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How to Estimate Grades in Classes Without Tests

How to Estimate Grades in Classes Without Tests
Not every class has tests, but every class on your transcript should have a final grade. Teachers in schools need tests to evaluate 30 children at a time. When homeschooling, though, we have very few students to assess at one time, and tests are not ...
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How to Put Test Prep on the Transcript

How to Put Test Prep on the Transcript
When your child is working hard on studying for the SAT or ACT, you may be accumulating enough hours to make this a class, and put it on the transcript. Let me provide some simple do's and don'ts for putting test prep on a homeschool transcript. You ...
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Recent Comments
Cindi Goertz
This was very helpful--and timely as our daughter just took the SAT and has logged many hours in prep for that as well as the PSAT... Read More
Sunday, 11 March 2018 13:05
Lee Binz
I'm so glad to help, Cindi! I figure if a student is just doing a little test prep, then adding it to your English class makes sen... Read More
Monday, 12 March 2018 17:40
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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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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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PSAT and SAT Change Fall 2015

PSAT and SAT Change Fall 2015
There are big changes coming to the PSAT and SAT this fall. Are you ready?

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

PSAT and SAT change Fall 2015

The PSAT and SAT change will affect children who are starting junior year in 2015. The changes will start with the new format PSAT in October. Then the SAT test will change in the spring of 2016.  Test preparation materials should begin to be available in the spring of 2015, when they are sophomores.   You may want to pre-order a study guide now. Consider these options.

The College Board Guide: Official Study Guide for the Redesigned 2016 SAT

The Princeton Review Book: 500+ Practice Questions for the New SAT: Created for the Redesigned 2016 Exam

If test materials aren’t available, students can use the Khan Academy program for test preparation.

Until those books are ready, continue using the PSAT and SAT books that are currently available. Remember, any test preparation will help your child with time management, filling in bubbles, and will review reading, writing, and math.

The PSAT will also change at the same time. The new PSAT will be available in October 2015 so children can take the new PSAT as practice for the new SAT. It’s extremely important that all children who are juniors in October of 2015 take the new version of the PSAT test.

Read more here: Big Changes Coming with the Redesigned SAT

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Test Prep Like Marathon Training

Test Prep Like Marathon Training

Preparing for the SAT or ACT Test is Like Training for a Marathon. 

Figure out which race you can win. Choose between the SAT or ACT test, to see which one makes your child look smarter. Study for just one test. They aren't really the same, and it takes a couple of months to study for one specific test over the other. Studying for both at the same time, especially close to the test date, can be detrimental.

Prepare for running one race at a time.

Help your child study for the test that they are currently planning to take. If you have them practice for the test they are not taking, the preparation will be slightly different, so studying for the opposite test can have an impact on their overall score. To study, spend about 30 minutes at a time, 3 days a week, doing one section of one test each time. It works great! If you do that consistently, you can raise your child’s score dramatically. Remember to remove some of your normal English class on the days you do test prep, so you don't double up on English hours.

Prepare for the distance.

Both the SAT and ACT test are LONG, and it can sure feel like running a marathon! Besides your regular test preparation, occasionally run a full-length race. About once a month, give a full-length, timed, practice test at home. That will condition your child for endurance. This is the part of your test prep that is preparing your child for the duration of the test. It's extremely beneficial to practice a full length timed test at least once a month - it's like practicing for a marathon; sometimes you just have to practice by running a long distance!

Test Prep resources: 

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When Testing Can Help

When Testing Can Help
In this video, I describe some situations when testing can benefit your homeschool.

Subscribe to my YouTube channel. You will be notified when I create new videos on homeschool high school topics!
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Take the SAT Right On Time

Take the SAT Right On Time

Taking the SAT Right on Time

Junior year is a VERY busy year, with lots of moving parts.  Taking the PSAT, SAT and ACT, studying for the tests, visiting colleges ...  it can all be overwhelming!  Elise asked me a question about taking tests in junior year, and exactly when it's "too late" for the SAT.
I so appreciate all your booksclasses, etc and just wanted to ask if there's any disadvantage to taking the SAT in June of the junior year... is that too late? Thanks, Elise


Dear Elise,

Thank you for the question!  June is NOT too late to take the test!

The right time to take the SAT or ACT is in the spring of junior year.  It doesn't really matter exactly when in the spring, so anytime in the spring will work.

Your reason for taking the test is so that your child can choose a college that is a good fit academically, or a college that is likely to give scholarship money.  You can tell by your child's test score how likely they are to provide scholarship information.

The reason for taking the test in the spring, is so that you can use the information to find colleges where your child could apply.  Generally speaking, students need to start applying for college on the first day of senior year, if not sooner.  If you take the SAT or ACT any time between February and June, you will have the information you need, and will be able to start applications on time in senior year.

