Studying for the FCAT
The Cluster 4 (reference and research) section of the FCAT (Florida Comprehensive Assessment Test) measures your ability to locate, organize, interpret, synthesize and evaluate information from a variety of sources. The FCAT is Florida’s standardized state test used to comply with No Child Left Behind requirements by comparing a student’s performance with others statewide. The test also indicates whether or not you have improved in learning in various areas.
1. Practice using varied sources. To achieve a high score on the reference and research section of the FCAT, you must be able to use a variety of sources such as text, a chart, a map, or a photograph. Practice gathering information from a dictionary and encyclopedia entry. You must also be familiar with a wide range of texts pertaining to diverse cultures and genres.
2. Use strategies to comprehend informational text. The reference and research section of the FCAT tests your comprehension of informational or expository text. There are strategies you can use to help with your understanding. An example would be your science textbook. Look at the Table of Contents and the Index to understand what information is contained in the text and how it is organized. Select a topic, and go to the page. Notice that the author may use headlines with bold font to emphasize main ideas and separate paragraphs, with bullet points to highlight the details. There may be a box on the page with a brief summary, or an illustration. Be sure to notice and understand all of these clues to help you understand the text.
3. Use graphic organizers. Some information is best presented in the form of a graphic organizer. The FCAT may ask you to locate and interpret information in the form of a map, a graph, a chart, or a diagram. One way to practice these skills is to look at a map, graph a chart or a diagram, and write a paragraph describing the information presented.
4. Look for patterns. When reading informational text, look for patterns to help you understand the content and how it is organized. Determine if you are reading about things that have similarities and differences. For example, your science textbook may have a chapter about birds. You can compare and contrast the information about birds, and then draw a Venn diagram illustrating how they are the same and how they are different. Other informational text may have a cause-and-effect relationship, such as the effects of weather on crops. In this case, you can create a cause-and-effect chart listing various reasons for results.
5. Sharpen your skills. For the FCAT reference and research section, you must be able to determine the topic or main idea of the text. The main idea is often contained in the first or last sentence of the first paragraph, and just as the main idea of each subsequent paragraph is often located in the first or last sentence. Use your strategies to locate relevant information within the text. You must be skilled in comparing numerical data found in charts or text, and you must be able to make inferences (if, then). One simple way to practice for the FCAT is to write a summary of what you have read.