The NMSBA is a challenge for some students. Don't hesitate to ask for help! (Photo credit: Bedford College via Flickr)
Our intrepid blog readers will remember that last week, we looked at the different question types that can be found in the NMSBA (New Mexico Standard Based Assessment).
As mentioned previously, the three NMSBA question types are:
1. Multiple Choice (85 questions per test)
2. Short Answer (13 questions per test)
3. Open-Ended (8 questions per test)
So let's take a closer look at each of the question types and the benefits/drawbacks of each.
There are four primary advantages to the multiple choice questions.
Advantage One: Group Key Words and Phrases
Because these question offer only four answer choices, students are able to hone in on key words or phrases that give clues as to how to answer the question. This allows a greater degree of focus; students know that one of the four choices much be correct!
Advantage Two: Process of Elimination (POE)
Our team of tutors cannot stress the importance of POE enough. Process of elimination increases the chance of selecting the correct answer dramatically! By getting rid of one or more bad answer choices, a student is far more likely to guess the right answer, if guessing becomes necessary. Which leads us to our next advantage...
Advantage Three: You Can Guess!
Unlike other standardized tests, such as the SAT, students are not penalized for guessing incorrectly on the NMSBA. This is great news for test-takers! By using POE, as outlined above, students can vastly improve their chances of scoring one point per MC question.
Advantage Four: Just Relax!
One thing that separates the NMSBA from other tests is the amount of time that is allotted to students to complete the test. This is a very, very, very long test! As mentioned in a previous post, the complete test is over six hours long. This means that students do NOT have to rush it. Omniac tutors recommend that stuents relax, focus, and spend more time on difficult questions.
Short Answer Questions
Short answer questions ask that students generate their own answers, rather than choosing from a list. It is very important to note that students should NEVER LEAVE A SHORT ANSWER BLANK! Even if a student's answer is incomplete or imperfect, it may be possible to earn one out of the two possible points.
For math short answer questions, students should always show work, draw, and label where possible.
For reading short answer questions, students should be very careful with grammar and spelling. Making careless errors here can cost you a point. Also, write in full sentences. No sentence fragments!
Open-ended questions require the most amount of focus from students; they also have the most time allotted (10 minutes per open-ended question). Just as with the short answer questions, students must:
- Be careful with spelling and grammar.
- NEVER leave the question completely blank.
- Write in complete sentences.
- Use details from the question/passage to support their written answer.
In addition, students should remember that it is not necessary to get all four available points for open-ended questions. Even one or two points will help students achieve proficiency, which is the primary purpose of the NMSBA.
At Omniac Education, our tutors and college consultants strive to help students achieve their academic goals. We have helped many students be successful with the NMSBA, as well as other standardized tests. If you, or your child, is struggling with the skills needed for the NMSBA, please do not hesitate to contact us by calling (505) 203 4908 or emailing firstname.lastname@example.org.
With a little practice and guidance, students can ace the NMSBA. (Photo credit: Bedford College via Flickr)
In last week's post, we looked at some basic facts about the NMSBA (New Mexico Standards Based Assessment). This week, it's time to dig a little deeper and examine some more details of the test structure. This post outlines the different question types on the NMSBA, the timing of these questions, and how each question type is scored.
NMSBA Question Types
In all three sections of the NMSBA, students will find three distinct styles of question. They are as follows:
1. Multiple Choice
As with all standardized tests, the NMSBA has a massive number of multiple choice questions. In fact, there are 85 multiple choice questions in total. All MC questions have four answer choices: A, B, C, and D. In terms of test timing, students have approximately one minute in which to answer each multiple choice question. This may seem like a short time, but compared to other tests (such as the ACT), this is actually a very generous amount of time. In terms of how they contribute to the overall score, each MC question is worth exactly one point.
Multiple choice breakdown:
- 85 questions
- 4 answer choices
- 1 minute per question
- Worth 1 point per question
2. Short Answer Questions
Unlike many other tests, the NMSBA actually requires some production-based responses from students. In other words, it's not enough for students to just pencil in a blank circle on an answer sheet; they are actually expected to use their writing skills and reasoning skills on this test.
This occurs in two question types; the first of which is the short answer question. There are thirteen of these on the test, and they are worth up to two points each. Students are required to write 1-4 sentences as a response, and are given three minutes in which to do this.
Short Answer Breakdown:
- 13 questions
- 1 - 4 sentences required
- 3 minutes per question
- Worth 0-2 points
3. Open-Ended Questions
The writing doesn't stop there, though. In addition to multiple choice questions and short answer questions, the NMSBA also features Open-Ended questions, which require a longer, more essay-like response (approximately 4-10 sentences, or more). Fortunately for beleaguered students, there are only eight of these questions on the test, they are worth 0-4 points each, and students have roughly 10 minutes in which to complete them.
