Newsletter #395: Achievement Tests: Help Your Child Get His Best Score! - Archived Online.

Since 1980 The Teaching Home has provided families information,
inspiration, and encouragement from a distinctively Christian perspective.

Co-Editors: Veteran Homeschool Sisters, Sue Welch and Cindy Short

Past Issues

Newsletter #392
Listening / Basic Skills Series, Part 1.  Includes: Advantages of Good Listening; Principles of Good Listening; and 10 Listening Practice Activities. Applicable to both younger and older children.

Newsletter #393
10 Ways To Get the Most from Homeschool Events.   Includes list of   2014 State Conventions, dates, and   links to more information. 

Newsletter #394
Word Analysis: Reading & Phonics / Basic Skills Series, Part 2.  "The skills involved in word analysis should be mastered by every child and adult, whether or not they can already read." Includes: Word Analysis, Pre-Reading Phonics Practice, Teaching Phonics Step-by-Step.

Related to Reading & Phonics (above): Pre-Reading Skills

Excerpts from Vicki Bentley's answer to "In what ways can a preschool parent help develop their preschooler's pre-reading skills?" on HSLDA's Home School Heartbeat radio program.

"Reading is just one facet of language-learning, so lullabies, nursery rhymes and repetitive songs, Bible verses and songs, naming everything the child sees, playing sound and letter games, and, especially, reading to him all lay the groundwork for reading.

"Working puzzles develops visual discrimination that's needed to distinguish letters. Phonetic sound games, and then letter games. Maybe using sandpaper lowercase letters or letter magnets, letting kids cut out the B-words from the magazine. These are all foundational, fun ways to introduce reading concepts.

"Read to your child a lot! At the end of that picture book page, ask him, 'What do you think is going to happen next?' or why he thinks something happened. This builds his listening and his comprehension skills.

"Reading to your child, whether cuddled on the sofa or a story on tape in your voice, not only helps him learn to read, it builds a love of reading and language, and it builds his relationship with you."

Common Standardized
Achievement Tests

"Standardized test publishers regulate the use of their tests closely in order to protect the reliability of their norms.  Thus, they do not sell tests directly to the public, including homeschool parents.

"Christian textbook publishers, curriculum suppliers, and correspondence schools make standardized tests available to homeschools in a variety of ways.  In order to be able to buy the tests, these groups must guarantee the test publishers that certain conditions are met in administering the tests." – from Home Educators Association of Virginia's very informative website.

Following are the most commonly used standardized achievement tests.  For more information about each test, follow the links below.

Check with your state or local homeschool organization for local sources of tests and testing services.

1.  California Achievement Test
This test contains more traditional values and can be administered by parents.

    The CAT/5 Survey and the California Achievement Test, 5th Edition - Complete Battery are available from Family Learning Organization

    The 1970 Edition (more demanding than recent editions) is available from Christian Liberty Academy School System.

2.  Iowa Test of Basic Skills (ITBS)
Available from Bob Jones University Press Testing and Evaluation.

3.  Stanford Achievement Tests (SAT)
(Not to be confused with the SAT college entrance exam.)  Available from Bob Jones University Press Testing and Evaluation.

4.  Personalized Achievement Summary System (PASS)  This test for grades 3-8 was developed specifically for homeschoolers.  Parents may administer this untimed test in their own home.  A pretest places your child in the correct test level.  Available from Hewitt Homeschooling Resources.

5.  Comprehensive Test of Basic Skills Terra Nova  Available from Seton Testing Services.

6.  Basic Achievement Skills Inventory (BASI)  Available from Family Learning Organization.

Checklist for
the Day of the Test

  Plan ahead for a peaceful, unhurried evening and morning before the test.

  Check directions to the testing site and plan to leave and arrive early to avoid stress before the test.

  Make sure your child sleeps well, eats a healthy breakfast, and gets enough water to drink.

  Be prepared with necessary tools such as extra pencils or calculators if allowed.

  If this is your child's first test, you may want to be present in the back of the room for at least part of the time to relieve his anxiety.

  Be sure your child understands what to do if he needs to go to the bathroom during the test.  (also have him go right before the test.)

