Saturday, October 21, 2017

2017 Review of Practice Tests

I've completed my practice test review.   I already have a page for this so I just updated it.  You can find it here.

It was fun to lay the books out side by side for a full comparison.  Most of the market is in the K to 2nd grade range, so that is where I focused my efforts. 

The review left me with an overall sense that any of these books would work.  I noticed that some were harder than others and the original ones from past reviews still had a format that was closer to actual test.   Is it worth sacrificing format to save $15?  Maybe, maybe not.  It depends on the child and where the child is in their test prep program.

Some of the best new books were careful to mention the proper role of the practice test and it's value, which is both limited and critical.   Over time, other publishers have been marketing their books as Test Prep.  I'm not comfortable with this definition.  Preparing for a cognitive skills test means primarily developing the cognitive skills of your child.  A large quantity of practice problems is not the way to do this.  It doesn't hurt, and it helps at test time in certain ways, but kids at the 99% level of the academic bell curve generally didn't get there by practice tests.  I think this holds true for the math and verbal sections, especially verbal, where I recommend very little time with a practice book in most but not all cases.

In the few weeks leading up to popular test times, I get quite a few questions about what to do, and the time limit dictates a practice test and not much else.   This is a good start, and might be just enough in some cases, but it's important to me to provide direction and hope when asked.  There is always hope and there is always next year.

What I'm not going to mention in the review because I don't want to put anyone off is that I coach kids with material that is 3 to 5 times more complicated, more moving parts, more advanced that what is in a practice test.   It seemed obvious in theory and it worked really well in practice.  To get a 98% on a really hard test, over 100 questions in a 60 to 90 minute time frame, the the best way to prepare is to develop concentration, analytical skills, logic, soft skills, grit and working memory at the 130% level or higher, and that means a few problems a day that are more thorough.

If you happen to have a boy who is facing a test, but not before January, and you want to be part of my over the top research project for 1st grade, please send an email to   I'm working on Test Prep Level 1.  Ideally, you have tried and not passed the test before.  I won't guarantee that your child will pass the test, but I will provide custom material to close any gaps I find.

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