The Complete SAT/ACT Prep Guide for Parents

By: Will Ortiz
With thousands of colleges in the U.S. transitioning to test-optional or test-blind policies, many high school parents have been left wondering if their child should still take the SAT/ACT. Hear what CCA’s Lead School Counselor, Will Ortiz, has to say on the matter and how your child can best prepare for these standardized tests.

“Should my child still take the SAT/ACT?”

This is a question many high school parents are asking now that thousands of colleges throughout the U.S. have test-optional or test-blind admissions policies, especially in light of COVID. According to Peters (2022), “test-blind schools will not consider standardized test scores at all. Test-optional schools will consider the scores.”

The short answer to the above question is yes; the SAT/ACT are still relevant.

Despite this recent trend in college admissions, Calvary Christian Academy’s School Counseling team strongly recommends that all high school upperclassmen still take the SAT and/or the ACT. Here’s why . . .

WHY TAKE THE SAT/ACT?

At the moment, all Florida state universities require a test score for admission – UF, UCF, USF, FSU, FIU, etc. If your child has Florida Prepaid and/or is awarded a Bright Futures Scholarship, you definitely want to have the option to be able to use this money at a state school (even if your child wants to study out of state or attend a private institution).
[Test scores] can give admission officers a complete picture of his/her academic abilities and potential.
Submitting test scores to a test-optional school can also strengthen a candidate’s application, as it can give admission officers a complete picture of his/her academic abilities and potential. With college admission becoming increasingly competitive due to higher demand, competitive test scores can potentially:

    1. Set your child apart from other applicants
    2. Raise his/her probability of being accepted into their college of choice, and
    3. Increase scholarship eligibility

WHEN TO PREPARE

CCA’s School Counseling team recommends that all 11th grade students register for their first SAT and/or ACT no later than their second semester.

Ideally, students should take the SAT or ACT multiple times to maximize their overall test score. These scores will be part of their college application in early Fall of their senior year. Students often retake the test during their senior year to raise their opportunity for merit scholarships as well.
students should take the SAT or ACT multiple times to maximize their overall test score.
Students should pay particular attention to their reading and math skills throughout their high school education, as these are foundational for SAT/ACT testing. They should be aware that the math skills section included in each test covers Algebra 2. At CCA, the standardized tests Upper School students take each year also serve as preparation for future college entrance exams.

HOW TO PREPARE

  1. FREE RESOURCES
    The best practice at no cost can be found on KhanAcademy.com. In fact, the SAT practice available on Khan Academy’s website was designed by College Board — the organization that administers the SAT.

    In addition to the practice questions and tests students can access through Khan Academy, they can link their Khan Academy account with their College Board account. By synching these accounts, students will receive customized practice questions based on their PSAT performance.
    Test prep books . . . can also be checked out for free at the library.
    Many public libraries also offer free SAT/ACT prep workshops for cardholders, including Broward County Library. Test prep books that contain practice questions and practice tests can also be checked out for free at the library. These types of books are also available online and in bookstores for purchase.


  2. FEE-BASED RESOURCES
    Should a student want or need a more in-depth, structured approach, private tutoring and group classes are a great option to consider. However, it is worth noting that this kind of instruction can come with a significant price tag. According to PrepScholar, most in-person SAT prep courses range between $800-$3,600, on average.
    CCA partners with Sensa Educational Systems to offer CCA juniors and seniors affordable test prep classes
    That’s why CCA partners with Sensa Educational Systems to offer CCA juniors and seniors affordable test prep classes conveniently on campus, after school. The investment for this six-week course is only $300. If you are a CCA parent interested in enrolling your child in Sensa’s spring classes that begin on Thursday, January 27, click here.

    “Ms. Grunwald was phenomenal at teaching and stressing the importance of Sensa strategies and approaches. Everything she taught in class is a valuable tool for scoring better on the SAT.” — CCA Student Testimonial


  3. SCHOOL-PROVIDED RESOURCES
    Some high school schools even offer SAT/ACT prep as part of their curriculum/course offerings. Speak with your child’s school counselor to see if any in-school, test-prep resources are available to your child.

    At CCA’s Fort Lauderdale Campus, 10th and 11th grade students can take the Standardized Test Prep Class. This semester-long elective prepares students for the SAT by teaching them the test format and strategies for the math and English sections.
    Some high school schools even offer SAT/ACT prep as part of their curriculum/course offerings.
    Additionally, when 10th and 11th grade students take the PSAT in October at school, they will receive feedback and practice problems as part of their results, which can be used to prepare for the official SAT.

    These resources provided by schools in conjunction with other test prep methods will surely set your child up for success.

 

CONCLUSION

With various forms of SAT/ACT prep available, your child has plenty of opportunities to study for these important tests. We recommend that parents sit down with their children and help them map out a game plan that includes what steps will be taken and when. Parents can also partner with their children in this endeavor by holding them accountable to that established timeline.

Test prep will not only increase the likelihood of your child’s score improving, but it can also help ease any anxiety surrounding test taking. With 10-40% of students experiencing testing anxiety, according to Gotter (2017), preparing for the SAT/ACT with ample time can help keep those nerves at bay.
Test prep will not only increase the likelihood of your child’s score improving, but it can also help ease any anxiety surrounding test taking.
“To cope with test anxiety before a test, the best thing you can do is prepare as much as possible. Learn the best study methods that work for you, and spend plenty of time studying before each test. When possible, take practice tests beforehand,” Gotter said.

Lastly, do not underestimate the power of prayer and encouraging words to help carry your child through this pivotal season of their lives. Students should be reminded of the great plans God has in store for them and that they simply need to be faithful to do their part by making the most of the opportunities God has made available to them.

“For I know the plans I have for you,’ declares the Lord, ‘plans to prosper you and not to harm you, plans to give you hope and a future.’” — Jeremiah 29:11

 
Will Ortiz has been serving as the Lead School Counselor at Calvary Christian Academy for 9 years and has worked for 22 years in Christian education.

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