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Encoding and Decoding on the MAT

Thinking in Code

Start thinking about super secret decoder rings from your snack box or one made with paper plates and a metal brad.


Making and breaking codes can be as simple as these or as complex as high-level security algorithms that change every 30 seconds.

The whole idea, though, is that the message is put into a code (encoded) for someone with the key to put in plain language (decoded).  We started with this concept as soon as we started learning to read simple words; at, bat, cat, fat, sat.  The author matched the sounds to the letters and put the letters into a word.  We, the reader, looked at the finished product and were able to understand the meaning.

This is a simplified way of looking at the analogies presented by the MAT.  While the vocabulary is more advanced, we as test takers are working to decode the message or pattern that the test makers have put together. The message encoded within the analogies represent relationships between concepts. The four main categories of relationships are identified as: semantic, classification, association, logical/mathematical. Once you start to see the patterns, you can determine the relationship and find the most logical term to fit the blank space in the question.


How do I Practice?

Early readers are taught to read at the same time they are learning to write the letters and words.  Encoding and decoding are closely related and strengthening your skills in one area helps with the other.  Writing a story helps you understand the structure of it which leads to more understanding when reading one.  This is true for anything that has a set pattern.

As a kid (in school or not), did you ever try to see all the different patterns in a set of dots?

dot patterns

You could help your own understanding by finding all of the possibilities.  Do this when you are looking around at everyday objects and see what kind of relationship you can establish between sets of items.  It could be as simple (silly) as laundry day: pants are to legs as shirt is to arms.  Toddler is to tantrum as dog is to growl. Study the types of relationships featured on the test and see what kind you can determine in your everyday life.  The idea is to establish the habit of finding patterns. Once you are expert in creating patterns you can more easily see the patterns that someone else as put together.  You may not be a decryption expert but you can master the MAT!


About Lisa

I am a professional Book Geek, a.k.a. librarian, and love to both learn and educate. Serving students of all ages and all stages--I live for the “Ah Ha!” moment. I am a reference librarian at the Alamogordo Public Library and am ready to answer questions at a moment’s notice; never be afraid to ask! Remember: when all else fails, go to the library!

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