Competition to enter the job market or be admitted to colleges is increasing every year. More international students are gaining entry into top US universities. At the same time, top sectors of job growth in the STEM arena are constantly expanding and searching for qualified candidates. However, American students are losing out on those jobs at startling rates. To help students compete and reach the necessary benchmarks, states have been reforming and renewing graduation protocols for the past few years. In Florida, students are required to take the Postsecondary Education Readiness Test or PERT. The test is designed to determine readiness for Intermediate Algebra and Freshman Composition I. This system was launched in 2010 with the intention of helping better prepare Florida students for the world beyond high school. Overcoming the Curve While all students must complete the PERT to graduate, graduating is not a magical key to success in today’s world. Students need to go above and beyond basic qualification with AP courses and college entrance exams. Many teachers follow the PERT student study guide leading up to the test. Putting in a little extra work, however, can pay off for test takers. Study Skills An oft-overlooked reason for scholastic underachieving is being ill-prepared. Many children are never taught how to study properly. They procrastinate, try to cram useless information, and fail to plan ahead. Focus on teaching your children how to organize their work schedules and use alternative study methods from a young age. As published in National Geographic, memory is more easily accessed by using visual and tactile experience. Listening attentively in class is often not enough to retain information. This reinforces the importance of multisensory learning and shows that the tactile can be very important," says John Black, Cleveland E. Dodge Professor in the Department of Human Development at Teachers College, Columbia University. Outside Programs Getting your children involved in educational after-school programs or groups is another great way to help them get a leg up on the competition. There are many STEM camps and programs available for bright children in Florida. Getting young children involved in STEM is a great predictor of future success, according to the National Assessment of Education Progress. Thanks to these findings, many states have recently enacted STEM learning requirements for early childhood education. Parents should take note and use this valuable information to give young students the headstart they need in STEM. Don’t leave it up to the school to introduce STEM topics or your child will continue to lag behind. Test Prep Programs Once you’ve given your child a solid foundation for academic achievement, you can enroll them in an assessment solutions program which will develop their skills. Some programs can tailor material to align with state standards and prepare students for their assessments. This step enables students to work independently of their peers and often results in higher exam scores. Practice Exams Another prime opportunity exists in PERT practice tests. Students who undergo practice exams for the PERT or other college entrance exams generally score higher on the final test. This is because they gain confidence in the test format and content through practice. Encourage your child to take the practice exam before they take the real test. This strategy can help them relax on exam day and reach their full potential. Graduation Situation In Florida, there are several factors which can determine your student's college readiness and future success. The state administers the PERT, to assess student preparedness to enter universities after graduation. The SAT and ACT are also available for college-bound teens. However, the picture we get when we look at the performance of Florida students is that they are improving year to year.