Monday, 25 April 2022

Important information for year 4 students around Mar-April each year

It is the information I sent out to parents in early April. It is still useful for parents towards the end of May (each year).

We are now at the beginning of year 4. Soon, students will have to be able to do difficult year 5 work at Mathemafix to have a chance for the OC test in 2022. This means the foundation must be solid before doing OC trials. Unfortunately, a lot of the kids don't have a solid foundation and this means they will have to work on the foundation right close to the OC test date and cram on the hard stuff. This is not useful for long term performance and only helps a little in the OC test. And it is unlikely to be able to get into any OC classes in Sydney. This is why it's important to have a long term view and build the foundation mainly for the selective school test in 2024.

The test series called OC Prep Readiness can help parents to quickly diagnose their kids to see if they are ready for OC prep work. The series covers the advanced level for year 3 students. If year 4 students score poorly in this series, you know that they are not ready and would not do well in OC prep and in the OC test. And this means parents need to look for a long term goal of the selective test.

Here are a few things parents should check to make sure that the kids are on the right track and building the required foundation suitable for high performance. This is also part of the preparation for ICAS competitions in term 3-4. By following what I describe here, parents can keep kids very busy and learn a lot during year 4. Our goal is to achieve a solid foundation and ultra high performance for the smart kids and a decent foundation for the weak kids.

1- Does your child know the math timetables well enough?

Go to the Timetables module and do the tests. The test level 6 is particularly as they cover table 6, 7 and 8. They have to get 100% for all tests and be able to do each test which includes forward and reverse operations under 5 minutes.

2- Does your child have all the basic math in year 4 and 5 and the fraction part of the year 6?

Read the Maths Lessons guide on page QUICK LINKS. Print out the tracking sheets and go to the  Maths Lesson module. Do all 32 year 4 weekly revision tests, score over 90% in each test. Then go on to cover all the year 5 maths online lessons using the normal tracking method as described in the document Maths Lessons. Also do the year 6 fraction topic.

3- Does your child have advanced year 3-5 maths problem-solving strategies and mental maths?

Download and learn from the Maths Problem Solving Strategies Year 2-3 document on page QUICK LINKS. Then study the document for years 4-5. The stuff in these documents are very advanced. In fact, the document for year 4-5 takes students to the selective test level.

4- On page Download, download some year 3 and 4 Singapore maths past papers for the kids to do. The year 4 Singapore papers are even hard for top year 5 students in Australia as their level is at least 1 year higher than Australian school year.

English reading comprehension

1- Can your child consistently score over 85% for English comprehension grade 4 and over 90% for English reading skills grade 4?

If not, go to the Reading Eggspress website and get a free trial account. Do the placement test. Kids are often placed into year 2 level at this age and it is alarming. It is highly recommended that kids should do ReadingEggspress and reach the end of year 5 level by July. Do not rush. They have to do the lessons properly and score over 90%. Kids are known to treat Reading Eggspress as a silly game and randomly click on the choices just to get through the lessons to please parents. They can do one entire year of work in 1 week without understanding anything.

If kids do not get on ReadingEggspress, the Reading Library module has a lot of ebooks for kids to read. Reading e-books and doing the quiz for every chapter will help .

Parents should create a free account for the kids at the Read Theory website and get them to do at least 3 quizzes per week. Strong readers should reach grade 7 level and stay there by the time they get to June of year 4.

2- Can your child spell and write meaningful sentences? Can your child start to write a sentence with two clauses or more? Can your child do proper punctuation and recognise sentence structure, clauses, phrases and describe the job of a phrase in a sentence?

You can check all this by going to More ... and look for the Super Teacher worksheet module and download worksheets for English. Get your child to do the worksheets and read the writing.

Go to the module Punctuation in More ... and do some exercises.

Go to the module Writing Workshop and watch a bunch of video lessons there.

Do all NAPLAN language convention trials year 5

3- Can your child spell common words and some advanced words?

Use the Reading Eggspress spelling module. Mathemafix has a lot of spelling lists and the module Spelling to help.

Top students can also start using the Advanced Word module at grade 4 level to improve vocab. Also, when your child finishes a test in English, GA and science, open the result and look for long words at the bottom of the window. Add the unknown words into the Personal Wordlist and later access them to learn inside the module Personal Wordlist.

