Coping with Preparing for the SATs

Dear Dr. Linda,

My daughter and her friends found a great tutor to prepare them for the SAT and my daughter told everyone they could meet at our house around the dining room table. I didn’t know about it, but it seems my husband approved—he thinks it’s a great idea. I don’t because I don’t want to have to clean the house every week before they get here. My husband and daughter keep telling me that the house is clean enough. But I know I’ll be crazy before they walk in and after they leave—cleaning up any messes they made.

In short, I refused to let them have the class here. Tonight, my husband and daughter told me that I need help because I’m a clean freak. I obviously don’t agree, but I want my daughter and her friends to get the best preparation for the SAT. What other SAT programs should we look at?

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Dear Sue,

There are many programs to go to. Simply go online and Google SAT prep courses in your area. Most of them would be a good choice if your daughter learns well in a classroom situation and the cost is moderate. In the best courses, instructors will go over the nature of the exam, the format, how to use the answer sheets properly, when and how to guess, and how to work efficiently to finish the tests in the allotted time—as well as the subject material itself.

To be sure she’s getting plenty of good practice, it’s important that a prep course uses real SAT questions and not simulated ones. Actual SAT practice questions are well-designed. If students are stuck on one of these SAT questions, they know they need more practice. (Often simulated SAT math questions are so poorly formulated that they can’t even be done.)

Your daughter can also use an individual SAT tutor. If cost is not an issue, this is the most effective way to prepare for the SAT. The tutor will focus on exactly what your daughter needs, without spending a large amount of time going over things that she already knows well.

A good tutor will go over the same points and materials that are covered in any quality test prep course. Similarly, top SAT tutors also use real SAT exams for practice rather than simulated SAT questions. They will focus on strategies students can use not only to get high SAT scores but continue to use in college. It’s a double value. 

But back to your specific situation. To begin with, it’s great that your daughter wants to practice for the SAT. It seems that your daughter and her friends have found a tutor that they’d be comfortable with. That’s special. If the tutor is good, she can start working now and when test-taking time comes, she’ll be well-prepared. How lucky you are that you have a responsible and serious daughter!

Are you a clean freak? I can’t really say. The question I would ask is this: Is the reason you don’t want the SAT group to meet at your house because you have a lot to do and preparing for the group to come over is just too much or are you concerned that the state of your house at all times reflects on you personally—that some judgment will be made of you because your house isn’t immaculate?

If it’s the former, you have a perfect right to say so and look at other alternatives for where they might meet. If it’s the latter, I’d remind you that the fact your daughter is comfortable enough to bring her friends to your home is a good sign. It implies that: 1) Neither your husband nor your daughter is embarrassed by the state of your house, and 2) your daughter has no qualms about having you around when studying with friends. Many kids that age don’t want their parents around because they’re afraid they’ll interfere in some way. Both of those things seem good to me.

In the end, you must decide what the priority will be—managing stress effectively, having an immaculate house, or providing a comfortable place where your daughter and her friends can get the practice they need to do as well as possible on the SAT.

There’s a middle ground here, too. If your daughter is old enough to take the SAT, she’s also old enough to help you clean up before and after, prepare snacks, etc. (So is your husband.)

Here’s to learning,

Dr. Linda

If you have a question to ask Dr. Linda about your child or a school related situation, she can be reached at

The opinions expressed herein are the writer's alone, and do not reflect the opinions of or anyone who works for is not responsible for the accuracy of any of the information supplied by the writer.

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