View Full Version : Standardized tests by choice, in middle school?

06-02-2015, 08:14 AM
We don't have to use standardized tests, but I am interested in getting DD started on that, because I want her to have both the stamina, and the "test-taking savvy" to do as well as she is able, instead of testing poorly despite good knowledge.

She did terribly on the Math Mammoth Placement test, failing at things I knew she knew, because she got tired of doing it (long before a kid accustomed to taking tests would have), froze up from feeling pressure (again, experience helps) and so on. It made it really hard to assess her skills. But I could tell her skills were all over the map, with enough potholes that we needed to back up and repave a bit.

So I don't want to rush into a standardized test quite yet, but she is doing Math Mammoth (which so far, I really like a LOT for the skilled way in which number sense is fostered and constantly exercised rather than blind rote...a lot of care went into it) partly because I think it's a really great curriculum, and partly because she needs more practice than I realized previously, and partly because even though it doesn't bore her (yet, we'll see) from too much of any one thing at a time, it does seem to be giving her stamina a workout, particularly with word problems.

But I see that there are so many choices of standardized tests, offered by mail and even online, that it's hard to tease out what would be the one(s) to try in the coming years.

Our umbrella school is offering the CAT, proctored at their office location, in less than a month, and I'm tempted, but wondering a)whether she's ready since she couldn't even bring herself to complete the Math Mammoth placement test in a whole WEEK, and got to the point of not being able to do even very simple things that I knew were otherwise easy for her, and
b) whether that test is actually going to give any indication of how she'd do at the usual standardized tests they take in schools.

Does anyone else have advice on getting a kid with poor "test-taking stamina" or test anxiety (despite or perhaps because of not being tested much?) ready for a standardized test, and further, which standardized tests you prefer and why?

06-02-2015, 08:41 AM
If no specific test is required by your state, you might find the PASS (https://www.hewitthomeschooling.com/Testing/tMain.aspx) test a useful one as a starting point. It can be given in your own home, so can be helpful if your child finds test taking stressful. We used it for a few years (it's only available up to the 8th grade), and found it a good one that was acceptable for NH regulations.


Norm Deplume
06-02-2015, 09:48 AM
Does anyone else have advice on getting a kid with poor "test-taking stamina" or test anxiety (despite or perhaps because of not being tested much?) ready for a standardized test, and further, which standardized tests you prefer and why?

Thanks for asking this. My son is a smart kid, but has about 5 minutes of stamina when it comes to doing things he doesn't like. He wants to go back to PS someday, and if he wants to do that, he's going to need to train a little in the "getting crap done" area.

06-02-2015, 10:43 AM
Our province has a website with sample exams for every subject from elementary through grade 12. Students can use them to practice test-taking or to prepare for exams. We have free login information through our school board, but anyone can purchase access for a low price. It's called alberta.exambank.com.

Students in our province write standardized tests in Grades 3, 6, 9, and 12. There is a series of test preparation books for sale called "The Key" study guides and they include several sample tests. I've had my kids try a few of those just to practice writing multiple choice exams. (Apparently, it's a real skill, because my very intelligent son did TERRIBLY on the first multiple choice test.)

06-02-2015, 10:51 AM
Your dd is not alone in bombing the MM placement tests. I have had her take placement tests in all the usual math programs and for some reason the MM ones are written in such a way that she crashes and burns. So don't worry about that.

Yeah I think you're on to something though if there's test avoidance (in all your kids' cases). So exposure might be the clue here...no real reason to put the weight of the world on them but maybe a couple tests a year in whatever area might be what's needed. Think of it more as like shot therapy at the allergists': a bit of what pains you means after a while (i.e., in high school when it actually counts for something) you won't be thrown into a full-on allergic reaction.

My kid's got timing issues too. Shrug. But for laffs I had her take the CAT in science and LA for 5th grade (these were old tests you can get on line), untimed. She aced them, ~95th percentile. This was in October, too, so, well, near the beginning of 5th. *I* was relieved, *she* thought they were fun.

06-02-2015, 10:55 AM
Dd10 just took a provincial math exam - the same one she took earlier in the year. Her strategies in several areas improved, but her computation plummeted. She was up too late the night before, didn't eat much for breakfast, added subtraction problems, divided multiplication problems... basically, she had a bad day.

I've never specifically taught test taking strategies, but I will in G6. Here (http://id.rock-hill.k12.sc.us/UserFiles/independence_e/Documents/Test%20Taking%20Strategies/Test%20Taking%20Skills.doc) is a good starting point. We are going to start with low-pressure tests at home. Try a few spelling tests, timed computation tests, multiple choice, fill in the bubble, etc. Focus on one skill at a time. I also want to revisit Tin Man Press' Listen Up! It's a fun way to illustrate the importance of following instructions.

I don't place much value in tests, but they aren't going anywhere. So, I'm going to treat it the same way I do online safety or abuse prevention: an unfortunate, but necessary skill.

06-02-2015, 10:56 AM
Not sure what grade level you are seeking, but for some grades you can purchase the CAT from Seton testing for your own use, at home, either completed online, or on paper (which you send back for scoring.) It's maybe $30? We are required to do standardized testing in certain years in my state and that's what we've used. For our purposes, we have someone else proctor it for us (other than me and DH.) Usually a relative or neighbor. DS is scoring fine on them so far. But I see he doesn't take it very seriously. He rushes through and guesses half the time. He just wants it to be over and done with. He says they really are not that difficult for his grade level. For me, I could see what was on them and what he messed up and what I needed to cover yet. Also, it's back up when anyone ever gives me grief about homeschooling, I love to be able to say he takes that test and point out - "90th-99th percentile across all subject. Local school has 58% of the kids not able to achieve minimum annual yearly progress in reading and math. I think we're fine, thanks."

