Standardized tests have a tendency to bring out a sense of panic in even the most well meaning parents, and the SHSAT is a particular offender. With admissions depending solely on a child’s score, the stakes seem high, the rewards higher. Perhaps this is why I get so many calls from parents who want to their child to begin SHSAT prep a year or more before the test date. Spoiler alert: this is a really bad idea!
When a parent calls City Smarts wanting to begin SHSAT prep too far in advance, I tell them to call me back in the spring.
The SHSAT is very much a goldilocks kind of test. It’s a tricky, rigorous exam that does demand months of practice (from most students, at least), but too much tutoring is a certain recipe for burn-out.
So to the 6th and 7th grade parents out there: when should your child begin?
While every child is different, here are a few ground rules.
1. Don’t even think about SHSAT prep until the spring of your child’s 7th grade year.
Depending on your child’s motivation, academic performance, and summer plans, effective prep generally starts no sooner than March and no later than the end of August.
For anxious students, it may be appropriate to start as early as February.
2. Have your child take an assessment before signing up for prep.
Instead of taking a more-is-more approach, set up prep that meets your child’s specific needs. At City Smarts, we like prospective SHSAT test-takers to take an assessment before beginning prep, and there’s no secret formula to understanding their results. 7th graders who are really good at answering SHSAT questions don’t need that much tutoring, students who perform moderately well should probably get started a little earlier, and students who perform poorly may not be a good fit for the specialized schools.
3. Build in milestones.
Test prep shouldn’t ever be an open ended engagement. Work with your tutor or tutoring company to build milestones into prep. Periodic mock tests, quizzes, or assessments should show consistent improvement, reveal sticking points, and affirm new mastery. And once your child is able to score highly on mock SHSATs, it may be time to taper off support.
At the end of the day, there will always be parents who choose to begin early prep and tutoring companies who encourage this kind of excess. Here at City Smarts, however, we will continue to stand by humane, goal-oriented prep.