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Note taking skills

Three main ways to take notes: Cornell notes, Guided notes & Harvard notes

James Kennedy Annotated notebook

No one note-taking system is always best. The type of notes that helps one the most depends on the subject and material.


Cornell Notes

A systematic format for condensing and organizing notes. The student divides the paper into two columns: the note-taking column (usually on the right) is twice the size of the questions/key word column (on the left). The student should leave five to seven lines, or about two in (5 cm), at the bottom of the page.

Notes from a class are written in the note-taking column; they consist of the main ideas; long ideas are paraphrased. Long sentences are avoided; symbols or abbreviations are used instead. To assist with future reviews, relevant questions (which should be recorded as soon as possible so that the lecture and questions will be fresh in the student’s mind) or key words are written in the key word column.

Within 24 hours of taking the notes, the student must revise and write questions, and then write a brief summary in the bottom five to seven lines of the page. This helps to increase understanding of the topic.

When reviewing the material, the student can cover the note-taking (right) column while attempting to answer the questions/keywords in the key word or cue (left) column.
_ Wikipedia

The Cornell Note Taking system (2 page PDF file)


Guided Notes

“Sometimes lecturers may provide handouts of guided notes, which provide a “map” of the lecture content with key points or ideas missing. Students then fill in missing items as the lecture progresses. Guided notes may assist students in following lectures and identifying the most important ideas from a lecture. This format provides students with a framework, yet requires active listening (as opposed to providing copies of powerpoint slides in their entirety). Research has shown that guided notes improve students’ recording of critical points in lecture as well as their quiz scores on related content.” – Wikipedia

Example of guided notes for a biology class:

Guided notes


Harvard Notes

This is a very well organized and common note-taking system. When taking notes from a book or lecture:
 Write down the main idea of at least every other paragraph.
 Use phrases, not complete sentences
 Where you have a I, you have to have a II; where you have an A, you have to
have a B
 You don’t need sub ideas


Harvard notes

Image from hicksvillepublicschools.org, note taking systems.



Here is a example from the University of Tennessee at Chattanooga, Center for College and Student Success, note-taking methods.

Harvard outline example


Related articles

For Note Taking, Low-Tech is Often Best; In college lecture halls, evidence suggests it’s time to put down the laptop and pick up a pen. By Susan Dynarski

Wikipedia text is from “Note-taking.” Wikipedia, The Free Encyclopedia. 5 Mar. 2018.


PSAT Science questions


About the PSAT

This is designed to measure the ability to understand and process elements of reading, writing, and mathematics…. The College Board now also offers two PSAT variations: the PSAT 10 for sophmores, and the PSAT 8/9 for freshmen and eighth graders. These variations generate score reports that measure students’ college readiness and skillsets. (the PSAT 8/9 is shorter and less complex). Read more about the PSAT variations.   It has four sections:

  • The Reading Test – 60 minutes, 47 questions
  • The Writing and Language Test – 35 minutes, 44 questions
  • Math Test, No Calculator Portion – 25 minutes, 17 questions
  • Math Test, Calculator Portion – 45 minutes, 31 questions

The PSAT/NMSQT and PSAT 10 both have a total testing time of 2 hours and 45 minutes.

= from testmasters.net


from the Kaplan website kaptest.com/study/psat/psat-reading-science-passages/

The PSAT Reading Test will contain either two single Science passages or one single Science passage and one set of paired Science passages. Science passages differ from other passage types because:

  • They often contain a lot of jargon and technical terms.
  • They can utilize unfamiliar terms and concepts.

While Science passages can be tricky due to unfamiliar language, you will never need to employ knowledge outside of the passage when answering questions. Use the following strategy when approaching Science passages on the PSAT:


    Does the paragraph…Explain? Support? Refute? Summarize?


    Unfamiliar terms will generally be defined within the passage or in a footnote.

Let’s look at the following example of an abbreviated Science passage and question set. After the mapped passage, the left column contains questions similar to those you’ll see on the PSAT Reading Test on Test Day. The column on the right features the strategic thinking a test expert employs when approaching the passage and questions presented. Note how a test expert can quickly condense the entire passage into a few words and use his or her Passage Map to ask questions that build a prediction for the correct answer.


When you encounter more than one theory or idea, paraphrase each in as few words as possible in your Passage Map.

Sample PSAT Reading Practice Question: Science

Questions 1-2 are based on the following passage. This passage is adapted from an essay about the characteristics of lunar eclipses.

Many people are aware of the beauty of a solar eclipse, but are surprised to learn that lunar eclipses are often just as spectacular and are both more common and easier to observe. The filtering and refraction of light from the Earth’s atmosphere during a lunar eclipse creates stunning color effects that range from dark brown to red, orange, and yellow. Each of these light shows is unique since they are the result of the amount of dust and cloud cover in the Earth’s atmosphere at the time of the eclipse.

While total solar eclipses last only for a few minutes and can be seen only in a small area of a few kilo- meters, total lunar eclipses can last for several hours and can be seen over much of the planet. In fact, the beauty and stability of lunar eclipses make them a favorite of both amateur and professional photographers. Lunar eclipses generally occur two to three times a year and are possible only when the Moon is in its full phase. When we see the Moon, we are actually seeing sunlight reflected off the surface of the Moon. When the Earth is positioned in between the Moon and the Sun, however, the Earth’s shadow falls on the Moon and a lunar eclipse occurs. To better understand this process, it’s helpful to imagine the Earth’s shadow on the Moon as a pair of nested cones, with the Earth at the apex of the cones, and the Moon at their bases. The outer, more diffuse cone of shadow is called the penumbral shadow, while the inner, darker cone is the umbral shadow.

1. According to the passage, the colors of a lunar eclipse are the result of

(A) the penumbral shadow.

(B) the stability of lunar eclipses.

(C) filtering and refraction of light.

(D) the sunlight reflected off the moon.

2. In lines 26-27, the phrase “pair of nested cones” serves to

(A) offer support for a previous statement.

(B) describe the diffraction of light through the atmosphere.

(C) explain why lunar eclipses are favorites of photographers.

(D) provide a concrete example to help readers visualize a phenomenon.

Explanations of answers:

For practice question #1, use the Passage Map to find where the author mentions color. Because the author mentions both “filtering” and “dust,” you know that the right answer will include those. Choice (C) mentions “filtering” and is, therefore, correct.

For practice question #2, ask “Why did the author choose those words—what are they doing?” Could you picture how an eclipse worked? Predict that the phrase helps the reader understand the concept. Choice (D) matches exactly.


from 2015 Practice Test #1, Preliminary SAT/National Merit Scholarship Qualifying Test

Questions 20-28 are based on the following passage and supplementary material.
This passage is adapted from Tina Hesman Saey, “Lessons from the Torpid.” ©2012 by Society for Science & the Public.

Understanding how hibernators, including ground squirrels, marmots and bears, survive their long winter’s naps may one day offer solutions for problems such as heart disease, osteoporosis and muscular dystrophy. Nearly everything about the way an animal’s body
works changes when it hibernates, and preparations start weeks or months in advance. The first order of business is to fatten up.

“Fat is where it’s at for a hibernator,” says Matthew Andrews, a molecular biologist at the
University of Minnesota Duluth who studies 13-lined ground squirrels. “You bring your own lunch with you.” Packing lunch is necessary because the animals go on the world’s strictest diet during the winter, surviving entirely off their white fat. “They have their last supper in October; they don’t eat again until March,” Andrews says.

Bigger fat stores mean a greater chance of surviving until spring. “If they go in really chunky, nice and roly-poly, that’s going to be a good hibernator,” he says. Bears also watch their waistlines expand in the months before settling in for the season. The brown
bears cardiologist Ole Fröbert studies pack on the pounds by chowing down on up to 40 kilograms of blueberries a day. Such gluttony among humans could have severe consequences: Obesity is associated with a greater risk of heart attack and diabetes, among other ailments.

