Good morning everyone! How many of you administer standardized testing to your students each year? We test annually starting in 2nd grade. I like to start in 2nd grade as a practice year for my kids to help them get prepared for 3rd grade when scores have to be submitted.

I get a lot of questions on why I chose the Iowa Standardized Tests. We chose it because it seems to be a middle of the road not too hard, but not too easy test. To shed more light on that answer I’m going to give you a little bit of information on each test below. Hopefully this will help some of you when deciding which tests to select for your family. So if you’re interested, keep reading!



When To Test

Our state requires testing or assessments to be performed for children on odd grades starting in 3rd grade. That means that every other year you do not have to test your student. But we test annually anyway. I like to use the tests to see how I am doing as well as how much information my children are retaining. While I don’t worry too much about scores, I do think they’re a good way to identify areas where we may be lacking, or areas where we need more work.

Typically I administer the Iowa Standard Tests, however you may also use Stanford Achievement Tests or the California Achievement Tests as well. All three are typically acceptable to any state, however you’ll want to make sure that you’re complying with your state requirements. You can usually find information on your state by calling your own department of education, or local school district.

I also thought it would be a good idea to put this topic in our COAH Community as well to see what all of you do! So make sure to head over to the COAH Community to see what other homeschooling families do for annual testing.



Iowa Standardized Test

The Iowa standardized test is a top-rated, nationally standardized test developed to evaluate thinking skills. It takes a bit less time than the Stanford Achievement Test, and allows for a wider range of students to be tested at the same time. Reviews consider The Iowa test to be a middle of the road test, not too easy and hot too hard. Time limits range from 9 minutes – 30 minutes for lower grade tests, and about 45 minutes for high school grades. Iowa tests are available from grade 2 and up. Administers must meet certain criteria to be allowed to administer the tests. I believe that predicted SAT and ACT test scores will also come with your high school Iowa Test results.

The Stanford Achievement Test

The Stanford Achievement Test is also a top-rated standardized test. It is believed by many to be the most rigorous tests of the three. The reading comprehension portion of the tests requires more inductive reasoning skills according, and averages about 45 minutes to complete each test. The math portion also seems to take most students much longer than the suggested testing times. It also includes scores from Science/Social Studies in the Complete Composite score. Testing administrators for the Stanford tests also need to meet certain requirements.

California Achievement Test (CAT)

The California Achievement Test is very popular among Christian schools and homeschools because it takes a bit less time to administer, and contains more traditional values. There are not as many tests included in the CAT, so it can be completed in less time for students to complete. It is also considered to be the easiest among the three tests and can be obtained from several online sources. I usually get mine from BJU Press or Christian Liberty Press. You will need to request percentile scoring and/or stanine results, otherwise some providers send only raw scores and grade equivalents.

One reason that homeschoolers may choose to administer the CAT test is that there are not degree requirements for the administrator. So if you do not have a bachelors degree, you can still administer the tests to your own children.

Practice Tests

Many people choose to order practice tests to get their students ready for testing. We have not historically done this, but it might be a good idea if your student has anxiety over testing, or if you feel they need extra practice to help their child. Practice tests are totally optional.

Reviewing Results

I encourage you to use the results to determine areas of weakness in your homeschool, but do not get discouraged if your child has lower than expected results. There can be many factors when taking tests such as these. For example younger children may get confused when reading a question on a booklet, then filling in a dot answer on a separate worksheet. They might also get nervous when timed, exhausted from a long day of test taking, or they may be feeling ill. Make sure to take all of these things into consideration when reviewing your results.

Most states have a minimum allowable score, and if your student tests below that you will probably need to consider retesting. In this event you may wish to do a practice test to help get them used to the testing procedure. If you feel that your child’s results were not an accurate reflection of his/her abilities you may also wish to re-test.

Use the tests to help enhance your curriculum choices for the next year, and add more focus to areas where your students did not do well. Some parents don’t even share the results with their child, but simply use them to help determine their curriculum for the following year. By homeschooling, you should have a good grasp on how your child is doing already, so simply use the tests as a guide to help improve your homeschool.

We normally test every year, starting in grade 2, even though our state only requires us to test on odd grades. I like to do this for two reasons. First, I like to give my children practice taking bubble tests which isn’t something they do on a regular basis in our homeschool. And second, I use the tests to see how I am doing and if we need to spend more time in a certain area where they may be weaker. I start in grade 2 because that gives both myself, and my child, a practice round before they have to take the 3rd grade tests and submit scores to our school district.

We like to break the tests up and do fun activities during testing week. We only do a few tests in the morning, then we take the afternoons for a fun field trip, visit to a park, or other fun outdoor activity. I also like to have special treats and snacks available on our desks during the tests to help keep energy levels up.

Where To Buy

You can purchase most tests through Abeka and BJU Press. I created a testing account with BJU several years ago, so I’ve continued to order from them out of convenience.  You can purchase the California Achievement Tests from several online stores including Seton Testing.

