With the first operational test running from May 1-June 13, 2008, I'm sure that the participating districts are being given regular updates and materials to help their students prepare for the exam. Just in case you haven't checked the exam website recently (the released items appeared in March I believe) or you are curious about seeing some sample items, just click here.
You will need to click on Released Items in the right sidebar and a pdf document will be downloaded to your desktop. This is a well-designed 45-page document providing a wealth of useful information for teachers, administrators and students. It is far more than a collection of sample exercises. In particular, page 45 provides an actual breakdown of the exam in matrix form, showing how many of each of the 3 types of questions (Multiple-Choice, Short Answer and Extended Response) there are for each module tested. A total of 76 raw score points are possible broken down as follows:
Multiple Choice: 46 questions - 1 pt. ea.
Short Answer: 7 questions - 2 pts. ea.
Extended Response: 4 questions - 4 pts. ea.
Further, the questions are broken into 3 cognitive levels with the majority of questions at Level 2 which "requires students to make some decisions as to how to approaqch the problem or activity."
Here's a quick overview of the content covered in both the core exam and the optional modules:
The Algebra II end-of-course exam will consist of a common core, which will be taken by students across all participating states. This core will cover a range of algebraic topics that are typically taught in an Algebra II course, and fall into five content standards: 1) Operations and Expressions 2) Equations and Inequalities 3) Polynomial and Rational Functions 4) Exponential Functions and 5) Function Operations and Inverses.
In addition, seven optional modules will be available to states to enrich the core with content that is important to colleges and employers alike. These include: 1) Data and Statistics 2) Probability 3) Trigonometric Functions 4) Logarithmic Functions 5) Matrices 6) Conic Sections 7) Sequences and Series.Initial Reaction from MathNotations
Since I've always been a firm believer that required exams have a major impact on what is covered and how a course will be taught (e.g., the AP Calculus Exam), the released items in this document will be scrutinized by instructors, supervisors, etc. From my experience with many other standardized tests (e.g., state tests), released questions tend to reflect the more challenging aspects of the test.
That being said, my immediate feeling was that the questions reflected considerable traditional content.
However, the impact of reform was felt strongly in the extensive discussion following each item. In addition to traditional approaches, solutions were provided that demonstrated the use of multiple representations, solutions by graphs and tables (using a graphing calculator). The discussion following each item is the most important part of this document, IMO.
NOTE: In its stated calculator policy, Achieve recommends the use of a graphing calculator. They were discreet in not requiring it, however, as that would get into equity issues. Advanced QWERTY-type calculators (such as the TI-89) are not permitted.
The released questions included many that I would rate of average to above-average difficulty.
They also include some challenging items along the lines of Math I from the SAT Subject Tests. I've contacted Pearson, asking for permission to reprint some of these items for discussion purposes. I'm awaiting their response...
I urge my readers to download the document and share their reactions. Again, specific items should not be stated verbatim in your comments as I do not yet have permission for this.