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Devastating Test Results: Test Canceled and Scores Lost

Devastating Test Results: Test Canceled and Scores Lost
Plan ahead to avoid devastating  test  results . Whether your child is a super-smart, gifted test -taker, or struggling test -o-phobe, there is one thing that could ruin their test results completely. A total failure on the part of the scho...
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The CLT Test Alternative to SAT or ACT

The CLT Test Alternative to SAT or ACT
You're likely familiar with the SAT and ACT tests, but are you familiar with the CLT? I'm not always able to spend as much time as I would like discussing the CLT Test, but I want to be sure parents are aware of this new test. As more ...
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Cookies Improve Test Scores [Free Download]

Cookies Improve Test Scores [Free Download]
Let me explain how cookies improve test scores! To choose the best high school  test for your child in just 3 easy steps, begin with the time-honored cookie strategy. It's important that you do one step a day - do not double-up. These steps...
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Simple Explanation for SAT Essay Score Results

Simple Explanation for SAT Essay Score Results
 People are getting back their SAT scores now, and I know it can be a bit confusing. Let me give you the simple explanation for SAT essay score results.   SAT Essay scores are confusing to interpret because the College Board has made it con...
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Is a Perfect PSAT Score Required for Merit Scholarships?

Is a Perfect PSAT Score Required for Merit Scholarships?

Perfect is swell, but is a perfect PSAT score required for merit scholarships? (Of course, you could always use studying as a way to do better on all of the high school tests! Test Preparation without Getting Smarter)

"I finished watching your DVD Getting The Big Scholarships.... it was awesome!  Thank you for taking the time to help others.  In receiving a merit scholarship wouldn't you have to have a perfect PSAT score?  I 've had a financial aid officer tell me this. "
~Diane in Washington

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Study Skills for Seriously Low SAT or ACT Scores

Study Skills for Seriously Low SAT or ACT Scores
First of all, look at some colleges near you with low scores. Do a quick google search for your state and your test (SAT or ACT), like this: "colleges that accept students with low SAT scores in Ohio." Here are the results for Ohio colleges that have...
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Eat Cookies to Get a Better SAT Score

Eat Cookies to Get a Better SAT Score
Get My Cookie Recipe Collection Eating cookies can help your child get a better SAT or ACT score. Stop laughing! I'm totally serious! Careful research in my own home suggests that 100% of students will laugh when assigned sweet confections for school...
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New CLT is an SAT and ACT Alternative

New CLT is an SAT and ACT Alternative

New CLT is an SAT and ACT Alternative

I am so excited about the new CLT testing option. I have asked their Regional Director to fill us in on the details in the blog post, below.

We at the Classic Learning Test (CLT) believe that the ancient philosophers got it right: how someone learns to think, what they read, and how they live, are all intricately connected.

As fellow homeschooling parents, we’ve accepted an enormous responsibility to educate our children through high school. Thanks to people like Lee Binz, The HomeScholar, an important part of our load is lightened and we are free to enjoy the experience, expounding upon the virtues and instilling a joy of learning and understanding into the minds of those to whom we gave life.

When it comes time for college admission testing, however, our children have been sold short with “values-neutral” exams for decades. As we read in the now infamous Harvard Turning the Tide Report, “…college admissions offices have joined forces to collectively encourage high school students to focus on meaningful ethical and intellectual engagement.”

The CLT is turning the tide. College and career readiness requires more than just accumulating high school credits or regurgitating a handful of disconnected facts on a standardized test. To be college and career ready means to demonstrate a certain kind of interpersonal and intrapersonal maturity, a kind of maturity not assessed on the ACT, SAT, or PSAT. The best college students and employees are those who can read well, reason well, communicate well, and even see the moral implications of decisions, ideas, and discoveries. These are the furthest values from today’s standardized tests.

Students take this two-and-a-half hour online test on their own laptops. They’ll see their scores immediately upon submitting online. Students in grades 9 through 12 may take the CLT as often as they desire, paying only $49.00 each time. Only their best score need be forwarded to their college(s) of choice. No test prep is required or even offered, other than the free practice test.

We are pleased to announce that the CLT will award a full scholarship to any college or university in America, including tuition/room/board, to the very first high school student(s) to score a perfect 120! In the event that multiple test takers receive a perfect score on the same CLT, the scholarship will be divided among the winners based on the average net cost of college at a 4-year private university ($36,000). High school graduates already enrolled in college are not eligible. Students who win the scholarship must still complete the FAFSA and disclose their expected family contribution (EFC) to the head of Classic Learning Initiatives’ College Counseling Center.

Visit our website at for further details and to see the list of colleges and universities now accepting the CLT. Register your student(s) and request a test site be located in your area, if one isn’t listed. Better yet, ask your homeschool group or private school to host the CLT and recruit others to take it with you. Don’t see your college listed? Call and make a great noise for them to accept the CLT, now!

We still have the freedom to teach our own children. We still have the power to restore the course of American education and turn the tide!