It is very important to note that these open-ended questions occur on all sections; they are not contained solely within the English section. They pop up in the math section just as frequently. For example, an open-ended question in the math section might ask students to show their work, or to explain their reasoning in answering a particular problem.
- 8 questions
- 4-10 sentences required
- 10 minutes per question
- Worth 0-4 points
Practice, Practice, Practice!
We've now described the three different types of question that can be found on the NMSBA. For students who are used to strictly multiple choice tests, the NMSBA may take some adjustment. Therefore, it's extremely important for students to know what to expect, and to practice the various types of problems in advance.
Our expert team of tutors at Omniac Education has put together a complete curriculum to help students be successful with the NMSBA. Our blog series will continue to look at various aspects of this important test; however, don't hesitate to contact us if you or your child is struggling and needs some extra help and advice regarding the NMSBA.
Our next post will cover some more specific tips for tackling and mastering each of the three question types. Don't miss it!
Our dedicated team of experienced tutors is standing by to help New Mexican students succeed academically. Contact us at (505) 750 4813, or email email@example.com for more information about our tutoring, test-prep and college consulting services.
For many students, the NMSBA is the final step before achieving that high school diploma! (Photo credit: Bedford College via Flickr)
As promised, our next series of blog posts will be about the NMSBA, how it works, and how New Mexican students can be successful with this important test.
First things first!
How is it used?
The NMSBA is used for two purposes.
1. For graduating seniors to demonstrate that their knowledge is at an appropriate level.
2. To hold schools across the state accountable, in terms of how they deliver the standard core curriculum.
How is it structured?
The NMSBA has three different sections: Reading, Math, and Science. However, it's important to note that the Science section is only taken in a student's junior year. Seniors only take the Math and Reading sections of the test.
Math and Reading
In addition, only the Reading and Math sections actually count towards a student's overall mark on the NMSBA. The Science section is used more as a gauge of a particular school's overall success; they reflect on the school, but not the student. At Omniac, our test-prep tutors do recommend that students do their best on all threesections; however, it's important to know that the most time and energy should be put into the Math and Reading sections. We will be focusing on these two sections in this post and subsequent posts.
The breakdown of Math and Reading is as follows:
- 41 items
- 160 minutes (just over two and a half hours)
- 65 items
- 210 minutes (three and a half hours)
In other words, the Math and Reading sections combined are five and a half hours long! The NMSBA is definitely a marathon, not a sprint. This is why some schools divide the test up over several days or an entire week. Students should be prepared both mentally and physically for the duration of the test.
How is it scored?
The NMSBA is scored according to level of proficiency. Proficiency is broken down into four different levels:
1. Beginning Step
2. Near Proficiency
In order for students to "pass" the NMSBA and graduate high school, they must demonstrate proficiency. In order to demonstrate proficiency, they must accrue two thirds of the total number of points possible on the NMSBA. Less than two thirds of the points is considered to be below proficiency.
In our next post, we'll dig a little deeper into the scoring system to unpack the way that the scores are calculated, and also talk about how the individual question types are scored.
As always, if you are in need of academic tutoring, test-prep guidance or advice on any other school-related issue, please don't hesitate to contact us at (505) 203 4908 or email firstname.lastname@example.org for more information.
Even though the problems in the last three subjects will be more difficult, most students will have gone over the material recently, so you should be able to avoid not knowing how to do many of them. (photo credit:attercop311 via Flickr)
Hey Albuquerque students!
We talked about the math section of the ACT last time
, specifically about the Pre-Algebra, Algebra 1, and Shape Geometry subjects. And while those three subjects have the easiest and most numerous types of problems, and are what most students should focus on, by no means should anyone neglect at least some of the latter three subjects: Algebra II, Coordinate Geometry, and Trigonometry.
In fact, a lot of students find some of these problems even easier than those from the first three subjects because they just covered that material in school. This is especially useful because there are far fewer tricks to these than there are for the first three. Don't worry though, 'fewer' doesn't mean 'none'.
Subject 4: Algebra II
According to our expert math tutors, Algebra II is probably the simplest of the three 'hard' subjects, not only because most students have studied it recently, but also because it's still just alebra...just a little more complex algebra. As such, it still has a lot in common with Algebra I on the ACT. The main difference between the two Algebras is that Algebra II will introduce exponents with their variables. This could take the form of simple 'combine like terms' equations, foil or factoring equations, or functions.
