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How to Succeed on the OLSAT - Building Auditory Comprehension and Processing Skills

Updated: Oct 29

The OLSAT section of the New York City Gifted & Talented Exam can be some of the trickiest questions your child will see, for a number of reasons. Here are some of the most common:

  1. These sections are all composed of auditory comprehension-based questions, ie your child needs to listen to the questions be read aloud, process the information presented, and then find the correct answer.

  2. The questions can only be read one time. This factor makes the sections especially challenging, as your child has also just completed 48 figure-based puzzle questions. That’s enough to tire any child beyond the point of being able to listen carefully!

  3. The questions use lots of different vocabulary that your child may not have been exposed to. The Following Directions section incorporates a variety of prepositional terms and ordinal numbers, the Aural Reasoning section incorporates situational terms and world objects, and the Arithmetic Reasoning section incorporates early math terminology.

So how can you help your child to excel in this section of the New York City Gifted & Talented exam? Continue reading for some of our favorite strategies to build up Auditory Comprehension and Processing skills!



Simon Says!


Incorporate Simon Says into your daily play! Children love playing silly games with grown ups, and Simon Says is a fantastic way to incorporate listening skills and new vocabulary, with your child being none the wiser! What child doesn’t love doing things like, “Simon Says put your hand on top of your head and then spin around three times!” Make sure to give them a chance to be Simon so that they can create their own directions for you to follow--this leadership opportunity allows them to put the skills into practice!


Responsibilities and Tasks!


Give your child a responsibility at home! Many children thrive on having structure and a responsibility all their own. Why else would classrooms keep making rotational job charts? Children look forward to when it is their turn to pass out pencils or to be line leader. Capitalize on this secret eagerness by assigning them a task that only they are responsible for! A great way to incorporate listening skills into this would be having your child be responsible for always getting out the ingredients for breakfast, lunch, or dinner (whichever is most compatible with your family schedule). You can say the ingredients and quantities (Arithmetic Reasoning!) one or two at a time, and watch your child explore around the kitchen to find them and bring them to you. It’s also a great way to get your child excited about meals, especially if you are making something new! Eventually, you could even tell your child that you’re going to make a certain meal you’ve made many times before, and then see how many ingredients they can get out without being told the specifics! This recollection and inference ability will also help out in the Aural Reasoning section. Pretty soon, you may even have a little chef on your hands!


Gamify Cleaning Up!


Gamify the cleanup process! Clean up time is probably one of the most challenging aspects of playtime, especially if your child was especially excited about incorporating a variety of different toys into their creativity. Anyone would get overwhelmed seeing so many different toys strewn about. Just like any large tasks you handle, cleaning up gets easier to do when broken down into smaller steps. Here is where you can incorporate different categories and details into the clean up process. To get started, maybe you want your child to collect all of their “stuffed animals” and put them “on top of their bed.” Then maybe they need to collect all of the “vehicles” and put them “inside the blue bin on the top shelf.” As for “blocks?” Maybe the “rectangle blocks” need to go “on the bottom shelf” and the “square blocks” need to go “on the shelf next to the books.” This could even be turned into a competition if multiple children were playing together--each child could receive an instruction, and whoever finishes first wins! It may take some time getting used to this added structure to clean-up time, but it will help set your child up for success down the road, especially when they will be able to tell you precisely where certain toys live, “The books go on the top shelf of my bookcase!”


Read New Books!


How many of you have children who are happy to read the same book over and over and over again? How many of your children have memorized those books word for word? Children are amazing at parroting back stories they have heard repeatedly, but now it’s time to mix it up! Libraries are operating with pick-up options, so now you can temporarily incorporate some new books into your child’s reading routine. The goal here, though, is not to get through the book as quickly as possible so that they can then go to sleep. Nope! With these new books, you’re going to want to go through them slowly--reading the text and asking so very many questions along the way, about the words you read, the pictures on the page, what might happen next, and why those things happened. Don’t wait until you’re through reading the book to start asking questions about it--most children won’t be able to remember much after a first read. Ask about the characters and events as you go to ensure that your child is both listening to you and paying attention to the details in the pictures on the pages. Don’t accept vague answers, either! If there’s a little girl on the page, and she’s wearing a dress, make sure your child says the dress is blue and has sleeves and stripes on it! If you start building these skills early on, and remain consistent in working on them, they will eventually become second nature to your child, who will be able to dazzle other grownups with their well-developed verbal lexicon!


The OLSAT section of the NYC Gifted & Talented Exam does not have to be scary for you or your child! So many of the skills they need to succeed in these subtests can very easily be incorporated into everyday life for low-pressure exposure and repetition. Once the knowledge of content and expectations is there, it will be much easier to approach the format and presentation of the questions. Be on the look-out for another blog post about how to tackle just that!

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