As much as we all might hate it, standardized tests are a necessary evil for many homeschools.
Your state may require it every year or at certain grade levels.
It might seem like a safer option than doing a portfolio.
Or maybe it’s cheaper than hiring a homeschool evaluator in your area.
Whatever your reason for bowing to standardized testing, I want to share with you my experience (ups and downs), how we raised my child’s scores, and my best tips to help your child do their very best.
What I Learned During Our First Standardized Testing Experience
We have been blessed with some bright kids, so I wasn’t too concerned initially about how they would do on a standardized test.
In fact, I was kind of eager to see my kid shine and show off what she knows.
Wow – Oh Wow – was I wrong.
I very quickly found out that my sweet oldest homeschooler had no testing experience, testing strategy, or testing endurance – and that mattered a lot.
The questions confused and overwhelmed her 3rd-grade head, no matter how many breaks we took.
In most areas, she ended up scoring at grade level, which was okay, but I didn’t feel was a reflection of her abilities.
So it irritated me.
I knew she was capable of more, but I, unfortunately, sent her into her test ice cold.
My Own Standardized Testing Experience
I was a registered nurse in my life before homeschooling.
I had to pass a monster-sized test – the NCLEX – to get my license.
After four years of college, I didn’t bother to take a course to learn more about the information that would be on the test.
I took a course on HOW to take the test and how the test worked. And it made a huge difference.
When I walked out of the testing room, there was a woman waiting to offer me a box of tissues. I asked her what that was for and she explained that most people are in tears when the test is over. I told her I would not be needing any tissues and that I was fairly confident that I crushed the test.
And I did.
Partially because I knew the material, but a huge piece of my success was understanding the test and not panicking when it felt like it was going sideways on me.
How Our Second Homeschool Standardized Test Experience Went
I took this experience and mentality and tried to apply it to my own homeschoolers’ standardized test-taking.
I did my own research and approached our next school year with some simple standardized test-taking strategies and test prep.
In no way did I allow it to dominate our school time or overshadow our homeschooling lifestyle. It was just a gentle, and some might even say lazy, way to increase my homeschooler’s standardized test scores to better reflect her actual abilities.
And I think the results speak for themselves. Without making any significant changes to the curriculum we were using, my child went from scoring at grade level to scoring several grade levels above – and even scoring past high school level in some areas.
Below you will find out exactly what I chose to do to gently prep my kids for their standardized test.
Easy Tips That Will Raise Your Kid’s Standardized Test Scores
1. Calm Down Their Test Taking Nerves
I have a very relaxed attitude about standardized test-taking with my kids. I tell them that this is just a hoop we need to jump through to keep up to date with our state requirements.
But I want them to do their best so that the state can see how hard they’ve worked this year.
I also tell them that a standardized test is a great tool for me to see how effective our curriculum is. I really stress that the test is evaluating the curriculum not them.
It is important to also tell the child that there will be a number of questions that they will likely not know, and that’s okay!
How can the test tell if they are above grade level…if there aren’t above grade level questions?
If they don’t know a question, that’s okay. It’s probably a higher grade level one. No biggie.
This really resonated with my kids and relaxed them as they went into testing.
2. Teach Basic Standardized Test Taking Strategies
At this point in your life, test-taking strategies might seem obvious.
Let me tell you, it is not obvious to your child.
Take the time to sit down and briefly explain these strategies:
- Read each question carefully. Make sure you really understand what it is asking you.
- There are almost always two obviously wrong answers. Immediately find those answers and rule them out. Now you only have two answers left to compare and work through.
- If you have no idea what the answer is after ruling out the obviously wrong answers, it is usually C or the longest answer.
****Be clear that they should not always choose C or the longest answer, but that strategy is only for when they have no idea. Also, feel free to add in any standardized test-taking strategies you’ve picked up or have worked for you in the past.
******I chose the Standford 10 test because it is untimed. We could stop and start as we pleased. If you can use a test that doesn’t have time limits, that will go a long way to help your kid relax.
3. Increase Critical Thinking
After reading through my child’s first standardized test, I realized that she might know and understand our curriculum – but she was struggling to apply the information.
The questions confused and exhausted her. I kept looking over her shoulder and thinking, “She knows this, but they’re asking the question in such a weird way.”
A former gifted kids private school teacher recommended the Detective Workbook Series (you can find the link below) to me to help increase critical thinking. I honestly think that the workbooks we went through the following year made a huge difference when it came to testing time.
I recommended the workbooks to another homeschool friend that year, and she also had fantastic test scores as a result!
How to Use the Detective Workbook Series to Raise Standardized Test Scores:
- Use Reading Detective and Math Detective as supplements to your language arts and math curriculum.
- Assign your child to do one assignment in the workbook per day and oscillate back and forth between reading and math detective.
- Do not do both workbooks on the same day – it’s way too much for most kids.
- I usually gave my student Fridays off.
- Be prepared to sit down and do the assignments with the child as they get comfortable with the workbooks. It is an investment of time to work through these questions with your kid as their mind starts to stretch and work in a different way. They will get the hang of it though!
- We did not even finish the workbooks and still found them to be tremendously helpful.
4. Read Aloud To Your Kids
Reading aloud to your kids is such a powerful way to connect with your kids (of all ages!), expose them to fantastic classic literature, and raise their standardized test scores!
Regular read-aloud time will help your child tremendously to increase their listening comprehension, vocabulary, and mental endurance.
A great way to start with reading aloud is to choose an exciting book that has been made into a movie. Kids love to know that they can actually “meet” the characters through a movie.
Check out the Top 25 Books That Have Been Made Into Movies, and start reading to your kids at breakfast time or maybe after dinner!
5. Encourage Friendships With Kids Who Love to Read
This is going to sound a bit unorthodox, but man, oh man, can this make a difference in your kid’s standardized test scores.
My child made friends with a neighbor kid who LOVES to read. She was a little older and was so excited to pass her favorite books to my kid. Suddenly my kid was reading a book that was several inches thick! And she was reading for hours a day, completely engrossed in these book characters.
She now has a bookshelf to hold the overflowing number of books that are pouring out of her room!
It is not lost on me that my kid was super resistant to read any book that I had given her for school. The peer pressure from her friend makes the book so much more enticing and exciting! She loves discussing the book characters and bragging about how fast she read the book.
This love of reading has gone a long way to increase her reading level, reading endurance, vocabulary, spelling, and it has even benefited her creative writing!
Encourage your kid to join a local book club or even an Outschool book club if you need to go virtual.
You’ll be amazed at what a difference a community of readers can do for your child’s education and standardized test scores!
6. Don’t Over Do It Or Project Your Own Anxiety
It is difficult to do, but always remember that this standardized test is a tool for your homeschool – not a measurement of you as a teacher.
Keep these test-taking strategies in balance with your other curriculum and education goals for your child.
In other words, do not let test prep take over your homeschool or overshadow the joy of education – like so many public schools do.
Your children will sense that anxiety and it will affect their testing.
Recap Helping Raise Your Kid’s Standardized Test Scores
As I said earlier, standardized tests are a necessary part of homeschooling for many of us.
Figuring out how to use this tool and master the multiple-choice test-taking experience is a huge skill that will benefit your kids for years to come.
I hope you’ve found some easy tips that you can start implementing this week!
Do you have your own test-taking strategies that you didn’t see in this article? Do us all a favor and drop your wisdom in the comments, Homeschool Mama!