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Science High School Entrance Exam: Abstract Reasoning Portion Tips and Coverage

When I took my entrance exams in preparation for high school and college, I distinctly remember one particular section (aside from math) that almost drove me nuts:  the abstract reasoning portion.  The sight of shaded shapes and squiggles made me want to reach for my aspirin.

If I’d known then that there was help available, I never would’ve killed myself over it.  As with all kinds of tests, abstract reasoning exams sections have strategies and approaches all their own.  Check out some of them below.

Of Languages and Patterns

My godfather once told me that he once had trouble with math—until he came to understand it as a language.  In fact, any tricky subject, abstract reasoning included, has a language all its own, and that language can be broken down further into rules and patterns.

The key, then, is to understand, the pattern or the rule behind the question.  If you’ll notice, most abstract reasoning questions come in the form of sequences, with you being asked to find the missing part in the sequence.

Rotations and Reflections

Here’s a tip:  study the available parts of the sequence and look for similar elements, shapes, shaded portions, and their corresponding numbers.  It’s common practice for the elements in a set to get rotated around.

In these cases, it helps to think of one unit of sequence as the blade of an electric fan or a mirrored globe in a disco.  If you know in which direction the “blade” or “facet of the globe” is moving in, you can figure out what the missing portion is and where it’ll turn up.

“Sudoku” Relationships

Another approach involves studying the relationships between elements in a grid.  Oftentimes, you’ll see similar shapes strewn throughout that differ only in terms of shading or the particular direction that they’re facing.

Study the relationships between elements by taking them per row or column at a time.  If the grid is bigger than four by four, divide it as such.  And then, take a look at the available answers and, by process of elimination, select the one that the sequence seems to be missing.

Practices Makes…

The ability to understand relationships, whether it’s between things or people, is a skill.  Like all skills, it can be developed through practice.  Fortunately, you don’t have to look any farther than your friendly neighborhood Internet.

If you’d like to get your feet wet in the world of abstract reasoning way before the entrance exam date, or if you’d simply like to keep your skills sharp, here are links to a few resources I’ve found online:

1. Psychometric Success – This one contains some good questions to get you started, complete with an answer key and a brief history on the topic.

2. Logic and Reasoning Problems – This site has a good collection of reasoning problems, abstract and otherwise.  The areas of interest are slides 22 to 23 (pages 11 to 12), with answers on slide 116 (page 105)

3. Kent.AC.UK – Classified as “non-verbal reasoning,” this webpage has 20 questions worth of abstract reasoning, plus hints, strategies and an answer key, to boot.

4. YouTube video – Nope, this isn’t a pure sample of test questions.  It’s more of a visual guide designed to help you nail those abstract reasoning exams.

Science High School Entrance Exam: English Portion Tips and Coverage

In another article I wrote about science high schools, I underscored the importance of making one’s life like that of a laser beam (i.e., specializing in a certain field).  That doesn’t suggest for a moment, however, that tomorrow’s scientists are supposed to neglect their other skills in favor of the hard sciences.

Good scientists and mathematicians don’t just excel in math and science—they also know how to communicate their ideas clearly and effectively.  In today’s global village, it’s important that they do so in English.  That’s why science high school entrance exams have their very own English sections.

Word Play

The good news is that these sections don’t have to be intimidating, provided you know what’s coming.  Expect to be tested on synonyms, antonyms, error identification, analogies and reading comprehension.

The first two are pretty much straightforward.  Just tap into your vocabulary data banks and pick the best or opposite of the words they give you.  For instance, let’s say the item is the word “augment.”  Given a list of possible answers, you can choose the word “increase” as a synonym and “decrease” as an antonym.

Intense Scrutiny

Error identification requires a keen eye for detail—you’ll be asked to examine underlined words in sentences and pick out the mistakes.  To make things even trickier, there are items without any errors at all.  It looks a bit like this:

Shirley and his mother came over to our place for dinnerNo error.

A                   B                          C                        D               E

Unless Shirley was born biologically male and simply chose to undergo an operation later, it makes sense to choose B as the correct answer.

Comprende?

The analogy and reading comprehension sections will take you a little more time to get through than the other sections.  The former basically involves a sequence of words, and you’re supposed to guess the next correct word in the series.  Think of it as the English version of abstract reasoning.  As an example:

Doe:  Deer::  _____:  Bear

Note that the analogy questions may also ask for two words in the series instead of just one.

The comprehension section will you have you read essays or short stories and answer questions based on them.  The questions can be based on facts stated outright, or inferences drawn from the passages.  Expect the test to try and twist details around to see if you’re really understood what you’ve read.

Final Tips

One of the things I’m most thankful for is the fact that my parents got me into reading at an early age.  Even if you’re not a voracious reader by nature, it’s not too late to pick up the habit.  Start preparing for the English portion of the entrance exam by reading a lot.  Better yet, read to yourself aloud.

My father also came up with this piece of helpful advice:  whip out your dictionary and learn at least one new word everyday.  If you do this faithfully, your vocabulary will expand to three hundred and sixty-five new words after one year.

