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Gone are the dreaded analogies and hundreds of esoteric vocabulary words that we were once tasked with memorizing. Nowadays, the SAT and ACT are much more closely aligned with the skills that colleges and workplaces would involve. Even though these tests have evolved significantly over the past 40 years, they still require students to prepare for them to perform to the best of their ability. So, should parents dig out their stacks of SAT vocabulary notecards from yester-year? Absolutely not! But parents do have a significant role in helping their teens prepare for the standardized tests.

Many students benefit greatly from test prep with agencies such as Mindfish. Other students prefer to prepare on their own with a few books. And some students choose to avoid test prep altogether, thinking that all the previous testing at their school is enough preparation. While parents may prefer to choose what test prep path their teens should take, allowing students to weigh in on their route will ultimately be the most effective. Students who feel “ownership” of their test preparations tend to do the work more diligently and consequently benefit more.

What role can parents play to ensure that their DD or DS (Darling Daughter or Darling Son) choose wisely and commit to a solid test prep plan? Parents are in the position to offer to pay for various options and to encourage students to get as much help as they want through the test prep process. Offering to pay for a test prep class, or offering to add some additional hours if the test gets pushed back because of the pandemic, is the first step of encouragement. Many parents realize that an investment in a test prep class can more than pay for itself with increased merit-based scholarship from a few points’ gain on the SAT or ACT. 

In addition to the content skills, test strategies, and practice that are part of a test prep class, intangibles such as boosting confidence are also quite significant. Oftentimes, a tutor can connect with a student and motivate in a way that parents cannot. Teens can carryover resentment towards their parents (i.e., from being scolded for getting home too late or playing too many video games) to any parental test prep suggestions. However, when parents offer financial support and enroll students in a high-quality test prep class, students get the help they need, parents get peace of mind, and the teen-parent relationship lives on to another day.

Parents should view their role in supporting their teen’s test prep as one to encourage, enable, and empower the student. Celebrate and reward any gains, and love your teenager unconditionally.