Sunday 29 April 2018

2018 OC preparation

This blog will take the load off the Mathemafix message board by hosting important information about 2018 OC preparation. 

01 Nov
It looks like some parents are not happy as their kids got decent OC profiles but the competition is now so high in some areas. Even 245 is not enough for many OC classes in NW Sydney.

2018 OC results vs. 2017 OC results.

12 Oct
I see clearly that students in a school hosting OC class has the advantage even though the competition is strong. But this advantage is mainly enjoyed by the top 3-5 students. So, the idea that a top kid at a weak school is favoured is now wrong because too many kids apply for OC from any school. The top kid at a weak school is still penalised to a milder degree as s/he cannot escape the drag of the whole weak cohort. The only way to avoid this is only the top is allowed to sit the OC test. And this is impossible.

It's still good to be in a strong school no matter what by the look of it. This is now true even if your kid is only at the average of all applicants. The same is true for selective test and this is why OC class is always better. Or better still, go to a strong Private or Catholic school that does not give school marks.

Some data received so far

06 Oct
The 2018 OC results will come out in just over a week. It's an exciting time. The results will be pretty much like those from 2017 OC test. The students of 2018 seem to perform slightly better than those in 2017.

It's important for parents in NW Sydney to understand that it's very hard to get into OC classes such as North Rocks, Beecroft and Ermington because students need about 245 to be sure of an offer. It's important to secure a place in the local school's enrichment class if your child cannot get a placement. 

School marks can be a big factor to decide the OC profile. Some schools give poor school marks to students. Some have unfair or no standard at all in how they give the marks. This is why it is now an advantage for students in Catholic schools as most do not give school marks. It can be a difficult choice for parents to take OC offer (even if it is a bit far from home) or stay back or move to a Catholic schools.

Now is the time for the kids to come back to Mathemafix to join the 2020 Selective group. Strong students would revise the OC program at slow pace, redo OC trials and complete all year 5 work and move on to year 6-7 work around Feb-Mar 2019. Those who have not done much may need to revise the OC program from a lower level and finish the revision around May-Jun 2019. It's important to have a strong foundation by completing the OC program with good scores to support high performance in the Selective program.

05 Aug
Year 4 parents, a document called "2018-2019 Early Scholarship tests in Sydney for year 4" has been uploaded to page QUICK LINKS. The idea is that year 4 students who are high performers with OC trial average at 75% or better can try a scholarship test very early for experience and get a report on performance. Students can do it as early as Oct-Nov 2018 or later in Feb-Mar 2019. The experience can help them to do well in their real scholarship tests at late year 5 and early 6.

04 Aug
Some students who joined very late and did not do a lot of work would benefit a lot from coming back after a short break to do the OC program properly. This will makes it so much easier later when they prepare for the selective test as the OC program provides the foundation necessary to step up to year 6-7 level of the selective prep program. Generally, students who have done less than 300 tests in the OC program or those who did not score over 70% in OC trials will benefit from this.

02 Aug
Some students have done the survey. It looks like the OC test is similar to last year's OC test where maths is easy again 4 years in a row. English is hard and GA is not too hard. What this means is the competition shifts a bit more in favour of English than before. Maths is easy so many kids will get high marks for it. School marks will become more important and it was so obvious last year where very high school maths can help a lot.

As school marks are becoming unstable and unreliable (unfair) at some public schools, those who fail to get into OC class might consider Catholic schools to avoid school marks. This automatically uses only test marks for selective test and that's a lot better (assuming the students is not sick on the day of the test).

Students in NW Sydney will really suffer as the OC cutoffs are too high there. It's very hard to gain entry into one of these schools due to too much competition. As many of the schools there have enrichment class for those who have achieved OC placement but decide not to go, it is important to put a low OC class that one has no intention take the offer. This will guarantee a place in the current school's enrichment class for year 5-6.

The individual feedbacks from students are actually very diverse. The high performers tend to give positive feedback. The weaker performers give more negative feedback. Those who have not done much work at all (except doing the trials) tend to give very unreliable feedback as they don't know about all other stuff they did not get to do. However, the average weighting of all feedback is on the positive side. This is good.

Students report high confidence. It's like 2017 again. We can expect a good set of results from this group of students.

01 Aug
Congrats on finishing the OC test. This is a huge effort from both kids and parents. Please do the survey ASAP before you forget the content of the OC test. The link to the survey form is at the bottom right hand side when you log on.

