Kaplan Ultimate Virginia SOL High School Tests: Expert Tips to Help Boost Your Score

Kaplan Ultimate Virginia SOL High School Tests: Expert Tips to Help Boost Your Score

by Cynthia Johnson, Drew Johnson

The Ultimate Guide to an Ultimate Score

Kaplan's Ultimate Virginia SOL High School End-of-Course Tests is specifically designed to address the tested material on the Virginia Standards of Learning high school end-of-course tests. This guide provides a comprehensive review of all the key English, math,


The Ultimate Guide to an Ultimate Score

Kaplan's Ultimate Virginia SOL High School End-of-Course Tests is specifically designed to address the tested material on the Virginia Standards of Learning high school end-of-course tests. This guide provides a comprehensive review of all the key English, math, science, and history concepts on the test.

Learn how to apply Kaplan's exclusive test taking strategies to specific question types and get helpful tips on time management, stress reduction, and much more.

Realistic practice questions help improve performance and familiarity of key tested concepts and build your confidence, reducing the stress and anxiety associated with taking such an important exam.

With this incisive guide, you can leverage Kaplan's seasoned experience in helping students succeed on standardized tests. From tips and advice to realistic practice, you can be sure you will receive effective preparation based on the most up-to-date exam information.

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Read an Excerpt

from Chapter 4: Science


Imagine person A and person B are sitting on a couch one Saturday afternoon. They both have the option of either staying where they are and watching World's Best Bowling Mistakes for the third time or going outside for a bike ride. Person A decides to go for a nice five-mile spin around the neighborhood, but person B opts to stay on the couch and watch that one scene where the person accidentally eats the ten pin, confusing it for an oblong sourdough sandwich.

Based on this information, who do you think will use more energy and burn more calories, person A, riding a bike, or person B, sitting on the couch? Most of you would guess A, and that's right, since everyone knows that physical labor takes more energy than being a couch potato. It's just common sense. Now, here's the bonus question: What is the Krebs cycle, and how would riding a bike affect it?

This last question is a little tougher to answer, so here's some help. On the simplest level, the Krebs cycle is the name for a chemical reaction in the human body that converts food into energy. So riding a bike would cause an increase in the Krebs cycle since more energy is needed for that physical activity. This explanation is fine and dandy, but here's the most important point: You didn't need to know a thing about the Krebs cycle in order to know that person A used more energy than person B.

On the Science SOLs, you don't need to know the exact scientific terms in order to understand how something works.

To put it another way, common sense is sometimes all you need to answer a multiple-choice question on the Science SOLs. For instance, you didn't need to know about the Krebs cycle was to know that riding a bike uses more energy that sitting on a couch. So don't think that you have to be Einstein in order to succeed on these tests. Sure, being Einstein would help, but you can still score well if you think of yourself as Einstein's little brother or sister, who doesn't know all the proper scientific terms but has a lot of common sense.

The Science SOLs

The Science SOLs consist entirely of multiple-choice questions, and are untimed.

The categories that appear on the science tests are broken down into specific questions types (also called content strands), but they cover a greater number of topics than do their English and math counterparts. This book will review the major points of each science content strand, but bear in mind that this list is not comprehensive.

Even though the range of science content on the tests is great, there's no need to give yourself an ulcer. Don't underestimate the amount of scientific knowledge you actually know.

  1. Temperature and ________ are two primary factors that determine the brightness of a star as seen from Earth.
A. density
B. radioactivity
C. distance
D. water content

Scan the answer choices and ask yourself, "If there is a light far away, what would affect how bright it is?" Choices A and B are nice scientific terms, but how would they affect the brightness of a light? Imagine a person is holding a lantern 100 feet away. What would make the light brighter? If that person moved 50 feet closer, wouldn't the light be brighter? If you think the answer is yes — and you should — then you have the answer, choice C, distance.

Common sense can be applied to many science questions. It often helps to restate the problem in simpler terms. By changing a question about the brightness of a star billions of miles away into one about the brightness of lantern being held nearby makes it much easier to think about.

  1. Heat absorbed by the earth during the day is radiated into space at night. This cooling is least likely to occur on a night when it is
F. clear and dry.
G. windy and rainy.
H. cloudy and calm.
J. cloudy and windy.

Even if you're not an expert at radiational cooling, you still have at least a one in four chance of getting this question right, and a little POE could help those odds even more. Ask yourself, "Which factors would help keep heat in?" "When you're outside, does a breeze help cool you oft?" Of course it does, which is why you can eliminate G and J. The earth would probably be cooled off by winds just the way you are. That leaves F and H, so take a guess. If you felt that clouds and a lack of moving air would help keep heat in, choice H, you got this problem right.

A formula for success on many Science SOL questions is to mix the scientific property known as "common sense" with POE in a 1:1 ratio.

Earth Science SOL

The Earth Science test is divided into the following content strands.

As you look over the content strand listing, don't panic. You won't need to know all the exact scientific facts to answer every question. You'll be able to answer some problems using common sense. And on other problems, you'll be able to interpret facts based on visual information that's given to you. For example, an Earth Science question containing a chart on volcanic activity won't require a degree in vulcanology. Youll just need to be able to read the chart properly.

On problems that include visual information, look at the picture that's provided to find the answer. The graph or picture is never there just to make the test look more interesting; it's the key to finding the answer.

1. Scientific Investigation Questions

This category appears in all three Science SOLs, and is fairly similar throughout. Many of these questions focus on data analysis, or the ability to interpret maps, charts, models, and other scientific imagery, such as a barometer, microscope, or scale. Other questions focus on your creating and interpreting scientific experiments.

  1. Jonas wants to find out if the rainfall in his town is becoming acid rain. The best way for him to collect this information would be to
A. gather one sample on one rainy day.
B. gather one sample on several rainy days.
C. gather several samples on one rainy day.
D. gather several samples on several rainy days.

The more information you have, the better you can prove an experiment. For instance, if Jonas has only one rain sample, who's to say whether or not there's something strange about the sample? If he has several samples from one day, perhaps something occurred on that day to throw his readings off. But if he has several samples from several days, and they all show the same thing, then Jonas can make a more accurate prediction. On question 3, then, the best answer is D, since Jonas would have the greatest number of samples possible.

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