To see how fattening up affects Scandinavian brown bears, Fröbert and his colleagues
ventured into the wilds of Sweden following signals given off by radio transmitters or GPS devices on tagged bears.

Bears can be dangerous close-up. Even hibernating bears can rouse to action quickly, so
scientists tracking down bears in the winter use darts to tranquilize the animals from a distance. Scientists studying the bears in the summer tranquilize them from a helicopter.

Once a bear is under the tranquilizer’s influence (which takes about five minutes), the scientists have 60 minutes max to get the animal from its den, weigh and measure it, draw blood samples and do minor surgeries to collect fat and other tissues. The bear is returned to its den by minute 61.

Precious materials collected during this high-pressure encounter need to be analyzed within 24 hours, so the researchers often test for levels of cholesterol or certain proteins in the blood while working in the snow or at a nearby research station.  A pilot sometimes flies samples from field sites to a lab in Denmark in order to meet the deadline, Fröbert says. Samples such as bones and arteries that can’t be collected from live bears come from bears killed by hunters during the legal hunting season.

Recent analyses revealed that Scandinavian brown bears spend the summer with plasma cholesterol levels considered high for humans; those values then increase substantially for hibernation, Fröbert and his colleagues reported. These “very, very fat” bears with high cholesterol also get zero exercise during hibernation. Lolling about in the den pinches off blood vessels, contributing to sluggish circulation.

“That cocktail would not be advisable in humans,” Fröbert says. It’s a recipe for hardened arteries, putting people at risk for heart attacks and strokes. Even healthy young adult humans can develop fatty streaks in their arteries that make the blood
vessels less flexible, but the bears don’t build up such artery-hardening streaks. “Our bears, they had nothing,” Fröbert says. It’s not yet clear how the bears keep their arteries flexible, but Fröbert hopes to find some protective molecule that could stave off hardened arteries in humans as well.

Graph Plasma cholesterol

20. The passage is written from the perspective of someone who is
A) actively involved in conducting hibernator research.
B) a participant in a recent debate in the field of cardiology.
C) knowledgeable about advances in hibernator research.
D) an advocate for wildlife preservation.

21. It is reasonable to conclude that the main goal of the scientists conducting the research described in the passage is to
A) learn how the hibernation patterns of bears and squirrels differ.
B) determine the role that fat plays in hibernation.
C) illustrate the important health benefits of exercise for humans.
D) explore possible ways to prevent human diseases.

22. Which choice provides the best evidence for the answer to the previous question?
A) Lines 1-5 (“Understanding… dystrophy”)
B) Lines 10-13 (“Fat… squirrels”)
C) Lines 31-35 (“To… bears”)
D) Lines 42-46 (“Once… tissues”)

23. What main effect do the quotations by Andrews in lines 10-18 have on the tone of the passage?
A) They create a bleak tone, focusing on the difficulties hibernators face during the winter.
B) They create a conversational tone, relating scientific information in everyday language.
C) They create an ominous tone, foreshadowing the dire results of Andrews’s research.
D) They create an absurd tone, using images of animals acting as if they were human.

24. As used in line 19, “stores” most nearly means
A) preservatives.
B) reserves.
C) stacks.
D) shelters.

25 Based on the passage, what is Fröbert’s hypothesis regarding why bears’ arteries do not harden during hibernation?
A) The bears’ increased plasma cholesterol causes the arteries to be more flexible.
B) Sluggish circulation pinches off the blood vessels rather than hardening the arteries.
C) Bears exercise in short, infrequent bursts during hibernation, which staves off hardened arteries.
D) Bears possess a molecule that protects against hardened arteries.

26 Which choice provides the best evidence for the
answer to the previous question?
A) Lines 19-20 (“Bigger… spring”)
B) Lines 24-27 (“The brown… day”)
C) Lines 69-72 (“Even… streaks”)
D) Lines 73-76 (“It’s… well”)

27 What information discussed in paragraph 10 (lines 58-68) is represented by the graph?
A) The information in lines 58-62 (“Recent…reported”)
B) The information in lines 62-64 (“These…hibernation”)
C) The information in lines 64-65 (“Lolling…circulation”)
D) The information in lines 67-68 (“It’s… strokes”)

28 Which statement about the effect of hibernation on the seven bears is best supported by the graph?
A) Only one of the bears did not experience an appreciable change in its total plasma cholesterol level.
B) Only one of the bears experienced a significant increase in its total plasma cholesterol level.
C) All of the bears achieved the desirable plasma cholesterol level for humans.
D) The bear with the lowest total plasma cholesterol level in its active state had the highest total plasma cholesterol level during hibernation.


Questions 38-47 are based on the following passages.

Passage 1 is adapted from Stewart Brand, “The Case for Reviving Extinct Species.” ©2013 by the National Geographic Society. Passage 2 is adapted from the editors at Scientific American, “Why Efforts to Bring Extinct Species Back from the Dead Miss the Point.” ©2013 by Nature America, Inc.

Passage 1: Many extinct species—from the passenger pigeon to the woolly mammoth—might now be reclassified as “bodily, but not genetically, extinct.” They’re dead, but their DNA is recoverable from museum specimens and fossils, even those up to 200,000 years
old. Thanks to new developments in genetic technology, that DNA may eventually bring the animals back to life. Only species whose DNA is too old to be recovered, such as dinosaurs, are the ones to consider totally extinct, bodily and genetically.

But why bring vanished creatures back to life? It will be expensive and difficult. It will take decades. It won’t always succeed. Why even try? Why do we take enormous trouble to protect endangered species? The same reasons will apply to species brought back from extinction: to preserve biodiversity, to restore diminished ecosystems, to advance the science of preventing extinctions, and to undo harm that humans have caused in the past.

Furthermore, the prospect of de-extinction is profound news. That something as irreversible and final as extinction might be reversed is a stunning realization. The imagination soars. Just the thought of mammoths and passenger pigeons alive again
invokes the awe and wonder that drives all conservation at its deepest level.

Passage 2: The idea of bringing back extinct species holds obvious gee-whiz appeal and a respite from a steady stream of grim news. Yet with limited intellectual bandwidth and financial resources to go around, de-extinction threatens to divert attention from the modern biodiversity crisis. According to a 2012 report from the International Union for
Conservation of Nature, some 20,000 species are currently in grave danger of going extinct.

Species today are vanishing in such great numbers—many from hunting and habitat destruction—that the trend has been called a sixth mass extinction, an event on par with such die-offs as the one that befell the dinosaurs 65 million years ago.
A program to restore extinct species poses a risk of selling the public on a false promise that technology alone can solve our ongoing environmental woes — an implicit assurance that if a species goes away, we can snap our fingers and bring it back.

Already conservationists face difficult choices about which species and ecosystems to try to save, since they cannot hope to rescue them all. Many countries where poaching and trade in threatened species are rampant either do not want to give up the revenue or lack the wherewithal to enforce their own regulations. Against that backdrop, a costly and flamboyant project to resuscitate extinct flora and fauna in the name of conservation looks irresponsible: Should we resurrect the mammoth only to let elephants go under? Of course not.

That is not to say that the de-extinction enterprise lacks merit altogether. Aspects of it could conceivably help save endangered species. For example, extinct versions of genes could be reintroduced into species and subspecies that have lost a dangerous amount of genetic diversity, such as the black-footed ferret and the northern white rhino. Such investigations, however, should be conducted under the mantle of preserving modern biodiversity rather than conjuring extinct species from the grave.