Now is the time to take a long break to enjoy leisure activities. The OC result will be out early Oct, and we will get together for a celebration. There is no doube we will get a lot of fabulous results even better than last year's. If parents need any advice on OC class choices, please make contact. The last date for changing OC choices is 10 Aug.

The top 10 kids on trila averages might like to try early scholarship tests along side with year 5 students who are preparing for the 2019 selective test. Please read info about this on the page below. 

30 Jul
It's now time to REST! Don't do any more. Students must rest completely and don't do anything risky to get hurt or sick before the OC test day.
On the afternoon of OC test day (1st Aug), please log on and do the OC test survey to help future students.

Trial results for those who have done at least 7 trial sets. 

Parents should consider to get their kids back to Mathemafix (after a break) to prepare for the 2019 selective test. In the past, there were year 4 students who did well in OC test but did not come back. Their parents worried that the selective test was too serious to do online preparation. But every year, the selective test results showed that those who prepared OC here and came back to do selective preparation did even better. Some students who only got OC profiles around 210-220 managed pushed deep into 240+.

It is much appreciated if parents help introduce Mathemafix to other parents with year 5 kids preparing for 2019 selective test. At least, Mathemafix can help them as a strong work and trial platform in case they continue with class tutoring.

28 July
We are practically at the end of 2018 OC preparation. The message right now is REST! It's hard to resist the temptation of asking kids to work until the day before OC test. However, past experience shows that only REST is the best strategy. This means students who have not completed all 8 trials must complete them ASAP by Sunday then stop everything.

Looking at the picture of 2017 OC trial ranking and OC profiles, there are a few observations.

- Almost 100% of the students will get OC placement if low OC classes are picked by bottom students. The benefit of OC placement into any OC class is that the current school has to offer a place in its enrichment class if it has an enrichment class.
- Students who score around 70% on trials are expected to do well and OC placement is pretty sure unless parents pick high OC classes. As school marks can play a tricky role and a few students will get OC profile pulled down a lot by poor school marks. So, parents will need to be conservative with the second OC class choice.
- It is safe for students with OC trial average around 70% or better to take a long break after OC test until Jan 2019 and still have a good chance competing for a place in the top 7 selective schools.
- Lower performers, especially those who joined Mathemafix late and did not manage to finish at least 2/3 of the OC program, would benefit from taking a shorter break and come back to do the OC program properly. This will help them have a good chance competing for top 7 selective schools.

2017 Trial Ranking and OC profile

2017 OC raw marks and OC profiles

OC class choices can be tricky too. Some parents reported low school marks that took 10-25 points off their kids' selective profiles in 2018 selective test. The "suspicious" schools are Matthew Pearce, Chatswood PS, Newbridge Heights, Pensurst and Smithfield. In some schools, all students in one class seemed to get low school marks. In some schools, some students got unusually low school marks. These schools do not publish how they give marks so parents are in the dark.

25 July
Here is the trial result ranking for those who have completed at least 7 sets of OC trials. The results are compared against last year's students and their OC profiles.

20 July
We are now in the last 10 days of OC preparation. Most students have done up to 7 trials and only one more to be completed. It is now time to complete all trials and revise a little before students should rest completely a few days before the OC test. It is also the time to be extremely cautious about changes in weather and eating safe foods. This is to avoid getting sick just before the OC test. Students should avoid getting exposed to bad weather (on sports day) and eating unsafe foods.

While it is so hard to get into OC classes at some areas of Sydney, over 70% of students on Mathemafix will get enough to enter some OC classes in Sydney. Even if they do not get into the local OC classes, parents should pick a low OC class as second choice. This will make the current school offer a place in its enrichment class for year 5-6 if it has one to offer. It gets complicated further about school choice for year 5. This is because some public schools give unreliable school marks for the selective test. Also school marks almost always pull the selective test profile down. This is why Catholic school students now enjoy better selective test profiles as Catholic schools do not give school marks. What this means is that students who fail to get an OC place (or a place in an enrichment class) might be better off going to Catholic schools for year 5.

11 July
We are entering the last few weeks of OC preparation. Parents should download the sample test for OC and get students to do it to become familiar with the format of the test and the answer sheet. They should practise how to mark the answers and how to time the test so that they will guess the left over questions around 1 minute before the end of each part. Parents should use a stop-watch to monitor and help them time on their own as the supervisor in the exam hall will not warn them when the time is about to run out.

10 June
Some students have done 4-5 OC trials while late comers are still doing 1st and 2nd OC trials. Here is a the ranking against last year students (only on the 1st 4 trials) for those who have done at least 3 trials. When the average of OC trials is around 70% or better, there is a high chance of OC placement. Also, those who have trial averages around 75% have a small chance of matching those with OC trial averages over 80% in real OC profile.

