Ice cream cones, sandy beaches, clear blue water and the giant test prep book? Which one is unlike all the others? Believe it or not, they all belong together. Even though your son or daughter will tell you otherwise, the summer is one of the best times to prep for the ACT and SAT, and to work on other college admission stuff. It’s the time of year when your student has the most time, which is somewhat of a rarity as soon as your student hits high school.
Now, that isn’t to say that the summer is not a busy time, but it’s when your student is most likely to have the 100 hours needed to reach his or her score potential. This translates to at least three months, which means that if your student starts his/her prep in June, he/she will finish in time for the fall test.
In order to understand your student’s summer prep plan a little better, read on to find out where he/she stands on the ACT or SAT timeline.
If your student is a rising senior…
Junior year is now coming to a close for your student. What will probably be his/her most challenging year is now over. However, senior year comes with its own set of challenges, like applying to college, which means there is not much time left to take the ACT or SAT. Ideally, we like our students to have taken one of the tests twice in their junior year and leave room in the fall of senior year in case they want to take the test a third time. Your student will be busy with college applications, last minute college tours and any lingering SAT Subject tests, if they choose to take them, which means there will be little time to prep.
So, if your student wants to get in another test for the fall, it’s his/her last chance to make a difference in his/her score, and prep will be necessary to do that. It takes about 100 hours to complete all necessary college application work and your student does not want to compound that with test prep, which will take another 100 hours to complete. Getting started in June will allow your student plenty of time to get those 100 hours in.
If your student is a rising junior…
Now is prime time to be focusing on ACT and SAT prep. Junior year will probably be a whirlwind for your student, so it’s best to get test prep in while your student still has time. If your student preps over the summer, the fall test will come within the two to three-month window of your student’s prep, which is prime time for taking the test. Review will be fresh in your student’s mind and looking over review notes, like those that students take on Testive, will remind your student which key points to remember.
The fall of junior year is also when your student will take the PSAT. The PSAT is also known as the National Merit Scholarship Qualifying Test (NMSQT) which means that students who score somewhere within the top 50,000 will be entered to win up to $2500 in scholarships.
While your student may not need three tries to get his or her desired scores, it’s best to plan for the unexpected. It’s also best to get your child’s first test out of the way in case he or she scores perfectly the first time. That way, the rest of junior year can be spent on AP coursework, college visits, extracurriculars and everything else your student wants to do before resumes are sent to colleges.
Any way you slice it, doing summer prep will not hurt your student. It will get the burden off your shoulders and leave them with a plan for better test scores.
Why your student should prep over the summer
“The best time to plant a tree was 20 years ago. The second best time is now.”
This Chinese proverb is one of our favorites here at Testive (yes, this is one of the reminder texts we send to our students). It gets at the heart of test prep, it’s important, but not urgent. One of the keys to mastering the ACT or SAT is creating urgency where none exists. There will always be an excuse your student can use to put off studying for the test, like the fact that it’s yet another perfect beach day or field hockey practice is going to run late today. Why not start prep now? Creating urgency where none exists can start this summer. It’s a perfect time to establish new habits. Have your student write down a goal score for the end of the summer and make sure he/she is working a little bit each day to achieve that goal.
Consistency is key to improvement on either test, and the summer is the largest chunk of time students will have to consistently prep. Doing 10 Testive questions a day will provide your student with about a 100 point increase over three months, which is a much higher score improvement than your student would see if he/she only did 50 Testive questions the night before the test. We have continuously found that students who establish study routines early in their prep achieve much higher score improvement. The summer is the best time to establish those routines since students won’t feel as much of a time crunch from school activities.
If you have not experienced it yet in your family, junior year is killer. Students take on more activities, homework, and hobbies in an effort to appear as well-rounded as possible to colleges. The beginning of senior year isn’t much better as they begin to apply to those colleges. As we mentioned above, doing the bulk of the test prep during the summer is one less thing your student has to worry about during the busiest school years of his/her career. It will make make your student cringe to think about doing work over the summer, but they will be thanking you for it later.
Why your student should not prep over the summer
We all know that getting students to do work over the summer brings back memories of trying to get them to eat their vegetables at age 5 (some of you may still be struggling with this one). Here are some of the objections they will have and how to counteract them.
“It’s summer, which means I should be on vacation and not have to do work.”
Yes, this is true, but doing small chunks of test prep work each day, even 10 questions or 30 minutes, will not take up too much of those perfect beach days. It can easily be done when your student gets home at night or in the morning before peak tanning time has arrived.
“I still have sports, my job and other extracurriculars.”
A lot of students will pack in more activities because they don’t have to worry about school. But the 30 hours a week they just gained should more than make up for those new activities, and then some.
“I promise I’ll start prep my last week of vacation.”
The longer your student waits to start prep, the harder it will be to reach that potential score. Your student should spend the last week of vacation getting in those last beach days, not holing up in his/her room with a test prep book.
“I’ll be more likely to prep when school starts.”
This one is a total stretch. The real answer is that your student will never be in the mood to prep, least of all when school starts. That’s when your student will want to shift focus to schoolwork instead of the ACT and SAT prep. Establishing two new routines at once will be overload.
“I’ll just take the test without prep first and then decide if I need it.”
Well, this is certainly an option, and has a slight chance of panning out. But even the smartest students don’t score their best their first time taking the test. Many of them will take it twice their junior year and possibly again in the fall of senior year. There is not much that can prepare your student for sitting in a chair for four hours taking a test other than actually going through it a few times. If your student is planning on taking the test for the first time in the fall, he/she will most likely take it again in the spring. Why not start his/her prep now so that it’s that much easier to improve his/her score when it comes time to take the test again? The less times your student can take the SAT, the better. It will save you both money and time.
We have now reached the end of our summer pitch. Have we convinced you that ACT and SAT prep over the summer is the best option? If so, know that our summer program fills up fast, so sign-up now.