Testing: How Families Can Help Students Prepare

Academics, Counseling, For Parents, Public / /

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Throughout the first semester, districts work hard to prepare students for the second semester of district, state-level, and national testing. With the number of exams and tests given throughout the year, it can feel overwhelming. 

Elizabeth Janca, experienced school administrator, former campus testing coordinator, licensed professional counselor, and Possip Reporter shares ways to prepare for testing throughout the year.

Accordingly, knowing what tests to expect to take, what to do the night before, and what to do the morning of can help students and families prepare.

Know What Tests Are Coming

You can find a lot of information for state and national testing online, but you can also reach out to your campus testing coordinator for that information as well as school/district test information. To that end, it is important to know includes estimated dates, the purpose of the test, and what format and schedule to expect.

School/District Testing

Note: Texas will be used as an example for this article.

MAP (Measures of Academic Progress)

  • Estimated Dates: Beginning of the year and end of the year
  • Purpose: Used to determine student progress throughout the year and where they are in comparison to the national averages
  • Format and schedule: Schools may give a combination of Math, Reading, Language, and Science on the computer. There is no time limit, but many schools will run this similar to how STAAR will run so that students can get used to the format and schedule.

9 Weeks or Semester Exams

  • Estimated Dates: At the end of a grading period
  • Purpose: Used to assess what knowledge students have learned
  • Format and schedule: Core subjects are often given in class and may have a class period time limit

Common Assessments

  • Estimated Dates: Early December and March
  • Purpose: Used to determine what state-tested knowledge students have learned
  • Format and schedule: Often used as a practice for state testing and modeled as such. Math, Reading, and Science may be given with a 4-hour time limit.

State Testing

Note: Texas will be used as an example for this article, but you can find a list of standardized tests by state here.


  • Estimated Dates: April and May. June and December for EOC retakes only
  • Purpose: Used to determine student knowledge, eligibility for grade level promotion in 5th and 8th, and school evaluation. High school EOCs are required to pass for high school graduation
  • Format and schedule: Reading and Math given from 3rd through 8th. Science is given in 5th and 8th as well as Social Studies in 8th grade. High school EOC courses Algebra I, Biology, English I, English II, and U.S. History. Students receive 4 hours to complete the exam.

National Tests - High School Only

ACT (American College Testing)

  • Estimated Dates: Most U.S. states offer the ACT seven times a year in September, October, December, February, April, June, and July.
  • Purpose: College application exam 
  • Format and schedule: English, Math, Reading, Science, and optional writing. About 3 hours without the writing portion, 4 hours with the writing portion

SAT (Scholastic Assessment Test)

  • Estimated Dates: Administered in March, May, June, August, October, November, and December.
  • Purpose: College application exam 
  • Format and schedule: Reading, Writing & Language, Math. Students are given 3 hours to test.

AP (Advanced Placement) Tests

  • Estimated Dates: AP Exams are administered over several weeks beginning the first full week in May
  • Purpose: College credit exams
  • Format and schedule: A wide range of classes are available, but it depends on what your high school selects to offer. Most exams are 2–3 hours long.

Test Preparation Basics

In order to prepare for these exams throughout the year, students are encouraged to make sure to attend classes and complete the work, go to any tutoring offered, and take practice exams seriously. 

The night before any test, students should go to bed early and get some sleep. If anxiety is keeping them up, encourage them to use coping skills to try to relax. Some of these skills such as breathing exercises can also be helpful before and during tests. Practice these in advance and encourage your child to take a break during the test to regroup if they need to.

On the morning of testing, it’s important to encourage students to eat breakfast to ensure they have fuel for the day. Remind them to keep calm as they enter school and follow policies set by the school to determine what room to go to and what items they need.

Above all, give them a confidence boost! They may not know every answer, but they have worked hard and can use this opportunity to demonstrate what they know and what a great thinker they are! Make sure to encourage your child. Additionally, let them know that you see the work they’ve done and the effort they are putting into these big academic milestones!