#2 pencil - 20 years = x qty remedial math classes
October 23, 2007 6:37 PM   Subscribe

Bonehead Math Filter: What sort of math is on the NJ College Basic Skills Placement Test

I'm getting ready to give up my status as a Slacker Mom and return to school. It's been 20+ years since I've been in high school and, as one might have imagined, I haven't found much use for algebra, trig or geometry since becoming a certified grownup.

I have to take a Placement Test on Saturday and am sweating the prospect of Math from hell.

Help me Mefites. Anybody know how bad the Math section is? Am I doomed to a series of Bonehead Remedial Math classes for the balance of my school days? Should I just say fuck it and go with option "C" for anything I can't figure out? I bought a book "SAT Math for the Clueless" but my Darling 4yo Crumbsnatcher screaming in upstairs at the moment isn't helping matters. I'm running out of time...
posted by dancinglamb to Education (8 answers total) 1 user marked this as a favorite
What are you going back to school for? If it's not a math heavy discipline, you probably wouldn't have to take more than one or two basic math courses to fulfill general ed requirements, I'm thinking.

From Google, it doesn't sound too bad at all:
"Measures basic skills in reading comprehension, writing, computation, and elementary algebra for the placement of incoming college students in appropriate courses or course sections."

I'm guessing it involves some word problems involving some simple computation and algebra. Nothing I've found suggests you need to know any geometry or trig.
posted by pravit at 7:06 PM on October 23, 2007

Best answer: Congrats on going back to school! According to the websites I've looked at, once you register for the test you should get a booklet with some sample questions which will probably also outline the level of math which is on the test.

According to the ETS test database, the test "Measures basic skills in reading comprehension, writing, computation, and elemenbary algebra for the placement of students, who have been admitted to colleges, in appropriate courses or course sections. Consists of multiple choice questions and a 20-minute essay."

[yes that is the description on the ETS web site, yes they typoed elementary, yes they are total fuckers you should do well on this test just to screw them!]

So, you are dealing with multiple choice math. So, the most important thing you can do is make sure you have basic understandings of things like

- fractions
- percentages
- decimals
- multiplication and division
- stuff like: 32x=1600 what does x = ?

Now, for the last question, you can do two things. You can calculate it, but you can also train yourself to know what a right answer will look like, ballpark. So if it's multiple choice and your answer options are

a) 5
b) 25
c) 50
d) 250

you should be able to eyeball those answers and KNOW that the first and last options are crazy [too many numbers and not enough numbers]. However, there are always going to be answers that seem right that aren't which allow them to get their sleek bell curves when they score the tests. For multiple choice math you need to watch for things like decimal places [if you mutliple badly and get 5 instead of 50 you'll see your answer right there, don't make that mistake]. Also if you have two decent answers and you are better at multiplication than division, as many are) just mutiply your two answers out to see which is the right answer.

So, forget geometry and trig. A lot of these questions will be on calculation which means being able to mutliply .222 by 4.35 and not screw up the decimal place. It means being able to say "what is 7/8 of 1/4?" and being able to get the right numbers on top. It means being ablw to answer the question "which is larger .23, 3/15 or 125/700?" In each case you will have multiple choice answer and there will be one right answer, one very tempting wrong answer and a few more answers that are there to disguise the right answer.

The best thing you can do for yourself for this test is spend some time going over real questions (find some SAT math and skip the geometry) and figuring out if you're making mistakes, why that is. You can also be kind to yourself and tell yoursef you're going to do the best you can because getting yourself all keyed up over this is likely to have a more detrimental effect on your performace than spacing a percentage question. Good luck!
posted by jessamyn at 7:14 PM on October 23, 2007

Best answer: I tutor math at a community college. For placement, make sure you know fractions, decimals, order of operations. Find the area of rectangles and circles. Multiply, divide, add, and subtract fractions. multiply and divide by powers of ten. Divisibility rules. Least common multiples and greatest common factors. Factoring polynomials, and simplifying same.