4- Can your child write a simple narrative and persuasive writing task about 250 words in length?

The Writing Tools Kit on page QUICK LINKS will be very useful. Also, use the module Read Summarise Write to practise copying ideas from simple stories up to 300 words in length and rewrite the stories. Use the module Writing Planner to start getting familiar with the narrative and persuasive format.  Use the Super Teacher Worksheets in More ... to get worksheets to practise writing sentences to practise English expressions.

Science and technology

Year 4 students have to put a lot of time into English and maths to prepare for the OC test. However, the top performers may have enough time to spend on science, technology and general knowledge.

Parents are highly encouraged to get kids to access Brainpop for science and technology. It also has very good video lessons on various aspects of English and humanities. This will greatly increase the general knowledge of the kids along with English words. Parents should get their own subscriptions to have 24/7 access. But it is fairly expensive. I have a pool of 3 concurrent connections to Brainpop at both Junior and Senior level. With a one-off  contribution to the fee (check PAYMENT page), I will grant access to this shared pool for the life of the Mathemafix account.

Super Teacher Worksheets in More ... also has an enormous collection of science and general knowledge worksheets for parents to use.

The Reading Library has a lot of ebooks for kids to read. Reading e-books and doing the quiz for every chapter will help .

Getting ready for OC trials

The OC trials will be open soon. However, I only expect the top students to do them while the weaker students would still need to prepare the foundation of reading and maths until they reach year 5 level before it's possible to score ok in the OC trials. Experience shows that weaker students tend to wait until the last 6 weeks to do OC trials and many may not finish all the trials.

One really important area is Thinking Skills where kids are only ready to learn when they get to year 5 level in English and maths. There is no point to do TS early as it rests on a solid foundation at year 5 level. Around 3 months before the OC test, students start to prepare for TS. There is a module for TS training in More ... The Thinking Skills module has video lessons to help parents take kids through question types. The OC TS booster tests help students improve their English foundation then move on to do the TS reasoning questions. Strong math problem solving skills will also be needed. GA is still important to boost TS scores (especially with visual reasoning).

The module Sentence Cloze trains students to deal with the new question type called Sentence Cloze. This question type is very difficult so students will need to practise a lot.

Students should start to focus hard on improving everything. The following modules become so important

- Personal Wordlist
- Watch List (allowing students to add hard questions they don't understand during the review process into the Watch List then access the Watch List from the Welcome page. This allows parents and tutors to quickly help them with what they cannot solve).
- Thinking Skills
- Sentence Cloze

Thursday, 16 September 2021

2022 Selective and Scholarship Test Preparation

This blog will take the load off the Mathemafix message board by hosting important information about 2022 Selective and Scholarship test preparation.

24 Apr
Here are some scholarship test results that gain invitations to interviews and some were offered scholarships.

From top tier private schools

 From mid tier private schools


18 Apr
The feedback given by students differe a lot as students are of different levels and they do different contents in Mathemafix. The ones who do a lot of work and covered most of the content in Mathemafix tend to give more positive results. So, what I have here is the averaging of their ratings which does provide a fair picture.

As I go deep into the comments provided by the students, I can see that Cambridge Assessments has adjusted the selective test to be different from the 2021 selective test. This is expected as they would try to make sure it is not too easy for the kids.

I have found the following changes to the 2021 test.

In English reading, they provide a questions that contrast between 2 texts. They also change the sentence cloze to the first sentence of each paragraph and this explores the main idea rather than taking out sentences at random locations (this change is very minor and well covered by contents at Mathemafix on main ideas). I think that all this is minor changes.

In maths, they have made the test a bit harder as the one in 2021 was too easy. Generally, students think Mathemafix covers the maths very well (same as feedback from past years). However, they notice that there was a bit more of Singapore matsh style which is well covered by the hard maths problem solving series and maths challenge year 6-7. I think it's inline with what students do at Mathemafix if they do the hard series. Students will continue to do very well in maths.

The big change they had was in Thinking Skills. Surprisingly, they decide to put more maths reasoning into the paper. This favours the students who do the hard maths problem solving at Mathemafix. So, while students think the TS trials at Mathemafix does not exactly covers the TS part in the selectiev test, the overall TS content (from the boosters and the maths problem solving) covers the TS paper well.

