Wednesday, 18 November 2020

2021 Selective School and Private School Scholarship Test Preparation

This blog entry will inform members of the Selective Support group on important issues related to the 2021 Selective Test and scholarship tests to take the heavy load away of the internal message board.

22 Sep
Reading crisis in primary schools. This is why NSW literacy has gone lower in NAPLAN tests.

19 Sep
Writing crisis in schools

These are the teachers who teach your kids how to write.

A success story on how a school principal changed a school

23 Apr
Coming up is some competitions like Maths Olympiad and AMC maths. Often, a school only does AMC maths or Olympiad but not both. I am not sure how Maths Olympiad would turn out this year as the 1st session has been completed by students sitting at home so they could cheat.

The ICAS last year was a mess. This year it is probably a mess too unless schools return to normal by Aug. It is expected that a lot of schools still would not offer all ICAS tests or any at all. UNSW Global's partner, North Shore Coaching, will offer ICAS this year. According to their website and their ICAS T&C, students can now sit their ICAS directly. Also, this year, students are allowed to connect to their WIFI network so there is no need for buying an Internet access dongle or use a mobile phone as a hot spot.

The big question is the value of ICAS. Schools generally do not use ICAS results as part of the school marks for selective applications. ICAS has been cancelled too. So, perhaps, the only value of ICAS is to show private schools to apply for full-fee enrolment. The ICAS results are not even useful for private school scholarship applications. This is because they don't want to know anything until the students score high enough in scholarship tests to get an interview. And according to experience in Feb-Apr of 2020, they have cut back drastically on scholarship offers as they now have financial troubles with this coronavirus crisis.

If parents still want their kids to do ICAS, they need to ask their schools on what ICAS subjects would be offered. And perhaps enrol to do the missing ones with North Shore Coaching.
12 Mar
Teachers in year 5 OC classes typically start taking school marks for the selective application from second semester starting with term 3. The earliest time they would start taking some marks would be middle of term 2. This means school kids have term 1 to warm up to the heavy load of work. All schools would send out a note to parents asking them to say if their kids will do the selective test so that the school can collect the marks (and give them the tests they need to gather the marks).

The majority of the English marks will come from writing and short answers for comprehension tests. This is why kids should focus on doing writing. The Writing Workshop and Punctuation modules will help those who are serious about writing.

Now is the time to warm up for Maths Olympiad. The following maths series are for this purpose.

For year 5
Mini Math Challenge Grade 4-5
Mini Math Challenge Short Response Grade 4-5 (harder version of the Mini Math Challenge Grade 4-5)

For year 6
Mini Math Challenge Grade 6-7
Mini Math Challenge Grade Short Response 6-7 (harder version of the Mini Math Challenge Grade 6-7)
Mini Math Problem Solving Grade 6-7

Each test only has 5 questions but students are allowed 30 minutes to work on them. This is exactly like Maths Olympiad where students are allowed 30 minutes to solve 5 hard questions. Past experience shows that students who do well in the above series. As year 5 students will do the competition together with year 6's, it's very hard for year 5 students to win awards. They need to get to top 10% to hope for anything.

The year 5 students who are really serious about Maths Olympiad should work rapidly over Mini Math Challenge Grade 4-5 (ore revise all failed questions for this series if already done) and move on to slowly do the year 6-7 series. There is no way get high scores by rushing as these are very difficult problems. 

It is highly recommended that students learn the strategies in the document Maths Problem Solving Strategies Year 5-6 (and then 6-7) to improve problem solving skills.

09 Mar 
The emphasis on English now is making selective school placement a lot harder for kids who don't do well in English comprehension (and get good English marks at school).

There is a feature called Personal Wordlist. An English dictionary has been added to the system as well. Students can now collect the words they don't know well into a personal Wordlist to study. 

There is a guide called Enriching English Vocabulary on the page QUICK LINKS about this. This new feature will really help students get more out of the texts they do in English comprehension. They can go back to study the questions that have new words they need to learn.

15 Oct
We now have the 2019 OC test results out. Much like last year, most students have done well. The truth is that OC profile above 200 is decent even though students may not get a placement in an OC class. At 200, one can work hard and still have a chance to make it into one of the top 10 selective schools.

However, it is now increasingly hard for students who are not excellent in English to get a place in one of the top 10 selective schools. The SSU has campaigned both on harder English test and harder English at school and we see evidence of harder English in the NAPLAN as well in 2019 NAPLAN where kids who got to band 7 (out of 8) failed nearly 1/2 of the English questions! Even kids at early band 8 still failed 1/3 of the questions. And the kids who got to the triangle level of reading failed up to 1/4 of all questions.

