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Anika Manzoor

How Parents Can Help with SAT Prep

Hey there, parents! Although we typically write articles aimed for your high schooler here at the Magoosh High School blog, here’s a special one just for you and how you can help your teen have the best SAT test prep experience possible.


1. Be supportive, not authoritative!

Believe me, as someone who is very much invested in the academic success of my siblings, I understand how easy it can be to slip into that role of Constant Nagger. As mastering the SAT can be boring and difficult for a lot of students, the best thing you can do is to always remember to show sympathy with their position and encouragement throughout the entire process.

Also, think about how to incentivize test prep for your teen, whether it’s through money, material objects, or treating them to their favorite restaurant (of course, this would depend on how much you can invest on test prep in the first place). Incentives go a long way particularly for students who have the potential to be self-directed, but may need the right push; I myself am a testament to that! Instead of spending a lot of money on test prep, my mother incentivized me when I was taking the SAT to self-study and it was the absolute best decision for both parties ;).


2. Start the conversation and the prep early

Although this may cause some grumbling from your teen, start the conversation with them about the SAT during their sophomore year. It is truly the best time to start studying because they are not yet burdened with a junior-year course load, they can make sure they are prepared for the PSAT for the year that counts, and they can also have a longer and therefore less stressful time to work with for achieving their target score. Explain to them that you understand that the last thing they might want to discuss is the SAT (hence, the supportiveness) and reason with them why it’s in their best interests to start now.


3. Make sure the SAT is indeed the right test

Although the new SAT and the ACT are now fairly similar in terms of content and structure, there are differences between the SAT Writing and ACT English sections, the SAT and ACT Reading, and SAT and ACT Math sections. Since either test is accepted by virtually all colleges and universities that require standardized tests, have your teen take an official practice test for both the SAT and the ACT (they’re free on the College Board and the ACT websites) to identify which one they are more comfortable with, and then go from there. You can also discuss whether or not it is worth it to prepare for and take both exams.


4. Figure out the best prep method together

Students have different learning styles, so it is very important to consider which prep method or combination of methods would be best for your teen. In this day and age, there are also a lot of online options, including The College Board’s partnership with The Khan Academy. Magoosh SAT is an example of online prep that strives to provide affordable and accessible online test prep without compromising the teaching quality or level of support you can get in classes or tutoring.

When I worked as an instructor for a major test prep company, I also noticed a definite overlap between students who didn’t want to be there and students whose parents enrolled them without their consent. So, even if you are itching to enroll your teen in a program, it is really important to make this decision with them rather than for them. This will also allow your teen to feel more ownership and investment in their prep success.


5. Help with the actual prep

Whether it’s helping them schedule study time, reviewing their practice essays, or simulating a real testing experience, ask your student how you could be useful in making their prep experience as effective as possible. You can also refer them to this blog as we’re constantly updating it with the best SAT strategies!


6. Remind your teen (and yourself!) that there’s more to SAT prep than just studying

Healthy practices like eating the right foods and exercising can also have a significant impact on your student’s SAT success, so they shouldn’t be ignored in favor of more studying. Also share with your teen our infographic on test prep lifehacks, which have proven and fun suggestions for boosting test scores as well!


7. Stay on top of logistics

Students are often overwhelmed with homework and extracurricular activities, which means that logistical things, such as registering for the SAT by the deadline or applying for fee waivers (if applicable), can slip through the cracks. If you stay on top of any logistical considerations regarding the SAT, that could be a huge help to your teen.


8. Never stop being supportive!!

One more reminder doesn’t hurt :).


About Anika Manzoor

A 2013 graduate of Grinnell College, Anika dedicated her first few years as a newly-minted professional to teaching. In addition to being an SAT instructor, she served as a Fulbright English Teaching Assistant at a Malaysian secondary school for two years. Considering that both opportunities allowed her to explore fun ways to teach and relate to students who were otherwise bored out of their minds, she is excited to share that expertise on the Magoosh High School blog.

2 Responses to “How Parents Can Help with SAT Prep”

  1. Choco Roll says:

    These are great tips!  I can’t stress enough how important #1 is, and I wasn’t even aware that there was a choice between SAT and ACT (always assumed the poor child was stuck with one)!

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