Standardized Test Preparation and Tips for Success

Introduction

Don't Miss Out this School Year on Passing the OGT or your state math test!

Educators will appreciate our test prep resources for the Ohio Graduation Test in Mathematics.

Help your students to review concepts and practice questions correlated to grades 8-10 mathematics benchmarks.  Math educators and their students in any state will benefit from these resources for your test prep efforts, as benchmarks in other states are similarly stated.

Or, you may link immediately to Strand Resources:

What is Tested?

The Ohio Department of Education (2011) developed A Guide to the Ohio Graduation Tests for Students and Families in which each of the exams learners must pass to graduate are described.  The Ohio Graduation Mathematics Achievement Test has 38 questions of which 32 are multiple choice (4 responses), five are short-answer, and one is extended-response.  Each mathematics item assesses concepts and skills related to one of the five major content standards of mathematics: Number, Number Sense and Operations; Measurement; Geometry and Spatial Sense; Patterns, Functions and Algebra; and Data Analysis and Probability.  Mathematical Processes standards (e.g., problem-solving, reasoning, communication, and representation skills) are addressed within some test questions, not as a separate category.  Calculators are provided to learners taking the math exam (p. 6).

Ohio administered the Ohio Graduation Tests (OGT) for the first time in spring 2003 in mathematics and reading.  Prior to this exam, Ohio administered the 9th grade proficiency tests.  Ohio considered the OGT to be a measure of 10th grade standards (Gayler, Chudowsky, Kober, & Hamilton, 2003, p. 120).  The graduating class of 2007 was the first to have diplomas withheld for failure to pass all five tests of the OGT (ODE, 2011, p. 1).

However, owing to adoption of the Common Core Standards in 2010, the OGT is being phased out.  According to the Ohio Department of Education: "House Bill 487 updated Ohio’s graduation requirements to ensure that all students are ready for success in college and work. As a result, the Class of 2017 (10th-graders in the 2014-2015 school year) will be the last students to take the current Ohio Graduation Tests."  Beginning with the 2014-2015 school year, there will be end-of-course tests to meet Ohio high school graduation requirements.  In mathematics, there will be tests in algebra I, geometry (or integrated mathematics 1 and 2). (ODE, Ohio's Graduation Requirements 2018 and Beyond).

However, the Ohio Department of Education notes, "Current law requires students who first enrolled in grade 9 before July 1, 2014, to take and pass the Ohio Graduation Tests for high school graduation. Due to legislative changes, these are the last cohort of students who must pass all five parts of the Ohio Graduation Tests to receive high school diplomas. The Ohio Graduation Tests will continue to be administered through 2022 for those who need to pass one or more parts to obtain a diploma" (Ohio Graduation Tests section).

How to Use this Resource

CT4ME has identified resources related to each benchmark of the Ohio Mathematics Academic Content Standards that students should have mastered by the end of the grades 8-10 program.  Students should be able to review on their own using the resources.   For each benchmark related to the five major areas tested, you will find Web resources by strand for reviewing the concept and practice problems. Additional resources for meeting the Mathematical Processes standard are also provided.

You will also find links to online videos embedded within this resource.  The selected videos were posted by classroom teachers and professors who explain concepts and provide examples for problem solving.  Teachers, parents, and students should note that CT4ME has reviewed all of those for suitability and appropriateness for classroom use that are linked from this site.  Teachers, if you are concerned about your students using YouTube videos where they are found, ViewPure.com provides a "Purify" button to add to your "favorites" toolbar that will simplify YouTube videos by removing the ads and comments that might come with your selection--you see only the video simply by clicking on the button.

HOT ITEMS! Each content strand also has a pdf test prep booklet with the resources CT4ME has identified for review of each benchmark.  Booklets are designed to be used with links provided at CT4ME.

Students can print the entire booklet, or just those pages for benchmarks they need to work on.  They can write their notes in the booklet next to each resource they used in their review.  As they review each benchmark, they complete a K-W-L chart answering the questions: What do you already know about that benchmark? What do you still want to know? What did you learn?  After using the resources provided for each benchmark, they reflect on their understanding and the questions they had and decide how they will find answers to any remaining questions.  They rate their overall belief about their level of mastery: still no or very little understanding (N), some to a great deal of progress (P), I’ve got it!--mastery (M).  Each booklet contains a page for students to add additional resources they used for test prep.

Test Prep Content Strand Booklets

The file size for each booklet is approximately 200 KB.

Keep in mind that posting standards and benchmarks in your classroom and just reading them does not mean that students understand what mastery means.  For them to take responsibility, they must be able to self-assess and self-adjust their learning from standards that are broken down into meaningful components.  This is why students should use these booklets to accompany their test prep efforts.

Six Steps to Success

1. This resource will be of most value to your students if they have clear knowledge of which benchmarks they have not yet mastered.  Post standards and benchmarks for mastery in your classroom and provide each student with a copy from which they can monitor their progress.

A diagnostic tool, or a formative assessment tool (screening, progress, and diagnostic) will help educators identify specific areas of weakness that students might have, and will also help educators to tailor their classroom instruction to meet the needs of students.  The Northwest Evaluation Association's Measures of Academic Progress (and Common Core MAP) could be used.  These are Common Core-aligned assessments that provide information about student achievement and growth.

