How to interpret and use learning goals as a student

Once we enter higher education as students, the learning goals become more prominent. Your teacher may mention these objectives, or you might find them in a list in your textbook before each new chapter. Learning goals could seem abstract and intimidating, which is why we want to pay special attention to them and show you how you can use them for your studies.

What are learning goals?

To help you stick to your routine, you can find a study buddy to build these habits together. You can connect with friends in similar situations and join study groups where you can discuss problems, share tips, and motivate each other.

“A learning goal is a statement of what the student should know or be able to do as a result of successfully completing a course.”
- Washington University in St. Louis, Center for Teaching and Learning

The goals might include verbs like recall, describe, indicate, organize, solve, predict, assess, create, etc. Each of these words has a specific meaning and targets a certain skill that the student will need to acquire.

About OMPT learning goals

Defining learning goals is the starting point for teachers when creating courses, but also for exams such as OMPT. Our team of mathematicians uses Bloom’s Taxonomy as the basis when defining learning goals (read more about it here).

Depending on the OMPT exam you are taking, you might be tested on one of the first four levels:

1. Knowledge

Goal verb examples: simplifies, calculates, composes, identifies, etc.The student remembers previously learned material. They can recall facts, terms, basic concepts, and answers. For example, a test-taker might be asked to calculate the derivative of a standard function:

Screenshot of an OMPT exercise

2. Comprehension

Goal verb examples: composes, solves, calculates, uses, etc.

The student demonstrates an understanding of facts and ideas by organizing, comparing, translating, interpreting, giving descriptions, and stating the main ideas. Using the example below, the test-taker might be asked to calculate the derivative of a composed or more complex function:

Screenshot of an OMPT exercise

On this level (comprehension), you are using the rule that you previously knew in a different situation.

3. Application

Goal verb examples: applies, uses, etc

The student solves problems in new situations by applying acquired knowledge, facts, techniques and rules in a different way.

Screenshot of an OMPT exercise

On this level (application), you can apply the derivative in context or in a new situation.

4. Analysis

Goal verb examples: analyzes, interprets, etc

The student analyses, orders, explains, connects and classifies. Following the previous example with the derivative, the test-taker might be asked to:

Screenshot of an OMPT exercise

After finding the solution, the student needs to interpret it. Another example could be problem-solving or modelling, analyzing the situation and setting up the formulas for the problem in order to solve it.

You may notice that there is some overlap between categories, and some of the words used to describe a learning goal might show up in two different types (the verb “calculates” is used to describe both knowledge and comprehension, for example).

Photograph of students in a library

What to do with learning goals?

Learning goals can help you define exactly what you need to achieve for your exam. When you first look at the list of topics that you need to prepare for the test, you might think, “I need to learn Algebra”, but what does it mean to learn Algebra?

If we have a look at the learning goals for OMPT-A, we can see that, on the topic of Algebra, the student…

…simplifies, factorizes, expands, and calculates expressions with variables (including fractions).

By using specific goals, you can prepare ahead of time for the types of questions that will await you on the test. We recommend that you use the OMPT preparation materials as well as a mock exam, both of which will help you get a better idea of the types of questions that will appear on the actual OMPT. But if you are preparing by yourself/using a different resource, it might be worth looking into the actual list of requirements beforehand.

Keep in mind that each of the objectives from the list will have to be covered in the specific OMPT test. By paying attention to the learning goals, you can avoid surprises and make sure you are well-prepared.

You can find the list of the learning goals for each OMPT test on our website under Test takers-Tests-Learning Assessments. Learning goals are also listed on the platform under “Test contents”.