Homeschool Standardized Testing….to test or not to test? That is the question at hand today!


This year I took the plunge and decided to test my kids.  I wanted to do it as a trial year before we actually had to submit our results. I  also thought it would be good practice for the kids to do a “standardized” test as well as for me to gauge how we were doing.

In our state testing is required for odd years only starting at grade 3 so we will be officially needing to test at the end of this 2011-2012 school year. Homeschool testing requirements vary by state, so you’ll want to check recent laws by state, you can find information at the HSLDA Website. PLEASE NOTE: I do not live in IOWA, the Iowa Standardized tests are available no matter where you live, you can administer any test you like as long as it is acceptable through your state requirements.

I was previously nervous about the whole “testing” topic and had kind of avoided it, but really it was very easy! I wanted to share a little info with you all to relieve any test anxiety you may have as well.

So what is the process?

STEP 1. Choose your tests.

There are a variety of tests you can choose from, the most popular tests are the Iowa’s, Staffords, and CAT tests, but there are others including assessments as well.

Most testing sites will tell you which test to order for your student’s grade, typically you will order the test for the grade level they are entering, not the one they are finishing. But check with the test order site, it should guide you as to which test they want you to choose.

If you hold a Bachelor’s Degree you can order the Iowa Standard Tests from BJU Press Testing.  You can also order Stanford Tests from them as well. You can find more information on Test options on the HSLDA Website. If you are going to do the Iowa’s you need to first get approved as a test administrator. There is a Test Administrator Application link on the left sidebar of their site. For Iowa’s, you will need to send in a copy of your Bachelor’s diploma. I faxed mine over and received approval within about 10 days. Keep in mind that most tests must be completed and returned within a certain time frame, they will give you specifics when you order. I also make sure to order them in advance, so they arrive when I need them.

If you don’t hold a BA you can still administer tests at home by using the CAT tests. You can purchase them from Christian Liberty Press. They are a bit shorter so they don’t take as long, and they are also a less expensive option as well!

If you do not wish to test your kiddos at home, you will need to find a certified testing administrator in your area. You can contact BJU Press for help finding registered test administrators. Also, make sure to check with local homeschool organizations they often offer group testing and discounts, in addition, many umbrella schools offer testing services even if you do are not registered with them.

Option 2: Practice Tests: If you’re just wanting an evaluation for the year, or if you want to practice, you can order practice tests from BJU Press as well. They are less expensive and still give a good level of practice for teacher and student.

Tip from the trenches: If you know you are going to test this year, be proactive and set a date to order tests so they arrive close to when you finish school for the year. I waited until July to test and kids tend to “forget things” once they go into summer brain mode. Next year I’ll make sure to order so we test right at the end and then we can relax for the summer.

STEP 2. Administer Tests. I did these separately due to differing grade levels. You’ll want to pick a well lit spot and provide a quiet time with little distraction, for us this meant during nap time. The other kids were directed to watch a movie and stay quiet until the testee was finished. We chose to do a few tests each day. If you follow the test schedule in your book you’ll see it can take up to a week to complete the tests if you do 2-3 per day. I found my kids did better when we did a couple per day as opposed to doing them all in one day, but you could certainly choose to do that. We had “Testing Week” at our house and at the end of the week, we took them out for ice cream to celebrate!

Tip from the trenches: Have plenty of sharpened pencils and scratch paper available before starting.


STEP 3. Send in your completed tests. You’ll want to follow all return directions for whatever tests you purchased. Flip through your test booklets and make sure there are no stray marks or incomplete dots filled in so as not to skew your results. Make sure all items to be included are sent back or your results will not be processed. Iowa’s will require you to use a service such as FedEx or UPS so the package is trackable.

STEP 4. File your results: If it is a required testing year for you, you’ll want to submit your test scores to the appropriate location. You will need to find out what is required in your state, in ours, I am required to submit my testing results on odd years starting at the end of grade 3 to my local school district, or I can also submit them to my umbrella school.  In some cases, if you are enrolled in a public school-funded options program (a.k.a. “Friday School” and the like) you are required to keep records of testing yourself. Either way, you’ll need to find the appropriate method of submitting results for your state and follow those rules.

For more information on testing options and your state laws visit

Now that we’ve completed our first year of testing, I want to assure you that it is not as difficult as you may think it is. The tests are fairly easy to order, administer, and submit. Our kids did very well on them and it was a nice reassurance to me that we are doing well in our decision to homeschool. I do have a few areas to work on, and that is a good thing to find out as well.

Please note: This post is not to be considered as legal advice. You will need to check for testing requirements in your state.


  1. Hello, Im loving your blog. Its super helpful. So much good information here!

    I have a question in reference to the Iowa testing. I will be teaching my child for his third grade year. Unfortunately, I only have a associates. My husband however has a masters, so should be abel to qualify as a test administrator. Would he need to be listed as a teacher for my son as well? I just subbed my letter of intent this week. About to start filling out the rest of the paper work. Im wondering if I should list him for these types of situations.

    1. If you choose to do the IOWA tests, your husband will need to be the one to fill out the test administrator application. He will have to provide proof of his degree, and then he will be the one to order an administer the tests to your students. If you choose the CAT tests you can administer them without having a degree.

  2. I am having a terrible testing experience. It’s not the test. It’s my child. He is very distracted and not applying the things we learned, even a day before the test! I was in tears each day (I went in a separate room and cried, then cleaned myself up. I didn’t want my son to feel guilty.). I think I need to do self- written assessments every quarter to help him be prepared for testing.

    1. Hi Angel, you might just need to test in a different room with no distractions. So for example we go in our dining room. There isn’t much else in there to look at or do. Also encourage him that once he’s done testing for the day he gets the rest of the day off, so it’s up to him whether he wants to be sitting there all day testing, or out playing and having fun. He may also be feeding off of your stress level. If you’re stressed out, then he’s probably freaking out about the tests as well and that stress can cause him to stress out and not remember anything in that moment. If he’s doing well in his daily studies, I would try to be calm and let him know this is just an evaluation of what he knows. There will always be questions he’s not familiar with because they’re trying to gauge where he’s at. It’s more a test for you so you know what areas to focus on, rather than for him.
      He might also just not be a great test taker. It’s a skill, and some kids can freak out as soon as they think they’re being tested. One way we combated that was to do Abeka Read/Think Skill sheets each year. They sell them for grades 3-6 I think. Anyway, they’re little 5 minute reading tests they take once a week. It was helpful to get them out of the habit of being nervous when being tested.
      I have a whole post on how to help combat test anxiety here as well that may help you:

      We try to make testing fun, the kids all get fun snacks to eat and we do a few tests per day so that they have the afternoons off. We try to make it a positive experience, and they don’t have to do regular school that week either. So it’s kind of a fun break for everyone.

  3. Hello! If my children are finishing 2nd grade, would I administer the 2nd grade or 3rd grade CAT test? To me after reading their info, if I am testing at the end of the year, I should choose the grade they’ll be entering next year. If that is correct, any insight as to why? Thanks so much!

  4. Thank you for such a gift! Your blog has eased tensions for me. It’s my first year homeschooling my 1st grader. We have decided to create our own curriculum, which is a bit stressful to know if we are meeting state expectations. Our state requires annual standardized testing, and the IOWA test is the one that seems most suitable. Reading your content and the comment section has ease my anxiety. You are doing a great service to the homeschooler community!

    Thank you for your time!


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