High School: Testing vs. Portfolio Reviews

Bubble Sheet Test

Last year I received this question about testing and thought I’d share it and my response in case you had the same question.

Hi Lisa,

Hope you’ve had a great year. Before deciding to schedule an assessment, I’d like your opinion on a portfolio review verses testing, particularly for my student who is going into 10th grade. My daughter hasn’t tested since 2nd grade and it didn’t go well.  If we test, the CAT online test looks like the best option.  But I have concerns.  The time clock remains on the screen the whole time and my daughter isn’t accustomed to standardized tests, and I’m not a big believer in them.  In your opinion, do you think it hurts her academically by not having her tested?

Thanks so much for your opinion and advice.

Happy Homeschool Mom (alias)

Here is my response to her that I thought might help some of you determine whether you’d like to test or choose a portfolio review for your high school student. 


No, I do not think it will hurt your daughter not to take the test, but you can prepare her for future test-taking if you so desire. I know some families that never had their students test and the did very well on the college entrance exam without prior test-taking experience. I personally would do a portfolio review and submit the paperwork to the superintendent while having your daughter practice taking the tests. You can count that test taking as a ACT/SAT Prep class for high school if you do it throughout the year. How awesome is that? I will list pro’s and con’s to consider what you’d like to do. 

The pros for testing:

– Students need to take a nationally-normed college entrance test such as the ACT or SAT and this is a way for them to learn how to do it.

– The test gives you an idea of how your student is doing in comparison to other students. 

– The test can show you areas that she may need help and you could add these in your studies for next year.

The cons for testing:

– Your daughter has not taken a timed test in a long time and may not perform as well as what she is capable of doing.

– It is a snapshot of one day and not a true indication of academic performance or what a student did for the entire year. There are so many variables involved, some being that there is the clock on the screen and could be a distraction or make her nervous; she doesn’t feel well or the lighting is not the best; there are distractions (people talking, dogs barking, cell phones ringing, etc.); she did she understand what is being asked, etc. 

– Your daughter may not have studied the same types of subjects as what the test is asking, such as in history or science. My understanding at this time is that the ACT and SAT are being correlated with Common Core. 

Here are some ideas to consider:

– Create tests at home that are similar to a standardized test. There is a test answer form that you can create and you can get her used to filling in bubbles by using this customizable program by a website called catpin productions.  You can give a donation to thank him if you like his site.

– Have her practice taking the ACT and/or SAT this year and then take the test next fall.  She can take it multiple times to better her score. There is Khan Academy that offers free online SAT tests and if you want her to practice the ACT, you can go to the ACT website. You can also purchase a book that gives you tips for the tests as well as practice tests. You can order these through Barnes and Noble or Amazon. You can submit one of those scores the following year to the superintendent instead of a portfolio review, or the CAT, or any other test.

-Have her take the CAT test for practice, but do not submit the scores; have a portfolio review and submit that to the superintendent.

Have a good day and I’ll be glad to help if you’d like a portfolio review for your student.


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