That said, if you're really in bad math shape, it may be better to just go ahead and start at the bottom. As I have to tell my adult students, there's no shame in asking for help, but there's plenty in being too stubborn to ask. Re-building a sound foundation, while it may represent another semester in school, may save your ass down the line by focing you to damn well know your basics.

Many comunity colleges offer an accellerated course that combines basic math ("pre-algebra", for the self-confidence impaired) and elementary algebra. Those classes often have a lot of housewives going back to school after the kids are in college or the divorce, and a lot of airline stewardesses that don't want to travel like they used to; with this class profile, it's a very supportive, social, and non-judgmental group.
posted by notsnot at 7:39 PM on October 23, 2007

Oh gosh, sorry for the derail, I managed to typo my own math problem! I fixed it.
posted by jessamyn at 7:41 PM on October 23, 2007

and my correction, but i feel so much less dumb.
posted by tremspeed at 7:59 PM on October 23, 2007

Response by poster: @pravit: I'm going to go back for Nursing. I'm going for an Associates for now, but need to fulfill the pre-req classes before starting the program. The actual program only requires one math class (woo hoo!) and that is Medical Math at a 116 level.

I'm fairly OK with basic arithmetic stuff. It's the advanced algebra/trig/geometry that scares the bejesus out of me. I pretty much suck at standardised tests, but Mr. Dancing Lamb has assured me that it's more of a game than anything else (he and Stanley Kaplan spent many, many close hours together). He's also promised that I will be well versed in the game strategies by the time I have to take the NCLEX-RN. :)

@jessamyn: Nope, nothing in the mail. I looked and looked for samples online specific to the NJCBST, but found nothing. I found stuff for other tests (Accuplacer, SAT, etc.), but nothing specifically for the one they are giving. Very strange. They gave me a time, a location and told me to bring a pen and pencil. The test is 3.5hrs long - both English and Math - in a not very nice area of the downtown 'hood at crack 'o fucking dawn AM on Saturday. Did I mention that I am not (nor have I ever been) a morning person?

I know I'm going to totally over think the stupid ass questions, so, well, it will be what it will be. My children will some day laugh their asses off at their Mother and her inability to perform menial math equations.

@notsnot: It is, indeed, a Community College. I figure if I can get the credits for cheap, why spend crazy bucks at the high end private college for the Associates. I'm hoping that since I only have to fulfill one Math class for the Nursing program it won't be a major issue. Thanks for the heads ups on the basic math assumptions. A lot of that stuff I do remember. I figure worst case scenario is that I end up in a Remedial class and get good grades for the stuff I actually *do* remember. :P

Thanks Mefites. Once again, you all totally rock. :)
posted by dancinglamb at 9:15 PM on October 23, 2007

Nursing is all about math. They'll teach you how to do it, but don't think you'll never have to deal with math after only one class in school. They will not let you advance until you understand and can perform dosage calculations.

As an example, if my patient has an order for dopamine at 7 micrograms/kg/min, she weighs 78 kg, and the dopamine is mixed in the standard way of 400mg in 250ml of D5W, at what rate should I set the IV pump?

If you don't like math, don't even start nursing school, because you'll be very, very disappointed.

(answer to the question: 21 cc/hr)
posted by lambchop1 at 2:51 AM on October 24, 2007

Response by poster: @lambchop1: I think may have misunderstood my concern with regard to this particular thread. I have no doubt whatsoever that math is a significant component in dealing in medicine, particularly in nursing. However there's a HUGE HUGE difference between medical math, using a calculator versus going longhand (which is something they are expecting you to do for this multiple choice test) and graphing a geometry equation or figuring out how fast Joe was going compared to the train that just left Chicago at 10:15am while the wind was blowing at 15mph in an ESE direction, kwim? That was my point in the question at hand.

I realise that the job is not all warm fuzzies and 'feel betters', but is quite technical to boot. I assure you that this is a very, very well thought out decision. Thanks for the example you offered. However, is that not specifically what the Medical Math class is all about?
posted by dancinglamb at 6:27 AM on October 24, 2007

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