Subject 5: Coordinate Geometry
While it would be wonderful if you could use the concepts from Shape Geometry in Coordinate Geometry, you can't quite do so, or at least not to the same extent that you can use Algebra I in Algebra II. Instead, Coordinate Geometry will be dealing exclusively with the coordinate plane, as you could probably guess. There will be four things on the graph that you'll deal with though: points, lines, parabolas, and circles. The important thing to keep in mind with this, which is true for Shape Geometry as well, is to draw on the figures (or draw the figures) as much as you need to understand the problem. One common example of this would be drawing two perpendicular lines to make a right triangle with a given line to find its distance. That is usually much easier than trying to remember the distance formula.
Subject 5: Trigonometry
In some ways, trig has become the red-headed step child of math. At Albuquerque schools at least, trig classes are not being offered frequently in favour of pre-calc, so a lot of students are only being taught the most basic elements of trig. There are two bits of good news to balance that out though. The first is that Trig on the ACT only really uses the most basic elements of trig, specifically sin, cos, and tan; and the second is that there are only four Trig problems per test. So even if you've never taken trig and have absolutely no idea how to do those problems, it's not going to hurt you all that bad.
And that wraps up all six of the Math subjects on the ACT. Now, everyone should know what types of problems will be on each test and how to tell them apart. And knowing is half the battle!
Regardless of whether you'll be looking for the easiest questions to do first or if you'll be looking for the hardest questions to avoid, having a good strategy for the Math section will increase your score.
If you still have questions about the Math section of the ACT, or would like a more in depth conversation about it, please contact us to schedule an introductory consult. Our team of highly-qualified tutors is here for all your academic tutoring, test prep tutoring and college consultancy needs.
Learn which types of problems the ACT will put on the math section so you can focus on questions you know and can avoid questions that put you in this situation. (photo credit: attercop311 via Flickr)
Hey Albuquerque test prep students!
It's probably a safe bet to say that a majority of ACT students (including those from Albuquerque) are the most nervous about the math section. This is pretty understandable; many students have a severe lack of confidence when it comes to math, in general, and when you add the timing component of the ACT to that mix and it yields a pretty daunting challenge. However, there are a number of things you can do to make this much easier. The first and most important is to slow down! The simple of of taking your time and making sure that you're spending your time on questions you know and guessing on questions you don't know will improve your score.
Taking this thought a step further, the ACT only has six subjects that they use on the Math section and picking the subjects you're good at and focusing on those can be immensely helpful.
Subject 1: Pre-Algebra
Pre-Algebra is, of course, the easiest of the subjects. And the reason for that is very simple: Pre-Algebra problems don't have any variables. But despite that fact, many students still miss a lot these types of questions. This is usually because of two reasons: first, because the ACT is who we thought it is, the questions are usually written is a confusing manner, even though the problem itself is easy; and second, students usually take Pre-Algebra in middle school and may not have given these types of questions much thought in five years. Again though, the best way to overcome both of those issues is to take your time and work out each step of the problem carefully.
Subject 2: Algebra 1
Students hate Algebra, which is not surprising. Algebra marks a distinctive change from all the math that's done before it, it's difficult, it's confusing, and above all, it uses letters instead of numbers. However, as far as the ACT is concerned Algebra isn't all that bad, because though it does have variables, it only uses simple variables. Questions from more difficult subjects may throw variables at you with all sorts of exponents and square roots and have variables of variables and several other rather complex things, but the most complicated Algebra 1 questions will get is having multiple variables. Which of course, can be handled just like Pre-Algebra is: slow and steady and mistake-free.
Subject 3: Shape Geometry
Geometry has always been the oddball of the math family in that it uses pictures as well as words and numbers to ask us questions. And that's the reason why Shape Geometry is the easiest subject to identify: it has shapes. But since there are tons and tons of shapes to choose from, the ACT has decided to focus on triangles, squares/rectangles, and circles. While there will be other, less common shapes on the test, there will be very few questions about those, and the shapes change from test to test. While one test may have a question about cylinders and another about trapezoids, another test may have one about spheres and one about hexagons. And if you happen to see a question about a shape that you completely blank on, it's no big deal. Those questions are few enough that they won't make or break your scores. Unlike Pre-Algebra and Algebra, you may need to go back and review a few things with Geometry. The most important thing to remember are all of your formulas for triangles, squares/rectangles, and circles, but any of the theorems and rules that you can recall will definitely help.
Obviously these are the easiest and most important three subjects on the math section. They are also the most numerous on the test. Depending on the specific make up of your test, you can expect anywhere from 60%-75% of the entire section to be from these three subjects. So a good understanding of which questions belong to these subjects and how to tackle them becomes even more important.