  Avoid conversations between other students and your child before a test; anxiety is contagious.

  Pray with your child that he will remember what he has learned and do his best.  Thank the Lord that He promised to always be with your child.

The spiritual lessons and experiences of trusting the Lord in everyday circumstances and working under pressure can be a much greater life-long benefit than the actual test itself.

Standardized Tests:
Science & Christian Worldview

Steve Deckard, Ed.D., Assistant Professor, Institute for Creation Research states, "One aspect of education where evolutionary theory has had a stranglehold is standardized testing. This is especially true for standardized science achievement tests.

"These tests have been written from a secular, humanistic, and evolutionary world view. Because of this inherent bias, young people educated in evangelical Christian private or home schools which teach creation science are at a distinct disadvantage."

Inge Cannon, of HomeSchool Transcripts, observes, "As the culture moves in the direction of secularism and away from any demonstration of Biblical values, Christians will find the gap between what they are teaching and what the tests measure to grow increasingly wider."

Inge goes on to recommend that homeschoolers:

1. Take only the basic battery (reading, math, language arts) and avoid the additional tests that make up the complete battery (science, social studies, and at lower levels, the environment) if they must take a standardized achievement test.

2. Strive to change state homeschool laws to reflect this option or to allow for other forms of evaluation.

Homeschooling & Evolution

Excerpted from a post by Ken Ham, president/CEO and founder of Answers in Genesis.

An article appeared in the Atlantic about certain Homeschoolers wanting what they called more "science" in their textbooks.

But sadly, by "science," they don't mean observational science, they mean historical or origins science – and they mean the historical or origins science of the evolutionists and old earth beliefs.

In other words, there are those in the homeschool movement who want textbooks to promote the pagan religion of evolution and millions of years as true – which will ultimately lead kids away from the truth.

We are losing the coming generations from the church, and the major reason is that these coming generations have been led to doubt and eventually not believe the Word of God. The devil has used the same method of Genesis 3:1– "Did God really say . . ."

Homeschoolers certainly need to convey different views about origins and other issues in their teaching – but to do so in the context of teaching God's Word as truth and compromising views as error!

Testing in the News

Revolt Against the Testing Tyrants

Excerpted from an Article by Michelle Malkin, Columnist

"College-bound students in Orange County, Fla., for example, now take a total of 234 standardized diagnostic, benchmark and achievement tests from kindergarten through 12th grade."

"No child in America is legally required to be a part of the latest Common Core lab-rat testing experiments. You are your kids' primary educational provider and decider."

Common Core "Architect" Deals Blow to Opponents with SAT Revamp, Say Critics

From an Article on

College Board President David Coleman, the man known as the "architect" of Common Core, recently announced that the SAT was revamped to align with the Common Core Standards Initiative.

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 In This Issue 

Achievement Tests:
Help Your Child Get
His Best Score!

   •  Why Have Your Child Take
       an Achievement Test?
   •  What Achievement Tests Can and Cannot Do
   •  3 Ways To Prepare Your Child for a Test
   •  7 Test-Taking Skills To Teach Your Child
   •  Interpreting Test Scores
   •  Applying the Results


   •  Past Issues (Plus Pre-Reading Skills)
   •  Common Standardized Achievement Tests
   •  Checklist for the Day of the Test
   •  Standardized Tests: Science & Christian Worldview
   •  Homeschooling & Evolution
   •  Testing in the News

 Upcoming Topics 

   •  5-Day Easter Unit Study
   •  (Continuing) Basic Skills Series

 Recommended Resources 

   •  Hewitt Homeschooling: PASS Test for Home Schoolers
   •  Basic Skills Assessment: The One-Hour Practice Test


It's time to prepare for your children's yearly achievement tests. We trust that the information in this newsletter will be helpful to you in this area of your child's education.

Why Have Your Child Take an Achievement Test?

Homeschool parents who work closely with their children every day usually know quite accurately where their children are academically and in many other areas.

Standardized achievement tests, however, can affirm both your child's learning progress and your teaching ability.  This objective evaluation can encourage both of you, as well as provide confirmation of your success to other family members, friends, and the state, where required.