38. The author of Passage 1 suggests that the usefulness of de-extinction technology may be limited by the
A) amount of time scientists are able to devote to genetic research.
B) relationship of an extinct species to contemporary ecosystems.
C) complexity of the DNA of an extinct species.
D) length of time that a species has been extinct.

39. Which choice provides the best evidence for the answer to the previous question?
A) Lines 7-9 (“Thanks… life”)
B) Lines 9-11 (“Only… genetically”)
C) Line 13 (“It will be… difficult”)
D) Lines 13-14 (“It will take… succeed”)

40. As used in line 27, “deepest” most nearly means
A) most engrossing.
B) most challenging.
C) most extensive.
D) most fundamental.

41. The authors of Passage 2 indicate that the matter of shrinking biodiversity should primarily be considered a
A) historical anomaly.
B) global catastrophe.
C) scientific curiosity.
D) political problem.

42. Which choice provides the best evidence for the answer to the previous question?
A) Lines 37-41 (“Species… ago”)
B) Lines 42-45 (“A program… woes”)
C) Lines 53-56 (“Against… irresponsible”)
D) Lines 65-67 (“Such… grave”)

43. As used in line 37, “great” most nearly means
A) lofty.
B) wonderful.
C) large.
D) intense.

44. The reference to the “black-footed ferret and the northern white rhino” (line 64) serves mainly to
A) emphasize a key distinction between extinct and living species.
B) account for types of animals whose numbers are dwindling.
C) provide examples of species whose gene pools are compromised.
D) highlight instances of animals that have failed to adapt to new habitats.

45. Which choice best states the relationship between the two passages?
A) Passage 2 attacks a political decision that Passage 1 strongly advocates.
B) Passage 2 urges caution regarding a technology that Passage 1 describes in favorable terms.
C) Passage 2 expands on the results of a research study mentioned in Passage 1.
D) Passage 2 considers practical applications that could arise from a theory discussed in Passage 1.

46. How would the authors of Passage 2 most likely respond to the “prospect” referred to in line 21, Passage 1?
A) With approval, because it illustrates how useful de-extinction could be in addressing widespread environmental concerns.
B) With resignation, because the gradual extinction of many living species is inevitable.
C) With concern, because it implies an easy solution to a difficult problem.
D) With disdain, because it shows that people have little understanding of the importance of genetic diversity

47. Which choice would best support the claim that the authors of Passage 2 recognize that the “imagination soars” (line 24, Passage 1) in response to de-extinction technology?
A) Lines 28-30 (“The… news”)
B) Lines 30-33 (“Yet… crisis”)
C) Lines 58-59 (“That… altogether”)
D) Lines 61-63 (“For… diversity”)


Questions 12-22 are based on the following passage and supplementary material: Vanishing Honeybees: A Threat to Global Agriculture

Honeybees play an important role in the agriculture industry by pollinating crops. An October 2006 study found that as much as one-third of global agriculture depends on animal pollination, including honeybee pollination—to increase crop output. The importance of bees highlights the potentially disastrous affects of an emerging, unexplained crisis: entire colonies of honeybees are dying off without warning. They know it as colony collapse disorder (CCD), this phenomenon will have a detrimental impact on global agriculture if its causes and solutions are not determined.

Since the emergence of CCD around 2006, bee mortality rates have exceeded 25 percent of the population each winter. There was one sign of hope: during the 2010–2012 winter seasons, bee mortality rates decreased slightly, and beekeepers speculated that the colonies would recover. Yet in the winter of 2012–2013, 10 percent in the United States, with a loss of 31 percent of the colonies that pollinate crops.

B) pollination: this is
C) pollination,
D) pollination;

B) highlights the potentially disastrous effects
C) highlight the potentially disastrous effects
D) highlight the potentially disastrous affects

B) Known as colony
C) It is known as colony
D) Colony

15 Which choice offers the most accurate interpretation of the data in the chart?
B) been above the acceptable range.
C) not changed noticeably from year to year.
D) greatly increased every year.

16 Which choice offers an accurate interpretation of the
data in the chart?
B) portion of bees lost was double what it had been
the previous year, rising to
C) number of losses, which had fallen within the
acceptable range the previous year, rose to
D) portion of total colonies lost rose almost 10 percentage points, with a loss of

Honey Bee Colony Loss graph

Studies have offered several possible reasons that bees are vanishing. One reason that is often cited is the use of pesticides called neonicotinoids, which are absorbed by plants and linger much longer than do topical pesticides. Chemicals such as herbicides and
fungicides may also play a role, contaminating the pollen that bees typically feed on and inhibiting healthy insect maturation.

17 Which choice most smoothly and effectively introduces the writer’s discussion of studies of CCD in this paragraph?

B) Bees are vanishing, and according to studies there are several possible reasons for this trend.
C) Several possible reasons, offered by studies, may explain why bees are vanishing.
D) DELETE the underlined sentence.

18 At this point, the writer is considering adding the following sentence. Prolonged exposure to neonicotinoids has been shown to increase bees’ vulnerability to disease and parasitic mites. Should the writer make this addition here?

A) Yes, because it provides support for the claim made in the previous sentence.
B) Yes, because it introduces a new idea that will become important later in the passage.
C) No, because it would be better placed elsewhere in the passage.
D) No, because it contradicts the main idea of the passage.

Given the role that honeybees play in agriculture, the impact of this loss of hives on fruit, vegetable, seed, and nut crops is not to be scoffed at. A reduction in bee numbers leads to less pollination, which in turn leads to smaller harvests and higher food prices. Some farmers have resorted to renting hives from beekeepers to pollinate their crops; when there is a shortage of bees this being an expensive proposition. Other farmers have
increased they’re dependence on costly hand-pollination by human workers.

urthermore, there may be sociological repercussions. Agroecologist Alexandra-Maria Klein has suggested that rising produce prices could lead to an increase in obesity as people turn to cheaper, less wholesome fare.

Though the precise causes of CCD are yet unclear, some commonsense measures may be taken. A decrease in the use of certain pesticides, herbicides, and fungicides, as well as greater attention to the nutrition, habitat, and genetic diversity of managed hives, could begin a shift in a favorable direction.

B) is a pretty big deal.
C) can’t be put on the back burner.
D) cannot be ignored.

B) crops, this is an expensive proposition when
there is a shortage of bees.
C) crops, an expensive proposition when there is a shortage of bees.
D) crops; an expensive proposition when there is a shortage of bees.

B) there
C) their
D) its

The writer wants a conclusion that addresses the future of efforts to combat CCD. Which choice results in the passage having the most appropriate concluding sentence?

B) Still, bee colonies have experienced such devastating losses that the consequences of the issue have been felt worldwide.
C) Although CCD is a relatively new phenomenon, scientists have been studying other aspects of honeybees for over a century.
D) Genetic variation in bee colonies generally improves bees’ productivity, disease resistance, and ability to regulate body temperature.


Fall 2016 PSAT Practice Test


Questions 39-47 are based on the following passage.
This passage is adapted from Ed Yong, “Gut Bacteria Allows Insect Pest to Foil Farmers.” ©2013 by National Geographic Society.

Here is a lesson that we’re going to be taught again and again in the coming years: Most animals are not just animals. They’re also collections of Line microbes. If you really want to understand animals, 5 you’ll also have to understand the world of microbes inside them. In other words, zoology is ecology.

Consider the western corn rootworm—a beetle that’s a serious pest of corn in the United States. The adults have strong preferences for laying eggs in corn 10 fields, so that their underground larvae hatch into a feast of corn roots. This life cycle depends on a
continuous year-on-year supply of corn. Farmers can use this dependency against the rootworm, by planting soybean and corn in alternate years. 15 These rotations mean that rootworms lay eggs into corn fields but their larvae hatch among soybean, and die.