If you are not comfortable administering the tests yourself, there are testing services available as well. You’ll need to check your area to find a testing location in your area. Seton Testing and other online versions are also an option. You might also check with BJU Press. They have a test administrator directory that will search for testers near your area.

Don’t forget to head over to the COAH Community to see what other homeschooling families do for annual testing, and share your insights as well!



For a step-by-step guide to ordering, administering, and submitting, and reviewing tests check out my Standardized Testing in Your Homeschool post here!

And for more information on testing options and your state laws visit

Disclosure: This post is not to be considered as legal advice. You will need to check  your state’s department of education for complete testing requirements in your area.


  1. Are the IOWA and Stanford offered in UNTIMED versions? My daughter gets very stressed when she knows she is being timed. Not to mention, I do not agree with timed tests.

    Lisa Cimilluca
    1. I believe IOWA are timed tests, but you can always just not tell her she’s timed. That has helped my kids before. Another thing we did to get them used to being timed, is to do weekly timed drills for math and reading. 5 minute math drill worksheets are great and Abeka Read and Think Skill sheets are 5 minute reading tests. They’re easy and I let my kids do the timer so that helps with anxiety. I think it’s important to get them used to timed tests because they will encounter them as they get older and better that they’re used to them and are prepared rather than avoid them then fail when the time comes. Just my opinion 🙂

  2. Do you have any suggestions for special needs children with a speech delay? My son is 9 and has very limited speech. He is at the pre-k level at this time. Thanks in advance!

    Ms. Winfield
    1. Check with your state, we only test on odd grades, so you don’t normally do CATs for a 12th grader. Most likely you’ll be wanting to do SAT/ACT tests for your senior for college entrance. 🙂

  3. We like the Terra Nova 2nd edition in our home. We are required to test annually starting when the child turns 8, though I’m about to do a mid-year test to “reset” our annual time. My daughter tested mid-May last year because we were done with our hours requirement and all course work. I could test her around that time this year as “legally” we could be considered done since we’ll have met the required hours, but we’ve had some delays that make me unsure if she’ll be done with her current grade level work. Giving her a mid-year test gives me some wiggle room as officially I wouldn’t have to test again until mid-year next year (though we’ll be doing “right before summer” test again, I just want to delay when we “have to” do it.

    Last year’s scores came in right about where I expected. There were portions I knew would be lower than “grade level”, and the official score was no surprise, there were portions she tested above, but again about where I figured she would. There were a couple sections that came in much lower than I expected, but I chalked it up to being the end of the testing and her not really worrying about it (in our state no reporting is needed, I have friends who take the results still in the sealed envelope and file them “just in case” anyone ever asks to see that they’re in compliance with annual testing but they never actually look at the scores, its just check off the box “yup we did testing this year”).

  4. Hi, I have a question about choosing the testing for grade level. If one is taking the cat assessment for the end of year testing. Cat testing suggests you use the grade level above your finished grade for testing. So if my child finishes 3rd grade she would need to take the 4th grade test and is to ans 1/3 at least of the test correctly ( specifically for students going into the above grade) Isn’t it bad if the student has not studied certain things which are to be studied in the next grade test? let’s say the student gets 1/2 of the test wrong, wouldn’t this look bad on the students file? Or their academic future? Or perhaps an inspection by the state? Even if it is testing for the grade above and according to cat only a 1/3 needs to be correct. Or am I missing the purpose of these tests? Are they not also used as evidence that the child is doing well in homeschooling? Are all the other testing services like this ? Do you have to choose a grade above….sorry for all the questions but I am trying to understand everything about these tests. Or does choosing a grade above mean taking the test to see how being or ready they are to start fourth grade. I am trying to get a homeschooler’s perspective about this and I would really appreciate your feedback..thank you for much for your time 🙂

    1. Hi Flor,
      You’ll want to check your state to see what their requirements are as far as required testing scores. I know some states can require you put your kids back in school if their standardized test scores are too low. That said, the test scores aren’t really used to evaluate your student, they’re more used to evaluate you as a teacher and make sure whatever you are doing is working. As far as I know most of the standardized tests are the same, you take a test for the grade you are entering. Most school districts are the same as well. If you don’t want to do testing and it’s not required by your state, I believe you can also do assessments instead which will also let you know how your student is doing as far as other kids in the nation.

  5. Thanks for this post! In trying to research testing options, your post is the only one I’ve seen that compares the various tests. However, since this post is now several years old, I’m wondering if your practices or recommendations have changed? Thank you again for sharing!

  6. I’m not sure how I haven’t seen your website yet but I’m happy I found this today.
    I’ll definitely be frequenting this. In the meantime, I was looking up info on standardized testing.
    This is our 1st year homeschooling and in NY, they have actually waived the assessments for homeschoolers. I may still do it. The curriculum we have chosen is not a common core approach. Is there a standardized test that supports a non-common-core curriculum?

    Darcy Mance
    1. Gosh, I’m not sure about that. The annual standardized tests are all pretty similar so that kids are tested accurately in comparison to other kids in their grade level. I don’t know if they offer alternative testing, but I have heard of assessments rather than testing. You may want to check with to see if they know of something like that.


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