Your Guide to Standardized Tests

Why They’re Important and How to Prepare

BY MURIEL VEGA

Whether your child attends a public or independent school, he or she will be required to take some form of standardized test.

A standardized test is one that is administered and graded in a consistent manner, usually given to students across an entire school or school system or even nationally, as opposed to one created by a teacher for a specific class.

These tests are often used to determine whether your child passes to the next grade level and what kind of college he or she attends.

On the pages that follow, we break down some of the most common standardized tests your child may encounter, as well as resources like websites, classes and tips on how to prepare your child for these important examinations.

Elementary and High School

studentIf your child is enrolled in a Georgia public school, there are a number of tests he or she will be required to take. These include the Criterion-Reinforced Competency Test (CRCT), which measures how well students in grades 1 through 8 have absorbed lessons in reading, arts, mathematics and English and language arts; students in grades 3 through 8 are also tested in science and social studies.

The End of Course Test (EOCT) similarly measures competency in science, social studies, mathematics and English language arts in grades 9 through 12. Students in the 11th grade currently are required to take the Georgia High School Graduation Test (GHSGT) in order to graduate from from high school. (Students who entered high school after fall 2011 will not be required to take the GHSGT.) The Georgia Department of Education website contains links to study guides for the CRCT, EOCT and GHGST. The Georgia Online Assessment System provides access to tests with the same kinds of questions that appear on the abovementioned tests.

catholic-schoolStudents at independent schools may also be required to take standardized tests, such as the Iowa Tests of Basic Skills (ITBS). This test is administered to students in elementary (grades 3 through 5) and middle school (6 through 8). According to state law, public school districts may elect to administer the test as well.

Another standardized test independent school students are likely to encounter is the Secondary School Admission Test (SSAT), which helps independent schools to assess a student’s academic skills.

College Aptitude Tests 

One test all college-bound students are guaranteed to take is the SAT (formerly the Scholastic Assessment Test), a college admissions test that evaluates reading, writing and math skills.

A number of Atlanta-area schools, including St. Pius X and Greater Atlanta Christian School (GAC), offer prep courses or workshops for the SATs. “We do offer an elective for SAT prep,” says Lori Davis, a college counselor at GAC. “You can also find practice tests at the College Board and Georgia College 411 websites.” Emory University offers an SAT prep class, as well.

Another popular college admissions test, the ACT (originally an acronym for American College Testing), covers English, math, reading, science and an optional writing component. Students can find test preparation materials on the ACT’s website.

Students seeking additional preparation for the SAT may elect to take the PSAT, which provides firsthand practice for the SAT and also determines a student’s eligibility for the National Merit Scholarship program. Practice test questions are available through the College Board website.

Testing Tips

No matter what test your child is preparing to take, there are some things he or she can do to make the experience easier and less intimidating. “I tell students that they need to understand the test they are taking and know the test structure,” says GAC’s Davis. “For example, are you going to lose points for a wrong answer?”

Students who are preparing to take a standardized test should take practice tests, reading each question carefully and identifying key words so that they understand exactly what the question is asking. Encourage your child to evaluate multiple-choice questions, eliminating each answer until only the correct one remains. It’s also important for children to manage their study time effectively, review their basic skills and work on improving their vocabulary.

Above all, make sure your child maintains a positive attitude, gets enough sleep and has a proper breakfast on the day of the test. With the right physical and mental preparation, including practice tests and parental support, he or she will be well on their way to acing these important tests on the road to academic success.

Standardized Test Resources

Georgia Department of Education
www.doe.k12.ga.us

Georgia Online Assessment System
www.georgiaoas.org

Georgia College 411
www.gacollege411.org

College Board
www.collegeboard.org

SAT
www.sat.collegeboard.org

PSAT
www.collegeboard.com/student/testing/psat/about.html

SSAT
www.ssat.org

ACT
www.act.org

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