Aug 012013

I’ve been asked several times about Standardized Test Prep for state required standardized testing.

Generally speaking, if you are home schooling your child with books and learning activities on a regular basis, you really don’t have to worry about ‘content’ preparation.

The standardized tests (Stanford-10, Iowa Test of Basic Skills (ITBS), California Achievement Test (CAT), etc.) are different in terms of content, but not all that different. Since they are achievement tests, they test what your child knows, but there is no need, nor sense, in trying to match what you teach to the test.

Standardized Test Prep can be important for children who have learning difficulties, who are nervous about test taking, or who typically struggle with tests.

It is also important to assure your child that he CANNOT ‘fail’ this test. Make the point that it is not a test that anyone can fail because it is more like a measuring stick. Many children just need assurance that they cannot fail the test in order to relax.

The standardized test will let you, the parent, know how much your child has already learned or how far he is on the measure of learning.

Standardized Test Prep Options

If you’d like materials for Standardized Test Prep, practice, and otherwise to help your child with test-taking skills, the Basic Skills Assessment & Educational Services line of products was developed by veteran homeschooling moms specifically for this purpose. Given their understanding of homeschooling from the inside out, the Basic Skills service is willing and able to provide support and encouragement.

The tests are all relatively standard in content and format, and your primary concern should be in regard to test-taking skills and practice.  A good resource for Standardized Test Prep is McGraw-Hill’s Spectrum “Test Prep” seriesStandardized Test Prep. The books are ‘typical’ standardized practice tests complete with a copyable bubble answer sheet, test taking instruction with tips on improving performance. They even have books that are state specific for a variety of states (Texas, Pennsylvania, Florida, Illinois, etc.)

We used a grade-based McGraw-Hill’s Spectrum “Test Prep” books with each of our boys the month before we tested just to be sure our kids knew how to take the test. It helped put their minds at ease and let us address concerns and questions before the testing took place.

By having your child go through Standardized Test Prep with one of McGraw-Hill’s Spectrum “Test Prep” books you will help them understand how taking a test works. You will be able to note if there are any glaring holes in your child’s knowledge. For example, if you child fails every fraction problem in the math section, you’ll know instruction on how to work with fractions is in order (given that your child is ready for the concept). If your child didn’t understand how to read a table or a pie chart, it would be able to teach this basic skill. You will see gaps in learning through the Standardized Test Prep practice tests.

While teaching concepts or skills is worthwhile, teaching specific facts (other than math facts) aren’t very beneficial to teach. There may be facts your child doesn’t know much about, but it won’t be worthwhile to “teach to the test” because the actual test your child takes will be different anyway.

Truthfully, your kids will do well by being taught daily through a regular homeschool routine, in whatever area they are studying. There isn’t a good way to, or need to, teach to the content of the standardized tests. If your kids know how to take a test, and are continuing to learn at home, then they should be fine.

Which TEST is BEST?

Another question I receive is: “Which test should I use?” Depending upon your test situation and your child, one test or another may be more suitable.

Here are the basic testing requirements for the biggest two tests. Only YOU will know whether or not your child can handle timed testing, will be able to determine whether group or individual testing is better for your child, and you’ll have to determine what kind of testing scenario suits your family.

Picking the best test for your child’s standardized testing might be the most important Standardized Test Prep step of all!

Test your own children?
Restrictions require group testing.
Reporting Level
Scores only
Scores and
Basic Analysis
Test multiple grade levels together?
In grade-level groupings

I hope this information about Standardized Test Prep helps you decide which exam to use. Most importantly, I hope it helps you and your child prepare to meet your state’s testing requirements.

Best Wishes,