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Standardized Tests & Teens

If homeschoolers have a hot topic, it is probably standardized testing. Many homeschoolers avoid standardized testing, and since Covid, mandatory state testing has taken a back seat in many states, with requirements becoming lax and even non-existent. 

This is in part because in the last few decades, standardized testing has taken a front and center seat in the educational world. Some states require testing at certain grades for data, funding, and even graduation.

Nationally, students are encouraged to take the SATs or ACTs based on their goals post-graduation. No matter your student’s age or how great a test taker they may be, standardized test stress is real.

De-stress the Test

Here are a few tips and ways to help get through standardized test stress. 

  1. Scores do not equal worth: Remind your child that a score does not determine their worth. Their inability to do geometric equations does not take away from the fact that they may be an incredible musician. They also do not determine your skill as a homeschool parent. Just because you are not teaching to the test, does not mean you or your child are inept or incapable. Test scores are data points, not worth scores. 
  2. Process of elimination: these standardized tests are just that, which means they are almost 100% multiple choice. The best thing you can help your student learn how to do is to eliminate the obviously wrong answers. Each eliminated “no”, raises their chance of choosing the correct answer. Even a 1:3 chance is always going to be better than 1:4. 
  3. Do what you know first: these tests are usually taken in booklets, and students complete them one section at a time, and are timed. For a math section, for example, it is better score-wise for your student to go through the section and complete the questions they can answer easily/quickly, and then go back and do the harder ones. Skipped questions aren’t penalized, but incorrect answers are. In each reading section, after reading the short story, answer the easy questions first. 
  4. Use the scrap paper: students are often provided unlimited scrap paper to do math problems, outline writings, etc. Many students avoid using it because they are afraid it makes them look “dumb,” because they can’t just do the work in their heads. For many, this can be detrimental. Encourage your child to use scrap paper and to ask for it if not provided.
  5. Be Prepared: for most students, testing is arduous. Brick-and-mortar schools often do testing weeks and spend nearly full days, for 2 weeks, fulfilling the standardized tests. Sleep, hydration, and filling foods can help keep your student’s constitution going through the task. The ACT, in particular, is designed as an endurance test. These tests have about four hours of information crammed into three hours.

Have a Test-Taking Strategy

Prepare your child and understand the strategy for each test. For example, is the student penalized for leaving answers blank or for attempting to answer, even if the answer is wrong? This type of information enables students to do well on that exam.

Less Pressure for All

Additional things to remember that may help lessen your stress as well as your student’s:

  • Many school districts rely on testing to also help determine their state or federal funding each year.
  • Schools use test results to determine how many classes they may need to provide extra support for those who scored “below basic” in areas like reading and math. 
  • These benchmarks are volatile. “Standards” change regularly. The standard for a third grader in PA may be very different for a third grader in Wyoming. Both may change many times between now and 2030. Neither is wrong or bad, but they are different.
  • Low or average SAT or ACT scores do not automatically mean your child won’t be able to get into a post-high school program. More and more institutions are seeing that these scores are not an end-all-be-all and are looking more at the actual transcripts and experience students are coming in with. This includes trade schools.

Tests Scores & Scholarships

While lower test scores won’t keep your kids from attending an institution of higher education – higher test scores can result in more scholarship dollars. Given the rising cost of post-secondary education, 1 point on the ACT/ SAT  can be the difference between no scholarship money, $10,000 or even a full year in tuition dollars! 

Resources from True North Can Help

Did you know that True North offers Performance Testing, published by Scantron? This is a valid and reliable test that meets all state testing requirements. Unlike other standardized tests, the Performance Series test can give you great insight as a parent of your student’s capabilities, with specific course objectives based on test results.

Other standardized tests have a range of questions from “lower levels” to a level or two “above” the standard. The Performance Series Test is intuitive. You are offering your child the chance to answer increasingly difficult or easier questions. This gives you a more accurate idea of where your child may be academically. 

Get More Information

Have more questions? Aren’t quite sure where to start? Check out our Advising services and get more information on our Performance Series Testing at the Advising & Testing page. True North also offers test prep classes periodically, so check back with us about those.


Anna Knaub

Anna is an experienced educator and True North Homeschool Academy teacher. She teaches elementary history classes and high school literature courses. Anna is also active in facilitating homeschool clubs including clubs that focus on life skills such as event planning.

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