HOME HELP FOR TEST TAKERS
If you have read Cheaper By The Dozen, you know that the father of the famous Gilbreth family from New Jersey never missed an opportunity to educate his brood. For example, while bathing, his kids viewed the sky and its constellations in posters on the bathroom walls. Taking a leaf from that delightful, witty book, you might try the following:
First, sit down with your teenager and explain that the SAT and PSAT measure some educational skills, but certainly not all. They cannot measure speaking skills, musical or dance skills, and so on. Your test score is not YOU, in other words. Many highly successful adults had average or lousy test scores.
Post Word-A-Day calendars opposite all toilets. Everyone benefits from a bigger vocabulary--it particularly helps on standardized tests. And in writing…. And in speaking…. In job interviews…. And on the job. After all, each word represents an idea. Those who have rich vocabularies are rich in ideas.
Put a book of old SAT / PSAT tests beside the toilets. Kids can do one question per visit to the small private room.
Play Stump-A-Parent at mealtimes. It's a most gratifying feeling for a kid to conquer a math or verbal problem (from SATs or PSATs) that a parent cannot. (Believe me, this will happen.) The side benefit is that younger kids absorb all of this material. They won't grow up dreading SATs. They will have been playing that game for years.
A few months ahead of your child's SAT or PSAT, form a study group that meets twice a week for a couple hours each time. You will review old tests, share test-taking strategies from books like my Panic Plan for SATs, and practice test-taking under timed conditions. (Remember that test-taking "strategies" are actually logic and reasoning techniques--valuable for all, not just test-takers.) This kind of test preparation works. Best of all, students are learning skills that are lifetime skills--not just for a test.
Host a college-prep party. Over winter vacation, spring break, or summer, invite high school graduates (kids now attending college) whom your teenager knows to visit with a few of your child's friends at your house. Provide popcorn, desserts, etc. (I'm talking major comfort food in the face of some serious truths that will surface during the evening.)
- What do those graduates (now in college) WISH they had done before taking PSATs and SATs?
- What courses or actions helped them the most on tests like these?
- What skills did they need to succeed in college?
- How did they select their schools? Did that process work well?
- What would they change in their college prep process, if anything?