But the rootworms have adapted to this strategy by reducing their strong instincts for laying eggs in 20 corn. These rotation-resistant females might lay among soybean fields, so their larvae hatch into a crop of corn.

There are almost certainly genetic differences that separate the rotation-resistant rootworms from their 25 normal peers, but what are they? Researchers at the University of Illinois have been studying the problem since 2000 and, despite generating a vast mountain of data, have failed to find the genes in question. “The western corn rootworm has been an enigma for 30 a long time,” says Manfredo Seufferheld. “This insect has the ability to adapt to practically all control methods deployed against it, including crop rotation.

After many years of research about the mechanisms of rotation resistance, results were mostly 35 inconclusive.” So, Seufferheld looked elsewhere. Rather than focusing on the rootworm’s own genes, he studied the genes of the bacteria in its gut . . . and found
some answers. The rotation-resistant varieties have 40 very different gut bacteria from the normal ones. And when the team killed these microbes with antibiotics, they severely reduced the beetle’s ability to cope with rotation.

“The bad guy in the story—the western corn 45 rootworm—was actually part of a multi-species conspiracy,” says Joe Spencer, who was part of the study.

The team, including graduate student Chia-Ching Chu, found that a third of the rootworms’ gut 50 bacteria comprise species that are unique to either the resistant or normal varieties. These two factions also differ in the relative numbers of the bacteria that they share.

These different microbes give the resistant beetles 55 an edge when eating soybeans. The rootworms digest the protein in their meals using enzymes called cysteine proteases, and soybeans defend themselves with substances that can block these enzymes.

But Chu found that the more the beetles’ bacteria 60 differed from the normal set, the higher the levels of cysteine proteases in their guts. By avoiding indigestion, these beetles were better at surviving among soybeans, and more likely to lay their eggs there.

65 The team proved that the bacteria were responsible by killing them with antibiotics. Sure enough, this drastically lowered the cysteine protease activity in the guts of the rotation-resistant beetles and wrecked their ability to thrive among soybeans.

39. Over the course of the passage, the main focus shifts from a
A) statement about the challenge posed by a particular insect to an indication of why that
challenge was easy to overcome.
B) summary of a once-unexplained natural phenomenon to a biography of the scientists
who researched that phenomenon.
C) description of a problem affecting agriculture to an explanation of how scientists identified the cause of that problem.
D) discussion about a scientific field to an anecdote showing how research is done in that field.

40. The statement “zoology is ecology” (line 6) mainly serves to
A) propose that two areas of scientific knowledge be merged.
B) point out that knowledge obtained in one field of research will lead to expertise in another.
C) assert a point about biological science that is supported by the example in the passage.
D) suggest that one field of scientific research has completely supplanted another.

41. According to the passage, one similarity between rotation-resistant rootworms and normal rootworms is that they both
A) reduce crop productivity by extracting nutrients from the soil.
B) produce larvae that feed on the plant roots of crops.
C) adapt to crop rotation by maintaining high levels of enzymes in their guts.
D) contain the same quantity and composition of bacteria in their guts.

42. Which choice most clearly provides information indicating how some rootworms have overcome farmers’ efforts to eradicate them?

A) Lines 15-17 (“These… die”)
B) Lines 18-20 (“But… corn”)
C) Lines 25-28 (“Researchers… question”)
D) Lines 41-43 (“And… rotation”)

43. The central claim in the fourth paragraph (lines 23-35) is that

A) extensive study of the rootworm’s genes was insufficient to determine why some rootworms are rotation resistant.
B) the rootworm’s ability to adapt to pest control methods is unique among insects.
C) the genetic profile of rootworms is significantly more complex than researchers initially believed.
D) our current understanding of genetics is inadequate to allow researchers to understand why some rootworms are rotation resistant.

44. As used in line 24, “separate” most nearly means
A) distinguish.
B) discharge.
C) extract.
D) scatter.

45. According to the passage, the gut bacteria of rotation-resistant rootworms

A) help the rootworms survive in soybean crops.
B) are responsible for lowering the amount of cysteine protease in the rootworms’ guts.
C) make the rootworms less vulnerable to being killed by antibiotics.
D) are transferred to the larvae that hatch from the rootworms’ eggs.

46. Which choice provides the best evidence for the answer to the previous question?
A) Lines 29-30 (“The western… Seufferheld”)
B) Lines 39-40 (“The rotation-resistant… ones”)
C) Lines 44-47 (“The bad… study”)
D) Lines 54-55 (“These… soybeans”)

47. The main idea of the last paragraph is that

A) cysteine proteases are harmful to rootworms when present in large quantities in the body.
B) eggs laid by rotation-resistant rootworms will hatch into crops of soybeans.
C) bacteria unique to rotation-resistant rootworms allow them to digest soybeans.
D) rotation-resistant rootworms do not digest soybeans using cysteine proteases.



Questions 12-22 are based on the following passage and supplementary material.
A Study in Arctic Migration

Each year, many species of shorebirds migrate from locations in the Southern Hemisphere to their breeding grounds in the 12 Arctic. A journey of thousands of
kilometers that requires frequent stops to fuel up. The risk of death is significant, and the Arctic is an inhospitable region for most of the 13 year, yet the shorebirds never failing to make their annual pilgrimage.

Come spring, the Arctic becomes a suitable habitat, providing many benefits: an abundant supply of food, permanent daylight, ample nesting space, fewer pathogens, and fewer predators to invade the nests of these ground-dwelling birds. These benefits are found in all regions of the 14 Arctic regardless of latitude yet some shorebirds continue on to the high Arctic. If these birds are simply looking for open space and enough food to eat, then why not end their long journey in the low Arctic? Continuing on to the north requires more fuel and carries an even greater risk of 15 mortality if the
birds continue on. The most likely reason certain shorebirds head to the high Arctic is to escape their predators.

B) Arctic, a
C) Arctic; a
D) Arctic; which is a

B) year, the shorebirds never fail
C) year, yet the shorebirds never fail
D) year; yet the shorebirds never failing

B) Arctic, regardless of latitude
C) Arctic, regardless of latitude,
D) Arctic: regardless of latitude,

B) mortality if they keep going.
C) mortality and death.
D) mortality.

[1] A four-year study by a team of Canadian scientists, headed by student Laura McKinnon of the Université du Québec, 16 provide evidence in support of this hypothesis. [2] The scientists created artificial nests that resembled a typical shorebird’s nest. [3] Then each year, during the shorebirds’ breeding season, forty of the nests were placed in each of seven locations that ranged in latitude from the low Arctic to the high Arctic. [4] Each nest had been baited with four 17 quail egg’s, which are similar in size and shape to a shorebird’s eggs. [5] The scientists returned to the nests many times over nine days to check how many eggs remained in the nests. [6] A nest was said to have survived if, at the end of the nine days, it contained at least one undisturbed quail egg.

B) provides
C) are providing
D) have provided

B) quail eggs,
C) quail eggs’,
D) quails eggs,

To make this paragraph most logical, sentence 5 should be placed
A) where it is now.
B) after sentence 1.
C) after sentence 2.
D) after sentence 6

Nest survival by site

The figure shows the results for the nesting 19 sites,
furthermore, at four of the seven locations, averaged over
the four years of the study. The 20 number of predators
invading the nests increased over time at each location.
This result confirmed that predators were present at the
researchers’ chosen locations. The researchers found that
the percent of 21 surviving nests was greater at locations
having higher latitudes. For example, on day 9,
approximately 55 percent of nests were found to have
survived at the 82°N location compared to approximately 10 percent of nest survival at the 63°N location. This study provides the first known quantifiable evidence for the previously unanswered question of why shorebirds
continue on to the high Arctic. 22 The shorebirds risk
their own survival by flying farther. Their offspring have a better chance of survival because fewer predators invade the nests.