In writing, they again give a recount bordering a simple narrative. So, it is easier than past writing prompts by ACER. Students, who attended the writing class at Mathemafix and paid for professional marking gave a thump up. They think the writing training very helpful as we have gone way beyond the required level. This makes perfect sense as we aim for excellent results in scholarship writing which is a much higher level. And this is confirmed by some of the scholarship test results showing writing was  where the winners got their highest score (even higher than maths!)

08 Mar
Some students have done the 2021 past paper. The raw scores were probably a bit lower than the scaled scores reported by the SSU in the results sent to students last year. So, direct comparison would not be fair.

Three students have been offered scholarship interviews. The red dots identify these students to give some idea the performance of the group.



















17 Sep

It's now the time for year 5 students to start paying attention to writing.

Writing is an area where students really struggle. I find that students tend to have a lot of problems in so many basic areas:

- Punctuation and sentence structure: Students don't know where is the end of a sentence so they have run-on sentences all over the place. This is where they have many clauses in one sentence without using conjunctions to connect them. They also don't know how to us the comma, speech marks (punctuation of dialogues).

- Correct choice of conjunctions to join sentences: Students tend to pick the wrong conjunctions and make the meaning unclear.

- Paragraph: Students often don't know that one paragraph should only contain one main idea. They tend to write their entire text or story in one or two paragraphs!

- Format of a non-fiction paragraph: Students often don't even know the basic structure of a non-fiction paragraph so they write ineffective paragraphs.

To improve basic writing skills in order to move on to write good narratives and persuasive tasks, students should access the following Mathemafix resources

1- Mathemafix's Online Writing Resources (on page QUICK LINKS). This document guides students to how to use all the e-writing resources on the website. This is the map to all important writing resources.

2- The module Punctuation in More ...

3- The essential videos: Adjectives | Adverbs | Participles as verbs and adjectives | Phrases | Adjectival and adverbial clauses | Conjunctions | Use conjunctions to make flowing sentences | Sentence improvement | Sentence construction | Common errors in writing, Text composition skills | Main Idea and Finding Main Idea. They can be found in the module "Writing Workshop".

4- Finally, the most important thing is to write and get feedback. Students should use (1) above to explore all the e-writing modules. Then use the Selective Writing module to practise writing tasks. In this module, parents can help mark the writing of students or pay for professional marking service.

14 Sep
Year 5 students are getting to the final term of year 5. Without such a long lockdown in Sydney, school marks won't be used in the selective application this year. This is good because school marks are very unreliable. The result from 2021 shows that English reading and thinking skills will be most important. Writing also helps a lot. This makes people wonder why a high maths score does not help and whether it's important to do well in maths at all. The answer is not simple.


Maths score is not very important because too many students score too well in maths. But maths takes up about 40% of the thinking skill paper! So, maths is very important and not so important at the same time! Confused? You are not alone.There is an explanation for this.

The maths they put into the maths paper is basic in nature. It is easy and school-type maths. So, most students score very well. The maths in the TS paper is a mix of general knowledge and word problems to explore how students think mathematically. This is the hard-core maths problem solving plus with making a decision based on mathematical calculations. This type of mathematical thinking is almost absent in maths learning at schools until students get to year 8-9. This is why the maths reasoning questions in the TS paper are so hard.

So, students should  do the hard maths challenge series and maths problem-solving series and learn the maths problem solving strategies provided by Mathemafix website.


English reading is so important. It looks clear that the marking favours students who are excellent in either English reading or TS over those who get decent scores across all areas. They might have applied HSC scaling style where it favours those with extremely high scores. Students are troubled by the sentence cloze question type where it's very difficult to put back sentences that have been taken out of a text. Students must be able to predict what the text is about, the structure (organisation) of the text and have the patience to review the whole text before they finally decide what is going where ... This tests the patience of the  students as well as knowledge and skills. Another challenge is poetry which is abstract and demanding in general knowledge and maturity. 

To help students, Mathemafix provides a Sentence Cloze module for students to practise this type of questions. A new series of poetry tests will help students improve comprehension of poetry.


14 Jul

The 2021 selective test results look very good. All the noise about Thinking Skills turns out to be nothing. It's of zero concern and actually TS is probably easier to learn than GA where there is really no good way but to do a lot of GA questions. At least, with TS, one can learn properly. And that's why I have created video lessons and practice tests for students. TS learning also enhances writing and reading.

