Are you a science teacher looking to help your students master the CAST (NGSS) science test? Look no further! These simple CAST test prep strategies take less than 5 minutes a day and can help your students learn straightforward test strategies that will empower them to ROCK the test.
Day 1 CAST Test Prep: Highlight the Question
On day one you will hand out the practice question and then have students highlight the question. Highlighting the key parts of the question allows it to stand out and focuses your brain to look for information that will help answer it.
It is important that it is highlighted and not just underlined. You want the question to guide them during the other strategies so it needs to stand out.
Day 2 CAST Test Prep: Underline Key Details in the Passages
On day two the students will review the question and then go through the written passage and underline key details that will help them answer the question. I also like to have them underline information that explains what the data table, graph, or diagram is about.
Underlining the key details allows them to stand out. They are more likely to use the important information that they are given when they are underlined.
Day 3 CAST Test Prep: Analyze the Data Table, Graphs, and Diagrams for Important Information
On day three the students will analyze the data tables, graphs, and diagrams to look for patterns.
In the beginning, I help take students through how to read and interpret the data tables, graphs, and diagrams. I teach them how to read the column and row headings, and the x and y-axis labels. Then we look for patterns. We identify if the column is increasing, decreasing, staying the same, or doesn't have a pattern. We look at the graphs to see if they show an inverse relationship or are directly proportional. We also look to see if the graph is linear or nonlinear.
After we have done a few together than I have them start doing it with their groups. I like to have them write on the data tables, graphs, and diagrams and describe the patterns they are seeing.
Day 4 CAST Test Prep: Put it All Together and Answer the Question
On day four students look at the highlighted question and then look at what they underlined and the patterns they discovered to determine the answer. I have them read every answer choice and either circle it if they think it is the correct answer or cross it out if they think it is not the answer choice.
Have them circle and cross out insures that they go through every answer choice and don't just stop when they think they found the answer. For short answers that ask them to agree or disagree with the claim, I make sure that their answer includes evidence from the data table, graph, or diagram including numbers when appropriate.
You can also watch the CAST test preparation video on my Youtube channel
Day 5 CAST Test Prep: Students Will Discuss and Justify Their Answers
I think day five is one of the most important days. On this day the students discuss their answers.
They have to justify why they chose that answer and not the other ones. They should be able to explain why the others are incorrect along with why their answer is correct.
This is where students can discover if they made a simple mistake and also hear the thinking behind other students' justifications. I then have a few students from each group share out their justifications.
A great place to start with test questions is having the students take the CAST practice test. However, it is long and doesn't let them pause and come back. I do like them to spend 15-20 minutes on it just to get an idea of what the test is like.
For practice questions, I created my own CAST type practice questions that include data tables, graphs, diagrams, and reading passages. The questions mimic the type of questions they would see on the state test.
I start the CAST test prep in the middle of March doing one question a week. Then when we are a week away from the test we do a few a day to reinforce the skills they learned.
Having the students do one question a week, focusing on one skill a day, and taking 5 minutes a day to practice helps them learn the test strategies and build the habits of using them to answer the questions.
What do you do to help your students prepare for the CAST test?