04 June 
Late comers now have only 8 weeks to prepare for OC test. This means the first OC trial should be done by now and one OC trial is complete each week along with a lot of work at year 5 level. 

It is expected the ranking on the leaders' board will change a lot as kids throw their effort into the last few weeks. A lot of "dark horses" will rise quickly to the top as they delay trials to wait until they are readier to do them.

As the cold/flu season sets in, a lot of kids get sick. It's a bad idea to send kids to school when they are not well, the kids may get sick for a whole week and feel too tired to work at home. And that means losing a whole week of work! It is also useful to watch for signs of cold/flu 1 week before the OC test. If there are signs, it's better to let your kid stay home to avoid a full blown cold/flu as this would certain kill all the chances of getting OC placement. The appeal process won't help these days when it is so competitive.

18 May
The OC application closes today. This means schools will get to know who apply for the OC test at the earliest on 21st May. Some schools would already have sent notes out to parents to poll for intention to apply for OC test. This allows them to see how many would apply and get prepared to collect marks for OC application.

It's probably the best thing students could do is to behave well for 4-5 weeks and get all work given by teachers done. Often the work can be very easy and boring but they do involve writing for English. It's also easy to get silly mistakes for boring maths too ... And it's not just the mark but the ranking is what matters more. A lot of kids get marked down for silly mistakes and poor writing.

Every year, some students here get very poor school marks even though they scored very well in the OC test. These students are bored at school so they don't put effort in getting work done. As the result, poor school marks and ranking pulled them down as much as 7-10 points. Knowing that OC classes in some areas are so competitive, losing 1-2 points could be failing to get placement.

29 April
Key dates for NSW OC Class application

 1 May 2018
Application opens online
18 May 2018
Application closes (no late applications)
18 July 2018
Parents are sent Test Authority advice
1 August 2018
Opportunity class placement test for entry in 2019

When parents fill the online OC application form, just put the OC class choices as the closest OC classes. There is no way to predict OC profile until students have done most of the 8 OC trials. Therefore, the choices will have to be adjusted later right after the OC test.

It takes about 3-4 weeks for schools to gather and send school marks to the SSU. That means schools will collect marks until around end of May. Past experience shows that marks from schools don't really reflect the students' real performance. This could be because gifted students are bored in class and they don't necessarily want to do the boring class work. Teachers may not have any idea about a student's high performance because the student is never tested on anything other than the easy stuff everyone gets. It could also be because that teachers can pick any kind of work they like. For English in particular, the marks may come mainly from writing work. Therefore, it is recommended that students should behave well and do whatever work given in class properly, at least until end of May. So, we need to have 4 weeks of best behaviour to ensure school marks are not "really unfair" for some of the gifted but very bored students.

It is also important to note that by 1st Aug, most ICAS competitions are over. What this means is that any preparation for ICAS English, ICAS Writing, ICAS Spelling and ICAS Mathematics are useful for the OC test (and the preparation for OC test is useful for ICAS competitions). However, writing is useful for good school English marks and ICAS Writing. So, it's a good idea that students work on writing as well.

A lot of students are a bit late in OC prep so it makes sense not to start OC trials until the 8th week before the OC test. All year 4 work should be completed and some of the year 5 work should be done before the 1st OC trial. Students should do each set of OC trials within 80-90 minutes to experience real exam pressure. It's a bad idea to do each set over several days like doing an exercise.

The SSU has banned the use of pencils and erasers. They have gone to extra trouble of handing out their own pens! So, students must learn to be neat and efficient with the use of working out space. There will be no more than 1 sheet of working out paper in each test. It's time to get used to this limit.

6 Apr

Public primary schools are now experimenting with "open learning" where students spend time in small groups exploring ideas (and often get no where). Enrichment for gifted kids is now almost non-existent in most schools or scaled down to just a small group or one class if kids are lucky to be in a school that still offers enrichment. And often a school that really offers any enrichment is also a school that already hosts an OC class. 

OC entry is getting a lot more competitive in the NW and Inner West of Sydney. Kids will need to score well on year 4-5 and year 5 series to do well.

Now is the time to make a big effort.

