Dear TeacheSample tests are available to prepare for exit exams

Q: Our state requires high-school students to take an exit exam and receive a certain score in order to graduate. Otherwise, they only get a certificate of completion. Is there any way my daughter, an average student, can prepare for this test? — Future Graduate

A: First of all, you need to realize that in most states, students do not have to receive high scores in order to pass exit exams. The cutoff score for passing these tests can be 60 percent or less. A high percentage of students pass the entire test the first time they take it. Plus, students usually have several chances to retake a section of the test that they have not passed.

The tests typically are tied to the state curriculum in English-language arts and math. The majority of these tests use the multiple-choice format. Some will require the writing of an essay. The level of content varies, but is typically below that which a high-school junior would have mastered. And the math section may or may not include algebra.

As far as preparation for these tests goes, sample tests can usually be seen online. Students should look at these tests to familiarize themselves with the content. For more help, there are test-preparation books for some states and online preparation Web sites.

Q: My preschooler will be at home with me for another year. I worry because we have never been financially able to send him to preschool. How can I make sure that he will be as prepared as other children when he starts kindergarten? — Worried


A: Children who stay at home with their families can be well-prepared for kindergarten. They learn a lot by doing one-on-one activities with an adult. What you need to do on the academic side is to build your child's pre-math, reading and language skills. Counting the number of items on the grocery list, pairing the socks in the laundry basket, identifying letters in the newspaper and on signs, and visiting interesting places in your community are all learning activities that you can do with your son. Remember to always read to your son daily, and above all else to talk to him and be sure to listen to what he has to say. This will further develop his speaking and listening skills and build and strengthen his vocabulary. Consult the school your son will attend for a list of the skills that entering kindergartners should have.

Preschools do help children prepare for attending kindergarten by fostering the development of independence and social skills, as well as showing them what school is like. Make sure that you prepare your child in these areas.

You can find programs at the parks department, local library, community centers or churches that will help him learn how to interact with other children. Enjoy this extra year with your son and don't forget to let him help you around the house.

Everything you do can be a learning activity, from sorting clothes to letting him measure liquids when you are cooking.

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