Friday, January 27, 2012

3 Reasons Your Child Should Never Take the SAT Cold

Tomorrow is the first SAT of 2012.  Typically, the January test is filled with seniors who started the process really late, or, in many instances those trying one last time to raise their scores before their applications are reviewed.  I used the word "typically," because there are still quite a few parents who have their 11th graders take the SAT "just to see how they'll do" before they actually start preparing for it in the spring.  Here are three big reasons that this is a BAD, BAD idea:

Reason #1:  The SAT is not a test to be taken lightly
The SAT is a “reasoning skills” exam that tests how well students can reason, think critically and problem solve in math, critical reading and writing.  Unfortunately, for many students, these skills are not cultivated in their regular classrooms and the SAT questions themselves are not as straightforward as those on the standardized tests that most  students are used to.  The test also requires physical endurance--3 hours, 45 minutes of testing is draining, especially when your body has no idea what taking a test this long feels like.

Reason #2:  All SAT scores are “on the record”
SAT scores typically level off and morale starts to drop after a student takes the SAT three or more times, which means that parents have to be very strategic with timing.  Ideally, the best time for most students to take the SAT is in the spring of their junior year.  The best test dates are in March or May—after they’ve had at least one semester of Algebra II and before they get bogged down by finals in June.  If your child needs to take it again after the spring, use the summer to strengthen weaknesses and then plan to take it again in October before the college application process gets too crazy.

Even though most schools will take the highest scores from each section, lower scores can still stand out and draw undue attention.   And while the College Board now allows students to exercise an option called “Score Choice,” where they can pick and choose which scores they want sent to the schools, most schools frown upon this option and ask the student to send all of the scores anyway.

Reason #3:  There are ample opportunities to “see how they’ll do” before the taking the real SAT
The College Board has full-length real SATs with answer keys available both on its website and in its Official SAT Study Guide, available for purchase here.  These, hands down, are the best ways to “see how they’ll do” on the SAT before taking the real thing.  Have your child take the test in a quiet, timed environment where you can serve as the proctor.  Follow the times allotted for each section and give a 5-minute break after every two sections.  If you’re not comfortable proctoring on your own, you should take advantage of the “free SATs” that several test prep companies like Innovative Study Techniques offer, most often with comprehensive score reports included.

Coming next week:  What are the best ways to prepare your child for the SAT?

No comments:

Post a Comment