06-02-2015, 05:20 PM
You might also look at the Explore test from the ACT which is designed for late middle school and early high school. This is also used for younger kids for talent search at some locations. It may be a good option because it is in the same format as the ACT but for earlier grades. You get a pretty good analysis sent back to you. You can then aim for the PLAN and then the ACT.

ACT's EXPLORE Program (http://www.act.org/explorestudent/)
ACT's PLAN Program (http://www.act.org/planstudent/)

With the explore each subtest is only 30 minutes so it is not too bad and you have separate English, reading, math, and science sections.

06-02-2015, 07:25 PM
I purchased the CAT from seton recently, though I think it had a different name for 3rd grade now. Hawaii requires testing for 3rd grade. My DD who has never sat down to do any formal testing other than spelling tests did really well. It is easy to give the test as a parent and the sections are broken up and they give breaks in the actual test booklet it will say give break. We did the full test and we broke it up over 4 days. It was 40$ not including the shipping back. They were very quick in getting me the results. I would definitely use them again.

06-02-2015, 10:39 PM
This forum is THE place to get good info! Thank you all for giving me so much to go on.

Interesting and a bit relieving if other kids have trouble with the Math Mammoth placement test.
We went ahead with the Math Mammoth curriculum, and both DD and I are really impressed with how much she's learning, and how even things we thought she already knew, are presented in ways that deepen her understanding and ability.

I'll be drawing on the collective wisdom of everyone here, and what you shared, to figure out a plan and a tentative timeline for doing as one poster suggested, sort of "inoculating against" test-taking naivete, by repeated lower-level exposures.

06-04-2015, 06:11 AM
DS is going to take the Stanford 10 this summer for his first exposure to "real" testing. I'm ordering it through Seton, and it can be completed online.

My goal is to have him get familiar with a standardized format and start learning test taking skills. We've been talking about them for a year or more, but I feel like the practice will be good for him. Looking ahead, he is likely to take the SAT next year in 7th (for practice) and in 8th in case he wants to start auditing college classes in 9th. Hopefully the Standford 10 will ease him in and help make his first practice attempt at the SAT less stressful.

07-14-2015, 10:09 PM
They're discontinuing the Stanford-10 in 2016...just found out. Anyone know why? Seems strange to me!

07-16-2015, 05:52 AM
Not sure what grade level you are seeking, but for some grades you can purchase the CAT from Seton testing for your own use, at home, either completed online, or on paper (which you send back for scoring.) It's maybe $30?

This. Or you could take the Terra Nova, the more recently normed version of the CAT.

07-17-2015, 04:41 AM
We are required to test in grades 3, 5, 8, and 10. DD just "finished" 7th and I asked her if she wanted to take the test just for "fun"/practice. DS was required to do it this year and she wasn't. She said she wanted to do it, too.

A little history: the first time she took it in 3rd it was a horrific experience that ended in tears for her. I was convinced she would bomb every test from then on out. For the record, I am a zero pressure Mom when it comes to tests. I believe a child is so much more than what is on a test and there is so much DD knows that is not on tests. I shared this with her prior to testing...she self-pressured and blew the eff up. Forward to grade 5, she realized that they present some answers on the LA section in a "tricky" way and it made her upset. But, she didn't cry! Then for "her choice to particpate test" just a few weeks ago she was totally into filling in the bubbles, found the examples hilarious, and didn't freak out when there was something that she had to think about for a bit. She scored well in all years.

I think age as well as personality has a lot to do with it because DS was really scared when he didn't know answers in grade 3 but it didn't make him cry. However, a few weeks ago for the grade 5 test, he cried because he really felt he "should know everything". There was one answer he just didn't know and I told him if he didn't want to guess to leave it blank. He left it blank. He scored ok in 3 and very well in 5.

I gave them both the talk about how they are not a score, but, that this is a legal requirement for certain years. I said, "You can only do your best." We used the CAT in all years for both children purchased from Seton, who I think is just fantastic.

07-21-2015, 01:20 PM
They're discontinuing the Stanford-10 in 2016...just found out. Anyone know why? Seems strange to me!

My kids have always done the Stanford-10, and the service that we used warned us about it this year when we went in to test. They are coming out with a new test-but I can't remember what it is. Since my older son will be in 9th, and has taken the ACT a few years ago, we just won't bother with it anymore for him. The service that we use will be administering the IOWA from now on, so my younger one will take that. Neither of my kids have time issues with standardized tests, so it shouldn't be a problem for them.

Bham Gal
12-26-2016, 02:51 AM
We are taking all standardized tests offered for our 6th grader. These focus on the common core. He has high scores in math and reading even though we use our own curriculum, so it's nice to get validation that our method is working and it seems to boost his self-esteem. He had low scores in writing, so now we have responded to that info with focused attention on writing technique and practice. We have no common core directed curricular materials and definitely don't "teach to the test". The way to build confidence with standardized tests is to take as many free offerings offered by the district as possible but don't sweat over the preparation or results (unless taking a college entrance exam -- then preparation is essential).

12-27-2016, 04:19 PM
A different sort of test that yields immediately useful results is something like DOMA (math) and DORA (reading. They are not standardized achievement tests; they are diagnostic tests that show you where to focus next. The DOMA takes a while and is mentally challenging, so it can help with test practice, too.

Those are at LetsGoLearn.com

You can also give the MAP test, from https://affordabletests.com/ - it's lengthy, over a couple of days, and you get immediately usable results of progress. I had my 10yo take the MAP test because I was familiar with her results from PS the previous year, so it it was useful to us as a measure of effectiveness.

Both of these are available online at home - DORA and DOMA on demand and MAP with an appointment and virtual proctor, so a little more planning is necessary.