While a diagnostic test with item analyses reveals weaknesses in concepts and content related to strands tested, teachers will still need to delve deeper into an analysis of why students missed certain questions.  At a second level, student literacy skills might have played a role in not answering a question correctly.  More on this below.

Benchmarking tests should be given periodically, perhaps every nine weeks, to monitor progress in mastering objectives.  Such tests might be developed by districts.  However, the best test-prep will include that teachers integrate the kinds of questions that learners will encounter into their every day lessons.

2. Use the strand resources linked from this page, which correspond to weaknesses identified on your diagnostic test, or to generally review for the OGT.  Students  should use CT4ME's Strand Test Prep Booklets to record their progress and reflections on the resources provided.

3. As many students rely on their teacher to provide all the techniques for completing math assignments, you might provide students with tips for Reading a Math Textbook, suggested by Cynthia Arem of Pima Community College:

• Slow down, every word counts
• Do not skim illustrative material
• Use a glossary to clarify terms (e.g., Math.com Glossary or A Maths Dictionary for Kids)
• Write as you read--work out examples, compare
• Use 3 x 5 cards with formulas, key vocabulary, properties, examples, and facts
• Test yourself, write or say aloud important points
• Use other math books as reference

Steven Diaz (2009) also has posted an illustrated slideshow with his additional tips for reading a math textbook.

4. Review problem solving strategies.  Emphasize that often there is more than one way to solve a problem.  Provide students with problems that use those strategies, which generally fall into the following categories:

 Problem Solving Strategies Compute or simplify Use a formula Make a model Make a table, list, or chart Guess, check, and revise Determine if problem requires a single-step or multiple-steps to solve Solve a simpler case or work backwards Look for a pattern Write an equation Eliminate possible solutions and/or extra information Draw a picture or diagram Use logical reasoning

Writing helps students to make sense of mathematics and helps them to identify what they know or don't know.  As students tackle problems, stress George Polya's (author of "How to Solve It") problem solving steps:  The four steps are:

• understanding the problem,
• devising a plan,
• carrying out the plan, and
• looking back.

Visual students might then appreciate the How to Solve It Mind Map posted at GoGeometry.com.  It is interactive  illustrating Polya's steps with key questions to consider at each stage in problem solving.

If students do not know the meaning of words within test items, they cannot complete the problems successfully.  Encourage students to use correct mathematical vocabulary in discussion and in their writing.  Be sure students understand key action words typical of short answer and extended response questions, such as analyze, compare, contrast, describe, determine, evaluate, explain, formulate, identify, infer, predict, summarize, support, trace.  Such words are not typical of everyday speech.

Also note specialized math terminology used within the questions posed.  Ask students to define these in their own words.  You might be amazed at how many students have difficulty with the key action words and math vocabulary.

An analysis of the requisite language needed to complete a problem is at the root of student performance.  As an example, when working with word problems involving units of measure, remind learners to look for any mix of those.  When solving problems, a key source of errors is when correct units of measure are not used.

5. Next, learners should know the testing format, test instructions, and procedures they will follow on test day.  They should know how test items will be scored.  Review techniques for completing multiple choice, short-answer and extended response questions, as the OGT math exam contains these three types.  They need to know about the mechanics of test taking, such as distracters, adhering to time limits, working with bubble sheets or online testing formats, reading and following test directions, and using deductive thinking to eliminate incorrect answers.

For multiple choice questions, the ODE (2011) recommended that learners read the entire question before attempting to answer it, try to answer the question without looking at the choices first, and not to keep changing an answer because usually learners' first choice is the right one, unless they did not read the question correctly.  Beyond reading directions carefully, tips for short-answer and extended response questions include to not give personal opinion when the question asks for facts, reread the response after completing it to ensure it addresses all parts of the question and is accurate.  Learners should focus on one main idea per paragraph.  If there is time remaining, proofread work and correct any errors (p. 14).  To accurately answer short-answer and extended response questions, students also should know the meaning of specific performance verbs (e.g., analyze, compare, describe, evaluate, explain, formulate, infer, predict, summarize, support, trace) (p. 15).

6. Additional test taking and preparation tips are included at Southwestern University: Preparation for a Successful Exam Day or at Study Guides and Strategies: Multiple Choice Tests.

7. Pretest to help learners identify areas of strength and weakness.  Pretests and practice tests should be scored using the same rubric as will be used on the actual test.  When students feel confident that they have mastered the objectives, they should take a few practice tests, such as:

After all this preparation, learners might still have some text anxiety.  Cuesta College provides relaxation techniques and how to overcome negative self-talk in How to Reduce Text Anxiety.  Finally, remind students to get a good rest the night before and to eat a good breakfast on test day.  These strategies have given them the confidence they need to do well.

References

Gayler, K., Chudowsky, N., Kober, N., & Hamilton, M. (2003, August). State high school exit exams put to the test. Washington, D.C.: Center on Education Policy. Available under section: High School Exit Exams at http://www.cep-dc.org/