Students Prepare for Annual Math and Science Exam Blitz

  • A practice question from the JLab Science Education website from a 7th grade math SOL practice test.

This practice question from the Jefferson Lab Science Education website is from a 7th grade math SOL practice test.

Jefferson Lab’s online practice tests help students and teachers prepare for Virginia Standards of Learning exams.

NEWPORT NEWS, VA – The academic testing season is now underway, and students in the Commonwealth are hard at work preparing for the annual Virginia Standards of Learning exams. From now until late May, thousands of Virginia students are expected to visit the science education portion of the Department of Energy’s Thomas Jefferson National Accelerator Facility website to practice for their upcoming SOLs.

Jefferson Lab’s website hosts the Virginia Standards of Learning (SOL) Science and Math Practice Tests. Test categories include the Math subject tests for grades 2 - 8, Algebra I, Algebra II, and Geometry, and the Science tests for grades 3, 5 and 8, Biology, Chemistry, and Earth Science. The SOL practice tests include SOL questions and answers provided by the Virginia Department of Education.

"Years ago, when the SOLs were first starting, one of the local school administrators asked if there was a way we could modify our online Who Wants to Win $1,000,000 game to help with SOL prep. Since community service in STEM education is part of our mission, we saw this as a great way to support schools and students alike," says Steve Gagnon, Jefferson Lab’s science education webmaster.

Based on prior years, Gagnon expects thousands of students to begin SOL practice tests each day from mid-April through mid-May, which is the annual peak traffic period.

"Last year’s peak occurred on May 14, with 263,289 new online practice tests accessed, for a total of 5,903,013 page views on Jefferson Lab’s science education website,” Gagnon says. “The traffic it receives speaks to its utility. If it weren’t still needed, I doubt that people would still use it.”

And while most visitors to the site are based in Virginia, thousands of students from other states and around the world also frequent the site during the test prep period to review subjects in math and science for annual academic tests. Rounding out the top five states with students accessing the practice tests in 2018 were California, Pennsylvania, Texas and Florida.

"While not every student who uses the site is happy it exists, we’re happy to provide this tool to the community at large," Gagnon says.

The interactive design of the SOL website lets users select and submit their answer to each question and tracks the user’s score. Following each question is an answer page that repeats the question with the correct answer, and for some test categories, an explanation of how the correct answer was achieved.

When selecting a test, students can choose tests with 5, 10, 20 or 40 random multiple-choice questions from a single category. The site also allows teachers to assign a series of specific subcategories for review by students, which allows a class to take a practice exam with the same set of questions.

Last year, Gagnon further improved the site by providing additional functionality for teachers.

“Now, we’re tracking the most commonly missed questions for each strand within a particular topic, as well as what answers are being given. Teachers have told us that it’s useful to see if there are patterns in how the students incorrectly answer a question,” Gagnon says.

He expects additional changes to the site to occur over the next few years, as changes to the administration of the SOLs have recently gone into effect. New practice tests are typically provided as they are made available by the Virginia Department of Education on its website. Jefferson Lab’s current catalog of tests range from 2000-2015.

Visit the Jefferson Lab Education webpage for these and other games and activities. To access the SOL practice tests or any of the other math and science games and quizzes, click on the Games & Puzzles icon.

Contact: Kandice Carter, Jefferson Lab Communications Office, 757-269-7263, kcarter@jlab.org

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Jefferson Science Associates, LLC, a joint venture of the Southeastern Universities Research Association, Inc. and PAE, manages and operates the Thomas Jefferson National Accelerator Facility, or Jefferson Lab, for the U.S. Department of Energy's Office of Science.

DOE’s Office of Science is the single largest supporter of basic research in the physical sciences in the United States and is working to address some of the most pressing challenges of our time. For more information, visit https://energy.gov/science.