SAT Prep: How Early is Too Early?
It’s true, my kids are a ways away from taking the SAT’s and by the time they get there, the scores and rules will have all changed again and my score will make me look much dumber than I actually am. They need to come up with a SAT score comparison chart—kind of like they do for the cost of goods and inflation.
But I digress.
With advanced college degrees taking on the same importance that we used to feel for a basic high school diploma, doing well on the SAT is more important than it has ever been before. The days of buying some flashcards for your teenager and hoping for the best are done. Our poor kids.
So how do we get them to where they need to go? How do we make sure not just that they not just have the knowledge they need for test day but the skills and endurance to sit through an entire day of testing without wigging out?
1. Encourage Learning for Fun
A few months ago, we sang the praises of the math learning app Tabtor. In that post, I talked about all of the great apps that are out there to help kids learn all sorts of skills from reading to math to civics and everything else they might want to learn. Finding ways to make learning fun at an early age helps encourage good study habits when your kids get older—study habits that can be applied to their SAT prep.
2. Play with Puzzles
Most parents and kids focus on the straightforward knowledge that is required for the test. This means boning up on vocabulary, grammar and math. What they don’t do is teach how to figure out what a right answer might be if they are presented with a question they can’t immediately solve. Knowing how to figure out what the right answer is based on what’s presented is just as important as being able to immediately call up a few bytes of brain data. Play with puzzles when your kids are young. Teach them deductive as well as inductive reasoning through this play. This will help them stay calm on test day—when they get there.
3. Practice Patience
For a lot of students, the length of the test—and having to be that focused for that long—can be scary. Yes, there are standardized tests that get taken in the classroom every year but those typically don’t last three or four hours at a time without a break. Spend time encouraging your kids to sit and read or to sit and work on an art project or other hobby—something that requires focus—when they have free time. Let them develop the patience and endurance needed for that kind of test focus.
A great way to build this up? Legos! Seriously! When your kids are younger, start them off with small kits that take an hour or so to put together. As they get older buy the more involved kits so that, by the time they are teens, they can spend an entire day putting together a Millennium Falcon or something without going crazy from focusing so hard for so long. It’s the most fun SAT prep will ever be.
Once your kids get to high school and are looking at taking the test for real, it’s good to enroll them in SAT prep courses. This way, they can learn alongside their peers. These courses are great for practice tests and will give your kids a chance to put the skills they’ve been developing since childhood (without even knowing it, if you’re smooth) to work before the pressure of the real test day sets in.
So why all of this emphasis on play and puzzles instead of hard core tutoring and lessons?
The last thing you want is for your kid to be burned out by the time test day rolls around. You want your kid to feel nervous but ready, not like this is an old hat that he can slack on because he feels overly prepared. Plus, hammering the importance of one test into a child’s head for an entire childhood can lead to anxiety and nervous issues and, obviously, that’s something you want to avoid.
Hobbies, art and puzzles are great ways to engage your kids’ brains every day without stressing them out over the possibility of future failure. Plus, it’s fun to learn with your kids! When was the last time you did a logic puzzle for fun? It’s quality time with your kids that helps them prepare for the future. Everybody wins!