Laura Loroña-Kays
Regional Director, West
Classic Learning Initiatives
[email protected]
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Hi Thomas, I found this in a Google search for upcoming CLT dates: I hope that helps! Robin Assi... Read More
Monday, 11 March 2019 21:44
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Test Preparation without Getting Smarter

Test Preparation without Getting Smarter

Test Preparation without Getting Smarter

When the SAT or ACT is just a few days away, don't worry about getting smarter! Just prepare for the test. Sure, it would be great if every child was compliant, studied for the college admission tests with a willing and eager attitude, and scored above average, but we live in the real world. Sometimes the test is SOON and the child has ... potentially ... accidentally ... forgotten to study ... for good reason or no reason at all. When this happens, what can you do? Focus on the soft skills of test preparation, not the academic-based answers to the questions.

Here are my suggestions.

Focus on test preparation without getting smarter.

Become Familiar with the Test - give your child at least one full length test at home, timed, for practice, and then one section of a test each day for familiarity.

Adjust Sleep Cycles - make sure your child starts to get to bed earlier and gets up early, so they arrive to the real test more rested and ready.

Review the Homeschool Transcript Together - so the pre-test questions don't freak out your teen and make them feel like they have failed before they have even begun.

Find Your State Homeschool Code - so your child doesn't stress out about anything unrelated to their test score. Find homeschool codes here.

Eat a Breakfast with Protein - good nutrition will see your child through this stressful event.

Drink Water - research shows hydration improves brain function, so have your teen drink water in the morning and bring a water bottle to the test.

Bring a Healthy Snack - so when your child's energy fades, they have a healthy treat to re-energize before the next test section begins.

No Candy During Tests - the sugar high and crashing low are horrible for test scores, so no sugar of any kind during tests.

Bring 4 Sharpened Pencils - no matter how many pencils your child breaks, their test score won't be affected.

Bring a Familiar Calculator - be SURE to bring a calculator, the one they use every day and feel comfortable with, NOT the new one you just bought.

Identify Pick-up Location - not even one brain cell should be worrying about how they will get home, all brain cells should be available for the test.

Locate the Bathroom - one simple bathroom break can destroy a test score if your teen doesn't make it back to their seat before the timer starts

Pick an Answer - have your child choose one letter of the alphabet to always use when they shouldn't waste time on a question, and always use that answer when they don't have a clue.

Familiarity with the test will increase the test score even if they don't get smarter, because kids will get more comfortable with the format and how the questions are asked. Anything you can do to keep teens alert and rested will increase the test score without studying because it will allow their brain to fire on all cylinders. Nutrition and hydration improve brain function. Reducing stress levels will allow them to be as relaxed as possible in an already stressful situation.

Before or after the test, you may want to mention that the test is only an indication of certain academic abilities, it's not a reflection of what is truly important in this world. You may want to review this list of Character Qualities Not Measured by Tests. Good luck on the test!


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Writing the SAT Essay

Writing the SAT Essay

Writing the SAT Essay

In How is the SAT Essay Scored I shared what it takes to get a perfect score on the SAT essay. While it isn't only about length, it definitely needs to be lengthy. Still, 50 minutes to write a well organized, well articulated, lengthy essay may seem like a tall order. What about all the steps for creating an essay, such as brainstorming, outlines, and editing. Are you a bit worried about "teaching to the test" and having to spend a lot of time practicing the essay?

I know that it's frustrating to have to "teach to the test." Let's try to look at it from a different perspective, though. Writing is very important and I'd like to suggest that there are two completely different kinds of writing.

First, there is writing that is edited, proofread, and "perfect." For adults, this can be newsletters, Christmas letters, and letters to the editor. For children, this can be reports and essays they write, both for fun and for homeschool.

The second kind of writing is impromptu writing, which has to be GOOD but it doesn't have to be PERFECT. This can include casual business writing, job applications, interview questions, etc. For children, the second kind of writing will include essay tests, AP exams, and the SAT essay.

The two kinds of writing involve completely different skills.  My sons are glad they developed BOTH skills, but I've only been formally THANKED once. When Alex took his first college essay test, he greeted us that day by saying, "Thank you SO much for teaching us to write a college essay! I aced my test today and the other kids had trouble writing for a timed test!"

Yes, you want to teach your children good quality writing with revisions. I also think it's important to be able to write an essay that includes brainstorming, outlining, and writing. You will find your children DO use that skill in college and in life.

Are you worried about your child writing the SAT essay? Share in the comments!


Please note: This post was originally published in July 2008 and has been updated for accuracy and comprehensiveness.

Looking for a great resource on high school tests such as the SAT? Check out my Coffee Break Book, High School Testing: Knowledge That Saves Money.
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How is the SAT Essay Scored?

How is the SAT Essay Scored?

How is the SAT Essay Scored?

Even though the essay in the new SAT is optional, I highly recommend having your child take it. Many colleges require or suggest the SAT essay.

Here is what the College Board has to say about the scoring of the SAT essay:
"SAT Essay responses are scored using a carefully designed process:

Two different people will read and score your essay.
Each scorer awards 1–4 points for each dimension: reading, analysis, and writing.
The two scores for each dimension are added.
You’ll receive three scores for the SAT Essay — one for each dimension — ranging from 2–8 points."

