Most students are probably regretting signing up for the October standardized tests that are right around the corner. Fall is the perfect storm that is the beginning of the school year, college application deadlines, extracurriculars, and the cold that every student comes down with.

So all of a sudden you’re a week away from the test. What can your child do to prepare?

Tip #1: Take timed practice tests.

The first thing I would do is take some timed practice tests. You can find official practice tests on the SAT website or the ACT website. Answers and explanations are there as well.

Tip #2: Take timed practice sections.

Let’s be honest, though. Most students aren’t going to sit down to take an entire practice test. In that case, I would do one timed section a day. This includes writing the essay (though the essay is lower priority than the multiple choice sections because it’s not included in the cumulative score). The sections range in length from about 30 minutes to an hour so it isn’t too onerous to do one or two. The benefit to doing something every day is that it works out the rust and makes the format and time limits more intuitive to students.

Tip #3: Schedule the practice sections.

I highly recommend scheduling the practice sections. By that I mean put it on the calendar for a specific time. If it doesn’t get put on the calendar, there’s a high probability it won’t get done. I’m like that with working out. I’ll push it off the whole day, and by the end of the day I’m too tired to do it.

Tip #4: Stick to the routine.

What should my child do the night before the test? I wouldn’t pull an all-nighter. Full disclosure-- that’s what I did the night before the SAT. But really, no all-nighters. I would just get a regular night’s sleep. Don’t let your child do anything unusual like stay out late partying. But I also wouldn’t try to get them to sleep unusually early either. Just stick to the routine.

Tip #5: Wake up and warm up.

Finally, on the day of the test make sure you wake up early enough that you’re not rushing to get to the testing site. I would have your child do a couple practice questions to get warmed up on the way to the test. They can be questions she’s already done before. It doesn’t even matter what the answer is. The idea is to get the brain warmed up before the first section begins, not to use the first section as a warm up.

Good luck!

Will cramming really help? Probably not much. But doing nothing will definitely not help. Cramming is certainly not going to raise a student’s score 100 SAT points. If a student makes that her goal, cramming will just be demoralizing. Instead the goal should just be to become more comfortable with the structure and directions of the test and loosen up a little.


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