Sitting for the SAT is a major step in your student’s educational path. Since this score could determine the competitiveness of their college applications, it can also be an anxiety-ridden process to prepare for the SAT.
Parents have a role to play when it comes to helping kids manage the stress around preparing to undertake the SAT. Your support can set them up for success. But first, you need to understand the modern-day SAT and how the experts suggest students manage their preparations leading up to exam day.
That’s why Empowerly created this SAT prep for parents—to give you the tools to help your student achieve their best scores. Let’s dive in.
What is the SAT?
It’s been decades since you took the SAT. Maybe you never took it. Either way, understanding what the SAT looks like today is the first thing you need to know to prepare students for the exam itself.
In short, the SAT is an entrance exam that most U.S. colleges and universities use to determine a student’s readiness for higher education.
While not the only factor used in the college admissions process (others include GPA, a personal essay, and more), it is considered crucial to get the best score possible to maximize your chances of getting into the schools of your choice.
Here’s an overall look at what the SAT entails:
- Exam duration: 3 hours
- Number and type of exam questions: 154 multiple-choice
- Exam components: 65-minute reading test, 35-minute writing and language test, 80-minute math section
- Use of calculator during math sections: allowed for one of the two sections
- Scored on a scale of 400 – 1600
- Cost: $60
As you can see, the SAT will measure your child’s reading, writing, and math skills using 154 multiple-choice questions. The highest score possible is 1600.
The reading section includes passages (or pairs of passages) that cover topics like literature, historical documents, and social and natural sciences. The writing and language section will test your grammar, vocabulary, and editing skills. For math, students will tackle algebra, geometry, and trigonometry. Test takers are allowed to use a calculator for one of the math sections, but will have to go without on the other.
Universities will generally list their average incoming freshman SAT scores, so parents will have an idea of the score your kid needs to be a competitive applicant for their top schools.
The First Step: Registering for the SAT
Before sitting down to study, your student should have an SAT date on the books. Setting the date gives them a goal to shoot for when organizing their preparation schedule, acting as a motivational tool.
Don’t wait too long to sign them up for the test. Planning this part of the SAT well in advance ensures your student will get the day and time that suits their schedule and personal preferences as well as a convenient location.
Review future test dates, registration deadlines, and other important information online at sat.org. If you’re concerned about the cost of the test, check to see if your child qualifies for a fee waiver.
Next Steps: Studying for the SAT
Ideally, you’ve given your student 4-6 months before the test date to work on test prep. Now is the time to create a study schedule and help them stick to it.
A good place to start to prepare students for SAT day is by signing them up for official SAT practice at satpractice.org. Created in part by the makers of SAT, students will find thousands of practice questions, video lessons, quizzes, and practice tests to familiarize themselves with the exam and build confidence.
If your kid needs extra help and guidance as they prepare for the SAT, you might consider hiring a private tutor or enrolling them in a group study program. Empowerly offers a great test prep program to help boost your scores!
At least two weeks before the exam, schedule them to take a full-length practice test, available at satpractice.org. Familiarity with the structure and pacing of the exam will calm nerves and help students focus on the areas where they need to study the most before taking the real SAT.
Final Steps: Double-check and Relax
One of the best SAT prep steps for parents is learning how to be an emotional support for your college-bound student. A few days before the exam, double-check that you both know the date, time, and location of the exam. Plan how exam day will look—what time should they wake up, if any final review is needed, etc.
Help your student relax and get in the right mindset for test taking by doing something they enjoy the day before the SAT. And, of course, help them get a good night’s rest.
Additional SAT Prep for Parents
Looking for more tips on how to prepare students for the SAT? Our college admissions experts share their entrance exam expertise on the Empowerly blog, where parents can familiarize themselves with all aspects of the process.
ACT vs. SAT: What’s the difference? Get to know these two college entrance exams to help your student decide which one to take.
Review our 10 crucial test-prep tips for more ideas on how to prepare students for the SAT.
Can I get a perfect SAT score? We break down the chances and give you advice on how to maximize your child’s test performance.