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What To Do When Your Child Fails the ACT or SAT

College-bound students have a lot of pressure to perform well on the biggest tests of their lives, the ACT or SAT. Many programs allow students to take practice tests earlier in high school. These allow students to have a general idea of how they’ll do on the “real test” during their junior or senior years of high school. Ideally, preparation for college entrance exams should be done throughout high school (and even earlier), but sometimes the exam can be challenging and exhausting for even the best students. When your child doesn’t get the score to admit them into the college of their choice, it can be frustrating for parents and students alike.

Here’s what to do when your child fails the ACT or SAT. 

1. Stay calm. 

Chances are your child tried their best, so there’s no reason to get angry. Talk about what was challenging and what they need help on to improve. Having open conversations can help you both decide the next step. Was it test taking anxiety? Were they unfamiliar with some of the content? Did they struggle in one area more than another? Make sure you’re both ready to sit down and have an honest, helpful conversation.

2. Take a class. 

ACT and SAT in-person prep classes through local school districts, colleges, and test prep organizations can be lifesavers in reducing anxiety and teaching test-taking strategies. It’s not necessarily about cramming knowledge but learning about what type of questions your student can expect and how to go about answering different types of questions. These courses use old tests to help students become familiar with questions on the exams. It’s typical to see jumps in scores after taking a test prep course.

3. Maintain healthy habits. 

It sounds obvious, but remind your child to get a good night’s rest and eat a healthy breakfast the day of the test. Your student may be anxious the night before the test, so remind them to shut off devices and get their eight hours. It will make a huge different on their mental alertness come morning! Try some protein-rich foods like eggs or yogurt and some whole grain toast. Don’t eat too much, of course, but have enough that your stomach won’t be growling or begging for nourishment during the test.

4. Set a Goal 

Whether it’s a number for their overall score or an area your student is looking to improve upon, set a specific goal for them to reach. By taking practice tests (either online, in books, or through a course), this goal can seem achievable with every study session. Encourage your child to reach the goal with mini goals along the way!

5. Practice with them. 

It may have been a long time since you took the ACT or SAT, but working through some of the problems with your student can help build their confidence and allow you to talk about your own problem-solving and metacognition process. Think (and talk) about thinking! Allow your child to see your mistakes as you make them, and talk about how to work through them together.

Today’s high school students have so many pressures from home, extracurricular activities, grades, and getting into college. It’s important not to put too much emphasis on one test. However, letting your child know how to prepare and do their best on the ACT or SAT can keep them from “failing”, which in entrance exam speak means getting a score lower than what their choice college will accept. Don’t worry! Try these things to do when your child fails the ACT or SAT, and you’ll be setting them up for success!

Amber Louchart
Author: Amber Louchart

Amber is the proud mother to four beautiful children, Damian (27), Rosaleigh (14), Carlyn (11), and Naomi (8). Her family also includes four cats. She loves being a stay-at-home mom and feels blessed to be able to care for her children full-time and provide them with so many opportunities through Metro Detroit Mommy. In addition to Metro Detroit Mommy, Amber has a passion for hosting karaoke with Malibu Entertainment.  She enjoys the metro Detroit nightlife especially, singing, dancing and meeting new people.