Written by Mr. Justin Buffer, MSE, Founder, Owner, and Educational Director, Cambridge Learning Center of NJ
The most common question I receive from parents of my students at the Cambridge Learning Center is, “What can I do at home to help my child prepare for the SAT? What do I need to make sure my son or daughter is doing?”
You can understand why this is so important since SAT scores are an important barometer that colleges use when they determine whom to admit. For some students and their families, this subject generates a great deal of stress on everybody. Let me go over a few regular, important practices a student can do to prepare successfully for the SAT.
Flashcards: It is important that students are studying their flashcards with grammar rules, vocabulary words, and the very important math rules. Even if they know some of them, just by continuing to learn some of the new ones, a student’s score will improve. It is important that they know how to practically apply the
se rules and practice using them. This practice method will aid them in successfully answering a few more questions on the test. Learning new vocabulary words will not only help with vocabulary-based questions but also with comprehending the reading passages. An added bonus is that commitment to reviewing these cards will often lead to better grades in school.
Studying Errors and Notes: When students come to Cambridge, we give them what I call “Live work.” This is when we give them real SAT problems to do right in front of us, so we can watch their process, and give them real-time feedback. In class, besides doing Live Work, we give them plenty of notes and feedback from their questions and their classroom work. As a parent, you want to make sure they are reviewing these notes, checking/reviewing their mistakes, and discovering how to avoid them.
Properly Utilizing Practice Tests: With practice tests, they aren’t going to do students any good if they do not look closely at their mistakes. I see our students always anxious to try another test, but not necessarily thoroughly reviewing it after they get the grade on it. I know my students and their parents have constantly heard me say, “Students should study their way to success, not test their way to success.” I recently wrote an article on this. Instead of only checking their score, you should encourage them to check the answer section for the explanations to the ones they had wrong. While it is fine for students to congratulate themselves on what they answered correctly, they need to spend time on figuring out why they chose the wrong answers on the others. Doing this is vital to maximum success.
Our Student-Centered Websites: In addition, encourage your sons and daughters to make use of the online tools we make available on www.cambridgenjstudents.com. We provide vocabulary tests that the students can take every two weeks to measure their progress. We also offer grammar and math practice on this website. The more they utilize these online tools, the better they will do when they take the actual SAT test.
Succeeding in the often difficult Reading section: One of the areas students have the most trouble with on the SAT is the Evidenced-Based Reading section. To help with this, they should go back and re-read past reading passages they have worked with. This practice will help them improve their skills concerning content knowledge enrichment. By reading through content they didn’t understand the first time and reviewing their answer choices, students will gain a better understanding why reading passages are set up the way they are. The purpose of this is similar to reviewing the answers to other parts of the SAT – it familiarizes the student with the test. This is such a huge help when they sit down for the actual test. It reduces anxiety and they know what to expect when they start the test.
Understanding the SAT : You see, having our students know how the SAT works is a big part of our teaching philosophy. Standardized tests like this have deception built into them. The creators of the test design the questions to produce a bell curve of results. Our goal is to help students to see where the deceptions are and to avoid them. I tell people it is like spending a lot of time with a dishonest person. When you spend more time with someone like that, you begin to pick up his or her deceptive tendencies. That is what we want our students to do with the SAT: quickly recognize when there is a trap set up for them. The different items I encourage you to keep on top of with your children will go a long way in increasing their preparedness. When they do all of this, they will definitely test better.
Spending Time: Finally, make sure they are studying at least an hour a night for the SAT. When they are doing this, coupled with the tutoring we provide at Cambridge and them consistently reviewing their answers from the practice tests, they will be much more likely to meet their goal score. Of course, there is no magic formula. Rather, it is a steady process they have to pursue mindfully.
I hope this article helps you as a parent see the role you can play to enforce your child’s study habits with the SAT. When you work with your child on these steps regularly and readily, you will be greatly pleased with the results.