The scores students get for TS look very good and a couple of students got 100%! It looks like we actually over-prepared for TS. Students were advised to also do the GA as well because it's part of TS visual and mathematical reasoning but many did not. We could have got even better results for TS if all students did GA.

The scores for English looks a lot better than those from ACER time when they gave tricky English. I also see high writing scores among students who were actively working on writing with the Selective Writing module. So, overall, I can see that the number of students getting to top 10 selective schools increases over last year's.

The main point I take out of the 2021 selective test results to help kids improve in 2020 is that we now have much better TS prep for the students. The year 5 students now have access to a comprehensive TS preparation module for year 4 students doing OC test. This prep is almost enough for selective TS level. In addition, they will also use the TS prep for year 6 which is a bit too high but that will help more students to score over 90% for TS in 2022 selective test.

05 Feb
Now is the time for year 5 students to build the foundation. Mathemafix is offering two online Google class to take students to a high level of performance in mathematics and in writing.

The first class is for advanced mathematics. It is designed for students who have completed all year 6 school mathematics. The time is really flexible as students have a whole year to do this Google class from now until Feb 2022.

The second class is about narrative and persuasive writing. There is no requirement before starting this class. Students are supposed to have basic grammar and spelling at year 5 level.  Similar to the maths class, the time is really flexible as students have a whole year to do this Google class from now until Feb 2022. 

One of the most important thing about writing is that students need a marker to review and comment on their works. Mathemafix will provide on-demand marking to allow parents to pay only for each piece of work that they request marking.

03 Jan

In 2022, students will be doing an online selective test. They actually planned an online test for 2021 but they changed their mind. They may change their mind again in 2022 unless they think there will be enough computer resources to do this online.

They will replace the GA questions by thinking skills questions. If we look at the selective sample TS paper, they have about 50% of mathematical+spatial reasoning questions and 50% verbal reasoning questions. The big question in the mind of parents would be whether GA tests are still relevant. My opinion is that the GA questions are still relevant as they boost skills in maths reasoning, spatial reasoning and vocab which is useful for understanding verbal reasoning questions. This is why I think students should still do GA tests. There is nothing to worry about the 50% of mathematical+spatial reasoning as I expect students on this website have all what they need to do well.

Then the next question is "What is the TS verbal reasoning?" It's a new style of questions based on verbal arguments. It is grouped into 2 groups. One is of argument and the other one is of logical deduction (only a few questions). The argument group uses the basic skills students learn in English reading with a focus on Main Idea, Supporting Details, Conclusion and Argument. An argument can be defined as a process where the writer/speaker presents the main idea and supporting details on the way to reach a conclusion. So, one can consider "argument" as a presentation method (writing method). Students already work on these basic skills when they do the Reading Skills series from year 3-5. What Cambridge does with TS questions is that they set them at a very hard level where all the basic skills must be good enough before students can deal with Cambridge's questions.

But all this change does not really make much of a difference because students still need to prepare the foundation before they reach the level where they can deal with the exam. And this means the real test preparation only happens about 12 weeks before the exam. The only difference is that the TS questions are set at such high level that it does not make sense for kids to start doing any selective trials before the end of year 5.

01 Feb
The OC result from the delayed 2020 OC test looks much as expected from an ACER test. The only notable difference is that English scores look more stable. The GA scores actually looks high so the scaling for it is probably lower. Students will move on to 2022 where they will do the new Cambridge test. This roup is lucky because in 2021, the first group to do the Cambridge test will face a lot of uncertainty due to the change in test format and the switch from GA to Thinking Skills.

For details on the 2020 OC prep and test result, follow this link.

18 Nov
The OC test in 2020 has been delayed so much that it happens in Nov. Students are tired and they don't get a lot of break time to rest before year 5 starts. What this means is that students should be allowed to rest very well from Nov to Jan 2021. Often parents are in a hurry to get students back to studying again for the selective test. This is not a good idea.

However, for those who really rest, it's a great time to improve English by simply reading a big variety of books and big fiction series. English is always the most important area of learning as it supports GA and word problems in maths. It's very important to enrich English vocab to cope with the hard verbal tests in GA.