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How to help your teen through summer ACT or SAT prep

Julia Christensen is an experienced tutor and professional writer for Varsity Tutors, a live learning platform that connects students with personalized instruction to accelerate academic achievement.

Preparing for the ACT or SAT is up to your student, but here's how you can help

Many students choose to begin standardized testing preparation, be it for the ACT or SAT, during summer break. These standardized tests are notoriously long and complex, with a plethora of topics covered in a timed setting, so preparing early is a logical fit for many students. From example questions and time management tips to completing timed practice tests, plenty of ACT and SAT prep can be done at home, and with your help. Although preparing properly for the ACT or SAT is up to your student, your support may make a difference.

If your child is spending some time preparing this summer, help her reach her potential by assisting her in these ways.

Check her sources

The internet is full of information, but not all of it is accurate. Ask her where she is getting her test prep details. Do the facts or questions come from accredited education professionals? Has it been recommended, reviewed or supported by any reputable agencies? Check out the company, its resources and any possible accreditations to make sure she's trusting information from professionals.

Additionally, standardized tests undergo changes regularly, from delivery style to content. Is your child working with the most up-to-date sources? Keep the date in mind, as what's current now may be outdated by the time she takes her two "number two" pencils to the exam room and sits down for the test.

Run flashcards together

Ask your student to write out some ACT or SAT prep flashcards; the act of writing down the information may help her remember it, while the flashcards can be useful for studying on the go between now and the actual test date. After some time spent studying, try having her change scenery and learning style by running the flashcards together. If she's studying in her room, perhaps sit on the living room couch together while you quiz her on what she has learned.

Proctor her practice tests

Running out of time is an understandable fear during standardized tests, so trying out timed exams is a key component of proper ACT and SAT preparation. If your student doesn't have time for a full exam, try shorter bursts of timed questions. Find out how many questions will be in the section your student is studying and how much time she will have, then change the time based on the amount of questions in the practice exam. For instance, if there are 60 questions in 60 minutes during the formal exam, a 10-question practice test should have a 10-minute time limit.

Practice makes perfect, but only if you're practicing correctly; make sure she's taking the practice exams as they will be administered. For example, if she is working on a paper practice test, but the exam will be digital, make sure she isn't writing on the test, as that won’t be an option when it is presented on a screen. Instead, have her keep scrap paper separate from the questions so the transition to a screen may be simpler.

Be the voice of reason

Is your student getting too wrapped up in test prep? Help her remember when her test date is (some students start ACT and SAT test preparation quite far in advance) and how much time she has to improve. Be there to point out the positives, like a better time on a group of practice questions. And don't forget to remind her to step away for breaks; have a snack, take a walk around the block or chat with other members of the household. Remember that her aim is not to memorize every detail of the test, but instead to gradually develop a feeling for it, just like muscle memory!

For more tips and strategies to help your student succeed in school, visit varsitytutors.com.

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