Make a Schedule: Test Prep 101

As I say in Honestly and Rarely: How to Talk about Standardized Tests with Your Child, the more you talk about standardized tests with your child, the less they’ll want to study. Unfortunately, you have to check that they’re doing their work. The best way to do so is to make a schedule. A schedule lets you check to see that your child is doing their work while triggering as little teenage defiance as possible.
Below is what I’ve found works best when setting a schedule. Since every parent-child combo has their own style of communication, I keep the instructions general.
Get your child to buy in
Before you make a schedule with your child, explain why it’s a good idea. Then ask your child which of the following options they prefer:

1. You hover over them and talk about the test constantly.

2. They have two or three set times per week for test prep (that you check), and one set time per week for discussing their progress with you.

They’ll choose option 2.

Make the schedule together and compromise
If you let your child participate in making the schedule, it becomes their schedule as opposed to a schedule being forced on them. Compromise a little and let them make some decisions. Obviously, use strategy as you negotiate. If you absolutely want them to take three mock exams, start with four and let them talk you down. Be aware of overscheduling and be sure to include downtime. It’s important that children (and adults) have time to rest and recharge.

Along with the schedule, make sure you discuss what happens if they don’t do their work. Establishing clear consequences at the outset is important. Students are much more accepting of consequences when they’ve been set ahead of time.

Check that they’re working without talking about the test
During their scheduled time to work, check in. I recommend not talking to them about the test during these times. Just see if they’re working. If they are, leave them alone.

Keep the meetings to discuss your child’s progress short: 10 minutes should be enough. Ask specific questions: Where do you need help? Do you need more materials? Are you ready for a mock exam?

Enforce consequences if work isn’t done
You must enforce consequences if work isn’t done. If you don’t, your child will learn that they don’t have to follow their schedule.

A little reward doesn’t hurt
If your child follows their schedule consistently, give them a small reward (emphasis on small). Maybe make their favorite meal or give them 15 minutes extra screen time. Make these rewards rare and not a weekly thing.

Making a schedule has helped me immeasurably as a tutor, and parents have reported that it’s helped them as well. The calmer you can make your child’s test prep, the better, and making a schedule is one of the best ways to keep things calm and composed at home.

To your child’s success!

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