January 22, 2018

A Timeline for Your Child’s SAT Preparation – Helping Your Child Develop a Positive Routine

College and SATsHi Folks! Here’s an article about helping your children prepare for the SAT’s.

By Miriam Attia, Parliament Tutors

While different students need help with different parts of the test, almost all students need to begin by reading more challenging books and learning new vocabulary words. Depending on a student’s starting point and target score, he or she may need to memorize the meanings of hundreds or over a thousand new words. There are some techniques students can use to speed the process, such as studying roots and prefixes and learning words in groups, but it still takes months for most students to cement these words in their memory well enough that they can recall them on test day. With some variation depending on how much free time is available, I usually recommend that reading of challenging books and vocabulary expansion begin six months in advance.

About five months before test date, most high school students need to begin learning or reviewing the rule-based systems which the SAT examines: arithmetic, algebra, geometry, and grammar. This is the time for them to gain or increase comfort with rules about right triangles, probability, semicolons, and pronoun cases.  I usually recommend they work through practice SATs and do plenty of drills on the subjects that trip them up, and I teach them each of the different kinds of math and grammar questions that appear on the test. (There are about twenty of each that appear most often.)

About four months before test date, students should delve into the reading passages and passage-based questions from the reading comprehension sections. Most students will need to increase the speed at which they can read, they’ll need to get used to the language the SAT writers use in their questions, and they’ll have to practice paying close attention both to fine details and to the overall structures of the reading passages, which are chosen to be challenging on purpose. The SATexamines reasoning skills, but it’s also a test of mental endurance, and students need to gradually expand their attention span so that they can reason at full strength for the duration of this 4-hour test.

Around three months before test date, my students begin writing timed essays for the first section of the test. The grammar rules, vocabulary, and reading passages they’ve been studying and the books they’ve been reading for several months should be of use to them here. Still, many high school students, especially those from lower-income school districts, haven’t been trained in school to write timed essays before they begin preparing for the SAT. They need to get used to the types of questions that appear on the essay prompts, and they would do well to develop and practice using a few essay frameworks so that they can easily choose one when they see their essay prompt on test day.  Twenty-five minutes isn’t very long to write a persuasive essay, and they can’t afford to waste time tinkering with the format when they need to be focusing on content.

Two months before the test date, now that students have spent a good amount of time learning the material the test examines, I teach them some useful testing strategies especially tailored to theSAT, and they practice using those strategies by taking one complete practice test every week under simulated testing conditions.

During the last month before test date, they continue all the studies they’ve begun over the past several months, reviewing and brushing up whatever needs attention, up to the last day or two before their test. Those last couple of days should be spent resting from SAT study. I encourage them to do things they enjoy so that they’ll feel refreshed and recharged on the morning they take their test.

Miriam Attia is the Chief Academic Advisor and SAT Tutor with Parliament Tutors, a home tutoring service.

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  1. Very Nice motivation and useful post this. Nice guide.

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Disclaimer: We are not psychologists, counselors, or therapists. We are parents of children with special challenges, and the techniques, tools, and programs we recommend on this website have worked for us on our parenting journey.

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