Sue Scheff: SAT Prep – Teens Do Your Homework

satprepStudy, study, study – college applications, campus tours and major decisions!  What do I want to be when I grow up?  What do I want to study?  Do I want a large campus, small?  Close to home or out of state?  Choices, choices, choices – but most will begin with your SAT scores.  Be prepared, no one says you have to know what you want to be, but what you do need to know is you have to do your best on your test scores.  With this, many doors will be open for you and chances are greater will find what will be your brightest future.

Source: Connect with Kids

“Some students will see huge differences. [Some] students don’t improve at all. Students get out of it what they put into it.”

– Wendi Deen Johnson, Kaplan Score Prep

In just a few weeks 17-year old Caroline will take the SAT for the first time.

 “Well I know it’s like a really important test and I am really kind of concerned about that because I want to go to a really good college,” says Caroline.
To prepare for the college entrance exam, Caroline enrolled in an SAT prep course where she learned some useful strategies. 

“For instance, she says, “What kind of questions are going to be asked and timing- it speeds me up so that I can get through more questions and hopefully get more answers right. “

But how will that prep course affect her score?

 “Some students will see huge differences- we’ve had students who’ve increased 300-points. We also have students who don’t improve at all. Most of the time, students get out of it what they put into it,” says Wendi Deen Johnson, a spokesperson with the Score Prep division of Kaplan, Inc. a national test preparation company.

According to the College Board which administers the SAT, on average, SAT coaching increases verbal scores by eight points and math scores by eighteen points. In other words, coached students are likely to get one to three more questions right when compared to non-coached students.

If parents do opt to enroll their children in professional prep courses, even some in the test prep industry say it can be a mistake to start too early.

“If it’s a kid who’s really anxious about test-taking, then probably preparing them early wouldn’t be the best thing. You’d want to give them some time to mature and grow and learn some more skills,” says Johnson.

Commercial prep courses can cost hundreds of dollars, but experts say parents can help their kids prepare for less money by purchasing study guides, surfing the net for information, or enrolling in independent study courses.

That is exactly what Caroline did. Soon she’ll find out how well it worked.

“I’m hoping for a 1400 on the SAT,” she says.  A near perfect score.

Tips for Parents

Anxiety stemming from standardized tests is not uncommon among today’s teens. In fact, a poll conducted by Public Agenda showed that 73 percent of surveyed students said they get nervous before taking a test, while 5 percent said they become too nervous to even take the test.

The University of Illinois Extension says that most students experience some level of anxiety during an exam, and this anxiety is due to a variety of reasons:

  • Poor time management
  • Failure to organize information
  • Poor study habits
  • Negative test-taking experience
  • Low self-confidence
  • Negative attitude about school

According to the State University of New York at Buffalo, children who frequently experience test anxiety also worry about the future and become extremely self-critical. Instead of feeling challenged by the prospect of success, they become afraid of failure. This makes them anxious about tests and their own abilities. And ultimately, they become so worked up that they feel incompetent about the subject matter or the test.

The National PTA says that it does not help to tell your child to relax, to think about something else or stop worrying about standardized tests. But you can help your child reduce test anxiety and prepare for tests like the SAT by encouraging the following actions:

  • Space studying over days or weeks. (Real learning occurs through studying that takes place over a period of time.) Understand the information and relate it to what is already known. Review it more than once. By doing this, your child should feel prepared at exam time.
  • Don’t “cram” the night before – cramming increases anxiety, which interferes with clear thinking. Get a good night’s sleep. Rest, exercise and eating well are as important to test taking as they are to other schoolwork.
  • Read the directions carefully when the instructor hands out the test. If you don’t understand them, ask the teacher to explain.
  • Look quickly at the entire examination to see what types of questions are included (multiple choice, matching, true/ false, essay, etc.) and, if possible, the number of points for each. This will help you pace yourself.
  • If you don’t know the answer to a question, skip it and go on. Don’t waste time worrying about it. Mark it so you can identify it as unanswered. If you have time at the end of the exam, return to the unanswered question(s).

As a parent, you can be a great help to your child if you observe these do’s and don’ts about tests and testing from the U.S. Department of Education:

  • Don’t be too anxious about your child’s test scores. If you put too much emphasis on test scores, this can upset your child.
  • Do encourage your child. Praise him/her for the things he or she does well. If your child feels good about himself or herself, he/she will do his/her best. Children who are afraid of failing are more likely to become anxious when taking tests and more likely to make mistakes.
  • Don’t judge your child on the basis of a single test score. Test scores are not perfect measures of what your child can do. Other factors might influence a test score. For example, your child can be affected by the way he/she is feeling, the setting in the classroom and the attitude of the teacher. Remember also that one test is simply one test.
  • Meet with your child’s teacher as often as possible to discuss his/her progress. Ask the teacher to suggest activities for you and your child to do at home to help prepare for tests and improve your child’s understanding of schoolwork. Parents and teachers should work together to benefit students.
  • Make sure your child attends school regularly. Remember, tests do reflect children’s overall achievement. The more effort and energy your child puts into learning, the more likely he/she will do well on tests.
  • Provide a quiet, comfortable place for studying at home.
  • Make sure that your child is well rested on school days and especially the day of a test. Children who are tired are less able to pay attention in class or to handle the demands of a test.
  • Give your child a well-rounded diet. A healthy body leads to a healthy, active mind.
  • Provide books and magazines for your child to read at home. By reading new materials, your child will learn new words that might appear on a test. Ask your child’s school about a suggested outside reading list or get suggestions from the public library.


  • College Board
  • National PTA
  • Public Agenda
  • State University of New York at Buffalo
  • University of Illinois Extension
  • U.S. Department of Education