Timing will often depend on how much test preparation your child needs.  If they have done some test prep all through junior year, then taking the test in March might be the right time. However, if your child just hasn't quite started studying for the SAT or ACT in the fall, then it might make more sense to do some serious test preparation and take the test in June for the best possible score.

I often suggest that homeschoolers take the test in March of junior year, and complete their test preparation throughout junior year.  That way they can take it again if they have a bad day, miss the test, or need a higher score.  So when possible, I suggest taking the test in March and repeating it in June if necessary. Be prepared. If a junior takes the test in June, they can also repeat the test first thing in senior year if necessary.

There is no disadvantage to taking the SAT or ACT in June of junior year.  There is only a disadvantage if you miss it completely, or put it off until senior year.

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SAT Entirely in Aramaic?

SAT Entirely in Aramaic?
High school testing is a subject that interests many of my clients. There is something about seeing an acronym of letters that makes homeschooling parents nervous. Never fear! Prepping for and taking the SAT is not a scary thing.  Today Jennifer Karan, Executive Director of the SAT Program at shares more reasons why we should lower our misconceptions of the SAT.

Three Misconceptions about the SAT
By: Jennifer Karan, Executive Director of SAT Program at the College Board

Though the comments below may seem light-hearted, in truth there is so much misinformation about the SAT that I thought I might take the opportunity to clear the air about a few myths.

1.    The SAT Is Administered Entirely in Aramaic

Actually, the test is administered in English, even for international students.  However, for those students who have been studying a foreign language and who are ready to demonstrate their mastery, there are twelve Subject Tests covering nine different languages including Chinese, Japanese, French, German, Modern Hebrew, Latin and Korean.

To minimize anxiety and achieve their best results, students should familiarize themselves with test content, format and question types.  The College Board offers a wide array of free and low-cost resources, none of which are in Aramaic.

2.    There Is a Minimum Grade Point Average Requirement

Not true.  The College Board is committed to making the SAT available to anyone who wants to take it, regardless of educational -- or economic -- status.  We regularly hear from lower-performing students who did not think they were “college material,” then found themselves inspired to go to college after taking the SAT.

In fact, the SAT is administered seven times a year (the subject tests are administered six times a year) and is made available in more than 7,000 test centers in 180 countries.  Additionally, the College Board now offers states and districts the option of hosting the SAT during a school day to make it easier for students who may not have access to transportation on a weekend or who may have work or family commitments.
And, through the Fee Waiver program, low-income students for whom exam fees present an undue burden are able to take the exam.  More than 20% of SAT takers in the class of 2012 took the test at no charge. More than 1.66 million students from the 2012 graduating class took the SAT, representing the most diverse class of SAT takers in history.

3.    The Math Section Is Optional

The math section is not optional.  Each of the three sections on the SAT, critical reading, mathematical reasoning and writing skills, test the information students learn in a rigorous high school curriculum and how well they apply that knowledge.  The reading section, among other things, assesses students’ ability to draw inferences and synthesize information.  The writing section – which other organizations might consider writing optional, but given its critical importance to student success, the College Board does not – tests students’ ability to communicate ideas effectively as well as their knowledge of sentence structure and grammar.   And the math section requires students to apply mathematical concepts, solve problems and use data literacy skills in interpreting tables, charts and graphs.  In addition to this portion of the SAT, there are two SAT Subject Tests in mathematics available to students interested in that field.

Cute!  Even though you may not have thought the test was in Aramaic, tied to grade point average, with an optional math section, we still managed to learn something - and in a fun way, too! Thank you, Jennifer Karan, Executive Director of SAT Program at the College Board!

Would you like more information about high school testing? My Parent Training Course called High School Testing can help you understand the tests so that you are more comfortable registering your children. Remember, you can do it!
And tell me honestly, What strange ideas have you heard about the SAT?

Do you enjoy our monthly newsletter, “The HomeScholar Record?”  If so, would you write a brief review here, so others can benefit from it too?  Thanks!!
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Help! I need opinions for my book title!

Help!  I need opinions for my book title!

I need some opinions on a book title!  I'm just about done with my next book.  This one is about college application, admission, and scholarships.  It's going to include information about curriculum, testing, finding colleges, elite university admission, check lists for junior and senior year, merit and need based scholarships, letters of recommendation, application essays, competitions, interviews.  Tons of college admission stuff.  Very different from my last book about homeschool records.

We decided we like having the main title called "Courting the Colleges"  because we are including a scripture verse and a quote from the Princess Bride on every chapter.  So what I'm really looking for right now is a subtitle.  I need something long that clearly spells out exactly what is in the book, but hopefully in a fun, catchy way.  For example, this title is HILARIOUS and so it's very catchy:  The Neurotic Parent's Guide to College Admissions: Strategies for Helicoptering, Hot-housing & Micromanaging (I just about died laughing!)  I don't need something THAT funny, though.  I guess I'm not thinking "hilarious" so much as "catchy."

