Test prep tips: How parents, counselors, and mentors can help

One of the biggest challenges for parents and mentors is how to support a student as she transitions to high school and later to college.  The older the student is, the more she studies content that the parent or mentor no longer remembers, or has to navigate a system that is new or different from what parents and mentors experienced (we all know college admissions looks very different than it did 20 years ago).

Overwhelmed parents often mistakenly leave the preparation for SAT, ACT, and college admissions to schools or tutors. Many parents will be shelling out money to provide children access to test preparation tools and educational support, but we can’t let that be the end of our involvement. These tips will help you support your child’s test preparation (and college readiness) efforts even when you don’t fully understand the content or know the system. Here are two tips for helping your child even when you don’t quite get it:


Be the Planner

One of the best roles for parents as students approach high school and college should be as the “keeper of the calendar.” A parent should help the child make a plan and stick to that plan. This plan should be jointly created by you and your child (and maybe even an admissions counselor) and be revised periodically. You should include registration deadlines, filing deadlines, recommended test dates, summer enrichment activities, sports, etc so that both of you will have target dates readily available. There are lots of online college planners available online to give you a starting point. One such site to check out is http://www.knowhow2go.org/ .  In general, all planning for transition from one level of school to the next should start at least 18 months before you expect to start. So to go from junior high to high school, parents need to have the calendar planned out by the spring of 7th grade. Here are a few things the parent or mentor can help schedule and plan for:

Academic record: Make sure the right classes are taken and excelled in.

Enrichment activities: Help find enrichment activities for the summers and weekends that will help students prepare for school and life (internships, academic summer programs, creative outlets, etc).

Extracurricular activities: Guide students to explore their areas of interest via programs and clubs that will allow them to participate for the long term and gain leadership experience.

Interviewing skills: Practice for the types of questions asked will put the child at ease.

Applications: Be the monitor and proofreader and make sure applications are filled out properly and submitted before deadlines.

Test scores: Make sure they reflect the student’s abilities by preparing in advance and taking the exam more than once if necessary and applicable.


Be the Student

One of the best ways parents and mentors can help a student prepare for admissions tests (and concurrently make sure that the student is doing their work) is by having the student teach them. We often learn more and better when we are forced to explain to others. You can help your child lock in classroom lessons by not simply asking him if he did his homework, but instead by asking him to teach a problem to you. This way you can participate actively in his learning, support him by letting him see you struggle, encourage him by letting him see you figure it out with his guidance, and reinforce the work by helping him “study” by teaching. Since you know your child best, you’ll know best how to motivate him. You can make this competitive (by challenging him to get more of the questions right than you), you can make it supportive (by showing him that you struggle with the test as well), or you can make it a bonding experience (by sharing the challenge of figuring out problems). The key is to work with them and allow them to show you what they are learning from their prep book, prep class, or prep tutor.


Blog connections:

An awesome example of a parent helping their child with testing can be found by checking out our friend Debbie’s blog. To help and support her son she took every SAT offered in 2011 and blogged about the process.

We cross-posted this blog by Lawrence Watkins, who traced his success, summer program by summer program.

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For more advice about college admissions, testing, and supporting your students, check out our free events, courses, and tutoring options.

SAT Prep Tip: SAT Pacing

Art by Dale Eadeh (BC Teacher and Artist)

One of the most-discussed strategies for test preparation is pacing. Here we’ll delve a bit more into what pacing actually means and how you can use it to maximize your SAT score.

What is pacing?

Pacing is your pre-planned strategy for answering the greatest number of questions with the highest level of accuracy. Pacing should not be confused (or conflated) with speed or efficiency. When we refer to pacing we don’t mean how quickly you answer an individual question, but rather your plan for how many and which questions you answer during the test. Read on for our tips on how to make an effective pacing plan!

Revised GRE: Part Deux

Pearson View Center at 675 3rd Avenue

On August 1st, the much-ballyhooed Revised GRE launched with little fanfare except among the test prep community. Given that we’re career test-takers and test prep teachers, I and our Director of Graduate Programs decided to take the test (and take advantage of the 50% discount being offered in August and recently extended through September 2011). After you finish reading my account of my latest battle with the GRE, you can read Ajani’s review of his test here.

SAT Prep Tip: Critical Reading

Art by Dale Eadeh (BC Teacher and Artist)

Today’s topic is the SAT’s Passage-Based Critical Reading, i.e., the part of the SAT that makes most student cringe and break out in hives. Hopefully after reading this you’ll not only feel better about Passage-Based Reading, but may actually start to like it.

What makes SAT Reading different from school reading?

There are three significant things about SAT Passages and Questions that make them different from the reading most high school students do. If you understand these things, then you will be much better prepared for them.

SAT Prep Tip: Calculators

TI-84 Graphing Calc ($100 - $125)

As many of you might know, the SAT allows the use of calculators. However, you may wonder which calculator you should use for the SAT. This post will help you decide which calculator to get and how to use it most effectively on the SAT!

While the calculator is a helpful tool for the SAT, it is by no means necessary. In fact, here is what the College Board says about calculators:

Every mathematics question on the SAT can be solved without a calculator. However, using a calculator may be helpful for some questions.

Let’s check out what that means and what calculator we may want to bring to the test.

Revised GRE, Anyone?

As you probably know, ETS unveiled its Revised GRE yesterday. We wanted to find out just how “revised” it was, so we signed ourselves up, and I spent a solid 4 hours taking it yesterday (8/2/11). Fun times, let me tell you (and no, we’re not masochists, just Test Prep dorks…er, studs). I got first crack at it, so here’s my commentary. We’ll have more to follow as others on the staff subject themselves to the same pain in the coming weeks.

Let’s start with a few particulars:

More B-schools in for GRE

A recent press release from ETS, the company responsible for producing the GRE, indicates that in the last two months more than 100 business schools world-wide signed up to begin accepting the GRE. This activity brings the total number of business schools accepting the GRE above 600, including 60 of the top 100 schools on the latest US News & World Report ranking. The question becomes, what exactly does this mean for people considering business school?

May 2011 SAT Vocabulary: Insipid Purveyors of Daunting Mischief

Sometimes, seeing what’s on the SAT can prepare us for future tests.  Since vocabulary is so important, we got a couple of word nerds together to go through the May 2011 SAT test and pull out the most notorious words –  a task they performed with celerity.

Study Tips: Test yourself!

In this edition of our ongoing study tips, we introduce you to the testing effect, another handy (and scientifically proven, read about a study here) method for improving your study habits and information retention.

Higher Education: The Next Bubble?

Higher Education has long been seen as one of the crown jewels in the American Dream. Go to school, earn more money, have a better life. For several decades this paradigm has held true. These days the picture is a little more like watching Standard Definition TV in our HD/3-D world: it’s just not good enough.

Recently, renewed inspection — and criticism — of the higher education landscape has taken a number of forms. We’ll look at some of the criticism being leveled, but, more importantly, take a look at a couple key things you should know to help you avoid some of the downsides currently plaguing higher education.

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