are available for download and it is highly recommended that you print out a practice SAT test and read through the entire exam with your student to get familiar with the exam. Though the test takes nearly four hours to complete when answering the questions, writing the essay, and doing the math, a read through should take less than an hour.
Certain skills are emphasized in the reading portion of the test. The SAT is designed to assess a student’s ability to compare and contrast similar pieces of writing. Students are expected to be able to read for tone and purpose in a piece of writing while also recognizing some basic literary elements like point of view.
Vocabulary is another focus of the SAT exam. In the reading section, students will be asked to identify the meaning of words and phrases as they appear in the context of the essays provided for comparison and analysis on the test.
The writing portion of the SAT exam requires students to write one essay and to answer multiple choice questions based on writing samples.
The SAT essays provide a broad prompt and ask students to respond with an organized piece of writing.
Prepare your child for the SAT exam early. Create a few routines that will directly exercise the skills that the SAT tests for. Here are some ways to do this.
Encourage your child to read everyday to boost their comprehension skills and ask them questions about what they have read to boost their skills of analysis and to emphasize the importance of active, engaged reading.
Here is a two-part exercise I use in tutoring for the SAT (and AP English exams) that will help to prepare for both the reading and writing portions of the SAT exam. Give your student a newspaper or a magazine (online reading is fine too) and have him select an op-ed article to read.
After he has read the article, have him write down the answers to the following four questions. What is the subject of the article? What is the writer’s position, argument, or thesis (be specific)?* What is the writer’s tone (angry, sarcastic, celebratory, etc.)? What is the writer’s relationship to the subject of the article?
These questions are aimed to model a simple method of analysis that good readers always follow. They also teach the student to read for the same things the SAT will ask them to identify in the exam.
As a second step in the exercise, ask your child to consider his own opinion on the subject and outline an essay (with a thesis) as a response to what he has read.
The ability to quickly organize and focus an argument by creating outlines is helpful for any timed written exam, including the SAT, and also written exams for high school and college courses.
*Note that the subject and the thesis can and should be separated. Reading for this difference emphasizes an analytical reading model that discerns subject from comment, topic from argument, and attitude from fact.
Crossword puzzles are another study aid available to you. Crossword puzzles rely on word association and place an emphasis on the flexibility of language and the importance of context in shaping a word’s meaning.
Math – Homework is the best way to prepare.
When your student takes the SAT, he will be at the peak of his mathematical skills. Due to the cumulative nature of math study in high school, with new skills and techniques being learned every week, your student is preparing for the SAT by default.
The best preparation for the math portion of the SAT then is simply to make sure that your student is studying for his regular math class and doing his homework. Math, for most people, is all about practice. It is a “mechanical” study and so if a person is in practice and familiar with the mental routines required by his math class, he should be ready for the math portion of the SAT.