What You Need to Know About Preparing Your Kids for the SATs
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"I also found that you could order old entrance tests online. You just work on it together at home. I worked on it from the standpoint of 'let's get comfortable'—not, 'Are the answers right?' Parents can also order old test guides online and go through them with their child at home. I also encourage parents to regularly visit bookstores and readings with their children, or go to museums. That was really helpful for me."
Wayans suggests being strategic when choosing the right school for your child, should he or she need a more flexible environment.
"My middle child was a different type of learner. I thought, 'We're going to have to do a Central Park East school.' At some schools (like Central Park East), they would test the child more liberally. It wasn't a rigid bubble—they get a sense of what the child's learning style is. It was a really good match for her. What I learned from that process was that each child is very different and that we do need to have a number of offerings for how our children learn."
She continues, "Take advantage of the tours and open houses for different private schools. When you do that, you'll get some inside information regarding how they handle entrance exams, especially during the Q&As. They'll tell you how heavily they weigh math over English, and so on."
What should I do if my child has special needs or is a poor test-taker?
Alvin Dicker from Dicker Reading Method in Scarsdale argues that test prep for students with special needs is about adjusting one's attitude as a parent and reinforcing learning techniques at home.
"We work with ADD, ADHD, and learning-disabled students. When they're reading a paragraph, they have a very hesitant reading style. I train the parents to work together with us as a team. I train the parents in the techniques of the program and [how] to shift their attitude from 'I can't' to 'I can.' In my program we're dissecting the whole story, teaching them all of the skills necessary for answering reading comprehension questions."
"I have sessions for parents, too," Dicker adds. "The parents can learn our teaching techniques so they can reinforce the learning at home. I also ask them to try to take out the element of struggle that exists in helping their kids improve. It's about love, relationships, and making it fun for the kids. It's not a lecture. It's about shifting the parents' attitude about learning with their child."
Wayans also recommends that parents not attempt to hide their child's special needs from the school, instead bringing the teachers and administrators fully into the loop so they can help the child accordingly. "One of the things parents can do is to make teachers and administrators aware of any special needs your child may have. You really need to bring those needs to the attention of the school."
There are even times when a child may not have a diagnosed learning disorder, but he needs extra time for test-taking. "The school guidance counselor can help work that out for them," Wayans says. "They will be able to figure out very quickly if the child is a poor test taker. The sooner they can address that, the sooner they can create an environment for the actual SAT class, whether they're given extra time or are in a room with fewer people in it."
What if my family is strapped for time?
With families dashing around trying to make it to multiple activities on the calendar, Wayans stresses that it's the parents' responsibility to keep track of the PSAT/SAT schedule, because chances are that testing isn't particularly high on the typical high school student's priority list. "When you're talking about after-school activities, PSAT/SAT prep is one of those things where parents really have to keep an eye out and stay engaged for when the school is providing prep courses"-because your kids will be thinking about soccer and music lessons. It's your job to help nudge your child in the right direction.