Behind every superstar student is an equally amazing parent (or grandparent or legal guardian). Although you can’t be there with them on test day, the following six tips will help you to be your child’s best cheerleader for all things test prep:

1. Understand the Tests

One key factor of standardized test success is understanding how the SAT and ACT differ from the average school test. While a test in school is designed to measure understanding of a given topic, the SAT and ACT attempt to gauge competitiveness for college admissions and capability of completing college-level coursework. As a result, scores are not clustered towards the higher end of the spectrum (as may be the case on a test in school), but they rather occur along a bell curve like the one shown below:

In order to achieve this distribution of scores in which the vast majority of students fall into the “average” range, test makers incorporate numerous tricks and traps into both questions and answer choices. The SAT and ACT are full of patterns, and becoming aware of these is the first step to earning that goal score!

2. Create a Sustainable Study Plan

Success on the SAT or ACT requires consistent hard work — cramming is not an option! Just like with mastering an instrument or a sport, practicing each day (or at least multiple days per week) is the most effective way to see results. Completing at least a few practice problems each day will allow concepts and learning moments to sink in slowly yet continuously, giving students a much more solid foundation to rely on during their official test. As a parent, one of the most helpful things you can do for your student is help keep them accountable during their test prep journey.   

3. Prioritize Quality Over Quantity

For some students, prepping for standardized tests equates to completing numerous drills or practice tests and expecting improvement due to repetition. While it is undoubtedly helpful to gain exposure to many question types, it is even more important to critically self-reflect and analyze any mistakes. By digging deep into wrong answers (one of the key components of a Testive program), students can become aware of patterns within their own performance and work to correct them over time (as opposed to repeatedly making the same mistake without addressing the underlying cause).

4. Target Time Management

Many students struggle with the fast-paced nature of the tests. Encourage your student to start slow and shoot for accuracy before speed. Though the going may be slow at first, the speed will naturally increase once your child has ironed out his or her plan of attack for the various test sections and question types.

5. Work Smarter, Not Harder