by Melanie Wagner
No. 2 pencils and rows of Scantron bubbles await Georgia students this school year. Here we’ve broken down the basics of each standardized test that will be administered – what it measures, whom it’s for, when it is, how to prepare and what the results determine. Put on your thinking caps … you may begin.
What: Determines whether kindergartners are ready to be promoted to first grade based on skills in literacy, math and social and emotional development. Students are tested one-on-one and in small and large groups.
When: Different parts of the tests are conducted throughout the year.
How to prepare: Practice basic skills, such as reading and counting, with your child.
What happens next: Serves as an indicator of readiness for first grade.
What: The CRCT is Georgia’s primary test based on the state’s Quality Core Curriculum. First- through eighth-grade students are required to test in reading, language arts and math. (First and second graders did not take the CRCT the past two years due to budget constraints.) Students in third through eighth grades are tested in science and social studies as well. This group of tests determines whether Georgia’s performance standards are adequate.
When: April or May
How to prepare: Ensure that student instruction is based on the Georgia Performance Standards, which can be found at georgiastandards.org. Students, parents and teachers can also visit Georgia’s Online Assessment System (Georgiaoas.org) for access to practice tests. Gadoe.org can also provide information.
What happens next: Fifth- and eighth-grade students must pass the math portion of the test to be promoted to the next grade, (a retest opportunity is offered), and third-, fifth- and eighth-graders must pass the reading portion to be promoted.
What: The tests, given to high school students, include math I, math II, algebra, geometry, literature and composition (ninth grade), American literature and composition, economics/business/free enterprise, U.S. history, biology and physical science. The tests are administered upon course completion. One additional retest is allowed. Students must pass all areas to graduate from high school.
When: Given at the end of a course (either December or May).
How to prepare: The tests are based on Georgia Performance Standards. Tests in each subject administered throughout the year serve as preparation.
What happens next: EOCT scores are averaged as 15-20 percent of a student’s overall class grade and serve as a course’s final exam.
In effect only for students enrolled in 9th grade prior to 2011.
What: Students must pass the GHSGT in four content areas (English, math, science and social studies) to graduate from high school. GHSGTs measure whether a school meets its Adequate Yearly Progress (AYP) and whether students have mastered the state’s curriculum. Graded as Fail, Pass or Pass Plus; a student must earn a “Pass” in each subject to graduate. A school’s AYP in math is rated Basic, Proficient or Advanced; for English it can be Below, Basic or Advanced in proficiency.
When: March of a student’s junior year, with re-tests offered in July, September and November. If students do not pass the first time, they may re-test in the spring or fall of their senior year (students can re-take each subject up to four times before the end of 12th grade).
How to prepare: The tests are based on Georgia Performance Standards, with practice tests available on georgiaoas.org and study guides at http://www.gadoe.org.
What happens next: Students earn a Georgia high school diploma when they pass all four areas of the test, along with the Georgia Writing Assessment and any other local/state requirements.
What: For high school juniors. Tests students’ persuasive writing skills. Students are given a writing prompt, then must express their opinion on the subject to influence the reader.
When: October of a student’s junior year; retests available in February and July.
How to prepare: Teachers should hold practice assessments on persuasive writing prior to the test and review the steps of the writing process.
What happens next: Students earning a Georgia diploma must pass this test in addition to the End of Course Testing for students who entered 9th grade in 2011. Students enrolled in 9th grade prior to 2011 will have to pass the GHSGT.
What: Called “The Nation’s Report Card,” this test serves as a way to compare the performance of students (in fourth, eighth and 12th grades) in each state. Provides information on students’ strengths and weaknesses by gender, ethnicity and background, and is given in the areas of math, reading, science, writing and occasionally the arts, civics, economics, geography and U.S. history. No individual scores are reported.
When: Administered every other year to a representative sample of fourth-, eighth- and 12th-grade students. The last assessment was in 2011.
How to prepare: Students can visit nationsreportcard.gov to complete practice questions in each subject.
What happens next: Educators can use these results to frame the curriculum and develop tests. Scores do not affect students individually; they show patterns of achievement over time.
What: The purpose of the norm-referenced test (NRT) is to obtain information about how the performance of Georgia’s students compare with that of students in a national sample. The results of an NRT are used for evaluation, decision-making, and instructional improvement. Due to budget constraints, the NRT will not be administered with state funds during the 2011-2012 school year according to the Georgia Department of Education.
