Preparing for Assessment
When they take their standardized assessments this spring, your child might be feeling the pressure to perform. This year, many middle and high school students will be taking the PSAT. As a parent or caregiver, it’s only natural that you might have questions about this process. For middle and high school students, the PSAT is designed as an introduction to the SAT, which is sometimes is required for college admission.
Many colleges and universities in Michigan have announced plans to not require SAT or ACT scores for students applying to college for admission in fall 2021. (Michigan State University, for example, will be test-optional for students applying for fall 2021 admission, as is Central Michigan University. You can see a list of Michigan college admission test policies here. Source: Bridge MI) However, many GRPS middle schools are currently preparing students to take the PSAT. How can you, as a caregiver, help your student as they prepare to take this standardized exam?
Check out this great FAQ put together especially for GRPS students and their families!
Q: What is the PSAT?
A: The PSAT stands for “Preliminary Scholastic Aptitude Test.” You will take the PSAT in 9th and 10th grade, leading up to the SAT which you take in 11th grade. The SAT is the test used by many colleges as a part of your application to determine if you will be accepted to that college or not. This is why the PSAT is so important- when you take the test, you receive feedback on what areas you may need to focus on and improve. Taking the PSAT and working to improve those areas will lead to higher SAT scores and increase your chances of getting into the college of your choice.
Q: When do we take the PSAT?
A: All 8th graders will take the PSAT on Tuesday, April 13. This is the Tuesday after we come back from Spring Break, also the second day that everyone from both cohorts will be all together. It is so so important that everyone comes to school with a testing mindset, ready to focus and do their best on the PSAT.
Q: What will be on the PSAT?
A: There are 4 sections in the PSAT – Reading (55 minutes, 42 questions), Writing and Language (30 minutes, 40 questions), Math (no calculator – 20 minutes, 13 questions), Math (with calculator – 40 minutes, 25 questions).
The major difference between tests like the MSTEP or MAP and the PSAT is that PSAT is timed. You will only get a specific amount of time to answer a specific number of questions, so you really need to use your time wisely and focus.
Q: Where can I find out more information about preparing to take the PSAT?
A: Ms. Gravert from Alger Middle School put together an AWESOME Slides doc packed with information about how you can get ready to take the PSAT. Make sure you’re logged into your GRPS Google account and click this link. There, you’ll find a TON more information about what types of questions and content you’ll see in your PSAT.
There are many ways to help your child prepare for success ahead of a standardized testing day at school. It is CRITICAL to remember that you, as their parent or caregiver, CANNOT help your student select answers on a test (standardized or otherwise).
With that being said, there are still a number of ways that you can support your child before and after taking a standardized test:
- PSAT 8/9
- PSAT 10
Encourage your student to take a practice PSAT/NMSQT test on Kahn Academy
What to expect on the SAT and PSAT
- Math (48 questions)
- Reading (47 questions)
- Writing (44 questions)
Prioritize attendance and homework
Tests are ultimately intended to serve as instructional feedback and to measure how well students have learned the material being taught in class. We recommend setting aside dedicated homework time each night to make sure that your child is completing their assignments consistently throughout the year.
It also helps to establish attendance as a main priority during the school year. Frequent absences, even in elementary school, can make your child fall behind in reading and math, which can impact their performance on standardized tests. A student who misses 10% of the school year (around 18 days) is considered “chronically absent.” Chronically absent students may earn lower test scores and display poor attendance and retention in later grades. Every missed day of school is a missed opportunity to learn.
Keep testing in perspective
Avoid putting too much emphasis on your child’s test scores—doing so can make your child feel pressure that will ultimately only affect his or her performance negatively. It’s also important to not be upset by a single test score. Low test scores can occur for any number of reasons; it may have just been an off day for your child.
Communicate with your child’s teacher
Make a point of meeting or talking with your child’s teacher on an ongoing basis to understand what your child is working on, what he or she will be tested on, and the areas that he or she is excelling and struggling in. Your child’s teacher is also a great resource for test-preparation activities or strategies you can use with your child at home. Plus, they can keep you up to date on Zoom study sessions or other opportunities for additional review that your child may benefit from.
If you believe that your child’s difficulty with standardized tests may be the symptom of a problem such as a language or learning difficulty, speak with your child’s teacher to learn if your child qualifies for any assessment accommodations.
Make sure your child gets a good night’s sleep and eats a healthy breakfast
In the weeks leading up to the test, it is important for students to have adequate sleep (eight hours is recommended), eat balanced meals, drink plenty of water, and get exercise. Foods high in protein, and water help to stimulate the brain. Exercise, such as stretching and walking, helps to supply the brain with oxygen. Eating a healthy breakfast before school, particularly on the day of the test, gives the body the fuel it needs to maintain long periods of concentration.
Make sure your child is prepared
Knowing what to expect can help your child feel less anxious. Let your child know well in advance what day the test will be and what to expect during the test. This includes how often there will be breaks, where the bathrooms are and who to ask for assistance. (Older kids can likely find out this information on their own—but encourage them to do so.)
Long before test day, teach your child how to stretch, breathe deeply and stay calm. Practice using these strategies so your child feels comfortable using them on test day.
What about the results?
After testing day has come and gone, talk with your child about his or her results and how he or she felt about the test. By discussing his or her answers, thought processes, and feelings, you can gain further insight into what he or she is struggling with and excelling at and then help him or her better prepare next time. Talking about testing can also help your child process the experience and overcome any anxiety that he or she might have had.
On a Daily Basis
There are a number of ways that you can maximize your child’s learning capabilities throughout the school year, which can lead to confident test-taking. Some of these include:
- Assisting your child with homework and ensuring that your child is completing all homework assignments
- Helping her to develop good study habits, thinking skills, and a positive attitude towards education from an early age
- Ensuring that your child has good attendance at school
- Staying in communication with your child’s teacher
- Encouraging your child to read as much as possible, and to increase her vocabulary – even reading magazines, newspapers, and comic books regularly will help improve her reading skills
- Looking for educational games and programs that engage your child
- Helping your child learn how to follow directions carefully
Finally, remember that standardized tests and grading systems are not perfect; each format has its own limitations. As you help your child do her best on the tests she takes and in all of her schoolwork, also remind her that testing is just one part of her education. With your support and involvement, she will be well on her way to her own bright future.