The question is how students should prepare so that they will do well in English (and also other areas)?

Tuesday, 17 November 2020

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.

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.

Wednesday, 16 September 2020

2020 OC preparation

This blog will take the load off the Mathemafix message board by hosting important information about 2020 OC preparation.

12 Nov
This is the result of the last 3 OC trials when compared with past students in 2019. The last 3 tests were harder and probably more accurate to predict results. However, it also show that some kids with low scores managed a high OC profile (they were probably doing tutoring soomewhere and not too interested in doing OC trials here). We also see some kids get low profiles as they unexpectedly crashed on the day (especially in English).

Rankingby OC trials 6-8


Ranking by OC trials 1-8

 16 Sep

After two delays, we are still no sure if the OC test will actually happen to plan or it will go online in Nov. If it goes online in Nov, it will surely be done at each school rather than in a hall at a high school as there won't be enough equipment.

This 2020 OC test will still be from ACER. It is expected taht the format will be the same as before and the English will be like the last 2 years. They will put a lot of questions about feelings to blunt the advantage of the students attending tutoring. It will favour older/mature students and the students who have strong empathy for others. It has been observed that a student who only read at year 4 level can beat those who read at year 6 level. The ones who read a lot of fiction with deep themes will be able to score well.

The other issue is that those who work hard right through Sep-Oct is likely to risk getting burnt out. For parents, having a courage to let kids rest and recharge is the quality that can help the kids to be at their best on the OC test day.

This OC test is like no others. It gives the slower kids a chance to catch up. It frustrates the strong perfomers who are ahead and ready for it since July. Many kids will face the risk of being burnt out. It gives kids a chance to avoid school marks which can be very unfair. If teh 2020 selective test is any guide, teh OC test will have the same hard English and the maths will not be as easy as it was before.

- Students are advised to use the "resting time" now to read a lot of sad novels.
- Students should work matsh problem solving to get to the top level as maths will have more weight than before (even though the weight is less than English).

12 Mar

Some schools will offer students at year 3-4 a chance to do Maths Olympiad competition. This is a hard maths competition where students get 30 minutes to do just 5 questions.

The maths series Mini Math Challenge Grade 4-5 is designed for this purpose. For year 3 students, it is just too difficult to participate in this competition. Year 4 students are advised to do this maths series and try to score around 80%. This means they actually have to spend about 25 minutes. They may be able to solve 4 problems in 10 minutes but one hard problem can take 15 minutes! This is why students must learn to be patient and parents must set them time between 20-30 minutes to do each test. There is no point to work on these tests the normal way spending only 10 minutes and guess what the answers.

The series Mini Math Challenge Grade Short Response 4-5 is teh harder version of Mini Math Challenge Grade 4-5. This is for really keen maths students.

10 Mar
It looks like school disruption by coronavirus will happen frequently in the near future. It's a good idea for parents to plan for kids to do stay home and do work online rather than playing games at home. It's important to have a plan of work for days that they stay home doing a mix of reading, doing tests, review failed questions, learning vocab, writing, learning basic school maths, ... All of this is provided on Mathemafix website. Please read the OC G&T program guide for more information.

09 Mar
The emphasis on English now is making OC placement a lot harder for kids who don't do well in English comprehension (and get good English marks at school).

There is a feature called Personal Wordlist. An English dictionary has been added to the system as well. Students can now collect the words they don't know well into a personal Wordlist to study. 

There is a guide called Enriching English Vocabulary on the page QUICK LINKS about this. This new feature will really help students get more out of the texts they do in English comprehension. They can go back to study the questions that have new words they need to learn.

03 Mar
It's useful for parents to read the 2019 OC preparation blog where a lot of information and OC results are avialable.

Sunday, 6 September 2020

How to make sure your computer is running at its fastest speed?

We depend on computers too much these days and it's a common observation is that they are a lot slower than when we first bought them. And they are a lot hotter than they used to be.

How could that be? Here are some tips that will definitely make Windows computers run as fast and as cool as they used to be. I use computers between 5 - 15 years old and they are always fast and reliable!

1- Make sure you remove bloatware that find their ways into your computer over the months as you install stuff and don't even notice how these uninvited stuff enter your computer! 

Go to the control panel, run "uninstall programs" and remove for all the software you do not need and did not even know about. Do this once every 1-2 years.