Sample tests

2015 Practice Test PSAT/NMSQT


Related topics

PSAT History/Social studies questions

PSAT World Literature questions

Howard Gardner and the theory of multiple intelligences

Reframing the Mind. Howard Gardner and the theory of multiple intelligences
By Daniel T. Willingham, from EducationNext, SUMMER 2004 / VOL. 4, NO. 3

Frames of Mind: The Theory of Multiple Intelligences (Basic Books, 1983)

Multiple Intelligences: The Theory into Practice (Basic Books, 1993)

Intelligence Reframed: Multiple Intelligences for the 21st Century (Basic Books, 1999)

By Howard Gardner

Checked by Daniel T. Willingham

What would you think if your child came home from school and reported that the language-arts lesson of the day included using twigs and leaves to spell words? The typical parent might react with curiosity tinged with suspicion: Is working with twigs and leaves supposed to help my child learn to spell? Yes, according to Thomas Armstrong, author of Multiple Intelligences in the Classroom, especially if your child is high in “naturalist” intelligence–one of eight distinct intelligences that Harvard University scholar Howard Gardner claims to have identified. However, if your child possesses a high degree of what Gardner terms “bodily-kinesthetic” intelligence, Armstrong suggests associating movement with spelling. For example, a teacher might try to connect sitting with consonants and standing with vowels.

Armstrong is far from alone in placing faith in Gardner’s theory of “multiple intelligences.” Gardner’s ideas have been a significant force in education for the past 20 years–significant enough that they bear close study. How does the scientific community regard the theory of multiple intelligences, and what impact should the theory have on education?

Central Claims

Gardner first proposed his theory in 1983. Since then, it has undergone incremental but not fundamental change, including the addition of one intelligence (bringing the total to eight), the rejection of others, and consideration of the theory’s applications. The theory rests on three core claims:

• Gardner says that most psychometricians, those who devise and interpret tests as a way of probing the nature of intelligence, conceive of intelligence as unitary. In Intelligence Reframed, Gardner’s most recent restatement of his general theory, he writes, “In the ongoing debate among psychologists about this issue, the psychometric majority favors a general intelligence perspective.”

This is not an accurate characterization of the position taken by most psychometricians. As will be shown, the vast majority regard intelligence not as a single unified entity, but as a multifaceted phenomenon with a hierarchical structure.

• There are multiple, independent intelligences. There are three parts to this claim, and it is important to appreciate all three. First, Gardner offers a new definition of intelligence, describing it as “a biopsychological potential to process information that can be activated in a cultural setting to solve problems or create products that are of value in a culture.”

Previous definitions were limited to cognition or thought; one was intelligent to the extent that one could solve problems and adapt effectively to one’s environment using thinking skills. Gardner self-consciously broadens the definition to include effective use of the body and thinking skills relevant to the social world. He also extends the functionality of intelligence to include the crafting of useful products, not just the solving of problems.

Second, Gardner claims to have identified some (but not all) of the several types of intelligence, which I describe below.

Third, he claims that these multiple intelligences operate independently of one another.

• The multiple intelligences theory has applications to educationGardner has been careful to say that he has proposed a scientific theory that should not be mistaken for a prescription for schooling. He makes clear that the educational implications of children’s possessing multiple intelligences can and should be drawn, but he believes that many possible curricula and methods could be consistent with the theory. The sole general implication he supports is that children’s minds are different, and an education system should take account of those differences, a point developed in diverse ways by his many followers.

One Intelligence or Many?

Let’s evaluate each of Gardner’s claims in turn, beginning with how psychometricians view intelligence. In the early 20th century, many psychometricians did in fact think of intelligence as a unitary trait, just as Gardner now claims. The thinking at that time was articulated by Charles Spearman, who suggested that a single factor (he called it g, for general) underlay all intelligent behavior. If you had a lot of g, you were smart; if you didn’t, you weren’t.

However, by the 1930s some researchers (notably Louis L. Thurstone) were already arguing for a multifaceted view of intelligence. One might be intelligent in the use of words, for example, but unintelligent mathematically. From the 1950s on, many psychometricians proposed hierarchical models, which may be thought of as a mixture of the single-factor and multiple-factor models. Except for a few holdouts, most psychologists now favor the hierarchical model.

How can one use data from tests of cognitive ability to evaluate the number of intelligences? A straightforward approach entails administering a number of separate tests thought to rely on different hypothesized intelligences. Suppose tests 1 and 2 are different tests of verbal ability (for example, vocabulary and spelling), and tests 3 and 4 are different tests of mathematical ability. If there is one intelligence, g, then g should support performance on all four tests, as shown in diagram A of Figure 1 (this page). A high score on test 1 would indicate that the test-taker is high in g, and he or she should perform well on all of the other tests.

Multiple views of intelligence

Suppose, however, that there are two intelligences–one verbal and one mathematical, as shown in diagram B of Figure 1. In that case, a high score on test 1 would predict a high score on test 2, but would tell us nothing about the individual’s performance on the math tests, 3 and 4. Performance on those tests would depend on mathematical intelligence, which is separate and independent of verbal intelligence.

The data support neither of these views. To continue with our hypothetical example, the data show that all of the test scores, 1 through 4, are somewhat related to one another, which is consistent with the existence of g.

But scores from tests of math ability are more related to one another than they are to verbal scores; the same goes for verbal scores. A hierarchical model, shown in diagram C of Figure 1, fits this pattern. In this model, g influences both mathematical and verbal cognitive processes, so performance on math and verbal tests will be somewhat related.

But mathematical competence is supported not just by g, but by the efficacy of a mathematical intelligence that is separate and independent of a verbal intelligence. That’s why math scores are more related to each other than they are to verbal scores. It also explains how it is possible for someone to be quite good in math, but just mediocre verbally. This logic applies not only to the restricted example used here (math and verbal) but also to a broad spectrum of tests of intellectual ability.

The hierarchical view of intelligence received a strong boost from a landmark review of the published data collected over the course of 60 years from some 130,000 people around the world. That massive review, performed by the late University of North Carolina scholar John Carroll, concluded that the hierarchical view best fits the data. Researchers still debate the exact organization of the hierarchy, but there is a general consensus around the hierarchical view of intelligence. Thus Gardner’s first claim–that most psychometricians believe that intelligence is unitary–is inaccurate.

What Are the Intelligences?

Gardner’s second claim is that individuals possess at least eight independent types of intelligence. The following list includes a definition of each along with examples Gardner has provided of professions that draw heavily on that particular intelligence.

• Linguistic: facility with verbal materials (writer, attorney).

• Logico-mathematical: the ability to use logical methods and to solve mathematical problems (mathematician, scientist).

• Spatial: the ability to use and manipulate space (sculptor,


• Musical: the ability to create, perform, and appreciate music (performer, composer).

• Bodily-kinesthetic: the ability to use one’s body (athlete, dancer).

• Interpersonal: the ability to understand others’ needs, intentions, and motivations (salesperson, politician).

• Intrapersonal: the ability to understand one’s own motivations and emotions (novelist, therapist with self-insight).

• Naturalist: the ability to recognize, identify, and classify flora and fauna or other classes of objects (naturalist, cook).

Gardner claims that everyone has all eight intelligences to some degree, but each individual has his or her own pattern of stronger and weaker intelligences. Gardner also argues that most tasks require more than one intelligence working together. For example, the conductor of a symphony obviously uses musical intelligence, but also must use interpersonal intelligence as a group leader and bodily-kinesthetic intelligence to move in a way that is informative to the orchestra. The claim of separate and independent intelligences is, of course, central to Gardner’s theory. How do we know that these intelligences are independent?