Contact your state homeschool organization or Home School Legal Defense Association to check your own state's laws and confirm:

 1.  If your child is required to be tested and at what ages or grade levels.

 2.  What tests are acceptable and who can administer the test.

 3.  If and when you need to report your child's test scores.

 4.  If there is another method of evaluation permitted, such as a portfolio of your child's work or an educator's appraisal.

What Achievement Tests Can and Cannot Do

Remember that a standardized achievement test cannot measure the sum total of your child's progress.  It is only one assessment tool with limited value.

What Achievement Tests Can Do

1.  Measure your child's ability to recall certain facts, basic skills, and concepts common to the grade tested.

2.  Compare your child's scores with other students' scores.

3.  Assess your child's year-to-year development of learning, if the same test is used for several years.

4.  Help you determine your child's academic strengths and weaknesses, as well as the effectiveness of your curriculum, teaching methods, or emphasis, when results are combined with your own observations.

What Achievement Tests Can't Do

1.  Tell you if your child has achieved academically to the level of his ability.

2.  Measure your child's intelligence or the many other skills and abilities not on the test.

3.  Replace your own informed evaluation of your child's knowledge and skills, gained from your daily observation of his work and more thorough and frequent review questions.

May the Lord richly bless your family for His glory.

The Pat Welch Family, Publishers
Pat, Sue, Heather, Holly, and Brian

The Teaching Home is a homeschool, family-run business operated in our home since 1980.

• Untimed   • Low Stress
• Parent Administrated   • In Home

? Hewitt Homeschooling Offers
The PASS Test for Grades 3-8

The PASS Test (Personalized
Achievement Summary System)
was developed for home
schoolers.  It includes many great features in addition to being parent- administrated, low-stress,
and untimed.  Only $36

PASS is officially accepted in AK, GA, HI, NY, NC, and WA.
Some states have no specific testing requirements.  Also check
with your independent school district.

Get complete information & order on our website
or call 1-800-348-1750, M-Th, 8:00-4:00 Pacific time

3 Ways To Prepare Your Child for a Test

It is wise to prepare your child for a test and teach him some basic test-taking skills.

1.  Teach Subject Matter

The desire to do well on a year-end test can provide added accountability and motivation for learning throughout your school year.

You will choose the material you teach your child based on more important criteria than passing a test.  In fact, much of the most vital information you want your child to learn will not appear on a standardized achievement test.

(See Newsletter #376 about setting spiritual, academic, social, and life skills goals and objectives.)

However, be sure to include all information the test will cover in your curriculum.

•  Create or buy study aids for teaching and reviewing key facts and information that needs to be memorized such as multiplication/division flashcards, checklists, outlines, and summaries.

•  Check out the audio resources carried by Sing 'n Learn that help your children learn and review basic information.

2.  Provide Perspective

•  Don't overplay the test's importance.

•  Help your child approach his test with confidence and a positive attitude of doing his best.

•  Explain that this test is to show how much he knows and that he is not expected to know everything on the test, although he might know most of it.

3.  Administer Practice Tests

A practice test will increase your child's self-confidence and reduce his test anxiety.

•  Use a practice test to familiarize your child with testing formats, directions, strategies, and sample questions (not exact questions) similar to those found in the test.

Benefits of Practice Tests

A reader writes, "I have found it not only helpful, but almost essential to go through practice tests with our children well in advance of the test itself.

"We always find something just a little different from what we studied, and this gives us time to prepare.

"Two different tests are even better, for the same reason, and help children become more at home with different wording and formats."

Sources for Practice Tests

Practice tests are available for various standardized tests at different grade levels from the following suppliers.

•  "Achieving Peak Performance" and The One-Hour Practice Text.

•  "Test for Success" and "Better Test Scores" Bob Jones University Press Testing & Evaluation

•  "Spectrum Test Prep" from Timberdoodle Company

•  Online: State Practice Tests or sample questions

•  Online:, many free online practice tests, and

Selecting a Testing Administer

A reader writes, "Our children do very well in a private testing situation in the administrator's home.

"Ask your local Christian homeschool support group leaders who is qualified to administer standardized tests in your area.