Then go to the Task Manager (Windows 10) and look for Startup and disable all the stuff (you do not want to have) that want to start up when you boot the computer up.

2- Every 2 years, your computer needs dusting. Most people don't do this and don't know how to do it. It's really bad for laptops and All-in-one computers as dust will collect and block the airflow that takes the heat away from the computer parts. The computers run very hot and the fans go very noisy and wear down quickly.

This is a hard job especially for laptops and most people don't know how to open them up. Even those who are confident enough to open laptops up tend to blow the dust away and put them back together. This does not help much! The dust tends to hideaway between the fan and the heat sink. Even some amateur technicians don't always look at this! The only way is to remove the fan, clean it and reveal the dust sitting at the heat sink blocking airflow. Then clean away the dust with a toothbrush and finally blow them away with a hair drier. Some computers have 2-3 fans inside! All of them must be looked at to find the dust and clean them.

Generally, this is too hard for most people so it's best to send to a computer shop for a professional cleaning job.

3- Some computers get to 5-6 years of age starts to become unstable. Some times the OS crashes for no reason. There is often nothing wrong. They just need deep cleaning. The trick is to open them up, unplug the cables and spray the contact points by an electronic cleaning spray bottle, blow-dry by a hair drier and replug the cables back. Again, this is daunting for some people so get the computer service people to do it. Make sure you ask them that is what you want otherwise they just do dusting only.

4- If your computers have a mechanical hard disk, upgrade to an SSD disk! SSD disks are not quite cheap and they are 5 - 10 times as fast as the old mechanical disks. Suddenly the computers seem to run a lot faster than when you bought them.

5- Why is that some old computers are 10-12 years old and still run really well and fast and cool? Generally, it's because of the cleaning and upgrades to SSD as described above. However, another thing is that owners spent decent money to get decent quality to start with. They have 4 cores and at least 8GB of memory to start with. This is why when one buys a new computer now, avoid the 2 cores + 4GB memory cheap laptops that are even slower than a decent computer at 10 years of age!

BTW, old Japanese plasma TV and Led TVs generally do not break after 5-15 years. The repair shops would cheat people by saying they have to replace parts ... Just open them up, blow the dust away, deep clean using an electronic spray bottle (buy at Bunnings), blow dry and put them back. They work like new again!

Always do the cleaning yourself or take your devices to somewhere you can trust to do the cleaning. Electronic devices like computers and TV need dusting every 2-3 years and a deep clean every 5-7 years. House with carpets and those near noisy/dusty streets need more frequent cleaning.

Wednesday, 19 February 2020

2020 Selective School and Private School Scholarship Test Preparation

This blog entry will inform members of the Selective Support group on important issues related to the 2020 Selective Test and scholarship tests to take the heavy load away of the internal message board.

02 Sep
The number of scholarships offered this year has been very low. Covid-19 forced the schools to offer very few scholarships. We have got

- One 75% scholarship to TARA
- One full scholarship from The Scots

- One full scholarship from Knox
- One full scholarship from TARA
- One full scholarship from Shellharbour Anglican College
- One part scholarship from The Illawarra Grammar School‎
- One part (however, the highest) scholarship from Georges River Grammar
- One boy got to Sydney Grammar group activities stage but did not get to the interview stage 

The kids have done well in the Selective School Tes. English was extremely hard like in 2019. They made maths harder this year so the scores for maths went down a little as well. GA is also a little harder.

 A few observations can be made

- About 55% average across test scores is enough to get a profile around 200 which is enough for a place in a fully selective school at the low end.
- The lowest performers in the selective group  actually did fairly well. This is very pleasing as most got into fully selective schools!
- Top kids who were with Mathemafix since OC prep dominated the top places.
- School marks are still the curse for some students as some teachers (especial OC teachers) gave low English marks
- The down-scaling of school marks at some schools is real bad due to too many weak kids joining the selective test and that pulls the top couple of kids down. OC is still the best "shelter" for students.
- Kids without school marks (Catholic students) still has an advantage over those with school marks even if the SS test scores are low. The advantage seems to be about 3-4 points. The only place where they lose the advantage is when the profile gets to 250+ (but they still do not have a disadvantage).
- As English gets so hard, a lot of good English readers scored the same as weak readers! It looks like they could only get the easy questions right and fail all the  hard ones. This makes English so unpredictable.

The biggest thing I see is that they doctored English reading and writing so that most kids got 50%-65% in the selective test. The worst performers got about 50% and strong performers got about 65%. Only incredibly high performers got higher. What this means is ...

