When to start prepping and what results to expect.

In my last post, I discussed the importance of prepping for the SAT and ACT tests and the different ways to study for them. This post looks at the type of score improvement you should expect, why scores matter for more than just college admissions and when to begin a test prep program.

Test prepTest prep should increase your teen’s SAT/ACT score Some of the programs included in my previous post guarantee a jump of anywhere from 100-300 points in SAT scores and 1-5 in ACT scores. As the parent, you need to help your student figure out what the goal is. As you research colleges together, focus on each school’s average SAT and ACT scores and figure out how close your child’s are to those (use the PSAT score or the results from their first SAT or ACT exam). That should tell you how intensely they need to prep.

Higher scores can mean more than just college admission Though most of us concern ourselves with our teens achieving the scores they need to get into college, there’s another payoff to doing well on these exams—college scholarships. Both of my kids earned merit scholarships based on their SAT scores. Be sure to check the scholarship websites of the schools on your student’s prospective colleges list to find out whether they offer something similar.

Invitations to honors and scholars programs, residential learning centers and more are often the result of a combination of high school GPA and SAT/ACT scores. Use these opportunities as incentives to motivate your teen to work harder to raise their scores.

IMG_0891When to start college test prep Many parents get their kids signed up for some type of college test prep in time for the spring ACT and SAT exams, hoping to see improvement over the fall’s PSAT scores. Once your teen selects a test date, you can help them back into a test prep schedule.

My kids took a course before the spring test, then prepped over the summer for the fall test by taking practice exams on their own. Keeping them motivated to work on even one section a day was tough. If your teen is likely to be resistant too, but needs to make significant improvement in their scores, consider hiring a tutor for a few sessions to help them work on their weakest areas.

Test prep is a daily activity No teenager wants to be reminded of this fact. Unfortunately, test prep needs to be viewed as daily homework. If your student is like most, they probably have plenty of homework already from their regular classes and are involved in extra curricular activities or have a job after-school, leaving little time for SAT or ACT review. Heading to the library after they’ve eaten lunch or using their study hall to work on a section of a practice test won’t interfere with whatever they have going on later. Taking advantage of any free time they have during the school day to prep will pay off.

Share your advice and questions on college test prep in the comments section below.

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