Monday, May 25, 2015

COGAT - Sentence Completion

In my prior article, I stated that I didn't have much to say on the verbal section.  I lied.  I've also said that there are no papers on test questions.   We'll, apparently I lied about that too.  When reviewing some of the literature, I found these papers.   I'll be borrowing heavily from Lohmans excellent paper from 1990.

This article discusses the sentence completion section.

The problem with sentence completion is that it can cover so many different skills and abilities as well as knowledge:
Yesterday, we ______ to the store (went/go/goes).  This is grammar.
The scientist filled the _______ with 3 chemicals for the experiment.
The boy scounts ________ the fire with kindling wood.
I am older than Bob, but Bob is ____ than I am.  (Shorter/taller/older.  I stole this one from Lohman 1990).

These questions could cover syntax, grammar, vocabulary words, any field from science to history, and logic and critical thinking.   The goal of the COGAT is to find kids with critical thinking skills and cognitive skills who could do really well in school, not kids who are already doing really well in school.  I think grammar and syntax on their own would not be tested, nor would and general knowledge questions that can't be inferred from the context of the question or the prior questions.

What makes the 4th example above so interesting is that it not only presents opposites, but it presents a 2 step problem that includes a type of analogy.   Old is to Tall, but this is the opposite so it is short.  This has all the hallmarks of a good test question.  The words won't be hard, the grammar shouldn't be hard, but the thinking in the question should be hard.

Even if we narrow down sentence completion from "could be anything" to "thinking questions", here are the cognitive skills I'm trying to sort through that are fair game for the sentence completion questions.  I need to put this into a hierarchy of teachable skills.  I wonder if that's going to be the same hierarchy found by researchers.
1.  Inductive reasoning
2.  use of working memory (has it's own list from the stuff below)
3.  encoding
4.  inference
5.  Executive skills - filter stimulus, create action plan or strategy, implement it, adjust it
6.  Remember, Transformation
7.  Abstraction/Abstract reasoning
8.  Concept formation
9.  Perception
10.  Learning (in this case, across the test questions staring with the example.)
11. Eduction of relations
12.  Reading Comprehension and Vocabulary
13.  Visualation of 3d shapes and spacial visualization
14.  Synonyms and opposites
15.  Auto critisim and learning
16.  Handing Vagueness (Questions that have no good answer or a corner solution.)

I can find or create a super hard exercise for my son, but the test probably includes a harder one.

The Building Thinking skills book for grades 2/3, which we did in K leading up to the 1st grade COGAT has plenty of elements that are fair game for the sentence completion testing, including analogies, synonyms/antonyms, classification etc, but in each case this book only presents 1/2 of the logic of a good sentence completion question like the example presented above.  This book is pretty light on the thinking for verbal skills, not even up to the 75%, even though the vocabulary becomes fairly advanced.  This is the opposite of what I would want for sentence completion practice.

Vocabulary Workshop all the way to the first book has mainly two step logic, which is good, but it is primarily inference and deduction and doesn't cover the full range of logic that can show up in the sentence completion question.  There are synonyms and opposites.  It is hard and requires guessing.  So I'm happy with this as test prep.

The old Steck-Vaughn test prep book for 1 and 2 has plenty of verbal thinking practice, but the new Spectrum workbook removes most of the thinking.

The only test prep that I see that has the range of thinking skills required and is really hard is Reading Comprehension, preferably 2 grades up to make it really hard.  In preparing for the test with my first son, when I knew zero about the test, half our time was spent on reading comprehension questions because they were really hard.  I had to do the reading because he couldn't read.  With my second son, we skipped ahead until I had to help with the reading and vocabulary, and again it was super hard.   We used Steck-Vaugn and SAT/Iowa Basic test prep books, as well as 5th and 6th grade released tests (which are about a 2nd grade level).

I could probably put together 100 two step logic sentence completion questions that incorporate all of the fun tricks of a test like corner solutions, vagueness and learning.  Nothing exists like this.  I thinking publishing vocab words on the fridge and making each into a brain teaser would get the job done, but the Vocab Workshop and Reading Comprehension exercises are better.

I think there are probably 100 words that make good test questions.   I did this for math and will show that list later.   I think it would be fun to do this for the verbal section.

1 comment:

  1. Great post. Thanks. This is probably a question for your wife if she is in charge of managing your kids' summer activities or time management at home or outside during summer. I know you mentioned your kids will go to camp here and there but I assume most of the summer they will be home. My question is how do you keep your kids busy not feeling bored during summer, what should they do at home or outside (structured or unstructured) other than workbook time and summer reading? Any particular plan, suggestions or ideas to share?

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