This does not mean that the other three subjects, Algebra II, Coordinate Geometry, and Trigonometry, are completely irrelevant though. So be sure to check back next time as we explore those subjects!
Would you like some more in-depth strategies and techniques on how to deal with the Math section of the ACT? Or need academic tutoring, test prep tutoring or college consulting guidance? Please contact us here in Albuquerque to discuss ACT Tutoring and other services.
Over the years, the ACT tutors here at Omniac Education in Albuquerque have done a lot of work to keep our finger on the pulse of the ACT. Technically, the test isn't supposed to change without ACT notifying test takers, but we all know that small changes creep into the test over time.
While ACT releases a good deal of material every year to students for us to study, we don't rest until we feel like we've experienced the test exactly the way our students do on test day. That means...we have to take the test too.
Today, I'm introducing a new feature here to our blog. We want to share the information we get from taking the test with our readers, especially those students who are trying to figure out what to study and where to work on their test taking skills. We're hoping that it helps all of you make better choices about what to study!
To be clear: we will not be posting questions, answers, or other direct material from the test. Instead, we want to highlight the big trends that are shaping up and draw your attention to specific topics that we think are important. In addition, we want you to know how hard we thought the exam was relative to past exams.
WHAT WE SAW (September 12, 2009 ACT)
Section 1: English
The English section was an extremely typical exam for the September 2009 ACT. We saw the usual split between Grammar and Rhetoric and plenty of questions that asked students to remember how punctuation marks, verbs, and pronouns work.
This year, we did see a slight decrease in punctuation questions and a slight increase in verb questions. Also, a good number of the verb questions provided answer choices that weren't even real words: ranned, wented, threwed, etc. Students should use these "verbs" to their advantage by getting rid of answer choices that can't be correct.
Section 2: Math
The Math section for the September 2009 ACT was a tough section filled with tricky questions. We saw the typical six math subjects (Pre-algebra, Algebra I + II, Shape Geometry, Coordinate Geometry, and Trig), but the focus shifted from the usual Pre-algebra and Algebra I to Shape Geometry and Algebra II.
There were several questions that appeared to be trying to slow students down. Upper-level math problems for this test seemed to be specifically guilty of this, introducing concepts like the Law of Sines and the absolute value of complex numbers. Students would have been served well by skipping such questions.
Overall, students should not see huge drops in scores on the Math section. While it was hard and students probably felt like they were drowning in numbers, the test is scaled for a reason. All the students will labor under the same burden for the September 2009 ACT and the scale for the scores will reflect that.
Section 3: Reading
We are always hesitant to say that a section is easy on the ACT. However, it's been a while since we've seen such a manageable Reading section. Containing the usual four sections (Prose Fiction, Social Sciences, Humanities, and Science), the September 2009 ACT featured clear writing and compelling topics that made the Reading section a relative breeze.
The Prose Fiction section, as usual, proved to be one of the most difficult sections for students to understand. While most of the questions were easy to solve, the remaining problems were vague and unhelpful. Once again, the Science section was a pleasant alternative for students seeking to find easier questions.
Section 4: Science
The September 2009 ACT ended as it began: the Science section was a straightforward version of the test we've seen a million times before. Just like the English subtest, the Science section had the usual breakdown of questions with the usual levels of difficulties. Any student who invested time into learning how to break down and solve basic Science questions was well-rewarded on test day.
However, we did see a few questions that struck us as odd. It's commonly accepted that the ACT Science contains very little actual science, but this year featured a few questions that required students to know the basics of Chemistry and Biology! It's difficult to prep for questions of these type because we have no idea what the ACT thinks is important (Acids/Bases, Cell Mitosis, Photosynthesis, ets?) We urge students to continue to focus on the big picture, eliminating answers they know are wrong and focusing on questions they can score points on first.
September 2009 ACT Overall
Overall Difficulty: Medium
As you can tell from the notes above, this was a pretty typical September ACT. We fully expect students to show strong improvements if they've worked hard to learn new skills since their last test. Students probably felt frustrated by the Math section, but as long as they didn't let that struggle get them down, they should have bounced back well on the other sections.
Also, it's worth noting that the ACT instructions about snacks aren't accurate. Your ACT ticket says that snacks are "Not allowed," but it's perfectly fine to eat them on the break if they fit in your pocket. You just aren't allowed to bring them into the test room.
Got any notes for us about your test? Need academic tutoring, ACT tutoring, SAT tutoring or college consulting services? Our team of highly-qualified tutors in Albuquerque can help. Contact us today by calling (505) 750 4813 or emailing email@example.com.