1/ Have a weekly reading program that covers both fiction and non-fiction. Books can be picked from the Reading Library or local libraries or using a Kindle.
2/ Keep a diary of new words, look up their meaning and write down them down during revision of all failed questions.
3/ If a Kindle is used for reading, it's really easy to look up the meaning of a word by pressing on the word for a a couple of seconds.
4/ Watch BTN then read the transcript. Then write a short summary of the news video down and get parents to read and comment.
5/ Go to the Punctuation module and watch the videos about sentence structure and how to write good sentences. This is is great for getting better school marks for English.
6/ Use the English Revision module to read texts once more and check the questions again if students struggle to get over 85% for English comprehension tests.
7/ Download WordWeb Free and use it to check meaning of words by simply holding down the CTRL key and right-click on any word on the browser. This is really good during review of failed questions or using English Revision module. Don't use this to technically "cheat" during taking a test.

23 Mar
Revisiting the results for 2017 OC test. This is the picture that year 4 students are expected to achieve or exceed the performance.

This is the survey done after the 2017 OC test

12 Feb
Some top students are going too fast. They have started year 5 work. Others are slow and still doing early year 4 work. Experience shows that it's not all good to be working to fast. It's important to go slow to let the knowledge sinks deeper.

On 1st April, the first OC trial set will open. Students will have the first taste of how hard OC trials are. At this point, the top student should start year 5 work. Therefore, those who are already on year 5 work, are ahead. It's go to slow down a bit and spend more time on the learning modules and general reading. Take time to learn and apply the strategies for maths in the Maths Problem Solving Strategies Year 4-5, complete the Year 5 Maths Revision set on page QUICK LINKS and read a lot of books in the Reading Library. The learning activities will be more useful as they beef up the students and make sure they can score consistently well.

07 Feb

We are now at the beginning of year 4. But schools have no idea who will apply for OC test. Therefore, when the OC application closes on 18 May 2018, schools will know. At this point they will start collecting marks for the students retrospectively back to Feb! They can collect any kind of marks they like to for maths and English. What this means is that students must start doing the school well from now on. The typical problem for many students here is that they are very advanced. They find school work boring so they don't care. As the result they don't care to complete the work or they make many silly mistakes. Only the careful students who care to get good marks would actually get the good marks. So, this is a behaviour problem that parents must advise students (especially boys) to be aware of. It's no good to be too smart and arrogant then make silly mistakes on easy work!

Another problem is writing marks. A lot of the work at school will be in writing than reading. And if students don't pay attention, they don't know what to write about. It's common that a lot of smart students in public and Catholic schools write very poorly. Often the elite private schools' students write better (and read better too). This is why parents need to make sure students write with decent spelling, neat hand writing and the sentences are complete (and make sense). The writing marks will influence the bulk of English marks given by schools.

So the message to parents is to ask students to pay attention to school work between Feb-May and try to avoid mistakes in their school works. Participate in activities and write well. It has been known in the past that some most brilliant students who don't get along well with teachers got poor school marks for OC application. But school marks must be written down on students' works. Therefore, teachers cannot just give fake marks. It's more likely that smart students are careless or even refuse to do the school marks or participate in class lessons. So, it's often the behaviour of students that cause this problem.

15 Jan
Really strong students are now at the verge of complete year 4 work and enter year 5 work even though they have not started year 4.  The year 4 work on Mathemafix is like year 5 (and even harder) at school. This year we will strive to have better performance than last year where many students did so well.

At this stage, all students should have completed year 4 school maths and  moved on to year 5 school maths (with the Maths Lessons guide). The Maths Problem Solving Strategies Year 4-5 guide is now important. Students should also completed English Reading Skills Grade 4 and nearly complete English Comprehension Grade 4.

13 Dec
From Jan 2018, preparation for OC test will hot up. Parents can see from 2017 OC results (and earlier years) that the school marks have a big impact.

Some students have great OC test marks but their school marks could give a big negative impact. Please read the blog about 2017 OC result above for details.

To avoid this trouble, students should write well at school. They should make an effort to do all English work at school well. Most of the time, students can be good in reading but they don't put effort into writing, listening, speech at school. And this means low school marks for English. In maths, most students find the school marks too easy. They become bored so they make silly mistakes or even refuse to complete the maths work. And this can become a big problem too.

So the message here is to make an effort between Feb-Jun 2018 at school to get decent school marks. 

Soon, top students at end of year 3 will make their move on the following advanced series and get ready for OC trials. 

Math Problem Solving Grade 4-5
Mini Math Challenge Grade 4-5
English Reading Skills Grade 5

English Comprehension Grade 5
Mathematics Booster Grade 5 (14 tests)
Mathematics Grade 5 (12 tests)

However, the average students should not jump to this level without working hard on year 4 level to build the foundation first. It is OK to keep working hard on year 4 level and start year 5 level around April alongside the first couple of OC trials.