1/ School English mark became a lot more important. This would favour students who tried to please teachers. Teachers often gave kids very random marks for English (but not for maths as maths is so clear, and parents can dispute).

2/ As maths is harder this year, it made a bigger impact on the SS profile. So those who invested in maths to score over 80% got good SS profile. But it was not easy to get over 80% in maths this year. So, strong maths students would reap the benefit.

29 Jun
It's an exciting time. The 2020 selective test result will be out on the evening of 3rd July. It's expected that the kids will do very well.

The number of scholarships offered this year has been very low. Covid-19 forced the schools to offer very few scholarships. We have got

- One full scholarship from The Scots
- One full scholarship from Knox
- One full scholarship from TARA
- One full scholarship from Shellharbour Anglican College
- One part scholarship from The Illawarra Grammar School‎
- One part (however, the highest) scholarship from Georges River Grammar
- One boy got to Sydney Grammar group activities stage but did not get to the interview stage 

14 Apr
The selective entry scores data for 2019 selective test is out.

I have also formatted it and put on the QUICK LINKS page. It's now possible to look at the trial graph vs this new set of data to get a prediction for selective test profile and the test in 2020 was more like the test in 2019 (than in 2018). 

The test in 2019 was much harder than normal so cutoff scores went down a lot. However, from what I knew about the 1st cutoff, I could say that a lot of students turned down places at the top schools and those prepared to wait (instead of enrolling in their 2nd or 3rd choice) could get in on reserve (very late, around end of Dec) at reserve places around 60th-70th. But don't do this for 2020 selective test as coronavirus and financial collapse will see parents picking selective schools over private schools. What this means is that those parents who want their kids to sit the selective test but always intend to send the kids to private schools will now accept selective school offers. If this happens, the cutoff scores for the 2020 selective test (for 2021 entry) would be higher than what reported. They would be at the level of first cutoff scores right after the release of result last year (July 2019). My advice is to take the reported cutoff scores and add 5 more points to it for a more realistic number.

The deadline for changing choices is 26 April 2020. Make sure you send in the change request by this day.

04 Apr
It looks like the coronavirus pandemic is affecting private schools in Australia very badly. On the news, some may need government assistance as they are losing students. Some parents who apply very late and not expected to get a full-fee place have got offers (as parents start to pull their kids out).

They seem to have offered much fewer scholarships this year. It has been a big surprise as the quality of students this year at Mathemafix website is certainly good (relative to last year's when we got 24 scholarships) but there are so few offers of interviews.

So far we have

- One offer of interview from The Scots
- One full scholarship from Knox
- One full scholarship from TARA
- One full scholarship from Shellharbour Anglican College
- One boy got to Sydney Grammar group activities stage but did not get to the interview stage

The result of the ACER coop test on 29th Feb have arrived at the schools and they are in the process of letting parents know who will get interviews.

Some of the results do look good enough to merit an interview but each school  probably only invited a few top scorers to interviews instead of  15-20 kids like previous years.

13 Mar
The feed back from about 40 students doing the 2020 selective test suggests a few things

- Those who have done a lot of work on Mathemafix covering all areas feel confident and their feedback tend to agree with one another.
- English reading was hard but not too hard like what students in 2019 said. They put it that the English was only slightly harder than the English trials. Make no mistake, this is still hard but won't cause the panic like in 2019 where so many students unexpectedly got under 50%. The effort we put into English seems to pay off with many kids who did the  harder English boosters  saying English was a bit easier than what they expected.
- Maths was not easy according to many students. This is very different to 2019 where most students said it was easy and the scores later showed it. Too many students got over 85% and too many got 90% or better in 2019.
- GA was inline with GA on Mathemafix's but mainly with patterns and shapes so it fit within the subsets of verbal and nonverbal reasoning. Overall GA on Mathemafix (if kids care to do all) would cover very well.

So, it looks like we had a good test that was not extreme like what seen in 2019's where it favoured students who are good in English and crushed many who are not strong in English. The kids this year might be in good luck. Kids on Mathemafix seem to work a lot harder due to coronavirus fear stopping them going to tutoring classes. The PreUni ASAT scores from some of kids on Mathemafix who are not among top performers look quite amazing in predicted profiles and ranking. The ASAT predicted profiles are (for the first time) in line with predictions generated  by Mathemafix's automatic ranking against past students in 2018 selective test. 