It is important to bear in mind that the hierarchical model described in the previous section is not a theory, but a pattern of data. It is a description of how test scores are correlated. A theory of intelligence must be consistent with these data; the pattern of data is not itself a theory. For example, the data do not tell us what g is or how it works. The data tell us only that there is some factor that contributes to many intellectual tasks, and if your theory does not include such a factor, it is inconsistent with existing data. Gardner’s theory has that problem.

Setting aside, the claim of independence among the eight intelligences is also a problem. Data collected over the past 100 years consistently show that performances on intellectual tasks are correlated. Even if Gardner’s theory did not include some general factor, it should at least provide a way to account for this correlation. The theory did not, and it was widely criticized for this failure. In some later writings, Gardner has said that he questions the explanatory power of g, not whether it exists–in other words, he doubts whether g makes much of a contribution to abilities Gardner deems important. He has also deemphasized the importance in his theory of whether the intelligences are truly independent.

Let’s allow, then, that the intelligences Gardner has identified are not independent, but that there are a number of distinguishable (but correlated) intellectual capabilities in addition to g. Has Gardner done a good job of cataloguing them? It is instructive to examine the criteria by which Gardner determines whether an ability is an intelligence. The criteria are shown in the table on page 22.

The Gardner Criteria

Gardner’s eight criteria appear to be quite rigorous: the psychometric criterion described in the previous section and seven others that span different domains of investigation. But Gardner weakens them by demanding that only a majority be satisfied, and some are rather easy to satisfy. The psychometric criterion is the most rigorous of the eight, but Gardner has largely ignored it. The remaining criteria are so weak that they cannot restrain a researcher with a zest for discovering new intelligences.

For instance, a humor intelligence and a memory intelligence certainly meet a majority of the criteria. Humor and memory can be used to solve problems and create valued products in many cultures and so meet Gardner’s definition of intelligence. Both can be isolated by brain damage, each has a distinct developmental history, and there is evidence for the psychological separability of each. Some individuals show exceptional memory or sense of humor but no other remarkable mental abilities. The evolutionary plausibility of each intelligence is easy to defend as well. Humor would certainly be adaptive in a social species such as ours, and the adaptive nature of memory should be self-evident.

By these criteria I am also prepared to defend an olfactory intelligence and a spelling intelligence and to subdivide Gardner’s spatial intelligence into near-space intelligence and far-space intelligence, thus bringing the total number of intelligences to 13. (Gardner, for reasons that are not clear to me, excludes sensory systems as potential intelligences, but not action systems such as bodily-kinesthetic.)

The issue of criteria by which new intelligences are posited is crucial, and it is in the selection of criteria that Gardner has made a fundamental mistake. Gardner’s criteria make sense if one assumes extreme modularity in the mind, meaning that the mind is a confederation of largely independent, self-sufficient processes. Gardner argues that neuroscience bears out this assumption, but that is an oversimplification.

For example, suppose that mathematical and spatial intelligence have the structure depicted in Figure 2, where each letter represents a cognitive process. Mathematical reasoning requires the cognitive processes A through E. Spatial reasoning requires the processes B through F. Are math and spatial reasoning separate?

Gardner Separate Intelligences

Most people would agree that they are not identical, but they are largely overlapping and don’t merit being called separate. By Gardner’s criteria, however, they likely would be.

If we assume that each process (A through F) is localized in a different part of the brain, then if the part of the brain supporting process A were damaged, math ability would be compromised, but spatial ability would not, so the brain criterion would be met.

If process A or process F had a different developmental progression than the others, the developmental criterion would be met.

If A and F differ in their need for attentional resources, the experimental psychological criterion would be met.

The criteria that Gardner mentions can be useful, but they do not signal necessarily separate systems. In fact, the one criterion that Gardner has routinely ignored–the psychometric–is the one best suited to the question posed: Are cognitive processes underlying a putative intelligence independent of other cognitive processes?

Gardner’s second claim–that he has described multiple, independent varieties of intelligence–is not true. Intellectual abilities are correlated, not independent. Distinguishable abilities do exist, but Gardner’s description of them is not well supported.

Should Theory Become Practice?

For the educator this debate may be, as Shakespeare wrote, sound and fury, signifying nothing. What matters is whether and how the theory inspires changes in teaching methods or curriculum. The extent to which multiple intelligence ideas are applied is difficult to determine because few hard data exist to describe what teachers actually do in the classroom.

Even statements of schools’ missions are of limited usefulness, although dozens of schools claim to center their curriculum on the theory. An administrator might insert multiple intelligences language in an effort to seem progressive. Or an administrator’s enthusiasm may be sincere, but if the teachers are not supportive, the classroom impact will be minimal.

We are left with indirect measures. Textbooks for teachers in training generally offer extensive coverage of the theory, with little or no criticism. Furthermore, the ready availability of multiple intelligences classroom materials (books, lesson plans, and activities) leaves the impression that there is a market for such materials. The applications they suggest generally fall into two broad categories: curricular expansion and pedagogical stratagem.

Curriculum expansion suggests that schools should appeal to all of the intelligences. Some educators have called for a more inclusive approach that does not glorify any one of the intelligences at the expense of the others. The theory has also been viewed as providing a pedagogical stratagem–namely, to teach content by tapping all of the intelligences. For example, to help students learn punctuation, a teacher might have them form punctuation marks with their bodies (bodily-kinesthetic intelligence), assign an animal sound to each punctuation mark (naturalist intelligence), and sort sentences according to the required punctuation (logical-mathematical intelligence). The motive may be that students will most enjoy or appreciate the material when it is embedded in an intelligence that is their strength. In this sense, intelligences may be translatable. The student who is linguistically weak but musically strong may improve his spelling through a musical presentation.

Gardner has criticized both ideas. Regarding curriculum, Gardner argues that the goals of education should be set independently of the multiple intelligences theory, and the theory should be used to help reach those goals. In other words, he does not believe that status as an “intelligence” necessarily means that that intelligence should be schooled. This objection is doubly true if you doubt that Gardner has categorized the intelligences correctly.

On the subject of pedagogy, Gardner sees no benefit in attempting to teach all subjects using all of the intelligences. He also expresses concern that some educators have a shallow understanding of what it takes to really engage an intelligence. Gardner writes, “It may well be easier to remember a list if one sings it (or dances to it). However, these uses of the ‘materials’ of an intelligence are essentially trivial. What is not trivial is the capacity to think musically.” It is therefore surprising that Gardner wrote the preface for Thomas Armstrong’s book, Multiple Intelligences in the Classroom, which includes many such trivial ideas, such as singing spellings and spelling with leaves and twigs, as mentioned earlier. In the preface Gardner says that Armstrong provides “a reliable and readable account of my work.” The inconsistency in Gardner’s views is difficult to understand, but I believe he is right in calling some applications trivial.

Gardner also writes that intelligences are not fungible; the individual low in logico-mathematical intelligence but high in musical intelligence cannot somehow substitute the latter for the former and understand math through music. An alternative presentation may serve as a helpful metaphor, but the musically minded student must eventually use the appropriate representation to understand math. Gardner is on solid ground here. There is no evidence that subject-matter substitution is possible.

Gardner offers his own ideas of how multiple intelligences theory might be applied to education. Teachers should introduce a topic with different entry points, each of which taps primarily one intelligence. For example, the narrational entry point uses a story (and taps linguistic intelligence), whereas the logical entry point encourages the use of deductive logic in first thinking about a topic. Entry points are designed to intrigue the student via a presentation in an intelligence that is a particular strength for him or her. Gardner also believes that a thorough understanding of a topic is achieved only through multiple representations using different intelligences. Hence significant time must be invested to approach a topic from many different perspectives, and topics should be important enough to merit close study.

