5 Great Ways to Get Your High Schooler Ready for the SAT/ACT

For high-school parents across the country getting ready to register their teens for college entrance exams, it may be scary to think that what they do over the course of four hours at a testing center has the power to determine their fate for the next four years. But it doesn’t have to be.
How and what you do to prepare your teen for taking the SAT/ACT can make all the difference in the world in both their test scores, and their reaction to how they performed. 
Where we once thought their college entrance exam scores were the end all be all of their youth, we can be comforted in knowing that today’s standardized test score is just one part of a larger portfolio of academic work, classroom honors, and other accolades the average high schooler will accumulate.
Even so, having a student walk into test day exuding confidence and calmness can make all the different in the world. Try these five tips to ensure your college-bound student experiences test day success.
1. Remind them it really is just a test.
It is comprehensively impossible to develop 12 years of education into a “test,” and your teenagers need to be reminded of that. Sadly, they may potentially leave the test feeling frustrated and, well, stupid, but reassure them that statistically, less than 5 percent will score perfect or even close to it. The perfect test that is able to measure your teen’s whole body of intelligence and potential simply does not exist, and never will.
2. Use those giant test prep books. Really.
Those giant phonebook like test prep book may seem overwhelming, but they hold a wealth of information and resources. Most importantly, they offer practice tests and answer keys with explanations. It’s also a good way to get the feel of a printed test on paper!
3. A professional test prep service and/or series of test prep classes are worth every penny and may pay for itself later.
Students with even the slightest bit of test anxiety may benefit greatly from test prep tutoring the most, as they teach a specific set of test taking skills not normally offered (or even talked about) in regular school.
More importantly, even though the cost of private test tutoring can be pricey, as little as an increase of one point on a section of the ACT can be the difference between receiving academic merit based scholarship monies or not. You may even find a some test prep service that guarantees an increase in score.
Test taking is truly a learned skill, and your teen may well benefit from a class that actually teaches it. Better yet, many of these are available online and can be completed in the comfort of your teen’s surroundings, at their own pace, and include videos, apps, and other high tech methods of instruction.
4. Retake, retake, retake.
Most colleges will assess no punishment or place any negative connotation on the fact a student decides to retake one of the tests, even if they do it more than once. Many will even allow for a composite score, meaning you take the best score from each section no matter what day you took them on.
Taking the test more than once and having a base score is actually helpful, and can determine which range of colleges you should be looking at, and what kind of score improvement you will need to gain for acceptance into your “reach school.”
Finally, did you know you can retake the test while already in college? Ask your financial aid office if a significant increase in score would mean the difference in receiving additional grants and scholarships, and then go ahead and give the test another try.
5. Assemble puzzles and exercise.
In the months leading up to test day, one interesting way to prepare for a several hour long session of intense thinking and focusing that the SAT/ACT requires, is to practice with puzzles. Spending time working on complex puzzles helps wire your brain to remember how to stay focused with one goal in mind, and to not be swayed by distracting thoughts or daydreams. Puzzles which require logical thinking are a bonus.
Another method to boost your brain while at the same time encouraging relaxation is to exercise! Your “lazy” teen may have no interest in going for a long fast walk with you, but the head clearing and “runner’s high” effect it will have on them may quickly change their mind.
Exercise is also proven to give you a more positive outlook on life, and this may help negative thinking teens who lack test confidence.
Modern high school often places today’s teens under an extreme amount of pressure to excel and succeed, leaving some students unable to even begin to feel they will have sufficient time to prepare, and have success on the SAT/ACT.
Luckily test prep services like Magoosh, and its innovative and highly successful approach to student achievement, are available to ensure students from all backgrounds and educational levels can achieve test day success.

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