Sunday, 28 March 2021

2021 OC preparation

This blog will take the load off the Mathemafix message board by hosting important information about 2021 OC preparation.

30 Mar
According the the SSU,

The weighting of the different component of the OC applictation will be out of 120 points as follows:

The OC test will provide 100 points shared equally between English, maths and TS papers. Schools will provide 10 points for English and 10 points for maths.

The total weighting for each area including school marks will be roughly: Eng 36%, maths 36% and TS 27.7%

This means the impact of school marks will be a lot less and this is good as school marks are very unreliable. The TS component is now only 27.7% (vs 33.3% in the old OC application). So, it is now the weakest area of the whole OC application.

29 Mar
I have solved all the questions in the sample OC test to see what they are like. My assessment is that the OC sample test is brutal for year 4 students. If we take the writing task out, the OC test is nearly the same size as the selective test (90 questions vs 105)! I find the English level is almost the same as that of the selective test. Maths is very challenging and not much easier than the maths in the selective test. The TS paper is significantly easier only in the verbal reasoning and the logic which accounts for about 45% of the paper. The maths and spatial reasoning in the TS paper is almost as hard as that of the selective sample.

The huge problem with the sample OC test is that students will run out of time. The questions of maths type are very heavy in working out. English is brutally hard. It turns out the TS questions in the area of verbal reasoning and logic turn out to be the easiest. This means there is very little need to prepare for the TS verbal reasoning and the TS logic questions.

The English reading paper has extremely long texts and difficult texts. It's so demanding on short term memory as students must read carefully and remember a lot to be able to answer the questions. Forgetful students with poor short-term memory will struggle badly and will run out of time as they have to go back into the texts to re-read.

The maths paper is so long and the questions are big. The students who do not have great mental maths to do the calculation will waste time and run out of time.

The TS paper is not very hard but the time is too limited. So, students will run out of time due to the hard maths reasoning.

It was clear that they made the real selective maths component easier to the sample (according to feedback from year 6 students). They also made the maths reasoning in the selective TS paper easier than what seen in the selective TS sample. If they do not make the real OC paper simpler, a lot of students will score very poorly. The effect of this will be all students who are not really good will crash. Only the smart students who also work very hard will do well. The hard-working ones who are not smart will not do well. The smart but lazy ones will not do well.


So, students should

- Practise the new English question type "Sentence Cloze" using the Sentence Cloze module in More ...
- I will complete the TS module in More ... with prep tests and a TS trial series will be provided.
- Complete ALL year 5 school maths with Maths Online and work hard on Maths Problem Solving Strategies Year 4-5 and do the Maths Challenge series and all the OC Maths Boosters.
- Do all the GA series as well. Do not give up on GA as the GA on my website covers just over 50% of the TS paper.

17 Jan

Year 4 students/Parents, the SSU has not released a sample OC test. According to the SSU website, the test is still in paper format in 2021.

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 about the 50% of mathematical+spatial reasoning as I expect students onthis 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 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.

There are a few things, parents need to know.

1/ Mathematical reasoning is not a problem. Students who are good in maths here are fine as I have all what they need. Students need to reach to the end of year 5 school maths and practise maths problem solving and do the maths challenge series.
2/ Students really need English reading skills to year 5 level before they are ready to deal with verbal reasoning. So, it's not realistic to get them to deal with TS questions when they are still working at year 3-4 level. Most students won't be ready until they are 2 months away from the OC test.

The strategy I have for TS is to ask students to work hard in English reading skills and general comprehension to year 5 level. I am working on a module called Thinking Skills. The section for Year 4-5 level (OC) is being developed. Students will focus on Main Idea, Supporting Details, Conclusion and Argument as the basic level. This will help them understand the verbal TS questions and then learn to deal with them. After the selective test in Mar, I will focus on OC level and create TS questions that are easier for the OC level. By around 3 months before the OC test, the SSU should have released a sample test for OC. And that will give a better idea of how difficult the questions are. This is the time students will start practising TS questions and get ready for the exam.

So, the focus for the next 3 months will be (1) Try to reach year 5 level in school maths and improve maths problem solving (2) Improve reading skills (including knowledge of grammar) and comprehension to year 5 level and (3) Get good English marks at school with good spelling and writing.