Here is the scoring guide. A perfect score has these characteristics:
"Reading: A successful essay shows that you understood the passage, including the interplay of central ideas and important details. It also shows an effective use of textual evidence.

Analysis: A successful essay shows your understanding of how the author builds an argument by:
Examining the author’s use of evidence, reasoning, and other stylistic and persuasive techniques
Supporting and developing claims with well-chosen evidence from the passage

Writing: A successful essay is focused, organized, and precise, with an appropriate style and tone that varies sentence structure and follows the conventions of standard written English."

It makes sense that an essay with good use of evidence, reasoning, structure, and style will necessarily be longer than a essay that does NOT include those things.  I think it's too simplistic to say the essay is ONLY about length, but I also think it will have to be a fairly long, well written essay to earn a good score using these criteria. Even though the college board denies that it's about length, in order to meet their objective criteria the essay will have to be quite long. To learn more about writing such a long essay in such a short period of time, check out Writing the SAT Essay.

Are you worried about SAT essay length? Let me know in the comments!


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Please note: This post was originally published in July 2008 and has been revamped and updated for accuracy and comprehensiveness.
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No More Penalty for Guessing on the SAT

No More Penalty for Guessing on the SAT

No More Penalty for Guessing on the SAT

Is your child taking the SAT this spring?  I have good news, as of the spring of 2016, the SAT no longer has a penalty for guessing.

They used to calculate the number of correct answers and subtract 1/4 point for incorrect answers. In other words, a wrong answer used to hurt more than leaving the answer blank. Now, students receive one point for each correct answer, and zero points for any unanswered questions or incorrect answers. There are also only four answers to choose from, instead of five.

Test prep companies used to recommend using a strategy to answer SAT questions. Now answering is much simpler, just like the ACT! Of course, it's BEST when your child KNOWS the answer, but now they can fearlessly answer with their best guess if that's not the case.

For more information on the 2016 SAT changes, check out my article, How I Learned to Stop Worrying and Love the SAT.




Please note: This post was originally published in February, 2012 and has been updated for accuracy and comprehensiveness.
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Schedule Test Preparation

Schedule Test Preparation

Affiliate disclaimer: This post contains affiliate links. If you click and buy I may make a few pennies, but not enough for a latte.

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How to Prep for College Admission Tests

How to Prep for College Admission Tests

How to Prep for College Admission Tests

1. Choose the right test

The first step in test prep is figuring out whether the SAT or ACT is the best fit for your child. Because the SAT has changed as of 2016, if your child does best on the SAT, I suggest they take BOTH tests, the SAT and ACT.  If your child does best on the ACT, then only study for and have them take the ACT. Studies imply that boys do better on the SAT and girls do better on the ACT.  Science lovers may do better on the ACT. Students with poor handwriting might do better on the ACT without the essay (although, I don’t recommend that). According to the statistics, more people who live in the coastal states take the SAT. Most students who live in the center of the country take the ACT. But who cares? Statistics are not always right! What’s MOST important is to decide which test will be best for YOUR student. Taking a sample ACT and SAT is the single best way to decide which one your child will score highest on. While the sample test does take 3-4 hours (and it’s a real pain, I know), it can mean THOUSANDS of dollars in scholarship money, so it’s worth it. Here is a Sample ACT Here is a Sample SAT After your child takes the sample test in the comfort of their own home, score the test, and find out what percentile your child is in. Choose the test with the highest percentile score. This chart will help. Score Comparison Chart: SAT, ACT, CLT and Percentile 

Study at home.

Studying at home is the most effective IF the student will actually do that (and I know as a parent, that's not always a sure thing!) See if you can schedule test preparation at home first. Choose a test preparation book with real test questions. During each prep session, do one section of the test (each section is just 25-50 minutes). Read the instructions first. Set the kitchen timer. Have your child take the test. After the timer rings, have your child correct their own test packet. They can review the answers to any questions they missed.

3. Test Prep Class if Necessary

If studying at home doesn't work, consider taking a class outside the home, either online or in a physical location. Locate a test prep class specific for the SAT or ACT (again, the one that fits the best). The SAT has changed, but you have plenty of time to adapt to the changes. This article will tell you more: PSAT and SAT Change Fall 2015. The last time the SAT changed was the year my own sons were juniors in high school, so I know exactly how stressful it can be right now. Just hang in there!


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Please note: This post was originally published in April, 2015 and has been updated for accuracy and comprehensiveness.
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Test Preparation in Middle School

Test Preparation in Middle School


Test Preparation in Middle School

What do you do to prepare for the SAT and ACT when your child is in middle school? Read these 7 ways to effectively prepare for the SAT and ACT before high school.

The best test prep in middle school is making sure you do a good job with reading, writing, penmanship, and math. Also, providing practice with fill in the bubble tests can ensure that they will be successful on standardized tests.  While things like critical thinking and logic are generally nice to have, they are not specific for test preparation.

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