What to Expect When It Comes to Testing

Standardized testing: It’s every homeschool parent’s favorite topic… or not! Your ninth grader may not have the ACT or SAT on her radar right now, but this is still an ideal time to start learning about the tests and preparing a strategy for how to approach them. Students who know what to expect on standardized tests are far less likely to be intimidated by them—and far more likely to achieve high scores.

Why Standardized Tests Matter

Some homeschoolers aren’t in favor of standardized testing, and for valid reasons. The tests have been aligned with the Common Core curriculum found in almost all public school systems, and as such don’t reflect the individualized education homeschool students receive. While this fact is unfortunate for homeschoolers, it doesn’t mean we can’t succeed in standardized testing. Many homeschoolers prove excellent test takers on the PSAT, SAT, and ACT.

Standardized tests are colleges’ way of determining a student’s readiness for college-level work. While this may not seem entirely fair—given that homeschoolers aren’t receiving the same content or information as their public school counterparts—it’s still the standard way for colleges to measure academic ability. Test scores are by no means the deciding factor in an admission decision, but they play a big part in where a student is accepted and how much financial aid they will receive.

Types of Tests

If you’ve homeschooled through high school before, you’re already familiar with the alphabet soup of standardized tests: the PSAT, SAT, and ACT are taken by most high school students. These tests assess a student’s academic capability in math, critical reading, writing, and (on the ACT) science.

But these aren’t the only tests your student might want to take. Advanced Placement (AP) and College Level Examination Program (CLEP) tests allow students to prove they have enough knowledge of a subject to get college credit—without ever taking a college class! Typically, AP tests are taken after an AP course in the corresponding subject (although homeschool students can take these tests even if they haven’t taken an AP course). A student who achieves a 3 or 4 on the test receives college credit in addition to the high school credit received from the class (college websites will tell you what score they require in order to receive college credit for an AP exam). CLEP offers 34 different subject areas and study guides students can use to prepare for the exam. If passed with a 50 or higher (out of 80), the student receives college credit.

Why Think About Testing Now?

If you think it’s too early to discuss testing, think again! This is a great time to introduce your student to the different types of tests. In October of sophomore year, your student can take the PSAT as a practice round. She can also take a “dry run” of the SAT and/or ACT. Colleges don’t look down on taking these tests multiple times; admission offices look at the highest score. This means your student can spend two or three years preparing and practicing before submitting their final score to their college of choice. This gives them a significant advantage over the student who didn’t think about testing until junior year!

Consider introducing your child to the format of standardized testing. Ask your local school if she can take the PSAT, or just buy a practice book for familiarization. If she shows an area of significant strength, check out a CLEP study guide in that subject. There is no time to prepare like the present! If you would like some help check out my test prep program here.  

For advice on tutoring and testing, or for help creating a strategic plan for college, email [email protected]!