Parents and Test Prep

Oct 6, 2022 

If you’re the parent of a teen who is getting ready to tackle the college admissions process, preparing for high stakes tests like the SAT and ACT is probably one of the most stressful things on your to-do list. With expectations and emotions running high, your job as your child’s test prep partner is to inspire confidence and reduce anxiety by educating yourself about the SAT/ACT, assessing your teen’s needs, gathering resources, making plans, establishing realistic expectations, and communicating constructively. 

How You Can Help

Know and Plan for the Test

To make sure you can help your child set realistic expectations and make good decisions about what tests to take, when to take them, and how to prepare, you need to be informed and up to date about the basics of the tests. Both the SAT and the ACT have websites that can educate you about the tests, while A+ can offer you advice about the ideal timeline for your child’s preparation and test-taking.

Arrange Pre-Tests and Assess Results

Before taking the official SAT or ACT, students will typically take a preliminary version of the SAT (the PSAT) and/or ACT (the PreACT) in the fall of their sophomore year. These tests are offered by the student’s school and give students a sense of what the tests are like and how they may score on an actual SAT or ACT. Then, in the spring or summer before junior year, students should take both a diagnostic SAT and ACT (Take them at A+!). At A+ we also recommend that students take the Mindprint Assessment, which provides valuable information about a student’s cognitive skills and can help determine which test is a better fit for a student.

Choose What Test To Take and When to Take It

After completing the diagnostic testing and Mindprint you are now in a position to help your child make some important decisions about what test and testing schedule is best for him or her. Since the SAT and ACT are accepted at most colleges, and neither test is inherently superior to the other, the choice of which to take should be based on a combination of performance and preference—performance on diagnostic tests, cognitive skills, and preference for a particular test (e.g. the ACT has a Science section and is faster paced). To assist you, A+ offers a useful guide that you can review with your child. 

Next, you’ll want to schedule and register for the test you’ve chosen, and you’ll probably want to schedule two different dates. Most students will take the exam twice during Junior year, and may take it a third time in the summer before Senior year if they feel there is still room to improve their score. Having two dates on the calendar works best because very few students will achieve their best score the first time.

Pick a Study Method and Create a Study Plan

The study method your child uses depends on their learning needs and your family’s finances. Studying for the SAT/ACT independently using free resources online and test prep books can be a good option for students who work well on their own and/or may not have the money to spend on tutoring. If you have the funds for tutoring, it can be a worthwhile investment; it can reduce stress by providing structure and a depth of knowledge and expertise with the tests you can’t get from websites and books. 

For those who opt for tutoring, the pace of preparation will generally be dictated by the tutor or tutoring company’s own methodology. For the rest, it’s important to establish expectations and routines early in the process. So, after they’ve taken a diagnostic SAT/ACT, sit down with your child around the summer before their junior year to make a plan. Before you mark up any calendars with test prep items, make sure to note other important dates to avoid conflicts. You may also want to discuss if longer weekend prep periods or shorter weekday prep periods are preferred. Next, mark when your child will take their official SAT or ACT exams. Then, schedule study time before each test. For example, alternate weeks by topic (e.g. one week math, one week verbal) and plan on at least two practice tests per month. Stick to your plan, but try to be flexible if necessary.  

Set Reasonable Goals and Be Supportive

The high stakes of the SAT/ACT can understandably create a lot of pressure on you as a parent and on your child, so one of the most important things you can do during the entire process is to manage expectations and provide encouragement. Start with realistic score goals based on diagnostic test scores and score information from prospective colleges. We recommend an initial score goal of about a 150-160 point improvement on the SAT or about 4-5 points on the ACT. You can increase the goal later if the student achieves these score levels on practice tests.

Then proceed with understanding and patience: the rate at which someone progresses towards their goals can vary with some improving incrementally and quickly, some improving and plateauing before improving more slowly, and some improving more gradually. Rather than nag your child, provide positive reinforcement for effort and embrace honest and open communication about each other’s needs.

How A+ Can Help

A+ Test Prep and Tutoring offers parents and students several test prep services. To get started, we recommend taking our free practice proctored exams. After that we can help you make a test prep plan, which may include our standard SAT/ACT programs or our new SAT Crush Course. Sophomores may want to do some Foundations work prior to test prep. 

Students who sign up for a test prep program also have access to Mindprint, a one-hour online assessment of complex reasoning, executive functions, memory, and processing efficiency that gives both our tutors and students key insights into how each student learns, including either a SAT or ACT report with score predictions and strategies for score optimization. 

Navigating the complexities of college admissions tests isn’t always easy. Whether you choose A+ as your test prep partner or not, we’re always here to help. Feel free to call or email us with any test related questions.

At A+ Test Prep and Tutoring, our practices are based on the latest developments in educational theory and research. We have an excellent team of tutors who can help you with standardized testing, executive functioning, or achievement in any other school subject. If you want to find out more about our services, our Client Service Directors Joelle Faucette and Michelle Giagnacovo can be reached at 215-886-9188 or via email at


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