Tag Archives: standardized tests


While at the homeschooling convention earlier this month, I had the opportunity to attend a couple of workshops taught by Jean Burke, the owner of the website CollegePrepGenius.com. The information she gave regarding high school students taking the PSAT and SAT was so detailed and helpful, it made the whole conference worth-while. As Jean explained, these two tests are the key to not only getting into a good college, but to receiving scholarship money as well.

The PSAT, she told us,

  • Does not stand for “Practice SAT.” Rather, it stands for “Preliminary Scholastic Aptitude Test.” And while students do have an opportunity to practice for the SAT when they take it, the main purpose of this test is to find the National Merit Scholars — students who will receive thousands of dollars in scholarships.
  • Can be taken three times — once during the freshman year, once during the sophomore year, and once during the junior year. The one they take during their junior year is the only one that counts; the other two years are just practice.
  • The PSAT is a logic test; it doesn’t test your students on their knowledge, but on how well they can figure out the questions and reason out the answers.

The SAT, she told us,

  • Is the test (along with the ACT) that colleges look at for admission and scholarships
  • Can be taken as many times as desired, and only the highest score counts. If your student obtains his high score during his junior year, he doesn’t need to take it during his senior year.
  • Doesn’t test the student’s knowledge; like the PSAT, it’s a logic test.

On her website, Jean offers classes and DVDs to help students learn how to take these tests. And if they’re anything like her workshops at the conference, they’ll be one of the best investments you can make towards college.

Planning for High School

My oldest son John is finishing up the eighth grade, and the thought of keeping up with courses, extracurricular activities, transcripts, and standardized tests of high school makes me feel more than a little nervous. We are planning on John going to college, but we won’t be able to pay out of pocket for tuition, which means that we also need to be knowledgeable about potential universities, their costs, and any scholarships available. So when I hear about seminars, classes, or other information regarding homeschooling your high schooler, I’m ready to learn.

One tip I heard recently was to plan out your child’s high school career from the beginning. You will save yourself a lot of stress in the junior and senior years if you already have a clear idea of what your student needs to take not only to graduate but also to meet college admission requirements.

To do this, find out what courses are needed for graduation within your state, then check college websites for courses your student needs if he wants to apply to those schools. For example, our state requires only one foreign language course to graduate from high school in the college prep program. Some universities in our state, however, require the student take three years of the same foreign language if they plan to attend. I know, then, that if John might attend one of those universities, he’ll need to start a foreign language course no later than his sophomore year.

It’s not hard to find out what classes you’ll need. For high school graduation, simply do an Internet search of using the name of your state and the words “graduation requirements.”   To find out what colleges are looking for, google the name of the school and “admission requirements.”

After an afternoon of searching the web and studying the possibilities, I think we’ve come up with a pretty good four-year plan. There’s room for flexibility, and we won’t be caught short in the senior year. Now on to the extracurriculars….


Our state doesn’t require yearly testing, so this was the first year we tried it. My seventh-grader John took a standardized test with a group of elementary and middle school students.

I decided to have him take the test this year for one main reason: we want him to go on to college, and that path requires standardized tests for admission and scholarships. The more practice he has at test-taking, the easier it will be for him to take the SAT or ACT in the last years of high school.

If I wasn’t sure about making him take the test before, I was after I told him I had signed him up. He begged and begged not to go, as he tends to be afraid of the unknown. He needed to know it wasn’t so bad.

Happily, John recognized two of the students in the testing group, and he felt a little more at ease. By the second day he was much more relaxed, and by the third day testing was no big deal. Goal accomplished.

This week the scores came in, and we were excited as we studied them together. A friend of mine has her children tested every couple of years to see how they’re doing and what she may need to work on with them. John did well in every subject, though his scores were lower in history and geography.

I’m not sure how helpful these test scores are in helping me fine-tune my teaching, though. The history questions consisted of world history, and we’re learning American history this year. John also told me after the test that he made a lot of educated guesses. He didn’t realize until the end of the second day that he wasn’t supposed to answer questions he didn’t know.  

Will I test again next year? Yes, I’ll have John take the tests so he can feel even more comfortable with the process. For us, seventh grade was a good year to start.