12 Mar
Congrats to year 6 students who did the selective school test today. The kids have worked very hard. More students completed all 8 trial sets than previous years. Students now deserved a hard earned break and wait for their selective test result which will come back in 1st week of July.

Selective school choices

Parents still have some things to wrap up. This is now the time to finalise the selective school choices. To do this, parents should look at the selective trial chart that predicts the choice of schools against past students. Then also compare performance against past students. Finally ask how your child feel in the selective test. This is best done after asking your child to fill the selective test survey as the child will reflect over the test in the process of filling the survey. From all this, parents will be able to decide to be aggressive or normal in selecting the school choices for the final update with the SSU.

Those who are lucky to get private school scholarship interviews can wait further until all interviews are completed and offers made before sending off the choices to the SSU.

Looking toward the rest of year 6

Year 6 is often the year where students don't work very hard. Many teachers let them relax and this is often the case in OC classes. However, it should be business as usual in normal classes. 

Students should relax for a while. Many students on Mathemafix did not score over 70% in selective trials and also did not  get much work done across year 5, 6 and 7 levels. As most parents won't send the kids back to tutoring classes, it's a good idea to come back to Mathemafix and work slowly over these things to firmed up for high school. Past experience shows that students who only manage to get a selective profile between 190-205 tend to benefit a lot from coming back and finish the work on the selective program. This helps them become high performer in year 7 and can compete with top students. It also helps them ready by Aug of year 7 to sit for selective test again if they wish to transfer to a better selective school.

Some high performers might even come back to finish off a lot of the work they did not get to do. They might want to work on maths to cover year 7-8 ahead so they can be really confident in top selective schools. They may want to prepare to do really well in Maths Olympiad and ICAS to end year 6 with a big bang.

26 Feb
It's now so close to the 2020 selective test. Scholarship tests are on full swing and some early schools are actually calling parents.

The main point students need to worry about this selective test is English. In 2019 English was so difficult and there was a factor of Western culture that stumped many kids from non-English speaking background. That was followed by 2019 OC test with terrible English too where many kids actually scored only 25%-35%. 

Students have been warned this year and many put big effort into doing English tests. There is also a series called Selective Harder English Boosters for them to do. 

The main point to draw from 2019 Selective test is that one must get at least 55% in English reading and over 60% in English writing to be able to get into one of the top 10 selective schools. Maths is a lot easier than what students have to do on Mathemafix. GA is also easier. It is also very easy to get over 55% for writing in the selective test. One just need to write over 200 words and the story only need to look like a narrative. The one thing students must remember is that they cannot afford to score under 50% for the English reading part.

20 Feb
Several scholarships have been done. The approx dates that schools would call parents to invite for interview are below.

Trinity - end of Feb
Newington - end of Feb
Syd Grammar - early Mar (call for group activity)
Santa Sabina - early Mar
King - early Mar
Meriden mid Mar
Knox - mid Mar
The Scots - late Mar
Shore - Late Mar
PLC Sydney - late Mar
Most schools doing ACER coop test - late Mar
Reddam House - end of April 18 Feb

Many students have done 7 trials. We seem to have strong students this year. So we can expect good results in both scholarship and selective tests.

11 Feb
Several students have gone to scholarship tests. The next few schools for this week will be Queenwood School for Girls, St Luke’s Grammar School, Meriden School and The King’s School.

Feedback from students generally tell that Syd Grammar scholarship test is a high school test with almost all questions require  a short response. The test has only 3-5 multiple choice questions. They also give kids several different versions of the test on the day so it's just not possible to compare. Students just have to be really good in English writing (2 hours vs. 1 hour for maths) and English comprehension and expression of ideas.

The AAS tests are easier. All students feel that maths and GA are a lot easier than what they have to do here. The English test is hard (multiple choice type). The writing task is hard too as they always ask for a narrative and also put in a sentence to start the story. This means students who have written something at home and try to link into the topic will find it very difficult. Most of the time, kids will have to write a brand new story.

The ACER test does not have GA. They have 2 writing tasks. They also give flexible prompts allowing students to be creative. They often give one prompt for persuasive but they do not say what type of writing. Therefore students are free to write anything such as narratives, poems, ... Those who find the persuasive prompt not what they like to do on the day can just come up with a narrative topic related to the persuasive prompt and write a story instead.

