Summer presents a prime opportunity for high schoolers to focus on college entrance exams like the SAT or ACT without the usual schoolwork distractions. As parents, you play a crucial role in guiding your teen through this process while ensuring they still enjoy their summer break. Here’s your strategic guide to help your teen excel in these critical tests.

Understanding the Differences: SAT vs. ACT

Before diving into prep, it’s vital to grasp the distinctions between the SAT and ACT:

  • Structure and Content: The SAT focuses on reading, writing, language, and mathematics and includes an optional essay. It emphasizes reasoning and problem-solving skills. The ACT includes English, mathematics, reading, science, and an optional essay, testing knowledge and analytical skills.
  • Scoring: SAT scores range from 400 to 1600, combining the results from two 800-point sections: Math and Evidence-Based Reading and Writing. The ACT scores each section on a scale of 1 to 36; the final score is an average of the four sections.
  • Time: The SAT takes two hours and 14 minutes, and the ACT takes two hours and 55 minutes, plus an optional 40-minute essay.

Choosing between the two depends on your teen’s strengths and the specific requirements of their prospective colleges. Gradually, colleges are reinstituting SAT or ACT requirements as part of their admissions process. An SAT or ACT score is required if you are looking to get merit scholarships.

With these insights in mind, let’s explore how to effectively plan, prepare, and support your teen throughout their summer study journey.

Setting Up a Study Schedule

A structured study schedule is crucial. Here’s how to create one:

  1. Assess Current Readiness: Start with a practice test for each exam to identify strengths and weaknesses.
  2. Set a Goal: Establish realistic goals based on practice results and target scores for desired colleges.
  3. Develop a Timeline: Break down study time across the summer weeks, setting clear weekly goals and daily tasks.
  4. Balance Subjects: Allocate more time to weaker subjects, but ensure all areas are thoroughly reviewed.

Choosing the Right Prep Courses and Resources

With numerous options available, selecting the right resources can be overwhelming:

  • Prep Books: Guides like The Official SAT Study Guide or The Real ACT Prep Guide provide a good starting point.
  • Online Courses: Platforms like Khan Academy (for SAT) and ACT Online Prep offer comprehensive, flexible preparation tools.
  • Private Tutoring: Consider a tutor if your teen needs more personalized help or struggles with specific sections.

Balancing Study and Summer Fun

Balancing preparation with relaxation is vital to maintaining motivation and avoiding burnout:

  • Set Clear Boundaries: Designate study times and fun times distinctly, allowing your teen to fully engage in each.
  • Plan Fun Activities: Regularly schedule activities your teen enjoys. It could be a weekend trip, a day at the beach, or movie nights.
  • Encourage Social Interactions: Group study sessions can be practical and more enjoyable. Encourage your teen to join or form study groups.

Encouragement and Support

Your role in providing support and encouragement is as critical as any study plan:

  • Stay Positive: Celebrate small victories and progress, no matter how minor they seem.
  • Provide Support: Be there to discuss any frustrations and help resolve them.
  • Monitor Progress: Check in regularly on your teen’s progress without being intrusive. This will help keep your teen accountable and let them know you’re invested in their success.


 Preparing for SAT or ACT exams during the summer can be manageable with a well-structured plan, the right resources, and a balanced approach. Remember, it’s not just about test prep but also about fostering discipline and skills for future challenges.