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SUCCEEDING ON THE GRADE 8 MCAS MATHEMATICS TEST
ABOUT THIS BOOK
Our book provides excellent preparation for the Grade 8 MCAS Mathematics Test. MCAS, which stands for Massachusetts Comprehensive Assessment System, was put in place in response to the commonwealth's Education Reform Law of 1993.
Inside this book you will find reviews that are designed to provide you with the information and strategies needed to do well on this exam. We also provide a full-length practice test, so you can get a good idea of what you'll be facing on test day. Detailed explanations follow the practice test, so if you are having a problem with a particular question, we'll tell you how to solve it.
Our Teacher's Answer Guide contains full explanations to the "Class and Homework Assignment" questions in the diagnostic tests at the back of this book. Teachers may obtain the answer guide by contacting REA.
ABOUT THE TEST
Who takes the test and what is it used for?
Since 2001, the Massachusetts Department of Education has administered a Grade 8 assessment to determine how well a student is advancing according to the commonwealth's learning standards. The MCAS is one of the key tools used to identify students who need additional instruction to master the competencies and skills detailed in the Mathematics Curriculum Framework, the standards which guide math education in Massachusetts.
Students are given 60 minutes to complete each of the MCAS's two sessions, which adds up to a total of 2 hours of testing time.
Both sessions include multiple-choice and open-response questions. Session 1 also includes short-answer questions. Altogether, Session 1 has 22 questions and Session 2 has 39 questions. Students are provided with a plastic ruler and a Grade 8 Mathematics Reference Sheet that supplies common formulas and measurements. This sheet may be used to help in solving any of the test questions. Calculators are permitted for Session 2 only.
MCAS Math questions are designed to test student mastery of the five major content strands:
1. Number Sense and Operations
2. Patterns, Relations, and Algebra
5. Data Analysis, Statistics, and Probability
For more information about the test, visit the Massachusetts Department of Education online at www.doe.mass.edu.
HOW TO USE THIS BOOK
What do I study first?
Read over the reviews and the suggestions for test-taking. Studying the reviews thoroughly will reinforce the basic skills you will need to do well on the test. Our practice drills and classroom and homework assignments feature five answer choices, whereas the actual exam has only four choices. This four-choice format is accurately reflected in our practice test, which you'll find in the back of this book.
To best utilize your study time, follow the "Independent Study Schedule" located in the front of this book. Brushing up on the areas you did well on wouldn't hurt either.
When should I start studying?
It is never too early to start studying for the exam. The earlier you begin, the more time you will have to sharpen your skills. Do not procrastinate! Cramming is not an effective way to study, since it does not allow you the time needed to learn the test material. The sooner you learn the format of the exam, the more time you will have to familiarize yourself with the exam content.
ABOUT THE REVIEW SECTIONS
The reviews in this book are designed to help you sharpen the basic skills needed to approach the exam, as well as to provide strategies for attacking each type of question. You will also find exercises to reinforce what you have learned. By using the reviews in conjunction with the drills and practice test, you will put yourself in a position to master the exam.
Although you may not be familiar with standardized tests, there are many ways to acquaint yourself with this type of examination and help alleviate your test-taking anxieties. Here are some tips to bear in mind:
Become comfortable with the format. When you are practicing, simulate the conditions under which you will be taking the actual test. Stay calm and pace yourself. After simulating the test only a couple of times, you will boost your chances of doing well, and you will be able to sit down for the actual exam with much more confidence.
Read all of the possible answers. Just because you think you have found the correct response, do not automatically assume that it is the best answer. Read through each choice to be sure that you are not making a mistake by jumping to conclusions.
Use the process of elimination. Go through each answer to a question and eliminate as many of the answer choices as possible. By eliminating two answer choices, you can vastly improve your chances of getting the item correct, since there will only be two or three choices left from which to make your guess. It is recommended that you attempt to answer each question, since your score is calculated based on how many questions you get right, and unanswered or incorrectly answered questions receive no credit.
Work quickly and steadily. Work quickly and steadily to avoid focusing on any one problem for too long. Taking the practice test in this book will help you learn to budget your precious time.
Learn the directions and format for the test. Familiarizing yourself with the directions and format of the test will not only save time, but will also help you avoid anxiety (and the mistakes caused by getting anxious).
Work on the easier questions first. If you find yourself working too long on one question, make a mark next to it on your test booklet and continue. After you have answered all of the questions that you can, go back to the ones you have skipped.
Be sure that the answer you are marking corresponds to the number of the question in the test booklet. Since the multiple-choice sections may be graded by machine, marking one wrong answer can throw off your answer key and your score. Be extremely careful.
Eliminate obvious wrong answers. Sometimes a question will have one or two answer choices that are a little odd. These answers will be obviously wrong for one of several reasons: they may be impossible given the conditions of the problem, they may violate mathematical rules or principles, or they may be illogical. Being able to spot obvious wrong answers before you finish a problem gives you an advantage because you will be able to make a more educated guess from the remaining choices even if you are unable to fully solve the problem.
Work from answer choices. One of the ways you can use a multiple-choice format to your advantage is to work backwards from the answer choices to solve a problem. This is not a strategy you can use all of the time, but it can be helpful if you can just plug the choices into a given statement or equation. The answer choices can often narrow the scope of responses. You may be able to make an educated guess based on eliminating choices that you know do not fit into the problem.
THE DAY OF THE TEST
Before the Test
On the day of the test, you should wake up early (it is hoped after a decent night's rest) and have a good breakfast. Make sure to dress comfortably, so that you are not distracted by being too hot or too cold while taking the test. Also plan to arrive at school early. This will allow you to collect your thoughts and relax before the test, and will also spare you the anguish that comes with being late.
During the Test
Follow all of the rules and instructions given by your teacher or test supervisor.
When all of the test materials have been passed out, you will receive directions for filling out your answer folder. You must complete this sheet carefully since this information will be printed on your score report. Fill in your name exactly as it appears on your identification documents, unless otherwise instructed.
You can write in your test booklet or on the scratch paper, which will be provided. However, you must be sure to mark your answers in the appropriate spaces in the answer folder. Each numbered row will contain four ovals corresponding to each answer choice for that question. Fill in the oval that corresponds to your answer darkly, completely, and neatly. You can change your answer, but be sure to completely erase your old answer. Only one answer should be marked. This is very important, as your answer sheet may be machine-scored and stray lines or unnecessary marks may cause the machine to score your answers incorrectly.
After the Test
Once your test materials have been collected, you will be dismissed. Then, go home and relax - you deserve it! Your score report will arrive in the time indicated to you.