7 Tips for Parents on SAT Test Day
SAT day might be the most stressful day of your teen’s life to date. This high stakes test that may just determine your child’s college prospects also signifies the culmination of months of studying and prep work. While most parents want to help, it’s hard to know exactly how you can support your child on a stressful day that ultimately he or she must conquer alone.
In this post we offer seven tips for supporting your teen on SAT day. Keep reading to learn how you can stand by your teen of the most stressful days of his or her life.
1. Make Sure He or She Is Prepared
You know the expression that an ounce of prevention is worth a pound of cure? There’s a parallel here.
Few feelings are worse than awakening on SAT day and knowing you didn’t do enough to prepare. Bolster your teen against this potentiality by ensuring that he or she begins prep work well in advance, has the tools for success, and won’t have any regrets when test day arrives.
CollegeVine offers some great, free SAT guides to start with:
You should also make sure you’ve read our article, Parents: How to Help Your Kids Reach Their SAT Goals, as studying ramps up.
2. Build His or Her Self-Confidence
Another way to ensure that your teen doesn’t wake up in a panic on SAT morning is to instill him or her with confidence. When your teen studies, praise him or her and let him or her know that you’re so impressed.
As test day approaches, let your teen know that you admire all of his or her hard work and that you know it will pay off on test day. At the same time, make sure that he or she knows this is just a test, and not a determination of his or her worth. Your teen should go into the SAT thinking, I did my best and that’s good enough. Help him or her to believe this mantra during SAT prep so that it’s actually true on test day.
3. Make a List of What Your Teen Needs on Test Day
This is likely to evoke an eye roll and a groan from many a teen, but there’s nothing wrong with compiling a list of things your teen needs for SAT test day, and posting it someplace prominent in the home in the days leading up to the test. While your teen might pretend like your gesture is unnecessary, if it reminds him or her of even one thing that may have otherwise been forgotten, it’s worth it.
Refer to the CollegeVine post What Should I Bring to My SAT? for a complete list.
If possible, you might even want to make sure that some of these items are available in the home, just in case your teen forgets to stock up on them in advance.
4. Make Sure He or She Gets Enough Sleep and Gets Up On Time
Teens aren’t always able to go to sleep at a reasonable hour and wake up on the early side. In fact, many studies have confirmed that their circadian rhythm dictates later sleeping and waking times. For this reason, your teen might need a little support when it comes to healthy sleeping habits leading up to the SAT.
First of all, it’s important to know that sleep deficit is cumulative. It’s not simply enough to get a good night’s sleep the night before the test. Your teen should be adding to his or her sleep bank throughout the week leading up to the test. You can help by making sure he or she eats dinner at a reasonable time, ensuring that the house is quiet and calm in the evening, limiting screen time and social media access, and possibly even allowing a late arrival at school one morning if your teen is truly sleep deprived. Ultimately, being well rested for the SAT is more important that missing a single English or math class.
In addition, make sure your teen is up at the appropriate time on SAT day. This is not the day to allow a missed alarm clock. Have a conversation with your teen about what time you need to leave in order to arrive at the test on time, and work backwards to establish a realistic waking time. Then, make sure he or she sticks to it.
5. Make Sure He or She Has a Good Breakfast
We all remember the days of slipping out the door to high school with a travel mug of coffee and a cereal bar. SAT day should not be one of those mornings. Instead, set your teen up for success by providing a protein-rich breakfast that will keep him or her fueled through the morning.
Some great options might include eggs, peanut butter toast, or even a protein smoothie with a bagel on the side. In addition, pack a snack for your teen to eat during break if he or she needs to. This should be something with some sugar in it, like a piece of fruit or a granola bar, to provide a little kick of energy for that last hour of the test.
6. Know Where the Test Is
Your teen has a lot to worry about on SAT day. One stressor that you can take on is getting him or her to the test on time. Make sure you know which test center he or she is testing at. There are often multiple test centers in a single geographic area, and the center your teen tests at may be different from the ones his or her friends are going to.
Review his or her registration to confirm the test center in advance, then locate it on a map so that you know where it is. If you have time, it’s a good idea to do a test drive a week or two ahead of time. This way, you’re absolutely sure that you know where it is and how to get there.
On test day, your teen will have lots of worry about, but getting the test center won’t be on that list.
7. Give Some Last Minute Tips
The car ride to the test center is a great time to review strategies. Don’t try to cram in any new knowledge now or offer any earth shattering insights. Instead, invite your teen to discuss his or her go-to strategies. Talking about them will clarify them in his or her mind and will get his or her brain warmed up for the actual test.
If your teen seems to be drawing a blank, ask about how he or she plans to use the process of elimination, how he or she is going to manage time on each section, and what he or she will do if there’s a question that seems completely unsolvable to him or her.
Be careful to gauge your child’s response, though. Not all teens will be open to this conversation in the car on the way to the SAT. Some teens are so stressed out that it’s best to keep conversations light. You know your child best; read his or her cues to determine what’s right for him or her.
The SAT can be a really stressful day for any teen. While a parent’s first inclination is always to help, it’s hard to know exactly how. Use these tips to guide and support your teen as he or she tackles SAT day.
Need more tips? Download our free guide with our top 8 tips for mastering the SAT.
Does your teen want access to expert college guidance — for free? When they create their free CollegeVine account, they will find out their real admissions chances, build a best-fit school list, learn how to improve their profile, and get their questions answered by experts and peers—all for free. Encourage them to sign up for their CollegeVine account today to get a boost on their college journey.
For more tips about preparing for the SAT, see our posts:
Want more SAT tips sent to you?
Sign up below and we'll send you expert SAT tips and guides.