Can you please share ideas for a neat title and subtitle?  Do you like "Courting the Colleges"??

Here are some ideas we are pondering:
How to Win the Love of Your First-Choice University and Earn Quick Admission and Huge Scholarships
Secrets Homeschoolers Know about Wooing and Winning University Admission and Scholarships
A Successful Homeschooler’s Secrets for Wooing and Winning University Admission and Scholarships
How to Help Your Homeschooler Woo and Win University Admission and Scholarships
Help Your Homeschooler Woo and Win University Admission and Scholarships
A Homeschooler's Guide to College Admissions: Strategies for Finding the Perfect College for Your Unique Child
How to Prepare your Homeschool Student for College Admission and Scholarships
How to Find a University that will Love your Child and Shower Them with Huge Scholarships!
A Homeschooler's Guide to College Admissions: Strategies to Woo and Win the Perfect College for Your Child
Learn a Homeschooler's Secrets for College Admissions and Scholarships: Strategies for Finding, Affording, and Loving the College of Your Dreams
Secrets for College Admissions and Scholarships: A Homeschool Family's Guide to Finding and Affording the College of Your Dreams

Here are some other books on amazon on the same subject - don't want to sound too similar:

College Admission: From Application to Acceptance, Step by Step
Admission Matters: What Students and Parents Need to Know About Getting into College
A Is for Admission: The Insider's Guide to Getting into the Ivy League and Other Top Colleges
Countdown to College: 21 To Do Lists for High School: Step-By-Step Strategies for 9th, 10th, 11th, and 12th Graders
What You Don't Know Can Keep You Out of College: A Top Consultant Explains the 13 Fatal Application Mistakes and Why Character Is the Key to College Admissions
College Admissions - A Step By Step Guide Through the Process
How to Be a High School Superstar: A Revolutionary Plan to Get into College by Standing Out (Without Burning Out)
The Neurotic Parent's Guide to College Admissions: Strategies for Helicoptering, Hot-housing & Micromanaging
College Admission: From Application to Acceptance, Step by Step
How to Make Colleges Want You: Insider Secrets for Tipping the Admissions Odds in Your Favor

I am now the Seattle Homeschool Examiner.  You can read my homeschool articles here.
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When should you take the PSAT and SAT?

When should you take the PSAT and SAT?
Lee, I just read your article on testing, but I still have a doubt. My son will be going to Community College Dual Enrollment next year. He is a sophomore right now. Do you recommend taking the SAT this year or not? I didn't do the PSAT this year, and I'm sorry about it, but I was thinking on doing SAT instead of the regular testing. Is that a good idea or should I just have him take the regular testing and then PSAT in October? Thanks for your help! I'm sure thankful for you!
~ Susy in Washington

You are at just the right place to listen to my audio course on High School Testing. It comes free with Gold Care Club and the Total Transcript Solution, but you can also order it separately here.

I would have him take the SAT during junior year. Most kids will take the PSAT during October of Junior year, and take the SAT or ACT during spring of Junior year. If you need to save money on your annual assessment, then the SAT can save a few dollars. Still, if the child doesn't have enough math to score reasonably well on the test, then taking it early can backfire. The child may feel like they aren't a good test-taker, resulting in worse scores later on, when in fact they just hadn't taken enough math to score well.

If it were me (and it WAS me!) then I would give the regular standard test this year, and do the PSAT in the fall and SAT in the spring next year.

Just a few days from our May newsletter.  I hope you enjoy our theme “Teaching Teens Math.” Sign up for the free monthly newsletter here.
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Homeschool Testing - How Much Weight?

Homeschool Testing - How Much Weight?
How much weight should you give to a homeschool test?  As much as you like!
I really learned tons from your seminar.  I especially used your "example" transcript - that was valuable for reasons I wouldn't of thought of until I was in the middle of creating one for our oldest.  Is 25% of the grade weighted to tests (math, science) appropriate?
~ Carla in Washington

Dear Carla,

Here is my homeschool transcript online.  Here is a sample of my homeschool grading criteria online.

I think weighting 25% is fine.  Homeschoolers have a LOT of flexibility.  I decided to weight mine in thirds for most subject; 1/3 what I made them do, 1/3 what they did, and 1/3 tests.  Truthfully, I think I did it that way because I only had room for three columns!  For science, I weighted mine 50% test and 50% labs.   I did it that way because we used Apologia, and there were SO many labs and SO many tests that it seemed like plenty of evaluation to me.