How effective are Gardner’s suggested applications? Again, hard data are scarce. The most comprehensive study was a three-year examination of 41 schools that claim to use multiple intelligences. It was conducted by Mindy Kornhaber, a long-time Gardner collaborator.

The results, unfortunately, are difficult to interpret. They reported that standardized test scores increased in 78 percent of the schools, but they failed to indicate whether the increase in each school was statistically significant. If not, then we would expect scores to increase in half the schools by chance.

Moreover, there was no control group, and thus no basis for comparison with other schools in their districts. Furthermore, there is no way of knowing to what extent changes in the school are due to the implementation of ideas of multiple intelligences rather than, for example, the energizing thrill of adopting a new schoolwide program, new statewide standards, or some other unknown factor.

What is perhaps most surprising about Gardner’s view of education is that it is not more surprising. Many experienced educators probably suspected that different materials (songs, stories) engage different students and that sustained study using different materials engenders deep knowledge.

Multiple Talents

One may wonder how educators got so confused by Gardner’s theory. Why do they believe that intelligences are interchangeable or that all intelligences should be taught? The answer is traceable to the same thing that made the theory so successful: the naming of various abilities as intelligences.

Why, indeed, are we referring to musical, athletic, and interpersonal skills as intelligences? Gardner was certainly not the first psychologist to point out that humans have these abilities. Great intelligence researchers–Cyril Burt, Raymond Cattell, Louis Thurstone–discussed many human abilities, including aesthetic, athletic, musical, and so on. The difference was that they called them talents or abilities, whereas Gardner has renamed them intelligences. Gardner has pointed out on several occasions that the success of his book turned, in part, on this new label: “I am quite confident that if I had written a book called ‘Seven Talents’ it would not have received the attention that Frames of Mind received.”

Educators who embraced the theory might well have been indifferent to a theory outlining different talents–who didn’t know that some kids are good musicians, some are good athletes, and they may not be the same kids?

Gardner protests that there is no reason to differentiate–he would say aggrandize–linguistic and logico-mathematical intelligences by giving them a different label; either label will do, but they should be the same. He has written, “Call them all ‘talents’ if you wish; or call them all ‘intelligences.’” By this Gardner means that the mind has many processing capabilities, of which those enabling linguistic, logical, and mathematical thought are just three examples. There is no compelling reason to “honor” them with a special name, in his view.

Gardner has ignored, however, the connotation of the term intelligence, which has led to confusion among his readers. The term intelligence has always connoted the kind of thinking skills that make one successful in school, perhaps because the first intelligence test was devised to predict likely success in school; if it was important in school, it was on the intelligence test. Readers made the natural assumption that Gardner’s new intelligences had roughly the same meaning and so drew the conclusion that if humans have a type of intelligence, then schools should teach it.

It is also understandable that readers believed that some of the intelligences must be at least partially interchangeable. No one would think that the musically talented child would necessarily be good at math. But refer to the child as possessing “high musical intelligence,” and it’s a short step to the upbeat idea that the mathematics deficit can be circumvented by the intelligence in another area–after all, both are intelligences.

In the end, Gardner’s theory is simply not all that helpful. For scientists, the theory of the mind is almost certainly incorrect. For educators, the daring applications forwarded by others in Gardner’s name (and of which he apparently disapproves) are unlikely to help students. Gardner’s applications are relatively uncontroversial, although hard data on their effects are lacking. The fact that the theory is an inaccurate description of the mind makes it likely that the more closely an application draws on the theory, the less likely the application is to be effective. All in all, educators would likely do well to turn their time and attention elsewhere.

-Daniel T. Willingham is a professor of psychology at the University of Virginia.


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Model ship building in Boston

Topics: Scale conversions (math); Maritime history

Wooden ship models or wooden model ships are scale representations of ships, constructed mainly of wood. This type of model has been built for over two thousand years.

The ship: HMS Victory

She is a 104-gun first-rate ship of the line of the Royal Navy, ordered in 1758, laid down in 1759 and launched in 1765. She is best known for her role as Lord Nelson’s flagship at the Battle of Trafalgar on 21 October 1805. In 1922, she was moved to a dry dock at Portsmouth, England, and preserved as a museum ship. She has been the flagship of the First Sea Lord since October 2012 and is the world’s oldest naval ship still in commission.

The artist:

My father grew up on Boston Harbor. In addition to being a soldier, and an engineer with a research think tank, he did ship modeling at the USS Constitution Museum.

Dad's Kaiser HMS Victory model ship

In the USS Constitution Museum workshop, 1990’s.

Dad's Kaiser HMS Victory model ship II July 2004.JPG

A model of The US Navy Schooner Enterprise

The third ship to be named USS Enterprise was a schooner, built by Henry Spencer at Baltimore, Maryland, in 1799. It was overhauled and rebuilt several times, effectively changing from a twelve-gun schooner to a fourteen-gun topsail schooner and eventually to a brig.

Dad's Navy Schooner Enterprise model ship

Front view

Dad's Navy Schooner Enterprise II

The Flying Fish

Dad's Flying Fish ship model

The Flying Fish

Dad's Flying Fish ship model II

The last model ship hull that my father,ז״ל, was working on.

Dad's last model ship hull


Scale conversion factors

Written by George Kaiser (later incorporated into Wikipedia)

Instead of using plans made specifically for models, many model shipwrights use the actual blueprints for the original vessel. One can take drawings for the original ship to a blueprint service and have them blown up, or reduced to bring them to the new scale.

For instance, if the drawings are in 1/4″ scale and you intend to build in 3/16″, tell the service to reduce them 25%. You can use the conversion table below to determine the percentage of change. You can easily work directly from the original drawings however, by changing scale each time you make a measurement.

Table of Scale Conversion Factors

from to 1/8 to 3/16 to 1/4
1/16 2.0 3.0 4.0
1/12 1.5 2.25 3.0
3/32 1.33 2.0 2.67
1/8 1.0 1.5 2.0
5/32 0.8 1.2 1.6
3/16 0.67 1.0 1.33
1.5 0.625 0.94 1.25
7/32 0.57 0.86 1.14
1/4 0.5 0.75 1.0

The equation for converting a measurement in one scale to that of another scale is D2 = D1 x F where:

  • D1 = Dimension in the “from-scale”

  • D2 = Dimension in the “to-scale”

  • F = Conversion factor between scales

Example: A yardarm is 6″ long in 3/16″ scale. Find its length in 1/8″ scale.

  • F = .67 (from table)

  • D2 = 6″ X .67 = 4.02 = 4″

It is easier to make measurements in the metric system and then multiply them by the scale conversion factor. Scales are expressed in fractional inches, but fractions themselves are harder to work with than metric measurements.

For example, a hatch measures 1″ wide on the draft. You are building in 3/16″ scale. Measuring the hatch in metric, you measure 25 mm. The conversion factor for 1/4″ to 3/16′, according to the conversion table is .75. So 25 mm x .75 = 18.75 mm, or about 19 mm. That is the hatch size in 3/16″ scale.

Conversion is a fairly simple task once you start measuring in metric and converting according to the scale.

There is a simple conversion factor that allows you to determine the approximate size of a model by taking the actual measurements of the full-size ship and arriving at a scale factor. It is a rough way of deciding whether you want to build a model that is about two feet long, three feet long, or four feet long.

Here is a ship model conversion example using a real ship, the Hancock. This is a frigate appearing in Chappelle’s “History of American Sailing Ships”.

In this example we want to estimate its size as a model. We find that the length is given at 136 ft 7 in, which rounds off to 137 feet.

1/8 scale Feet divided by 8
3/16 scale Feet divided by 5.33
1/4 scale Feet divided by 4

To convert feet (of the actual ship) to the number of inches long that the model will be, use the factors in the table on the right.

