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  1. #1

    Default Standardized tests by choice, in middle school?

    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?
    Middle-aged mom of 4 kids spanning a 10-year age range, homeschooling since 2009, and a public school mom also, since 2017.

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  3. #2
    Senior Member Arrived
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    Nov 2009


    If no specific test is required by your state, you might find the PASS 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.
    Just call me Shoe...
    Previously homeschooled our son and daughter (both now in university)

  4. #3


    Quote Originally Posted by crunchynerd View Post
    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.
    working-at-home mother of two.
    homeschooling the 11yo boy.
    the girl is 14 (8th grade) and loves her public school.
    they are very very different kids.

  5. #4
    Senior Member Arrived Avalon's Avatar
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    Aug 2011


    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

    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.)

  6. #5


    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 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.
    Eclectically homeschooling 8th grade dd, who likes science as much as art...

  7. #6


    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 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.
    Home schooled two kiddos from a remote location for seven years. DD16 has transitioned to public high school. DS8 tried PS, but likes home schooling better.

  8. #7
    Senior Member Arrived ejsmom's Avatar
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    Nov 2011


    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."
    Last edited by ejsmom; 06-02-2015 at 10:59 AM.
    homeschooling one DS, age 13.

  9. #8


    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
    ACT's PLAN Program

    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.

  10. #9


    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.
    DS16 with ASD, DD12 and DS10

  11. #10


    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.
    Middle-aged mom of 4 kids spanning a 10-year age range, homeschooling since 2009, and a public school mom also, since 2017.

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Standardized tests by choice, in middle school?