#5 Encourage your kids to prepare for college entrance exams.
This tip is timely and on the forefront of my mind because the PSAT is scheduled for October 16. That's just around the corner.
The SAT, ACT, and the PSAT scores are important benchmarks for homeschooled college applicants. I know there is a lot of controversy and discussion surrounding the need for these tests. I'm not addressing that controversy. The fact is the tests exist and the scores are used by colleges for entrance requirements and for scholarships. So help your kids play the game. Give them the tools they need to prepare and excel on college entrance tests.
Historically homeschooled students score above the national average on these tests. Five of our children have done very well on these tests. In fact, they have earned scholarships that have covered 1/2 (one of our children) to the full tuition (four of our children) and fees at their respective colleges. They have attended both private and public colleges with these scholarships.One of our sons was a National Merit Scholar and our daughter was a Semi-Finalist. One of our sons scored an 800 on the Critical Reading section (he did not learn to read until he was 10 - I'll tell you about that in a future post) and one of our daughters scored an 800 on the writing section (she does not enjoy writing).
Our kids are not particularly gifted at taking tests, they have very different learning styles and personalities, and they didn't come from a special gene pool. They just studied for the college entrance exams in a fairly methodical manner.
Our experience has been primarily with the SAT and the PSAT tests. But, the method holds true for the ACT.
- First, acquire review books. Princeton Review and Kaplan Review are both good choices. Your test taker needs plenty of practice tests. The more the better.
- Secondly, take and grade a diagnostic full length test. Try to duplicate the formal testing situation. Time each section accurately. This diagnostic test is an important component. Your child can see their strengths and weaknesses and focus their studying appropriately.
- Next, read a review book thoroughly. Learn the layout of the tests, how they are scored, the information that will be provided with the test, and what is expected to succeed on the test. These review books are thorough. You can glean so much information from them, even tricks that make the test taking easier.
- Now, go back through your diagnostic test and go over every problem missed. The review books explain every problem and its correct answer. My kids do this on their own and only come to me when they don't understand an explanation.
- Continue working through the problems in your review books. Schedule practice tests every couple of weeks.Whenever you complete a problem incorrectly or simply can't complete it, go over the explanation and redo the problem until you understand it. This holds for all sections of the test.
- Make flash cards or the equivalent for vocabulary words. Understand the most common formulas required for math problems. Discover your weaknesses and focus your studying.
This all assumes that your student has a good base of knowledge. Your child should have a firm grasp of grammar, read at a high school level, and it's best to have completed Geometry.
Emily - M.A in English - currently a freelance writer
Don't be overwhelmed. Remember, your children can start taking the college entrance exams early, even in eighth grade. They can take them over and over again. Many colleges will look at the highest score achieved or even take the highest scores from each section.
The PSAT can only be taken in 11th grade. Many students take it simply as a practice for the SAT. But the other half of this equation is that its label PSAT/NMSQT stands for National Merit Scholarship Qualifying Test. This is the test that determines the National Merit Scholars each year.
So, preparing for college entrance tests is not rocket science. It doesn't require fancy expensive programs and tutors. It requires diligence and hard work.
One last point - you can register to take the PSAT with your local high school and you need to register for the SAT and ACT tests through the College Board.