Lots of teachers will have very complicated grading criteria with formulas, points, and scales of all different sorts.  When I talk to homeschoolers, I'm struck by one thing.  A homeschooler's gut instinct about the grade for their child is always right on, no matter how complicated their grading process.  For that reason, I'm a big fan of simplifying.  So yes, demonstrating how you arrived at a grade can be very helpful, but I don't think you have to be overly complicated.

Learn a LOT more about how to translate all those great homeschool high school classes into the words and numbers that colleges will understand --  The HomeScholar Total Transcript Solution.
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CLEP and AP - What is the Difference?

CLEP and AP - What is the Difference?


Can you share info about CLEP vs. AP?  Which do colleges like to see more.  What is the difference?  I am totally confused.  Thanks.
~ Chris in Indiana

Dear Chris,

CLEP and AP are both college level subject tests.  Some colleges will accept AP but not CLEP, some colleges will accept CLEP but not AP.  Some colleges accept both and some don't like either one!  So you can't really say which one colleges in general like more, because colleges can't seem to agree on anything!

For that reason, look for two things.  First, which college are you MOST LIKELY to apply to - and then find out which tests they will accept.  And second, look for the test that matches your student.  Since the tests are so different, it can vary from child to child.

Whichever test you choose, make SURE your child will do well on the test before taking it for real.  Use a practice test at home, and just assess whether they will score well enough to make it worth your while.  It's a good investment, and will relieve a lot of stress.

For more information, and a long discussion about the difference in the two tests, you can take my audio course on "High School Testing."

It also comes free with my ebook on homeschool transcripts, as a downloadable audio course with a nice downloadable chart comparing the tests.

I hope that helps,

Check out my new profile on The Old Schoolhouse's Speakers Bureau, and then ask you conference coordinator to invite me to come speak to your conference in 2010!
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PSAT and SAT Prep: Practice, Rinse, Repeat

PSAT and SAT Prep: Practice, Rinse, Repeat
Even good test takers need practice.  If your child doesn't take tests well, then practice becomes even more important.  Susan asked me a question about how to prepare her son for the PSAT test.

I have purchased your materials when you were at the homeschool fair in Bothell last year.  My son is a sophomore. He is very analytical and logical which is good since he wants to be a computer programmer. The problem is that he is not a good test taker because he over analyzes the questions. Is there a program that you recommend to help him learn how to do well on standardized test? He will need to take the PSAT next year and I would like him to be better prepared.

Thank you,

Susan in WA

Hi Susan!

I don't think a program is what will help, I think the key is repetition.  It will take some work and effort on the part of your teenager. There is no silver bullet or perfect program to learning SAT preparation, and there are SO many options out there!

If you can get him to practice sample tests at home, timing them, then he'll probably get faster and learn not to over-think it.  I was able to get my children to do it.  We studied with the "11 Practice Tests for the SAT" book.  We did test prep three times a week.  We did one section of one test each day - it took about 25 minutes.  We found it we VERY helpful!

Here is a link to the book:

11 Practice Tests for the New SAT

If you can't talk him into repetitively studying for the SAT at home, then maybe a program would be helpful.  But it's significantly less money to just buy the book and do it yourself at home.

I don't think I would have him study SAT prep unless he already has taken geometry, though.  The math questions include some geometry, and I think he could get pretty frustrated if he doesn't have that math.

You can also point him to a computer science major. That requires a significant amount of math, but if he likes math and he likes analyzing, then it might be a good fit.

Did you know that not preparing for the standard high school tests (SAT and ACT) is one of "The 5 Biggest Mistakes Parents Make When Homeschooling High School"?  You can learn to avoid all 5 mistakes in my free email mini-course.
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Bright but Bored?

Bright but Bored?
Is your student very bright but bored?

Homeschool parents can test the level of the student in each subject.  The standardized tests help (Iowa Basic, CAT test, or any of the others.)  Is the student at grade level?  Above grade level and bored?  Or below level and frustrated?  Using a math placement test can help.  I recommend Saxon for math placement.

Once you know what level, then you can make sure their curriculum is at their level all the time in every subject.  Keeping it challenging but not overwhelming can make a huge difference in their success.  It doesn't matter what level they are - it matter that they are working at THEIR level.  They can succeed if they are working on their level.  If they aren't, then they may be bored or hopelessly lost.

If your child is very bright, and yet does poorly in a school situation, you may want to check if they are truly bored in school.

If you want help with gifted children, consider my NEW audio course, "Gifted Education at Home."  This one hour long audio course is geared toward homeschooling parents with children in grades 1 - 12.  What I've found is that these strategies work great for all students, not just the gifted ones!

I hope this helps!

Check out the brand new audio course from The HomeScholar, "Gifted Education at Home."
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