What: Performance-based writing assessments given to students in third, fifth and eighth grades. Tests skills in written communication.
When: Eighth grade: January; fifth grade: March; third grade: no specific time. Teachers must instruct students on the four writing genres and the writing process, and independently assess samples of each genre.
How to prepare: Review the four writing genres (expository, narrative, persuasive and procedural), as well as the writing process, consisting of prewriting, drafting, revising, editing and publishing. Provide samples throughout the year.
What happens next: Provides information about students’ writing abilities. This test does not indicate whether or not a student is promoted to the next grade; it aims to improve students’ written communication skills.
What: Evaluates students in AP classes to determine whether they can receive college credit.
When: May 7-18, 2012 (always in May)
How to prepare: Visit collegeboard.com to practice essay writing and read the test-maker’s tips.
What happens next: Scores range from 1 to 5. Scores of 3 and higher usually qualify students to receive freshman-level college credit.
What: Practice test for the SAT and qualifier for the National Merit Scholarship (for high school juniors). Tests critical reading, math problem-solving and writing skills.
When: Fall, usually in mid-October. There is a fee of approximately $14 to take the test.
How to prepare: Enroll in challenging courses, read frequently, or complete the
practice questions on the PSAT section of collegeboard.com.
What happens next: Scores range between 20-80. The NMS Corporation selects semifinalists based on the combined scores from the three test areas. The highest scoring students in each state become semifinalists, then 15,000 finalists are selected from the pool. Winners of the $2,500 National Merit Scholarships are chosen based on abilities, skills and accomplishments.
What: Premier college admissions test that evaluates skills in reading, writing and math; known as a critical-thinking test. There is a $49 fee to take the test.
When: Administered seven times throughout the year. Check collegeboard.com for testing dates and places to take it.
How to prepare: Ask your school counselor about SAT prep classes offered at school or in the community. There are also SAT online courses (for a fee) and downloadable practice tests (free) available on collegeboard.com.
What happens next: Students receive a score ranging from 200-800 (essay scores are between 2-12) on each of the three sections, then must send the scores to the colleges to which they wish to apply.
What: Nationally administered college entrance exam required by many colleges and universities, and accepted by all. ACT questions are curriculum based, and are directly related to what students have learned throughout high school. The test measures English, math, reading and science (with an optional writing section). Each subject is given a score between 1-36, then the four subjects are averaged together for a composite score.
When: Administered in September, October, December, February, April and June. The cost is $34 for the basic ACT, or $49.50 for the ACT plus the writing section.
How to prepare: Students can visit actstudent.org/testprep for free access to practice test questions, tips and a description of the exam. The site also offers a $19.95 online preparatory course with one year of access.
What happens next: The test is accepted by every college and university as an entrance exam and alternative to the SAT. Students may choose to take both tests, and send their best scores (or both, if required) to potential schools.
To help your child ace these important tests, use these tips to make sure he’s prepared on test day.
Practice good attendance. Kids who are present in class every day know what to expect on tests.
Help him gather practice materials ahead of time. (See “test prep” for some good sites.) If you’re concerned about your child passing, speak with his teacher for additional tips on how to prepare at home.
Explain the purpose of taking these tests: It is your child’s opportunity to show his teacher everything he has learned.
Talk to your child about reading directions carefully, avoiding careless errors by taking his time, and reviewing his work at the end of each section.
Make sure he’s studied properly. Quiz him the night before to be sure he knows all the information.
Explain that some material will be more difficult than what he has learned in class; it is OK if he doesn’t know all the answers.
Make sure he gets a good night’s sleep the night before. Eat a nutritious breakfast and lunch.
Arrive at school on time. A stressful morning won’t help ease test anxiety!
Be sure to ask your child how the test went at the end of the day.
Don’t judge your child’s abilities on the basis of a single test score. Tests provide limited information on what he is able to do.
These sites offer practice tests and additional help for students.
Gadoe.org: The Georgia Department of Education’s website has detailed information about each test under the “testing” section of the site.
Georgiaoas.org: Allows students to access practice tests with questions similar to what they will be asked on the CRCT, EOCT and GHSGT. To see student tests for each grade, use the login name and password “Grade 1” (or whatever grade you are trying to access tests for).
Scholastic.com: Offers professional tips, sample questions, lessons and exercises to get ready for basic standardized tests.
Collegeboard.org: Prepare for the SAT (as well as AP exams) with free practice questions and information about how to register for the SAT, AP class descriptions and test dates.