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Soils Station Study Tips

Soils Online Study Guide


Study Tips for Written Soils Test

The Soils section of the Envirothon competition can be a difficult part of the day if you are not prepared. Teams that have prepared for the test often score 20 to 40 percent higher than teams that are not ready. The written part of the soil exam is very straight forward. If you have studied the information, you should do fine. Below is a list of some tips to help you prepare for the test.

  1. Make sure all members of your team have studied the soils information provided. Do not rely on just one team member to handle that part of the test. If that person is sick or can not attend the event you will probably not be able to handle the loss of an entire section of the test. Relying on just one person to handle a topic can also put undo pressure on that team member. Remember, you are team, and should work together as a team. Sometimes, discussions on a questions can jog someone’s memory. If one team member is interested in soils, that he or she should be lead person for your team.
  2. All material on the test comes from the study guide. There will not be any trick questions, nor will there be any questions on information that has not been presented to you. Make sure that each team member has equal access to the study guide.
  3. Pay particular attention to items that are highlighted on the information provided in the study guide. Items that are in list or are numbered are often used for the test. Know what each listed item is, and be able describe the definition of each item.
  4. Diagrams and illustrations are often the best way to get information across. This is also true for the written soils test. Be prepared to identify items on illustrations in the study guide materials.
  5. Glossaries are a good place to study definitions. The definitions that you will be asked to provide will be from the glossaries in the study guide materials.
  6. Know how to use a Soil Survey. Several questions will be based on your ability to extract information from the survey. Know how to read the maps, know where to find general soils descriptions, and how to find information in the engineering and soil properties tables.
  7. Your ability to read and interpret topographical maps will tested. Practice looking a various topographical maps, and know what the symbols on the map are for. Several questions will depend on your ability to interpret maps.
  8. Practice taking test that use a multiple-choice format. The majority of the written part of the soils test will be in this format. Some questions will require matching items. The multiple-choice questions will have three or four choices. Often one or two of the choices will be obviously wrong, and the other two or three will be close, but, only one will be correct.
  9. The written soils exam is not meant to trick you. It is merely used to test how well you have studied the material in the study guide, and how well you can apply the information that you have learned. Be prepared to use the entire time allotted to take the soils exam. You should have adequate time to answer each question. While taking the test, if you do not know an answer, don’t dwell on it too long. Go on to the next question, and come back to the unanswered question later. If all else fails, and you do not know the answer, choose one of the choices. A question left blank is the same amount off as an answer that is wrong. If you do not answer a question, you will get zero points for that question. If you pick an answer, you at least have a 1 in 3 or a 1 in 4 chance of getting the question correct.

Study Tips for Hands-On Soils Test

The hands-on part of the Envirothon Soils Test requires participants to answer questions on certain site characteristics of the Envirothon competition site, as well as making observations in a soil pit located at the site. Here are some tips that will help you complete this section of the Envirothon Soils Test:

  1. The questions for this test are written using information found on the Envirothon Soils study guide website, so understanding this information is essential to doing well on this test. Pay particular attention to any information that tells you how to identify or describe something.
  2. The hands-on part of the soil test is just that, “hands-on”. You may have to touch, handle, and perhaps even smell(?) soil and rock samples in order to answer some of the questions. To answer the questions about the soil pit, you will have to get into the soil pit and probe around. Do not be afraid to do any of this. For these questions, handling a sample or exploring the soil pit will be the only way to obtain the correct answer.
  3. When you are given the test, you will also be given a soil textural triangle and a guide for determining soil textures. Try to use these to help answer the soil texture questions. They may seem awkward to use at first, but they might help you determine a soil texture that you might otherwise have difficulty determining.
  4. Most of the questions on the test are straightforward multiple-choice. However, some of the questions ask you to match the number or letter of a card, bag, or container to items in a list. Always read these questions thoroughly before proceeding to answer, so that you will know you are matching things up correctly.
  5. There will be site characteristic questions that require you to use items placed on the site, such as ribbons tied to trees or stakes stuck in the ground. Make sure you understand which items are to be used for which questions. If you are unsure which items you are supposed to use, ask the person proctoring the soils station for help.
  6. In the soil pit, you may be asked to identify something marked with a colored golf tee or nail. Other questions may ask you to look at a part of the soil pit that lies between two golf tees. Read these questions carefully; make sure you understand where you are supposed to be looking.
  7. As with any other test, some questions will require more time to answer than others. This is especially true with the identification questions and the soil texture questions. If you feel these questions are slowing you down, move onto other questions that you might be able to answer quickly, and then come back to these questions later.

Study the document below for a good basic understanding of soils.

This document requires Adobe Acrobat.

"From The Surface Down" (1.4 MB)

For more information contact your local Soil Conservation District Office or Richard Belcher, NJ Envirothon Coordinator Phone: (609) 292-5540,  Fax: (609) 633-7229.

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This page last updated January 30, 2014