Whether you have a senior with limited remaining test dates, or you’re simply planning ahead, you may have asked yourself this question: “ Is my child ready for the SAT or ACT? ”
I’ll be the first to admit that it’s not an easy question, and I’m not going to lie and say that I can tell you the answer – I don’t know your child. What I can do is give you some tips to help you get as accurate an answer as possible (before the test date).
How to Make Sure Your Student is Ready for the SAT/ACT
1. Pick an Exam.
ACT or SAT? Your student might be better prepared for one than the other, and there are pros and cons for each one. Where you live might matter if your state pays for students to take the test. The universities your child picks can make a big difference, too, since not all of them accept both tests.
And the topics your child excels at may help, too. Check out our visual breakdown of the ACT and SAT to help you decide which one is best for your student.
2. Consider the Test Topics.
You can’t know if your student is ready for the test without knowing what is covered on the tests. As a general rule, a minimum of Geometry and Algebra II is needed in math along with strong reading and language skills. The same infographic I mentioned above compares the topics covered on the ACT and the SAT, as well as the different sections the student can expect.
Look at each topic with your child and evaluate how competent your child is in each area. Use school scores and talk to teachers to help identify your student’s weak areas. After all, studying for hours can help, but it helps more if it’s used to improve problem areas.
3. Check the Format.
Knowing how to do the math or reading is only part of the battle. Students still need to be able to apply that knowledge to the testing format, and believe it or not, being uncomfortable with the question style can be just as damaging as being unfamiliar with the material.
Practice test books abound, and almost any of them can help with practice on the topics. If you want to check the format, however, why not go to the source? The makers of both the SAT and the ACT provide practice material, so use those to help familiarize your student with the format. You can also use them to see what your child is scoring right now.
It’s especially important that the student be comfortable with multiple choice questions, so if your child gets thrown off balance or starts to question him or herself based on the list of answers, work on multiple choice tactics. You don’t want your student to miss questions he or she knows the answer to because the format of the question raised doubts.
4. Take the Test.
At the end of the day, the only way to be 100% sure that your child is ready for the test is to have him or her take it. If you’ve done all the steps above, and you think your child might be ready, it’s the next logical step. Plus, when you get the scores back, you will know not only if the score was high enough to get into the college and program the student wants but also which topics the student needs to work on if the score wasn’t high enough.
I would recommend, however, that you sign up for an early test date. Especially if your child is a senior, make sure the testing schedule says that you will get the scores back before the registration deadline for at least 1 other test.
That way, if your student does poorly, he or she still has a chance to study the topics missed and re-take the exam. In fact, you could start with this step as an evaluation tool – to my knowledge, there’s no limit to how many times a student can take either test. Just know that that can get expensive fast. But it’s up to you.
Both exam groups have tables of testing dates:
And that’s about it. Others may try to make it more complicated, but in the end, it comes down to what your child knows and whether he or she can show that knowledge on a multiple choice test. Follow these steps, and you’ll at least know where your student stands.
Has your child already taken the SAT or ACT? What tips do you have for other parents?
Author: Elizabeth F., Writer and Teacher at A Grade Ahead