If you’re in the mood for some pre-testing challenge, grab one of those activity books you see in bookstores or go visit a site with word puzzles, such as Dictionary.com or Merriam-Webster’s site.  When the time for the exam comes, you’ll be glad you did.

Science High School Entrance Exam: Science Portion Tips and Coverage

A wise man once said that it’s important to make one’s life like that of a laser beam.  Philippine Science, Manila Science and Quezon City Science are in the business of developing the “laser beams” (scientists) of tomorrow.  In fact, the first instance where you will see this clearly is in their entrance exams.

The good news is that there’s a pattern to the science portion of the entrance exams—a method to the scientific “madness,” if you will.  If you’re preparing for the tests and you’d like to get an overall picture of what to expect, read on.

The Long and Short of It

If you’ve been paying attention in grade school science, class, then you’re in luck:  you’ll see lots of familiar concepts during the exam.  Basically, expect science high schools to throw biology, chemistry and physics-based questions at you.

In a lot of cases, the questions you’ll encounter on the exam have something to do with familiar, everyday phenomena:  human body processes, the water cycle, moving objects and what not.  Of course, you will also get the “once in a blue moon” kind of questions—think total eclipses, speculations on hypothetical planets, venereal diseases, etcetera.

What?  More Computations?

Don’t lull yourself into a false security by thinking that this is science and not math.  There are still some computation-related questions involved.  For example, you may be given the formula for computing the amount of kinetic energy in a moving object, and then asked to solve for the total amount given a certain amount of speed.

Be sure to have your stock knowledge of simple formulas ready, as some questions will press you for answers without giving you the formulas at all.  They may, for example, tell you that a certain substance has a mass of twenty grams and a volume of one hundred cubic centimeters.

If you’re not familiar with the basic formula for deriving density (mass divided by volume), then you’ll have a trickier time arriving at the correct answer of .2 grams per cubic centimeter.

Visual Stimuli

As with the math section of the exam, the science portion also involves some handy-dandy charts, graphs and diagrams for you to study and draw inferences from.  For instance, a common physics question involves a diagram of a circuit, where your job is to determine the direction of the flow of electricity.

In most cases, the answers to the questions that come with visual aids will be starting you in the face—all you have to do is to look carefully at the pictures, consider the facts and draw your conclusions.  At other times, the answer won’t be so obvious, so you will need to combine observation with stock knowledge then.

Case in point:  you may be shown a picture of a burning candle with a test tube being lowered over it.  Of course, the candle goes out, and the picture doesn’t say outright that the act of lowering the test tube over the candle has effectively snuffed out the oxygen supply.

A Final Word

The science section may be less on computation and more on common sense than the math section, but don’t let your guard down for a moment.  Pray, keep your mind clear, review your computations and answers, think in a step-by-step fashion, and you’ll do just fine.

Science High School Entrance Exam: Math Portion Tips and Coverage

As a wide-eyed student trying to apply for a slot in a good high school, I tended to struggle through the mathematics portions of entrance exams.  Looking back, I think I would’ve appreciated some advanced warning regarding the test coverage.

The good news is that this help is now available to you.  Think of the guidelines below as ideas on what you can expect during science high school entrance tests and some tips on how you can do well on the exam.

Half the Battle

Math may be a very broad field in itself, but certain sub-branches of it have a tendency to pop up during science high school entrance exams.  Some of the most common math-related questions you can look forward to include items on arithmetic, basic algebra, geometry and even numerical reasoning.

The interesting thing to note is that not all questions will have you solving for numerical answers.  Some of them will simply test your stock knowledge of mathematical principles.  For example, you may be asked what a counting number or a greatest common denominator is.

Visual Stimuli

To add a little variety to the mix, the test may include such visual aids as sets, pie charts, graphs and other forms of diagrams for you to study.  For instance, you may be given some meter readings and asked to solve for the total amount of kilowatts used.

Of course, no math test is ever complete without the classic word problems.  They may involve any of the branches of math that I’ve mentioned above, but their overall purpose is to present a scenario and then ask you to solve for such and such amount.

For example, there’s the classic case of four people of varying ages, and you will be asked to determine who the youngest one is based on the given facts.  You may also be given the scenario of a farm with a certain number of animals and asked to count the total number of legs.

Tips and Strategies

Now that you know what to look forward to, you can plan your exam attack strategy.  Here are a few tricks I learned during my time in the school of hard knocks:  First of all, pray.  Anything that keeps the anxiety at bay and helps keep your head clear is extremely important.

Next, quickly scan through the test and tackle the ones that look easiest to you—things that you can answer with little to no computation involved.  Going for the more manageable questions first will help build up your self-confidence for the more difficult questions later.

Save the items that require lengthier computation and thinking for last.  Always review your work and recheck your computations—the most minor miscalculation can lead to the greatest of errors.

Finally, if you really don’t know the answer, eliminate all the clearly incorrect answers from the choices provided and take your best educated guess.

Been There, Done That

The truth is that the math exam won’t cover anything you haven’t already been exposed to before, so don’t worry about heavy stuff like calculus appearing in there.  If you’ve been paying attention in your grade school classes and you’ve been reviewing your lessons diligently, acing the math portion of the exam won’t be as hard as you may think.