Friday, September 21, 2012

Why I Hate the OLSAT Classification Questions

My son is struggling with the OLSAT classification question. 

I'm not surprised or disappointed.  He won't see most of the practice questions for at least 1 1/2 years, but we've run out of the age appropriate ones and are moving on to the harder ones. 

The ones we are working on look like this.  There are 5 items.  Pick the one that doesn't belong.  A banana, an orange, an apple, a grape, and a truck.

My son will pick the orange.   Why the orange?  Because you don't get juice all over your hands from the other ones.  It doesn't work that way.  You have to follow the rules.

So I bring my older son over.   He already "passed" this test.   He'll do the same thing, only with a goofier, more far fetched answer.

For each of these question types, I have to spend a full month getting the rules down.  Then we can practice them.   I'm not sure this will help on the test, because the logic and vocabulary they are asking is also hit or miss.   My son has never seen a microwave, a 1980's computer, a wind sock.

I'm trying out various algorithms for him to use to organize the questions and his answers.   He's smart enough to know what an algorithm is, but we're having less fun because his stifling his creativity.   I won't publish any of these here until I've worked through the ethics of test preparation and am sure I won't get sued.

I wonder if there are much smarter kids who score poorly on these tests because they make up their own set of complicated attributes and relationships that defy what adults expect.

[Note added October 6, 2012]  We've been reviewing the COGAT classification questions lately.  These appear to be in a different format.   As a disclaimer, I'm working from a stack of published practice tests, and not the actual tests, so I can't verify the format.   So this is the presumed format.  In the COGAT version, there are 3 items in a group, like an orange, a banana, and an apple.  Which of the four choices belongs with this group?  A banana?  A car, toaster, or TV?   It's much harder to twist the question logic with the COGAT practice tests.   I should have used these as a warm up for the OLSAT.

I think that this implies that the COCAT content, the attributes that make each item a member of the group, must be much harder than the OLSAT, because the format is harder.

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