How To Turn Your Student’s Digital SAT Prep Into A Personal Development Project

Jake Adams
May 1, 2024

Taking The SAT Is Becoming Less Optional

The tides of test-optional admissions are turning. Yale, Dartmouth, M.I.T., Georgetown, Purdue, and Brown have all reinstated their standardized test score requirements for applicants this fall. 

Regardless of how you might feel about this news as a parent, the bigger question you need to be asking yourself is, “How can you come alongside your student in embracing the reality they will likely need to take either the SAT or ACT as part of their journey to higher education?” 

Yale even went as far as to say, “[Standardized] test scores are the single greatest predictor of a student’s performance in Yale courses in every model we have constructed” in announcing its new test-flexible admissions policy. 

Embrace The Challenge Of Taking The Digital SAT

Over the years, I’ve worked with hundreds of students, and what I’ve observed is that students who villainized the test or thought it was unfair that they should have to take these exams rarely achieved the scores they were capable of.

So… now that taking these tests is becoming more of a requirement than an option within an increasingly competitive admissions process, here’s what I have to say to parents and students alike: lean into the challenge and let it teach you something. 

Simple Steps To Help Students Prepare For The SAT

The world of standardized testing is continually changing, but as a parent, you can find comfort in the fact that because these exams are standardized, there are structured approaches students can take to prepare for the SAT and improve their scores. 

Whether your student is planning to study on their own or work with a test prep tutor to prepare for the Digital SAT, the same principles apply. 

#1. Assess what your student needs to learn through diagnostic testing.

#2. Use a test prep curriculum that allows students to learn and practice the specific concepts they are missing from their diagnostic exams. 

#3. Work on improving test-taking accuracy and then test-taking speed. 

#4. Use practice tests to gauge score improvements and repeat steps 2-4 until your student reaches their goal score.

You can read my in-depth guide to helping your student achieve a higher score on the Digital SAT here.

5 Ways To Transform Test Prep Into A Personal Development Project For Your Student

While the path I’ve laid out above is pretty straightforward, it’s important to note that every student’s test prep journey is different. It’s more likely than not that at some point, your student will experience a setback, a score plateau, or the uncomfortable feeling that they are not improving fast enough. 

This is where turning test prep into an exercise in personal development and character building can help your student! Approaching test prep from this angle not only helps your student achieve their goals with far less stress, but it also teaches them how to overcome the challenge of meeting externally imposed learning standards similar to the ones they’ll face trying to pass college classes. 

1. Redefine The Goal of Test Prep

Preparing for the Digital SAT should be about more than a score. Your students' scores shouldn’t define them but rather quantify how far along they are on the path to mastering a challenging learning goal. 

When we redefine the goal of test prep from achieving a certain score to teaching students how to train their brains to handle new challenges, develop structured approaches to learning, and build the resilience to pursue solutions to difficult problems, we move your student closer to building the skills they need to succeed in college and in life.

2. Aim For Progress Over Perfect Scores

It’s best for you and your student to treat their practice test scores and official scores as “information” and “feedback” on where they can improve rather than a metric that defines whether or not they are a “good student”. 

When students learn to appreciate their own growth, measured by just how far they’ve come since they first started preparing for the exam, they learn the value of being persistent and diligent in their search for a path to overcoming difficult problems. 

3. Help Your Student Adopt A Growth Mindset

The key to helping your student adopt a growth mindset is to emphasize the power of "yet" in their learning vocabulary. Encourage them to think, "I haven't mastered this concept yet, but if I continue to apply myself and try new approaches, I’ll get there." This type of language reinforces the belief that with enough effort and time, mastering new information is not just possible but inevitable. 

The true value of test prep comes from the process of teaching them how to learn and grow continuously to meet the challenges set before them. 

4. Utilize A Mastery Based Approach To Test Prep

Using a mastery-based approach to test prep means that we don’t let students advance to learning more complex topics until they have achieved at least 90% accuracy in answering questions that test the more basic concepts that underlie the concepts one skill level above where they are currently working. 

This approach teaches a powerful lesson: mastery comes from persistence and gradually progressing to a place of understanding, rather than rushing through the material to impress their friends or their instructors. 

5. Use Setbacks To Teach Your Student Resilience

Resilience is perhaps the greatest character skill test prep can develop. When we teach students to view setbacks not as failures but as opportunities for learning and growth, we are teaching them how to become more resilient. A resilient mindset is incredibly beneficial beyond just test prep; it applies to all areas of life, especially in academic and professional settings where new and difficult challenges are the never-ending. 

Bonus Tip: Seek Guidance From A Test Prep Coach

Don't wait to make test prep a transformative experience for your student. Consider working with a seasoned test prep coach who can develop a unique test prep approach to meet their needs and help them master material while developing a resilient mindset. When your student learns to approach test prep as an opportunity for personal development we can assure you that the process will become much less stressful, more meaningful, and more rewarding. 

Book a consultation today to start the process of finding test prep coach who can guide your student toward academic success and personal growth.

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