It's very difficult for kids to write a brand new story in 20-23 minutes. They often come up with poor ideas, fail to create the narrative structure, fail on sentence structure and grammar. This is why students need to know the narrative structure perfectly and aim to complete the story 2 minutes before the end of time limit so they can fix the punctuation and cross out sentences that do not make any sense. It's also important to note that they give about 1 and 2/3 of a page for writing. Depending on the size of the letters and space between the words, students generally can only fit 300 - 350 in the given space. The correct advice is to focus on quality but the quantity also matters a lot. Try to nearly fill up all the given space (about 320 words) to give the story enough details, complications and evidence of competence in English grammar and punctuation.

05 Feb
The main scholarship season is coming. This weekend will see Santa Sabina, Syd Grammar and then Newington scholarship tests. It's useful for parents to look at the performance in 2019 where a total of 24 scholarships were offered to students on Mathemafix.

We have very strong students this year. So, we can expect a decent number of scholarships. The fear of coronavirus can be a small factor with hundreds of kids going to each scholarship and a lot would have taken trip to China. The use of face mask would probably be normal at these venues. 

28 Dec
Congrats to Pixie with full scholarship offers at Danebank and Barker. This will count to the 2020 scholarship season. In 2019 scholarship season, we got 24 offers and about 1/2 of them were full scholarships. This is a very hard record to beat. We need to put a lot of effort into this during Feb-Mar 2020. The list of scholarships is on page QUICK LINKS. Parents should pick the tests that are a little apart to avoid putting too much stress on the kids. 

Now is the time for kids to have a quick break and get back to serious learning. It's time to work hard on the tests to consolidate all what they have learned in year 5. It's also a good time for parents to take a break from work to spend time to help kids at home to put everything together. This is the time class tutoring is no longer effective. Only 1-on-1 tutoring and self-learning through doing tests, reviewing and researching on failed questions would help.

13 Dec
Year 4 students will soon be in year 5 to start OC classes or stay at their normal schools. Whatever the choice, they will face a lot more pressure if they are in a class with many strong performers. Those in a normal class would probably not feel much change. The ones in OC classes will feel a lot of change. The first experience that the work is a lot harder, and English is definitely the area that creates the most problems. It is also expected that they get to do a lot more home work, difficult vocab and spelling, reading ... They are less likely to do a lot of maths as the OC teachers generally see that their maths are well beyond what required at year 6 level (already one year ahead).

For those wishing to do scholarship tests, parents must start preparing a plan for activities to gain a good portfolio of activities. This portfolio should indicate activities such as academic competitions and at least two areas from music, games, science/tech, arts, sports, community service, debating/public speaking, leadership ... They must plan and enrol into activities early from beginning of term 1 to have time to get the certificates (from competitions or participation).

On Mathemafix, they should achieve the following milestones:

- Complete all year 6 school maths using Maths Lessons document by Mar 2020.
- Prepare for NAPLAN at year 5 by April. NAPLAN is no longer easy! Even one may get to the triangle but the detail report still show a lot of failed areas. The trouble will be mainly in English reading and writing.

- Complete OC revision work at the latest by June to move on to year 6-7 work.
- Reach at least grade 8 of Read Theory and stay there by May 2020 and then progress to grade 9 average near end of 2020.
- Check to make sure (by April) that the school offer ICAS competition on at least Maths, English, Science and Writing. If not, find ways to do them (such as asking the old school to allow them to do the missing subjects or enrol at Northshore (by April) to do REACH and then try to get to top 10% to be allowed to do ICAS with Northshore).
- Master the skills in Maths Problem Solving Strategies Guide Year 4-5 by May 2020 and go on to learn year 6-7 strategies.

14 Oct
Now that English is so hard in both OC and Selective test, it is important to look at what it takes to score well. I had a look at past performance and realised that very few students reach over 80% in English reading part of the selective test across the last few years. Students have to be excellent readers and score high distinction in ICAS English year 5 to have chances to get over 80% in selective English. 

So, I have extracted the top readers and their average scores on several  English test series at year 7+ for selective test preparation.

This table shows the test series, the average score and the number of tests done (inside the bracket next to the average score). This reveals that kids must score close to 90% or better across all of these series and also achieve close to 90% in English trials to be at the level to score over 80% in the selective English component. And now that they have made English even harder, getting to 90% or better on the English test series become a must for to readers.  

07 Oct
There are some early scholarship tests during Oct where the girls can do these and get a report on their performance. Pymble LC is on 19th Oct and Danebank is on 23rd Oct. Unfortunately for the boys, Barker is the only place but it does not provide a test report.

Hurlstone Agriculture HS at Glenfield (will be renamed as Roy Watts after 2022) has received a massive infrastructure upgrade. The name "Hurlstone" will be moved to a brand new selective school in Richmond.

