Standardized Tests

In the last few decades, standardized testing has taken a front and center seat in the educational world. Some states require testing at certain grades for data, funding, and even as a graduation requirement. Nationally, most students are encouraged to take the SATs or ACTs, depending on their desired goals after they graduate. No matter what age your student, or how great of a test taker they may be, standardized test stress is real. Here are a few tips and ways to help get through standardized test stress. 

  1. Scores do not equal worth. Remind your student that regardless of their scores, it does not determine their worth. Their inability to do geometric equations does not take away from the fact that they may be an incredible musician. They also do not equal your skill as a homeschool parent. Just because you are not teaching to the test, does not mean you or your child are inept or incapable. Test scores are data points, not worth scores. 
  2. Process of elimination: these standardized tests are just that, which means they are almost 100% multiple choice. The best thing you can help your student learn how to do is eliminate the obvious wrong answers. Each eliminated “no”, raises their chance of choosing the correct answer. Even a 1:3 chance is always going to be better than 1:4. 
  3. Do what you know first these tests are usually taken in booklets, students complete them one section at a time, and are timed. For a math section, for example, it is better score wise for your student to go through the section and complete the questions they can answer easily/quickly, and then go back and do the harder ones. Skipped questions aren’t penalized, but incorrect answers are. The same can be done for a reading section, after reading the short story, answer the easy questions first. 
  4. Use the scrap paper- students are often provided unlimited scrap paper to do math problems, outline writings, etc. Many students avoid using it because they are afraid it makes them look “dumb,” because they can’t just do the work in their heads. For many, this can be detrimental. The paper is provided for a reason, and if it’s not, they are allowed to ask for it!
  5. Be Prepared for most, testing is arduous. Brick-and-mortar schools often do testing weeks and spend nearly full days, for 2 weeks, fulfilling the standardized tests. Sleep, hydration, and filling foods, can help keep your student’s constitution going through the task at hand. Many tests, the ACT in particular, are designed to be endurance tests and have about 4 hours of information crammed into three. Prepare your student and understand the strategy for each test- does the student get penalized for leaving answers blank, or for attempting to answer, even if the answer is wrong? Understanding how the test is designed can go a long way in helping students do well on a particular test.

Additional things to remember that may help lessen your stress as well as your students:

  • Many school districts rely on testing to also help determine their state or even federal funding each year.
  • Test results can also be used to determine how many classes they may need to have to provide extra support for those who scored “below basic” in areas like reading and math. 
  • These benchmarks are volatile. “Standards” change regularly. The standard for a 3rd grader in PA may be very different for a 3rd grader in Wyoming. Both may change 7 times between now and 2030. Neither is wrong or bad, but they are different.
  • ”Low” or average SAT or ACT scores do not automatically mean your child won’t be able to get into a post-high school program. More and more institutions are seeing that these scores are not an end-all-be-all, and are looking more at the actual transcripts and experience students are coming in with. This includes trade schools.
  • While lower test scores won’t keep your kids from attending an institution of higher education, higher test scores can result in more scholarship dollars. Given the rising cost of post- secondary education, 1 point on the ACT/ SAT  can be the difference between no scholarship money, $10,000 or even a full year in tuition dollars!

In Pennsylvania, public school students can opt out of standardized testing, however homeschool families can not?

The good news is, that there is a list of accepted tests by the PDE.
Questions about required testing? Wondering what may be the best option for your student? Do you REALLY need to take the SATs?
Reach out on my Consult Form!

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