How to Raise Your Student's SAT Score...Without a Single Strategy

mindset sat Dec 06, 2017

Most parents, when they come to me looking for SAT help, are initially looking for something simple, quick, and formulaic. And it’s totally understandable. Why not? The SAT is a test right? You study the material, you ace the test. 

That’s how it was in school, at least. If you have a biology test coming up soon on genes and DNA and Punnet squares, then you go home and memorize the heck out of that stuff and show up the next day ready to splosh all of your newfound knowledge all over the page.

Similarly, most parents in your shoes are looking for someone to help their son or daughter cram all of the knowledge they need into their head so that they can turn around and once again splosh it all over the page.

But I have a secret for you:

Most of the knowledge your daughter needs is already in her mind.

She’s already learned it. Sure, there are some exceptions out there, but for the most part, most students by the time they reach junior year have already learned enough to do well on the test.

So why is the test hard? Why the low scores?

Because you may have missed the crucial foundation: mindset.

It sounds silly. It sounds cheap. But it’s true.

The SAT isn’t testing what your student knows. It’s going after HOW SHE THINKS.


How your student thinks about herself

So many students enter into the SAT from a place of fear and intimidation. They have lofty dreams of exciting careers and vibrant college life and they want desperately for the SAT to just be a non-issue so that they can move on from high school to chase the dreams that they were made to chase.

But there’s a trap there that we parents have the honor of exposing.

We have the honor of instilling in our children a deeper sense of who they are in this life so that their entire identity isn’t hinging on the school they go to or the prestigious career choice they make. If students see their worth as inherently wrapped up in college and career, then they’ll fall for the trap of the “big bad SAT”. It's going to stress them out, overwhelm them, and darn near give them panic attacks.

I can’t tell you the number of students I have worked with who are all star students but who struggle with the SAT. Yes, they need to learn more strategies and how to implement them…absolutely. But I never start there. And I’ll never end there.

To do well on the SAT, students must start with their own worth and purpose in the world. They matter.

They matter already, even before they take one step out into the real world. They matter to me, even though I haven’t met them. That’s how awesome they are.

They matter to God, who made them…think about it. He could have made the world without your daughter in it. But he didn’t. He CHOSE to put her here. That must mean she’s pretty incredible because God thinks this world is a better place with her in it than it would be without her. And more than that, he gave up everything to prove it…but that’s a story for another time :)

And of course they matter to you. That’s why you’re here. You don’t read about the SAT for your own fun…I know I know, you can’t fool me. But seriously, you already see in your kid awesome potential. But let’s make sure they know it’s more than just potential for future exploits, it’s current awesomeness...right now. 

I guarantee you, if your student walks through life confident and secure in who they are right now, whether they flip burgers, walk dogs, teach kindergartners, rule empires, or colonize planets, then the SAT will be halfway conquered already. It can’t touch them. It has no power over their identity, so then why should they get test anxiety or writer’s block or any of the ills that plague test-takers.

Is the SAT important? Yes. Should they work hard to prepare for it? Absolutely. But should it have power of your student? No.


How your student thinks about what he knows

Once your student knows how awesome he is…then it becomes a lot easier for him to do the absolute most important thing he can possibly do to boost his score:

Think for himself.

Let me repeat it: the most important thing for your kid to do on the SAT is to think for himself.

Students can go into the test not having any idea what’s on it and get an awesome score just by being confident enough in who they are to know that what they think actually matters, actually works, and is actually right.

The SAT is designed to trip you up and intimidate you so that your will and ability to actually think are sucked right out of you. Then you’re left feeling like you have no idea what you’re doing, but thankfully it’s a multiple choice test so you can just rely on the answers.


There is no faster way to subvert your student’s chance at a good score. I promise you.

To conquer this test, your student has to know that what he thinks is actually valid. He has to know that he can answer FOR HIMSELF any question thrown at him…whether he’s given answer choices or not.

He has to trust his instincts to guide him rightly when he’s facing a math problem where he just can’t quite see how to find the way to the solution. To conquer the SAT he has to be both confident in his knowledge, his critical thinking skills, and his SAT strategies AND confident enough in himself to be able to improvise, wing-it, and discover when he faces a challenge.

Our minds want to always wrap things up in pretty paper and bows and make sure that we can handle whatever is in front of us. In a sense, they want to control everything.

But it’s time for your student’s heart to be bigger than his mind. Because, when we live with heart, we are okay not having all the answers. We are okay stepping out and risking. We are okay with not being perfect. Instead we’re happy to just be alive.

From this mindset, an SAT question is no longer an obstacle to get past, it’s an arena in which your student can explore and display his best qualities.


How your student thinks WITH what she knows

What your student knows is not what’s being tested. We have to get this crucial concept.

The SAT is not testing your student’s schoolroom learning. It’s testing her ability to think in a variety of contexts…reading, writing, and math. So her task is not just to regurgitate information.

Instead it is to USE two types of information (schoolroom learning and SAT strategies) as weapons to fight and dance her way through a tricky test.

There will be different weapons needed depending on the enemy and the terrain at hand. Sometimes students will need geometry formulas, other times they’ll need to spot wrong verb tense, but ALL the time they will need their own ability to think on their feet, to attack with confidence, and to, with laser-focus, pull out from the test what they need and discard what they don’t need.

That’s why I emphasize so strongly that your student absolutely MUST know who she is and what awesomeness she brings to the table. Because in all stages of conquering the SAT, no matter what weapons she's currently using, THE STUDENT is the common denominator. How she approaches the task at hand is ALWAYS a factor.

That’s why your student can raise her score without a single drop of SAT strategy. 

Now wait a second. Don’t get me wrong. SAT strategy will be a very important part of your student’s preparation and success. A warrior’s sword is like his best friend. But the best warriors can forge their own weapons on the fly when they’re back's against a wall.

That’s what I want for your students. I want them to have the best weapons available: a thorough understanding of the right school stuff and more importantly the right SAT tactics.

But I also want your students to know that they are formidable warriors…overcomers. I want for them to be able to think on their feet, to dance and “agility” their way through the test, and to attack it—to conquer it with fierce confidence.


How to help your student get ready to conquer the SAT

Your role is tricky, I know. How much involvement is too much…how much is not enough? How do you motivate your student without nagging them and then consequently DEMOTIVATING them?

Start with building them up. Affirming them. And give them resources that do the same. 

Remember, you’re doing great. You are heroes. Your kids will thank you for loving them.


Do your children have this mindset? How do you teach it to them? Let me know in the comments.

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