29 Nov
At this stage (end of year 3), strong students should already be at end of year 5 in terms of reading and maths while their writing can be at any level of year 3-4. 

It is important to check their maths to see that students are at least at end of year 4 school maths. This is the required minimum level to do well in the year 3 maths on Mathemafix.  Year 5 school maths is the minimum required level to do well in Mathemafix year 4 maths.

Two big set of printable tests have been created for parents to check students.

  • Maths Revision Year 4
  • Maths Revision Year 5

Parents will have to do the marking if these printable documents are used. Alternatively, parents can get the students to get on the module Maths Lessons and go to the Weekly Revision section to do the tests (or just put in the answers the kids write on these printable tests) to get the computer to do the marking.

It is highly recommended to use Maths Revision Year 4 to check first. For really strong students who have completed year 4 maths on Mathemafix and are starting year 5 maths, Maths Revision Year5 is recommended.

25 Nov

Do NOT ignore school work!

A common mistake made by parents is to ignore the importance of school work and put too much emphasis on tutoring or other work at home. This is because school marks can take up 50% of English and maths in the OC application. As the teachers don't know if a student applies for OC or not until the application is about to be finalised, marks given to OC application will be pulled out randomly from past assessments from Feb-Jun. They could come from any kind of marks and often heavy in writing work. They could come from the boring easy work for maths that smart kids hate so they ignore and get lots of silly mistakes or even not completed.

So, kids must be serious and do their work between Feb-Jul to get highest possible marks. Then they can be as lazy as they like after Jul 😄

Which OC classes to pick?

The first choice is easy as parents would want an OC class close to home or close to work to make it easy for travel. However, the second choice is the most difficult to make.

For kids who have no hope for a placement in any school convenient for parents, the second choice should be an OC class that is as low as possible and not ridiculously far from home so that there is no way you would take up the offer. This will convince your current school to offer a spot into its enrichment class if there is one. This offer will be free of school politics because parents who help the school a lot may try to do back door politics to get their own kids into the school's enrichment class!

If your school has an enrichment class, the school will have to allocate the spots with priority to those who have achieved an OC placement somewhere (or on reserve for OC class) when parents do not want their kids to leave the school.

The big mistake parents often make is picking OC classes with very high cutoff scores against professional advice from Mathemafix and miss out on all choices. This is a big problem for parents living in North, NW and inner West of Sydney where the cutoff scores are ridiculously high due to the insane level of competition today. They then also miss out on the enrichment class within their current school.

For those in Sydney, the schools with lowest OC cutoff scores have been highlighted in the table below.

Opportunity class
Minimum entry at 17/03/2017
Beecroft Public School
North Rocks Public School
Ermington Public School
Matthew Pearce Public School
Summer Hill Public School
Artarmon Public School
St Johns Park Public School
Chatswood Public School
Woollahra Public School
Waitara Public School
Dural Public School
Greystanes Public School
Holsworthy Public School
Hurstville Public School
Balgowlah Heights Public School
Ryde Public School
Earlwood Public School
Neutral Bay Public School
Ironbark Ridge Public School
Ashfield Public School
Georges Hall Public School
Quakers Hill Public School
Harrington Street Public School
Mona Vale Public School
Picnic Point Public School
Sutherland Public School
Wollongong Public School
Alexandria Park Community School
Caringbah North Public School
Greenacre Public School
Wilkins Public School
Balmain Public School
Casula Public School
Leumeah Public School
Newbridge Heights Public School
Blacktown South Public School
Blaxcell Street Public School
Gosford Public School
Smithfield Public School
New Lambton South Public School
Jewells Primary School
St Andrews Public School
Colyton Public School
Camden South Public School
Kingswood Public School
Soldiers Point Public School
Wentworth Falls Public School
Blaxland East Public School
Tighes Hill Public School
Maryland Public School
Bradbury Public School
Tamworth Public School
Wyong Public School
Goulburn West Public School
Sturt Public School
Alstonville Public School
Biraban Public School
Queanbeyan South Public School
Armidale City Public School
Rutherford Public School
Port Macquarie Public School
Dubbo West Public School
Goonellabah Public School
Lithgow Public School
Moree Public School
South Grafton Public School
Toormina Public School
Cessnock West Public School
Richmond Public School
Bathurst West Public School
Coonabarabran Public School
Tahmoor Public School
Tamworth South Public School
Cudgegong Valley Public School
Illaroo Road Public School