Jan 122014

Parents worry about required testing at the end of each school year, but you can reduce your child’s anxiety and improve his testing performance with Standardized Test Practice.

There are steps you can take to make sure your child understands how to take a standardized test, is ready for the test, and to make sure your child is willing to put forth his best effort.

Standardized Test Practice Step #1: Have Your Child Practice standardized test taking skills:

If your child is in public school, they’ll probably have the students practice standardized test taking skills, but if your child is homeschooled, he may need a bit of standardized testing practice to become comfortable with the process.

There are standardized test practice resources at each grade level.  To help your child get ready, acquire the most appropriate practice resource, then have your child practice once or twice per week for 6-8 weeks prior to the scheduled testing. Ideally, have your child practice for an hour each Saturday morning until the exams. Practicing in the morning is when your child is more alert and well rested, which means the practice is likely to go better than it will as an addition to a school day.

Standardized Test Practice Action Step:

Standardized Test Practice #2 Help Your Child Strengthen His Weakest Skill

If your child has learning difficulties and struggles with basic reading decoding skills, his math facts, writing skills, or has difficulty with processing speed or memory, then your child may show some improvement if you have him use a basic skills program daily.  (Doing this before bed helps your child process and retain the learning better).

For example, if your child has difficulty remembering his math facts, having him use a computer-based practice program for 20-30 minutes before bedtime will help your child with his memory and recall of the math facts.

If your child has difficulty with memory or processing speed, then using a cognitive enhancement program daily can improve those areas of cognition.  Improving these basic abilities has been shown to improve performance overall when the programs are used consistently on a daily basis.

If your child has difficulty with writing, then you will need to use a program to work directly with your child since writing skills are not easily practiced through a computer program.

Standardized Test Practice Action Step

– Pick a reading, writing, math or cognitive enhancement program, then have your child spend 20-30 minutes in the program just before bed most nights.

Standardized Test Practice #3  Build Your Child Up with Encouragement

Encourage your child whenever he is working hard.  Even if you don’t *think* your child works very hard, if you notice him working, encourage him.  Every child wants to please his parents and if you complement him, it will encourage him in his work.

If you have difficulty figuring out how to encourage your child, consider reading “Encouraging Words For KidsStandardized Test Practice.” The book will help you become an encourager for your child in all aspects of his performance in a way that will inspire your child to do his best in all things.

Standardized Test Practice Action Step:

Make it a point to complement your child each week at a minimum (daily is better) and tell him how pleased you are with his hard work and effort. More people go places through hard work than through what comes easy for them, so it’s the work and effort that needs to be built up in your child.


Whatever you do, try not to express any worries or anxieties to your child about standardized testing. Point out that the testing helps you know how to teach your child better.  In the case of high schoolers, be sure to point out they can retake the SAT or ACT, if needed, and your child should try to relax and do his best.

Reducing your child’s test anxiety by being relaxed about it can help your child perform better.  Practice will make your child comfortable with standardized tests.

If you follow these three simple steps, your child will be as ready for standardized testing as possible. At a minimum, you will feel more confident that your child is prepared for the testing, and the test anxiety you reduce may very well be your own!

If you’re testing your own child, you may want to read about the pros and cons for using the ITBS versus Stanford-10 to evaluate your child.

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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,

Jan 012013

Stanford Achievement Test VS Iowa Standardized Test – Which is best for kids with LDs?

Parents of Learning Abled Kids often wonder whether the Iowa Test of Basic Skills (ITBS) or the Stanford Achievement test is the better choice for their child’s required annual standardized testing.

In addition to standardized test preparation for your child, you will want to consider the following information before picking one of the standardized tests.

Stanford Achievement Test VS Iowa Standardized Test : Timed Testing Differences

Timed testing can be a significant issue for children with slow processing or reading speeds.

The Stanford Achievement Test is technically untimed even though they include timing recommendations for their tests. The ability to administer the test as a UNtimed test helps with students who work very slowly. Since timing is not required for the Stanford Achievement Test, it can be beneficial to use if your child has a slow working speed, however there are drawbacks to using the Stanford test as well.

Conversely, the Iowa Standardized Test indicates it must be administered within guidelines for timing. Needless to say, being required to follow a timed protocol can be problematic for your child if he processes information slowly or reads slowly.

That said, the Riverside Publishing site, the publisher of the Iowa Standardized Test, does make mention of accommodations in their glossary. They also mention them in their explanations of interpretation for the results.  If your child has a comprehensive neuro-psychological evaluation documenting a very slow reading or processing speed, it would seem a reasonable accommodation to permit your child to have time-and-a-half or double time, depending upon the slowness of your child’s processing speed.