To find the principal dimensions (length, height, and width) of a (square rigged) model in 1/8″ scale, then:

  1. Find scaled length by dividing 137 by 8 = 17.125″

  2. Find 50% of 17.125 and add it to 17.125 (8.56 + 17.125 = 25.685, about 25.5)

  3. Typically, the height of this model will be its length less 10% or about 23.1/2″

  4. Typically, the beam of this model will be its length divided by 4, or about 6 1/2″

Although this technique allows you to judge the approximate length of a proposed model from its true footage, only square riggers will fit the approximate height and beam by the above factors. To approximate these dimensions on other craft, scale the drawings from which you found the length and arrive at her mast heights and beam.

Reference: Williams, Guy R. The World of Model Ships and Boats London 1971 Page 30

External links

The USS Constitution Model Shipwright Guild

We are the largest model ship association on the East Coast and our friendly meetings overlooking Old Ironsides at the USS Constitution Museum are well attended. Novices and experienced model builders alike can have fun developing resources, experiences, and skills by joining us.

The USS Constitution Museum, located in the Charlestown Navy Yard, which is part of the Boston National Historical Park

The USS Constitution Museum serves as the memory and educational voice of USS Constitution, by collecting, preserving, and interpreting the stories of “Old Ironsides” and the people associated with her.

The science and history of the sea



Learning Standards

2016 Massachusetts Science and Technology/Engineering Curriculum Framework

Ocean Literacy The Essential Principles and Fundamental Concepts of Ocean Sciences: March 2013 and Ocean Literacy Network. The Centers for Ocean Sciences Education Excellence (COSEE) and Lawrence Hall of Science, University of California, Berkeley

Massachusetts History and Social Science Curriculum Frameworks

5.11 Explain the importance of maritime commerce in the development of the economy of colonial Massachusetts, using historical societies and museums as needed. (H, E)

5.32 Describe the causes of the war of 1812 and how events during the war contributed to a sense of American nationalism. A. British restrictions on trade and impressment.  B. Major battles and events of the war, including the role of the USS Constitution, the burning of the Capitol and the White House, and the Battle of New Orleans.

National Council for the Social Studies: National Curriculum Standards for Social Studies

Time, Continuity and Change: Through the study of the past and its legacy, learners examine the institutions, values, and beliefs of people in the past, acquire skills in historical inquiry and interpretation, and gain an understanding of how important historical events and developments have shaped the modern world. This theme appears in courses in history, as well as in other social studies courses for which knowledge of the past is important.

A study of the War of 1812 enables students to understand the roots of our modern nation. It was this time period and struggle that propelled us from a struggling young collection of states to a unified player on the world stage. Out of the conflict the nation gained a number of symbols including USS Constitution. The victories she brought home lifted the morale of the entire nation and endure in our nation’s memory today. – USS Constitution Museum, National Education Standards

Common Core ELA: Reading Instructional Texts

Cite strong and thorough textual evidence to support analysis of what the text says explicitly as well as inferences drawn from the text.

Determine the meaning of words and phrases as they are used in a text, including figurative, connotative, and technical meanings

Common Core ELA Writing

Use words, phrases, and clauses to link the major sections of the text, create cohesion, and clarify the relationships between claim(s) and reasons, between reasons and evidence, and between claim(s) and counterclaims.

Establish and maintain a formal style and objective tone while attending to the norms and conventions of the discipline in which they are writing.

Produce clear and coherent writing in which the development, organization, and style are appropriate to task, purpose, and audience.


Teachable moments in Boston Harbor

The king tides are back, along with high winds, and they caused some havoc in Boston – leading to a teachable moment by Boston Harbor. A massive ship broke free from dock, and had drifted out – while crewed! They were rescued by tugboats, and the boat is now stationed between Nahant and Winthrop.

This was the perfect opportunity to discuss with students where Boston Harbor was, how tides are created, how to read maps, and maritime geography.

Seaport Boston harbor teaching

As for those King Tides:

It’s that time of the year again. Sure, the holiday season has returned, but so have — this week, at least — the king tides. The astronomically caused ultra-high tides peaked in Boston just before noon Tuesday, according to the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration. Reaching more than two feet higher than average daily high tides, the seasonal occurrence produced minor flooding in low-lying areas along the East Coast.

king tides NOAA Lunar orbit

Let’s see how the motion of the moon creates tides:

Tides Spring Neap

News from the Boston National Historical Park Twitter page.

boston NHP King Tides

News story from WCVB


A container ship broke free from a terminal in Boston, the Coast Guard confirmed early Wednesday morning. The 1,065-foot ship “Helsinki Bridge” was at the Paul W. Conley Container Terminal when the 12 lines securing the vessel broke.

Helsinki Bridge container ship floats away

“They notified us very quickly. The ship’s crew was very quick in getting their engine equipment up and running so that they could drop their anchor and not be drifting around,” Coast Guard Lt. Jennifer Sheehy said.

Terminal workers who were on the ship were able to get off, and no injuries were reported. Two tug boats and a pilot helped to escort the runaway ship out to Broad Sound, between Winthrop and Nahant. State police said the ship hit a dock and did some minor damage when it broke free.

Paul W. Conley Container Terminal Boston

“They’ll take a look at all of the equipment.  They’ll talk to the ship’s crew, and a team is at Conley Terminal looking at any damage that might be there,” Sheehy said.

Officials said weather may have played a role in the ship breaking free.  “Winds that we had last night, the strength of those winds and a ship this size has a lot of sail area to push against, so it’s not unheard of for a ship this size to part ways because of the wind strength,” Sheehy said. The ship will eventually be towed back to the terminal.

See our lesson on tides, and Why Is There a Tidal Bulge Opposite the Moon?

Learning Standards

Ocean Literacy Scope and Sequence for Grades K-12


Ocean Literacy Principle #3, The ocean interaction of oceanic and atmospheric processes controls weather and climate by dominating the Earth’s energy, water and carbon systems.

Ocean Literacy Principle #6,

b. The ocean provides foods, medicines, and mineral and energy resources. It supports jobs and national economies, serves as a highway for transportation of goods and people, and plays a role in national security.

f. Much of the worlds population lives in coastal areas. Coastal regions are susceptible to natural hazards (tsunamis, hurricanes, cyclones, sea level change, and storm surges).




Teaching protein translation

We’re teaching how DNA gets turned into mRNA, and then hooks up to tRNA with amino acids, and then forms proteins. Very important yet it’s not easy for everyone. It can be challenging for ELL and SPED students. Solution? Make it tactile: Use a large table as a cell, and pieces on the table to represent organelles and molecules.

It took time to find right graphics – but this was critical. It’s good to reinforce that cells contain many organelles, even if we’re only using a few of them in any particular lesson.

I printed them out on heavy stock paper. (I need to laminate it next time, but this was a trial run.) Cut out all the pieces.

The trick is to have many nucleotides, so they can get practice with multiple combinations. Here we have 27 bases, for 9 codons, making an 8 amino acid peptide (plus one STOP codon.)

Here is the PDF file with the graphics (DNA to mRNA to ribosome to tRNA) This is what it looks like on a table top, when students use them.

DNA protein translation manipulative

DNA protein translation manipulative 2

Learning Standards

2016 Massachusetts Science and Technology/Engineering Curriculum Framework

HS-LS1-1. Construct a model of transcription and translation to explain the roles of DNA and RNA that code for proteins that regulate and carry out essential functions of life.



Tier I, II and III vocabulary

Tier Vocabulary

Tier One – everyday words usually learned in the early grades.

Tier Two – High frequency words, used across content areas, key to understanding directions, relationships, and for making inferences.

Tier II Words list

Academic language from resources.successforall.org

Tier Three – Domain-specific words

Tier III Words list