Read an Excerpt
Introduction to the STAR
This workbook will help you prepare for the California Grade 9 STAR tests in Reading Vocabulary, Reading Comprehension, Mathematics, and Language. The two exams in this book will help you test your knowledge of important concepts in math and English. These exams will also give you a feel for answering multiple-choice questions and taking tests under timed conditions. These are not "sample" STAR tests. But the exams in this workbook will give you a chance to learn test-taking skills and find out what you know and what you don't know. That way, you can pay special attention to your weakest areas and be prepared to do well on the day of the real STAR test.
What Is the STAR Program?
The STAR is the California Department of Education's Standardized Testing and Reporting (STAR) Program. The STAR test for grade 9 consists of multiple-choice tests in Mathematics; Reading Vocabulary; Reading Comprehension; and Language. There are also two additional multiple-choice tests in Language Arts and Mathematics that are designed to determine how well students have learned the content of the state's curriculum. STAR administration varies by school district, but the state recommends that no more than two subtests be given on one day.
Is the STAR Test Important?
Performance on the STAR test has a large impact on both the student and the school district. Based on test performance, the state ranks all schools, showing how well or how poorly their students fared on the exam. Schools that do badly may face the possibility of having superintendents, principals, or teachers fired based on their low performance, although for now thereis no specific plan in place to deal with low-scoring schools. As for the individual eighth grader, it is up to each school district to decide whether students who fail the STAR tests can be promoted to the next grade. The STAR tests are not necessarily the sole factor, however. Other factors, such as attendance, teacher recommendation, and performance on local assessment tests may also be used by the local district to decide whether or not a student can advance to the next grade level.
How to Use This Book
This book contains two tests. Each covers subjects such as reading, math, language, and spelling. Start by taking Practice Test A. There is no need to study or prepare for this exam since the goal is to discover how well you can score without any preparation.
Of course, time yourself when taking the test, and limit yourself to the time listed and the start of each test section. You don't have to complete all the sections in a row, but do not stop working on any one section until your time is up. Taking breaks during a section is not the best way to prepare for the STAR. There will be no breaks during the real STAR.
Remember that there is no guessing penalty on the STAR test; this means no points are subtracted for wrong answers. So answer all the questions even if you have to guess. Use process of elimination -- crossing out the answers you know are wrong -- to help you make better guesses.
It's also a good idea to write down all your work, especially for the math questions. Try to work at a steady pace, and don't get stuck on any one question. If you have time, you can always go back to look at it again.
Once you finish the first test, look at the Answers and Explanations section that follows Practice Test A. Your answers to the questions on the first test -- and specifically, the ones you answered incorrectly -- will guide you to the subjects you need to focus on. If you scored low in one area, call that a "Hot Spot." You should find extra help for that subject. Ask your teachers, parents, or friends for advice.
While working on your Hot Spots, take some time to look over the Strategy Recap section of this book. This is a summary of the some of the information found in the Answers and Explanations section. You may have already used some of these strategies on your own during the first test, but it's important you try to use them all on the second exam. Approaching a question with the proper strategy not only improves your chances of getting that question right, it also helps reduce your anxiety about the test. By learning all the strategies, you should gain a better understanding of what needs to be done to score well on the STAR, and having that knowledge should increase your confidence. So on the first test, you'll answer questions without a predetermined plan, but after studying the Strategy Recap section, you can approach the next test with a clearer idea of how to answer each particular question type.
Once you have worked on your Hot Spots and studied the various strategies, take Practice Test B. Make sure you take each section under timed conditions. Your score on the second test should be higher than your score on the first test because:
(1) You have studied more.
(2) You are comfortable with the look and feel of the test.
After you take and grade your second exam, look for areas in which your score was low. Keep focusing your study time on those areas.
If your score on the second test falls or stays the same, don't worry. Remember, this is just practice and these tests don't count! A low score just means you have more work to do. Sometimes scores drop because you are trying out a new test-taking technique for the first time. You are doing the right thing by testing yourself and studying. Keep practicing and you will be ready for the STAR on test day.
For more information about the STAR Program, and to view sample questions and past STAR results, visit the California Department of Education's Website at www.cde.ca.gov.
Copyright © 2000 by Kaplan, Inc.
In this section, we review the test-taking strategies you read about in the Answers and Explanations for Practice Test A. We look at the material covered on the STAR exam and provide techniques designed to give you a better approach to each question type. Spend some time reviewing this summary before you begin the second exam.
Some general strategies you should keep in mind as you look at the different kinds of questions:
* Use process of elimination: Crossing out unlikely answers helps you to make educated guesses when you need to. Even eliminating one incorrect answer greatly increases your chances of getting the question right.
* Always answer every question, even if you have to guess. You don't get any points subtracted for guessing, but you do get a point if you are right!
* Don't get stuck on any one question. Do the questions you can first. You can always go back to the harder ones.
Remember, you can use the above strategies throughout the test. Now, let's look at each question type.
Over half the vocabulary questions are Synonym questions. The underlined words are usually nouns or verbs, but you will probably see a few adjectives or adverbs as well. As we've said before, while it's terrific to have a big vocabulary and be able to define all the words on the test exactly, you shouldn't worry if you can't. If you encounter a word you don't know, remember that you do not need to know the exact dictionary definition to get the question right. If you have a general idea of its definition, that should be enough to help you eliminate some answer choices and guess.
Remember, you can use the positive-negative technique to help you find the right answer. For example, let's say you don't exactly know what the word laud means, but you know that it means something positive. You can then go to the answer choices and weed out any negative-sounding words. A positive word won't have a negative synonym, and vice versa.