This upgrade gives the future new selective school called Roy Watts the best facility (probably only second to the new Hurlstone Agricultural School scheduled to open after 2022 in Richmond) when compared to other public selective schools. The HSC ranking of Hurlstone has recovered a lot and heading back to the 20s. So, it is now probably a good full selective school with relatively low cutoff selective profile around 205-207.

18 Sep

The effect of harder English in OC/SS programs.

After the review of OC/Selective programs in 2017, English is now a lot harder than before. They have tried to influence the outcome of OC and Selective placement by making English harder in 3 ways: school English mark, English test component mark and English in GA test component. Teachers are advised to set harder English and give lower marks as the result. The English test component is now way too hard touching 2 years ahead of normal classroom grade. Harder English vocab is put into GA component. I also notice that the NAPLAN Reading component for ear 5 is now a lot harder than before as it is approaching the level of ICAS Reading competition.

It's now important that kids read more, do more vocab & spelling, listen to stories and write more. This needs to start from year 3. Year 4 students who will be in year 5 next year will face a much higher level of English work. As the DE targets OC class teachers more with their professional training for gifted and talented program, OC teachers suddenly become very fussy about English and they give low English marks. OC teachers give year 5 students English work at year 6-7 level and mark them at this level. Normal students get their work at year 5 level and marked at year 5 level. This creates a huge problem at schools hosting the OC class if the principal does not make sure all kids sitting the selective test are given fair marks (by doing the same tests). This is why some students in OC classes are getting lower school marks than those in non-OC classes.

Does this mean OC classes are not worth it? Not really. The scaling of school marks definitely favours OC classes. The school mark ranking penalty will always favour the top kids in schools without OC classes. But overall, the two factors will even out when they are combined to produce the final scaled school marks. The only negative effect for OC classes is that OC students will not automatically fill most places in top 7 selective schools. And it's clear that, OC students without strong English will not get into the top 3 selective schools (especially James Ruse).

For students not having any school marks (Catholic schools), the need to score ok in the English component of the OC and Selective test will be so important from now on. As most students will score under 50% in English, it is now a huge worry for those without school marks. For those who can score over 60% in English, it's great not to have school marks.

This is all part of the fight against tutoring colleges. It is clear that by asking teachers to lift English level at schools, lowering English school marks and making the English part extra hard, students who read a lot, do English spelling and vocab and write a lot will do well. This is something tutoring colleges cannot handle well. The effect is that, in 2019, a lot of students with intensive tutoring at coaching colleges fail to get to top 10 selective schools. The kids who do well in English (especially writing) at schools and read a lot more beat their way into top schools.

So, the advice is simple, make sure your kids READ, LOOK UP WORDS, SPELL and WRITE more. Mathemafix has all the modules to support these activities. Doing activities is just as important as doing the tests. This is something most kids and parents have overlooked so far.

11 Aug
By now, most students have moved on to year 6-7 work and the top performers are preparing for early scholarship tests. However, there are weaker students who are still struggling with OC revision and year 5 work. A question in the mind of parents is whether to drop the year 5 work and move on to year 6-7 work even though the scores look very poor. The answer is that students should continue to work on year 5 work and spend plenty of time to build the foundation by doing a lot of reading, complete year 6 school maths lessons and do spelling/vocab ... The year 6-7 work can wait until 3 months before the selective test. There is no point doing what they are not ready for to get more frustration and no benefit. Students who are still doing year 5 and OC revision around Aug would only achieve between 195-210 in the selective test.

08 July
We are now getting ready to start an early scholarship test campaign. Between Aug - Nov, a few private schools in Sydney offer scholarship tests for year-7 entry in 2021.  These early scholarship tests are much better than mock selective tests offered by big tutoring colleges. They accurately tell the performance of students so parents know the weaknesses that the students should focus on. These tests are good warm up tests for students to get ready for the main scholarship season in Feb-Mar 2020.

On page QUICK LINKS, parents find a document called 2019 Early Scholarship tests in Sydney with all the details about the schools and test dates. The document Early Scholarship Prep Tracking for year 5 shows the work that should be done to prepare for early scholarship tests. And the document Creative Writing Workshop flyer July 2019 is about the creative writing workshop. We will take only 6 students for the workshop. And we will only run it if there are 6 students interested.

We are very proud of the year 6 who managed to win 24 private school scholarships this year (14 in 2017 and 18 in 2018). Hopefully, year 5 students will rise to the challenge and win as many next year.