Differences in Accommodations for Testing : Stanford Achievement Test VS Iowa Standardized Test

Stanford Achievement Test

One of the aspects I like about the Stanford Achievement Test is their published accommodations guidelines. If you’d like to see what standard accommodations are permitted under a NORMAL administration for the Stanford Achievement Test, please refer to their accommodations document: http://images.pearsonassessments.com/images/PDF/6942-Accom_SAT10_Supp1_v2.pdf.

Using the Stanford accommodation guidelines helps a lot if your child needs some of the listed accommodations. The well-documented support for using accommodations with the Stanford Achievement Test is very much appreciated by parents of Learning Abled Kids.

I have been unable to find any documentation that provides information regarding accommodations that can be used for students with disabilities taking the Iowa Standardized Test on the publisher’s website. The Riverside site (http://www.riversidepublishing.com/products/itbs/index.html), seems to ignore the need for information regarding accommodations for those with disabilities. This makes me less inclined to recommend the Iowa Standardized Test because procedures for testing with accommodations is not clearly documented.

Riverside’s website does say, “To the extent that the accommodations used with a student were chosen carefully and judged to be necessary, the anticipated effect is to reduce the impact of that student’s disability on the assessment process. That is, the student responses are like those we would expect the student to make if that student had no disability. Consequently, it seems reasonable to use that student’s scores in the same ways we would use the scores of all other students. The student’s answer document should be placed among the others for scoring, the student’s scores should be included with all others in group averages.”  [Ref: http://www.riversidepublishing.com/scoring/iowa/interpretation.htmlInterpreting Scores from Special Test Administrations]

Stanford Achievement Test VS Iowa Standardized Test Administration Requirements

With both the Stanford and the Iowa test, you can test your own child in your home, which can be highly preferable for children with ADHD or who may be easily distracted by testing in an unfamiliar setting. Both tests are similar in this aspect of test administration.

The Stanford test also has an online test format offered through some providers. If your child prefers selecting answers on the computer over marking them in a booklet, the computer-based testing option might be your most viable choice. The test is administered by the test provider, so your child will have to take the exam under the provider’s testing guidelines.

Summary Comparison of the Iowa Standardized Test versus Stanford Achievement Test

I have used both tests. I’ve tested in each of the different formats/groupings. I have used the Iowa Standardized Test at home with just my kids and with other kids.  I’ve also tested using the Stanford Achievement Test in a large group in a church classroom. We also used the Stanford test at my home with a few additional children.

In each case, whichever test it was, it all worked well for us, but the Stanford Achievement Test large group testing was the least viable for my kids’ needs. With the larger group, while things went well with the testing, there were a couple of minor distractions that I believe affected the attention of all of the kids being tested at the time.

For children who are easily distracted, testing in the group environment can be more of an issue, particularly with young children. While some parents want their children to get accustomed to testing in groups, I think there is PLENTY of opportunity to test with groups through the PSAT and high school level testing of other types. High school AP testing, testing in any classes they may take, etc., will all prepare the kids for group testing for the ACT or SAT.

Whether you use the Stanford Achievement Test or ITBS, if you have other students join your children for testing, or you opt for group testing, then you pretty much have to test when scheduled rather than when your kids are up and ready to test.

As far as the tests themselves go, I liked the flow of the Iowa Standardized Test better than the Stanford Achievement Test. I like being able to easily complete each section at flexible times when my kids were physiologically ready for testing (they had good night’s sleep, were up and ready, no illness, no stress, etc.). That eliminated feeling stressed or having the excitement of others coming to test.

The Stanford used to require group testing to test your own kids, but they no longer have that requirement as of 2014. Thus, the Stanford is very similar and testing could be done when your child is ready if you are not using the online test version.

Stanford Achievement Test VS Iowa Standardized Test Conclusion

Thus, for any child in elementary or middle school, it doesn’t really matter whether you use the Iowa Standardized Test or Stanford.  I do like the fact that the Stanford provides information and guidelines for providing accommodations.

Lastly, in regard to administration of either test at home, you have to be careful to establish an interference-free testing environment. Turn off all of the ringers on the phones, put a note on your front door for anyone NOT to ring or knock.. Leave a notepad out there (if they want to leave a note). Ask them to quietly leave due to testing.

Also, if you have any dogs, it’s a good idea to tend to them before testing so they will be crated. Put the dogs as far away from the testing location as possible, so any sudden event won’t cause a lot of barking (we had that one year!!).

In the end, I think the Iowa Standardized Test and Stanford Achievement Test both are viable, but the Stanford seems more “disabilities friendly. As a parent, you do have to weigh the options in relation to your individual child’s personal needs to decide which is best. Don’t forget to check out How to Prepare Your Child for Standardized Testing too. Hope that helps! 😀