At the start of each month, I’m sharing excerpts from Homeschooling for College Credit second edition! I have several favorite sections that I refer to time and again, and I hope you enjoy them. Today’s section is from Chapter 5: Building Good Curriculum
Building Good Curriculum
Layer 1: Official Exam Guide
Layer 2: Textbooks & MOOCs
Layer 3: Multimedia and Video
Layer 4: Test Prep Material
Layer 5: Practice Tests
If this layered approach is different from what you expected to read in this book, I’m afraid that’s because you’ve probably been exposed to CLEP-prep propaganda. The Homeschooling for College Credit model closely mirrors the country’s most successful credit-by-exam model of all time: The Advanced Placement exam program. AP exams are offered to high school teens who have shown exceptional mastery of a subject at the end of a school year. Offered each year in May, the AP exam is never required as part of an AP course, and a student’s AP exam score is never part of their course grade or high school GPA. (AP exam scores aren’t even sent until mid-summer). If you use the high-quality model taught here, it makes no difference if your teen is planning to use CLEP or AP, because the process taught here is indistinguishable.
Your Teen’s First Practice Test
Your teen’s first practice test is a diagnostic tool for you rather than an actual assessment of their readiness. For this test, your teen should have covered at least 75% of their curriculum in the subject. This represents most of their high school text, most of their college text, and most of their multimedia/videos.
The first practice test should be from your official guide or a free exam from the http://www.FreeCLEPPrep.com website (not available in all subjects). If your student scores about 50% on their first practice test, it is reasonable to move forward with the rest of the curriculum and begin formal test prep for the exam. If your teen scores under 50% on the first practice test, you should continue with the curriculum as planned. At this point, it is unlikely that a student can cover the rest of the material to pass an Advanced Placement exam this academic year (AP exam has to happen in May). However, if a CLEP exam exists in this subject, it is possible to use CLEP as an alternative. My recommendation is to continue with the curriculum as planned and take a second diagnostic practice test upon completion of the curriculum. If your student scores better than 60%, it is reasonable to begin test prep. For most students, that would happen during the summer session.
Practice Tests 2–5
The second and third practice tests should be used during the active test prep phase of studying. During this phase, your teen is probably still working on their curriculum but has also started using their test prep resources. Depending on how long you’ve dedicated to the test prep period, you may take practice tests a few days or even a week or two apart. My preferred brand of practice tests is REA (www.rea.com) because of their excellent answer key. The answer key in the back of every REA book has an extensive explanation that helps you learn why an answer is correct. You can find REA books at your library or online. If you purchase a book new, you’ll be offered an online code to take practice tests online. Note that these are the same questions in the book, they are not additional questions. REA guides come with two or three practice tests, depending on the subject. Though there is no hard rule, a rule of thumb is that two scores of 65%-70% on two different REA tests should indicate readiness.
If you’ve used all of your practice tests on hand (Official, FreeCLEPPrep, REA) and you feel like your teen needs additional study or you’re not confident in the results, you’ll want to purchase a pack of Peterson’s practice test. (www.petersons.com). The Peterson’s practice tests are considered by most to be “as hard as or harder than the real thing” regarding the scope and question type. A pack of Peterson’s tests can be purchased online for
$20 granting account access for 90 days. (UPDATED: $39 per month)
Though there is no hard rule, a rule of thumb is that two scores of 65% on two or more different Peterson’s tests should indicate readiness for the exam.
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