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PASSING THE PENNSYLVANIA SYSTEM OF SCHOOL ASSESSMENT (PSSA) - MATHEMATICS
ABOUT THIS BOOK
Our book provides excellent preparation for the Pennsylvania System of School Assessment (PSSA) in Mathematics. Inside 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
Since 1999, the Pennsylvania Department of Education has administered an eighth grade assessment to determine how well a student is advancing. The annual Pennsylvania System of School Assessment (PSSA) is a standards-based assessment used to measure a student's attainment of the academic standards while also determining the degree to which school programs enable students to attain proficiency of the standards. Every Pennsylvania student in 5th, 8th and 11th grade is assessed in reading, math, and writing. It is one of the key tools used to identify students who need additional instruction to master the knowledge and skills detailed in the Pennsylvania School Code and Pennsylvania Academic Standards, the standards which guide education in Pennsylvania.
Students are given 2 hours and 30 minutes to complete all three of the PSSA's sessions. The test comprises both multiple-choice and open-ended questions. A correct answer on a multiple-choice question earns one point, while responses to the open-ended questions can earn from zero to four points. The use of calculators is permitted during this test, but not for the first several items. Students are provided with a Reference Sheet that supplies common formulas and conversion tables. This sheet may be used to help in solving any of the test questions. The test questions are designed to test student mastery of the five content areas:
1. Numbers and Operations
4. Algebraic Concepts
5. Data Analysis and Probability
HOW TO USE THIS BOOK
What do I study first?
Read through the review and our suggestions for test-taking. Studying the review thoroughly will reinforce the basic skills you will need to do well on the test. Our practice drills and diagnostic tests feature five answer choices, whereas the actual exam has only four choices. This results in a greater challenge and more rigorous preparation.
The PSSA's four-choice format is accurately reflected in our practice test, which you'll find in the back of this book. Our practice test is designed to capture the spirit of the PSSA, providing you with an experience that mimics the administration of the exam.
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 review sections 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 succeed on the exam.
There are many ways to acquaint yourself with this type of examination and help alleviate your test-taking anxieties. Listed below are ways to help yourself.
Become comfortable with the format. When you are practicing, simulate the conditions under which you will be taking the actual test. Take the practice test in a quiet room, free of distractions. 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 those that are obviously incorrect. By eliminating two answer choices, you can vastly improve your chances of getting the item correct, since there will only be two 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. Avoid focusing on any one problem for too long. Even so, you should never rush. Rushing leads to careless errors. Taking the practice test in this book will help you learn to budget your 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.
Avoid errors when indicating your answers on the answer sheet. Marking one answer out of sequence can throw off your answer key and thus your score. Be extremely careful.
Eliminate obvious wrong answers. This ties in with using the process of elimination. 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 better 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 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 (hopefully, 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 on arriving 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 sheet. You must fill out this sheet carefully since this information will be printed on your score report. Fill out your name exactly as it appears on your identification documents, unless otherwise instructed.
You can write in your test booklet or on 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 will 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.