A good strategy for Multiple Meaning questions is to figure out what part of speech the underlined word in the boxed sentence is. For example, if you know that the underlined word in the boxed sentence is a noun, you can eliminate any answer choices that use the underlined word as a verb or an adjective. This will usually leave you 1-3 answers to choose from.
In these questions, the goal is to see if you can figure out the meaning of the underlined word from the context of the entire sentence (which is why they are called Context questions). The key to understanding the underlined word is seeing how that specific word fits in with the sentence's meaning. A good way to do these questions is to read the sentence and look for clues to the definition of the underlined word. Next, come up with your own definition. Then go to the answer choices and find the word that is closest to the definition you came up with.
The best way to do these questions is to read the passage to understand the main point. Next, head to the questions. However, you should go back frequently to the passage to make sure you have the correct answer. You may think it a waste of time to keep looking at the passage, but it isn't in the long run. The answers are in the passage, so why risk a wrong answer? Since you can always look at the passage, use it to find the best answer choice.
Some of the questions relate to two passages. To avoid errors, it's important to go back and look at the passages so you are sure you are working with the right information. Otherwise, you can approach these questions the way you would any Reading Comprehension questions.
Here, you will find some word problems that have two or more steps. They usually require some reading, and may take 2-3 minutes to work on. (Others can be done faster). Remember that you don't get points subtracted for guessing on any part of the STAR tests. Therefore, you should always answer every question, even if you have to guess. Use process of elimination to get rid of unlikely answer choices whenever you can.
These questions center around basic algebraic concepts such as solving linear equations, and finding the numeric value of variables. Be prepared to solve simple equations involving variables, such as 6f + 23 = 47. Quite often, the value for the variable will be given in the question itself, so the best approach is to write out the linear equation with the variables first, and then substitute the numeric values given in the question
Functions questions test a student's ability to recognize and manipulate visual or mathematical patterns. Numerical data is often shown in tables and graphs on these questions. Functions questions often seem complicated at first, but the key to most of them is to look at the visual data and find the pattern. The pattern often involves either multiplication or addition. For example, given two columns of numbers, you realize that the numbers on the right side are always three times greater than the numbers on the left side. Once you realize that, finding the missing number on the left side is easy if you know the number directly across from it on the right side.
These questions are mainly problems involving basic geometric shapes like squares, triangles, and circles. Sometimes there are a few questions testing your understanding of coordinates, symmetry, or rotation. Learn all the basic shapes, as well as the meaning of basic geometry terms like symmetry, and these problems should become quite simple.
Although these questions do involve some trigonometry, equally important is the practical ability to read a chart. Questions in this category almost always come with a chart, and 1-2 questions can be solved simply by reading a chart accurately.
Statistics and Probability
These questions usually involve a chart or graph. The best way to do well here is to learn about different kind of charts and graphs, such as pie charts, tally charts, line graphs, etcetera.
Problems in this small category are very similar to pattern and functions questions. The question will give you a series of steps necessary to find the correct answer, and your job is to complete the steps accurately. While this sounds relatively straightforward, the mathematical steps are sometimes complex, so it is vital not to try to rush through one of these problems. Because of the involved nature of these questions, they are often best left until the end.
Conceptual Underpinnings of Calculus
Don't let that word calculus scare you! The basic calculus concepts tested here often revolve around reading graphs and estimating areas effectively. This makes these questions very similar to Statistics and Probability questions, and they are solved the same way -- interpret the visual data correctly.
This category covers a variety of different question types, but mostly these problems test whether or not you understand the steps you need to do to answer the question. Expect some multistep problems and write down your work.
This section tests your knowledge of grammar. While many students may not care too much for grammar tests, it's important to remember that this is a multiple-choice test: All you have to do is spot incorrect grammar when you see it. Most of the questions test grammatical rules involving punctuation, capitalization, and usage. Common errors include uncapitalized proper nouns, misplaced or missing commas or quotation marks, and improper subject-verb agreement.
Each question in this section has four choices, and the fourth answer on the first 36 questions is always "Correct as is." If you look at a question and can find no error, reread the question carefully. If you still don't find an error, simply pick Correct as is and move on.
Capitalization, Punctuation, And Usage
These questions have an underlined phrase that may or may not have errors in capitalization, punctuation, and usage. If you spot the error, try to think of the correct answer. For example, if you think a word needs to be capitalized and it isn't, imagine what the correct answer should look like. Then, look at the answer choices and pick the choice that connects with your mental image.
These questions feature boxed-in sentences that sometimes contain sentence structure errors, such as sentence fragments, words that need to be omitted, and incorrect punctuation. Again, look at the boxed-in sentence and try to anticipate what the correct answer should look like. For example, if you see a sentence fragment, decide yourself on what is the best way to eliminate the fragment. Then, look at the answer choices and find the choice that matches your idea. If you see no mistake, select Correct as is.
Content and Organization
These questions are like Reading Comprehension questions; you will read a minipassage and then answer questions about the text. Therefore, you can use the same techniques as with Reading Comprehension questions. Remember to return to the passage often as you do the questions. There will also be an occasional grammar question on sentence structure or a grammatical problem to spot and correct.
READY, SET, GO!
Now you've learned some skills that will help you on the second test, and on the STAR on test day. Feel free to go over them as often as you want before you go on to take the second test. You've also discovered what subjects you're good at, and what subjects you may need some more work in. Ask your parents, teacher, or friends for help in these areas. Just remember: These tests are just practice, and you are doing well by practicing and studying. Congratulations, and keep up the good work!
Copyright © 2000 by Kaplan, Inc.