For most public or private school students, “standardized tests” bring images of bubble sheets, timers and sweaty palms … among other things!
But what happens if you’re a homeschool student who’s never taken a standardized test before? While our society is still debating the pros and cons of standardized tests, many colleges and universities still require them.
(See our blog post about preparing homeschoolers for ACT and SAT testing here.)
For that reason, all homeschoolers interested in higher education should consider how to prepare for testing and gain the best possible score.
(Fortunately, NHERI research has found that homeschoolers “typically score 15 to 30 percentile points above public-school students on standardized academic achievement tests,” so we’re on the right track!)
Step 1: Know what standardized tests can (and can’t) measure.
Some states require that homeschoolers take standardized tests to measure their academic performance.
However, if you’re in Kansas or Missouri, you can relax! Both states do not require state testing for homeschoolers unless you use a virtual school or other publicly funded school.
To be fair, virtual schools and other publicly funded schools are not homeschools, but offshoots of the public school system. (You can read more state testing FAQs here.)
Because we aren’t required to take standardized tests here, this can provide many benefits for your homeschool, especially with little children.
Many teachers and parents have found too much formal testing in early childhood can actually harm students by over-emphasizing performance over actual knowledge.
One of the best ways to help your child prepare is just helping them understand what standardized testing is all about.
It is NOT a pass/fail test. It’s just a way to “show how one student compares nationally to other students in the same grade level,” according to the Stanford Achievement Test website.
Knowing this can help your student relax when taking the test.
Step 2: Go over the subjects to be covered.
For homeschoolers taking the Stanford Achievement test (also known as SAT10), the subjects to cover are:
- reading comprehension
- listening comprehension and vocabulary
- social science
A few days before the test, you can review class content related to those subjects. Some students may want to take practice tests in advance (you can order them online), but this is optional and not required.
Step 3: Practice filling out the sheets!
If your child has never seen a bubble sheet or Scantron before, show them one ahead of time.
If they’re still young enough to find it fun (ha! ?), make a game of how to fill it in properly with a No. 2 pencil. That’s right … full bubble, not just a stroke or a line.
Step 4: Use process of elimination.
Your child may never have used a multiple-choice test format before, so the process of elimination may not come naturally to them as a test-taking strategy.
Explain how crossing out false answers – even just one – will improve their chances of guessing the right answer. Even if they can only narrow down the choices to two possible answers, they have a 50-50 chance of guessing correctly!
Step 5: Practice with a timer.
If your child hasn’t used a timer to take a test, find out the best way for them to use a timer, stopwatch, or clock while taking the test. (My mom let me take her watch with me to the test – it was super fun!)
Budgeting time to answer each question also helps your children learn how to prioritize, estimate, and practice other mathematical skills.
Step 6: Pick high-protein snacks (and other food traditions!).
My mom always fed us salmon as “brain food” the night before any standardized test. Since I loved salmon, this was a test tradition I actually looked forward to.
She also helped us choose high-protein snacks for us to eat between test breaks, so we kept our energy up. (High-sugar foods were not an option to avoid any crashes in energy and mood!)
Step 7: Review results for next time.
Once you get the test results back, set some time aside to study any areas where your child may need improvement (and also note the areas where they tested above average).
Here the beauty of homeschooling can really help you tailor your next school year by using the test as a guideline. If your child had lower than expected results in math, for example, you may want to switch to another curriculum or program. If they’re performing ahead of schedule in language arts, consider skipping a grade.
You know your child best, so take advantage of that customized knowledge for a truly one-of-a-kind education!