Another issue is ICAS for 2019. UNSW Global as replaced their old ICAS program by their new REACH program. Their new ICAS program is supposed to be harder and only available as online test in September. Many schools have dropped ICAS or cut down to fewer subjects. Many students will miss out. ICAS results are useful for scholarship applications. If your school does not offer ICAS, Northshore Coaching is the only alternative to do REACH first and hope to reach top 10% to do ICAS with them. The closing dates are fast approaching.

12 May
I had a look at the UNSW Global's REACH year 5 paper for Digital Technologies today. It is not easier than the 2018 ICAS year 5 paper for Digital Technologies. It's early to say anything until I see more REACH papers. However, the logical idea which also implied in UNSW Global's description of the new ICAS and REACH programs is that ICAS will be mainly for high performers. As it is done only online, it is not marketed by UNSW Global as their main product. Northshore also refuses to provide ICAS test to those who do not achieve top 10% in REACH. This might mean that ICAS tests will be much harder and more inline with the level of selective school and scholarship tests.

What this might lead to is that the ICAS distinctions and high distinctions will be more valuable than before. Before, one can fail 4-5 questions in some hard  papers like science and DT but still get HD. If they all get harder, one can fail more questions and still get HD.
11 Apr
I checked with UNSW Global and they say that if schools don't offer ICAS, the  only way is to go to North Shore. As North Shore offers REACH first and only top 10% will be invited to do ICAS, it's bad but it's the only choice. Many schools don't want to offer ICAS as they do not have decent computers and network to handle online ICAS. So, a lot of students will miss out of ICAS test. ICAS is only of good value to those wishing to apply for scholarships at private schools. Otherwise just buy the past papers and do them at home to get some idea of performance.

ICAS will be a problem this year. Schools don't know what to do as UNSW Global's old ICAS has been replaced by their new program called REACH which is more or less a NAPLAN level test for various subjects. Their new ICAS is now for high performers. ICAS also goes online and cramped into 1 week. Many schools don't know what to do and may not offer ICAS at all. Some cut the participation down to only English and Maths.

This is a problem for our students because the high performers would want to do scholarship tests. They want ICAS results to be in the portfolio to support the scholarship application. In this case, parents may need to use North Shore  Coaching who is a partner of EAA to participate in REACH. North Shore wants kids to do REACH first then top 10% will be invited to do ICAS. Parents should check if they will allow kids to do ICAS without doing REACH and getting into the top 10% first.
07 Apr
The attention is now being turned to 2020 selective test. A glimpse of the success of 2019 selective group has so far been seen by the number of scholarship offers from private schools. It is at 18 and expected to rise a bit more. This means, we will beat last year's record of 18 scholarships.

Year 5 students will follow the same path to Oct 2019 where some will sit a number of early private scholarships on offer. The schools expected to offer early scholarships are: Pymble LC, Abbotsleigh, Danebank and Barker College. Only Barker College is available to boys. All the others are for girls.

Top performers

This means strong performers and those wishing to do scholarship tests should be on the fast pace. By Aug, these students would already do some year 7 work and try 2 selective trials by Sept and early Oct. There is a document to guide students wishing to do early scholarship test. Top students who may not wish to do any of these early scholarship tests would still want to work at this pace. 

Normal performers

A lot of students are not among the top performers. They need more time. So, they might only finish OC revision by Sept and get on year 6 and 7 level late. They will have to work harder during Sep - Dec and work very hard in Jan-Feb 2020 to be ready for scholarship tests and the selective test.

Other events

The NAPLAN test is important even though it is easy. NAPLAN 2019 will be in May. Even though, NAPLAN is known to be easy, we have a few issues to consider. It is an online test. And writing online is not easy if students are slow in typing. The other issue is that students often score poorly in writing. This can affect the school report and also affect the English marks going into the selective school application. Students must prepare for NAPLAN writing by working on both narrative and persuasive writing even though only one type will be tested in the NAPLAN. No one knows which type it will be for the year!

ICAS can be important. It is certainly important for scholarship applications. This year, EEA has changed ICAS. They offer two programs called REACH and ICAS. ICAS is now for high performers while REACH is for all students. Perhaps, they hope to get more low performers doing their tests. The trouble is that ICAS is now cramped into 1 week in Sept. It is also changed into online test including writing (only year 3-4 are exempted from online writing). Students will need to type fast enough. The preparation will be very cramped in a critical time where a lot of school work will be going on to collect marks for the selective school application.