"Arrange a brief get-acquainted interview in the test-giver's home.  Look for someone who is patient and kind with young children and who believes in home education.  Then make an appointment for the test.

"Have your child take his test early enough to retake it if necessary after you see the results."

Make Test Practice & Preparation Easy
with These Two Resources!

The One-Hour Practice Test, available at various grade levels, effectively prepares students to do well on achievement tests that require strong critical thinking skills and integrate reading comprehension with language arts. Replicating this kind of test, The One-Hour Practice Test measures reading comprehension and language arts by combining the two and evaluates math computation and problem solving.

Taking approx. an hour to complete, it will acquaint the student with the structure and feel of the real test. Set of two books for each grade:
      •  Practice Test  •  Teacher Manual

Achieving Peak Performance, for grades 1-10, will help your child do his best on standardized achievement tests with subject-specific subtests. It helps you identify learning objectives and master test preparation strategies. Its easy-to-use format prepares students to do well on a test of this kind.  Set of two books for each grade:
      •  Practice Test for Students  •  Action Plan for Parents

Basic Skills Assessment & Educational Services
Get more information and order online:
The One-Hour Practice Test  /  Achieving Peak Performance

7 Test-Taking Skills To Teach Your Child

There are specific skills and strategies involved in taking tests that can help your child do his best.

1.  Directions

•  Always listen to and read the directions carefully; don't assume that you already know them.  Sometimes they change only slightly, but significantly, from one section to the next.

•  Ask the instructor to explain any directions that you do not understand.

•  Be sure you know how and where to mark the answers, especially if they are on a separate sheet.  Keep checking to make sure you are marking the numbered answer space that matches the numbered question and for the correct test section (e.g., spelling, math computations).

•  Mark answers carefully and neatly, filling in the blanks completely so that it will be graded correctly.

•  Erase a wrong answer thoroughly when changing your answer.

2.  Wording

•  Watch out for wording such as "Which of the following is not true?" or for answers that sound or look similar.

•  On a true or false question, watch for the words "never," "always," "only," and "best."

3.  Morale

•  Relax by taking several slow, deep breaths and changing your position from time to time.

•  Remember that you know a lot of information and that you are doing your best to show what you know.

•  Ask the Lord to help you remember what you learned and do your best.

4.  Pacing

•  Since most tests are timed, don't get bogged down on a question that you can't answer or are unsure about.

•  Answer the items you are sure of first.  This builds confidence, and you won't miss points on easy questions by running out of time.

•  Skip difficult questions and place an "x" by the number of the question in the margin on the answer sheet.

•  If you are not sure of a question, answer the best you can and mark them with a "?" in the margin.

•  When you have answered all the other questions, answer the questions with an "x" in the margin and recheck questions you marked with a "?".

5.  Choosing Answers

•  If you need to, look back at the reading selection to check facts and ideas.

•  Try each answer in the blank to help you decide which one sounds right.

•  Sometimes on questions where you are to find mistakes, none are to be found.

•  On some questions, two answers can be correct and you must choose the answer that includes them both.

•  When you are not sure, eliminate answers you know are incorrect and take your best guess among the rest.  Some of your guesses will be right.

6.  Math

•  On arithmetic test items, do a quick estimate with rounded-off numbers.  This will help you avoid "silly" mistakes and may even help you locate the only possible answer.

•  When you copy a math problem onto scratch paper, line up the numbers carefully and double check your copying.

•  Always check subtraction problems by reversing operations.

•  If you have time, check equations by substituting your solution for the unknown and check other math problems by reversing operations.

7.  Timing

•  Use all the time allotted for the test; review your test if you finish early.

•  Recheck the directions, questions, and your answers.

•  Do not change answers unless they are obviously wrong.

•  Don't panic when students start handing in their papers. There's no reward for being the first.

Additional Online Resource

See many more test taking tips at including:

 •  General Test Taking Tips (test preparation, at the test, and post test), and Specific Test Taking Tips (multiple choice, essay, true/false, oral, short answer, quantitative/math, and open book).

 •  Reducing Test Taking Anxiety

 •  Test Taking Tips for Parents, provide suggestions for parents to help their kids improve their test taking skills.

