The OLSAT is divided into two sections: Verbal Comprehension (composed of Aural Reasoning and Arithmetic Reasoning) and Verbal Reasoning (Following Directions).
In the following, we’ll talk about the Aural Reasoning problems, what material will be covered, and how you can prepare at home without stress.
Let’s start with an example question:
As part of John’s weekly chores, he is asked to help to clean the leaves off of the front porch. What should he use to clean the leaves off of the porch?
Answer: 3, Rake
Aural reasoning is designed to assess your child’s understanding of everyday objects, tasks, and protocols.They might be asked which animal likes to play with balls of yarn, or which animal likes to play fetch. They should know the objects involved in household chores, the appropriate clothing for a snowstorm, and be familiar with the equipment needed for different sports and extracurricular activities.
Your child should be able to listen to a short description, and recall relevant details. They might also be asked to remember a logical order of events, such as remembering whether a character brushed their teeth before or after getting into bed.
Now, many of those concepts are perfectly reasonable to expect a preschooler to be familiar with. However, others may be relatively unknown to children from varying backgrounds. Take the example above, where a student must identify a rake as the appropriate object to clean a front porch. Many children in NYC don’t have front porches, let alone trees to clean up after. Another question might ask a child to recognize a vacuum as the best tool to clean a carpet, but a child with only hardwood or tile floors might not recognize it. And a child from a suburban neighborhood might not know that an apartment building is the kind of house that hundreds of people can live in.
As such, it’s important to make sure that your child is familiar with objects from all kinds of lifestyles, especially suburban life. The test most often uses a typical suburban family for examples, where children have chores, and the family does most of the cooking, cleaning, gardening, and fixing things. In addition, students should be familiar with the objects that technology has replaced, such as a traditional phone, a calendar, an alarm clock, snail mail, etc. The test might very well ask “Sammy needs to remember when his Grandma’s birthday is, what should he use?” and “Gala wants to wake up on time for school, what does she need?” Unfortunately, a smart phone won’t be an answer choice for either of those questions.
The best way to prepare your child for the aural reasoning section is to regularly read to them, talk with them, and describe the world around them. Watch online videos with them about experiences they wouldn’t normally encounter, such as what life is like on a farm. Involve them in tasks like making dinner and fixing things around the house, and describe to them the names and purposes of all the materials involved. Have them watch when things around the house get fixed, and take them to the gardening store to talk about all the tools there.
Knowledge is only the first part of the equation, however. After that comes the ability to sit for a multiple choice exam. I prepare my students for this by making a game: I use sight word flash cards such as these (available on Amazon), and let my student build their own multiple choice answer set. After they select four cards, I make up a question that applies to one of their answers. Once they select their answer, they get to choose a new answer choice to replace it, and the game starts again. Sometimes children might want to make up the questions and have you answer, which is also a great exercise! Challenging them to think of a description for each object exercises many important themes from this exam.
Here’s a video of me practicing this with a student:
Once a student is moderately comfortable with the format, you can start introducing small amounts of multiple-choice questions, such as the ones found at altiora.nyc/publications. Over time, your child will build up their confidence with the format, and will be able to do more questions at a time. By the time the exam rolls around, they should be able to handle the full amount of questions on the exam, which is ~30 OLSAT (of which roughly 10 will be Aural Reasoning) and ~50 NNAT2 questions.
Sometimes, students might need a little extra motivation to finish questions, especially towards the end of their test prep journey. For that, I use small rewards like these stickers to motivate them to complete an acceptable amount of questions. For some students, that might be after every question at the beginning, before weaning them down to 1 sticker per page, 1 sticker per practice set, and then 1 per day.