What to know about the NWEA MAP test for non-CPS students


What to know about the NWEA MAP test for non-CPS students

Being a middle schooler can be challenging under any circumstances, but if you’re planning on applying to one of Chicago Public Schools’ Selective Enrollment High Schools, 7th & 8th grade can be especially tough.

Competition to get into one of these elite public high schools is fierce, and you’re probably eager to do everything you can to maximize your chances.

A students’ score is made up of three different components: your 7th grade core subject grades, your score on the Selective Enrollment High School Exam, which is held in the late fall/early winter of 8th grade, and your NWEA MAP test score.

CPS students usually don’t stress about the NWEA MAP test because they’ve been taking it every year since 2nd grade, but for many private school students, the NWEA MAP test may be completely new – and a bit different from other tests they’re used to.

If you’re a private school student who wants to apply to a CPS Selective Enrollment High School, you’ll have to take the NWEA MAP test this coming September, so now is a good time to start familiarizing yourself with the test. [UPDATE: CPS has changed the timeline for non-CPS students to take the MAP test. Students graduating in 2025 and beyond will take the MAP test in spring of 7th grade just like public school kids.]

What is special about the MAP test?
The NWEA MAP test is a computerized test that measures achievement in math and reading. What makes it different from other tests is that it is adaptive, meaning that the difficulty of the test is adjusted to each student’s performance. If a student answers a question correctly, the questions become more difficult. If a student answers incorrectly, the questions become easier, making the test less overwhelming for lower-performing students.

Because it’s computerized, and because each question subsequent question gets easier or harder based on how you answered the previous one, you cannot go back and revisit a question later. Instead, you are required to answer every question, making your best guess if necessary, and then moving on to the next.

What content is covered?
The NWEA MAP test is divided into two parts: the math section, which usually has about 52 questions, and the reading section, which has about 42 questions. Both tests are untimed, although it usually takes students about an hour to complete each section.

Here’s what you need to know for each section:

The Math Section:

  • Number sense: scientific notation, changing percentages to fractions or fractions to decimals, ordering numbers, finding the greatest common factor
  • Computation: order of operations (PEMDAS), calculating percentages, using ratios, solving problems with fractions (add, subtract, multiply, divide), simplifying problems with exponents
  • Algebra: solving equations and inequalities, coordinate graphing (y=mx+b), simplifying expressions, translating words into inequalities, extending patterns, completing matrices, using systems of equations, solving functions ie: solving f(x)
  • Geometry: identifying shapes and definitions, using similar and congruent figures, using the Pythagorean Theorem, using parallel and perpendicular lines to solve equations
  • Trigonometry: Just the basics – “SOHCAHTOA”
  • Measurement: converting measurements, finding area, circumference, surface area, volume, and perimeter of various objects
  • Statistics & Probability: interpreting graphs and charts, analyzing data, probability, combinations, mean, median & mode
  • Problem solving: word problems with multiple steps and concepts


The Reading Section:

  • Comprehension and interpretation questions: main idea or theme (what’s it about?), facts (details from the passage), organization (what would come next, where would you find this?), vocabulary, tone, and inference (reading between the lines).
  • Identifying rhyme scheme in poetry
  • Sentence completion: choosing the best word based on meaning and context
  • Word recognition & vocabulary: using context clues to determine meaning, relationship between words.
  • Determining the difference between fact or opinion
  • Identify different literary devices & figurative language: allusion, metaphor, simile, personification, onomatopoeia, parallelism and paradox, etc.


Strategies for Taking the NWEA MAP Test
So, now that you know what’s on the test, here are a few strategies to help you do your best on test day:

  1. Review content areas you aren’t familiar with
    Go through all of the bullet points listed above and circle any areas that you aren’t familiar with. If you still have old textbooks or tests and quizzes from this past year, go through them and brush up on areas you may have forgotten. If not, you can set up a private tutoring session.
  2. Take some practice tests
    Getting used to a test where you can’t skip over a question and come back to it takes a little getting used to. Here is a practice test you can try (the username and password is “grow”).
  3. Slow down!
    Since this is an untimed test, it’s especially important that you slow down and read the entire question and all of the answers completely before answering. Also, make sure to review your answer before hitting submit. There is no prize for going fast!
  4. Eliminate all wrong choices
    Because you don’t have the option of skipping questions that you aren’t sure about, it’s important to learn how to make an educated guess. Eliminate the extremes, duplicates and answers that just don’t make sense. The correct answer is always there. You just have to narrow down your choices until you find it.
  5. Choose the best answer
    In the Reading section, there may be several answers that could be correct, so it’s important you choose the best Again, this usually means slowing down before answering.
  6. Be well fed and rested on test day
    Your brain will not function without proper sleep and nourishment. Eat a good breakfast. If you are taking both tests on the same day, you are allowed to bring a snack with you to eat during the break, but keep in mind that it must be nut-free.
  7. Visualize success
    Don’t panic! Remember that you are doing your best. Try to focus as best you can, and repeat a encouraging mantra to yourself to stay positive.


With this information under your belt, you should be well prepared to take the NWEA MAP test. Make sure you register in time, and good luck!

This post was updated 2.14.20 to reflect changes to the testing timeline for non-CPS students.