Interpreting Test Scores

Glossary of Terms

The basic terms below will help you understand your child's test results.  (For definitions of additional terms see 41-page online Glossary of Testing, Measurement, and Statistical Terms.)

Types of Tests

•  Criterion-referenced tests compare a student's performance to set criteria, such as state standards, rather than to the performance of other students.

•  Norm-referenced tests compare a student's performance to a national reference group of students at the same grade.

•  Standards-based tests assess students' knowledge and skills in relation to the state content standards.

National Percentile Rank

Percentile does not refer to the percent of questions that were answered correctly.

Percentile ranks individuals within a group on a scale of 1 to 99 with 50 being average.  A percentile rank of 60 means the student scored better than 60 percent of the other students in his comparison (norm) group, and 40 percent scored as well as, or better than, he did.


This score shows a comparison of student scores, from a low of 1 to a high of 9.  It may be thought of as groupings of percentile ranks.

Grade Equivalent

This is the most commonly misunderstood term in interpreting test scores.

The first digit represents the year of the grade level and the digit after the decimal represents the month of that grade level.

The grade equivalent is not an estimate of the grade in which your child should be placed! Rather it shows that the score your child achieved was the same as the average score made by students at that grade level who took the same test.

For example a 2nd grade student scoring 4.7 on a math subtest, scored the same as the average 4th grade, 7th month student did who took the 2nd grade test.  It does not mean that the 2nd grade student can do 4th grade math work.

Read online article by BJU Press, "What do Tests Really Tell?," for more information and examples.

Applying the Results

Bob Jones University Press presents the following suggestions.

If your child receives a low score, always compare that information with your own observations.  If the low score is consistent with your personal observation and evaluation of your child's skill, develop a plan to strengthen this skill.

Your plan could include:

 •  Checking to see if the skill was taught

 •  Re-teaching the skill from a different approach

 •  Checking curriculum content and methodology

 •  Evaluating the effectiveness of your teaching methods.

Reading Comprehension

If reading comprehension (inferences, analyses, interpretations) scores are low, but mental ability and facts scores are higher, make sure your teaching and curriculum include questions that require interpretation, thought, inference, and other higher levels of thinking as well as literal-recall questions.

See Newsletters #23, 25-26, 28-30 for ways to teach higher-level reading comprehension skills.

Math Problem Solving

If math problem-solving scores appear low, make sure your teaching and curriculum include visualization, meaning, and understanding in addition to facts and drills.  Your curriculum should provide adequate opportunities for practice in solving story problems.

See Newsletter #38 for many ideas to use in teaching math and how to solve story problems.

Math Computation

If math computation scores are low, check for your child's command of the basic facts and his understanding of mathematic procedures.

Also, check for student carelessness while working problems and note how many questions were not answered at all, indicating your child may need to increase his speed as well as his accuracy.

 •  Use "Holey Cards" (cards with holes through which to write the answers onto paper under the cards) for timed speed drills of addition, subtraction, division, and multiplication facts.

 •  Drill facts in related combinations of addition/subtraction or multiplication/division.  Use triangular Three-Way Math Cards for addition/subtraction and multiplication/division or use ordinary flashcards.

 •  Use the power of music to teach addition, subtraction, division, and multiplication facts with Math Facts to Classical Music from Sing 'n Learn.


If spelling scores are low, check for evidence that your child is convinced that spelling is important.  (This conviction is developed by emphasizing correct spelling in all subject areas.)

Your methodology should teach your child how to spell using spelling principles, rather than just memorizing word lists.  Employ a variety of ways to use each lesson's words over the whole week of study.

See Newsletter #32 for information and ideas in teaching spelling, as well as Sing 'n Learn's Spelling to Classical Music.

Maps, Diagrams, References, and Study Skills

If these skills are low, check for whether you are taking time to read and interpret maps, graphs, and tables in texts and other sources.

Check that you are teaching library, reference, and dictionary skills.

Language Usage and Expression

If aspects of language usage and expression are low, make sure you are teaching writing skills and requiring frequent written work.  The proofing of writing assignments is excellent preparation for these tests.

See Newsletters #36-37 for tips on how to teach writing.