Rationale for new math entrance test for the College of Micronesia-FSM

DRAFT 1/29

There are three main reasons the mathematic subdivision decided to change the entrance exam:

The test will continue to change with a third of the questions being "retired" annually. The long-term plan is to release old versions of the test after three years (all of the questions will have changed by then).

Changes to the COM-FSM Entrance test

The new COM-FSM Entrance test is divided into four parts of ten questions each.  The students are allowed an hour to answer the forty questions.  Students are encouraged to use a calculator on the test, like the modern SAT and other modern mathematical testing.  Forty questions in sixty minutes is a fierce pace, but a mathematically capable student with a calculator can place out of MS 100 and into MS 101 Alg and Trig, or MS 150 Statistics, or, with instructors permission, may in some cases be placed into MS 152 Calculus (!).  Each section represents material at a particular level:

A student who gets 6 or more correct in a column has been shown to know that material well enough to be placed out of that course. The rightmost column (or highest level) with a 6 is used to determine placement. This system was used in Spring 2002 and Fall 2002 and has been shown to place students at a level where they can, with work, experience success.  The Fall 2002 test, in fact, showed evidence of underplacement.  I have addressed in an email back in November.

Further notes

The new entrance test regime also feature a practice test that can help the high school math instructors prepare their students for the entrance test.  The following blurb should be circulated and forwarded to all the high schools involved in the testing program. 

This blurb has been relayed to the remnant of the Pacific Algebra Network by Kavita Rao of PREL, it has also been relayed to Yap DOE.  A hard copy of the practice test was delivered to the math division at PICS.

====  Begin Blurb =====

The new mathematics entrance test permits and encourages the use of a calculator.  The test is not designed to be completed in an hour without a calculator. Students should be told to bring a calculator for the College of Micronesia-FSM math entrance test. While the actual entrance test will remain secured, a practice test is available for viewing at: http://shark.comfsm.fm/~dleeling/math/practice.xml

This practice test should be widely redistributed to the high schools, the high school administrators, the math instructors in the high schools, and the students themselves.

There are no answers on the practice test.  Past experience has taught me that students tend to memorize answers and then put the answers to problems worked in class on related problems on quizzes and tests.  As a result, I was concerned that making answers available would simply lead to students trying to memorize the answers.

My hope is that math instructors at the high schools will work out answers for themselves insofar as they need answers.

The practice test can and should be shared with students in ways that high school instructors deem appropriate. 

That web page will display correctly only in the most recent browser versions.  Microsoft Internet Explorer 6.0 can display that page, but some of the fraction bars will be too big.  There may be other display problems.  To fix these you need a browser helper, a type of plug-in, from: http://www.dessci.com/en/products/mathplayer/

Browsers older than MSIE 5.5 cannot display the page properly even with the browser helper.  Go to the Help menu in your Internet Explorer and choose About Internet Explorer to determine what version you have if the page will not display correctly.

The practice test problem set is set at a hairbreadth's higher level than the entrance test.  The ability to do the practice test should ensure the ability to do the entrance test.

I should also note that printing the tests still remains problematic.  The functions do not always print as they display on PostScript and PCL printers (e.g. laserjets).  My experience has been that a cheap inkjet does a better job of printing the tests.

The display and printing problems are connected with my use of the leading edge technology MathML web language. For further information on MathML please see http://www.w3.org/Math/