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Working with a Tutor to Prepare for Your Standardized Test

Having worked with hundreds of test-takers on standardized exams over the years, I have tutored students of all abilities and levels of commitment to their studies. Most students want to know how many hours of tutoring are necessary to achieve the results they desire. While there is no single number of hours uniformly required for all students, for all exams, I do recommend as a rule of thumb that you spend as many hours working on your own as you have spent working with your tutor. To maximize the benefit of working with a tutor for a standardized test, it is necessary to implement, and then practice, the strategies you've learned on your own. Ideally, a student matches the time spent studying independently hour for hour with the time spent tutoring (similarly, university courses typically advise a minimum of one hour of study for every hour spent in class). It is to your advantage to meet with your tutor frequently, and early, enough that the tools you acquire to succeed... read more

Why are the SAT, GRE, ACT, GMAT, etc., designed to trick students into picking the wrong answer and to make sure many students don't finish on time?

For anyone that is preparing or thinking about preparing for one of the standardized 'high stakes' tests (you know which ones) -- the SAT, GRE, GMAT, ISEE, SSAT, and so on -- there's something you really should know about test development.   But first consider this. Wouldn't it be sensible for tests to discover what your strengths are and what you do well in?  Of course! But who said these tests or the test developers are sensible?  In fact, why should they be?  Here are two things test developers don't want you to know   1) Test developers usually (meaning not EVERY test is created this way, although most are) try to trick students into providing the wrong answer. Huh?    2) Standardized tests are intentionally designed so that many or even most students will not complete them within the given time limit.   Now why would these nice testing companies engage in these practices?  Select the best... read more

Free Online Practice Tests and Online Resources - ACT, SAT & GRE

ACT www.actstudent.org/testprep/ www.princetonreview.com/college/free-act-practice-test.aspx ; www.mhpracticeplus.com/act.php ; www.kaptest.com/College/Getting-into-College/free-practice-tests-workshops.html phone apps: ACTStudent, ACT Test Prep TestBank,  SAT http://sat.collegeboard.org/practice/sat-practice-test http://sat.collegeboard.org/practice/sat-practice-questions www.princetonreview.com/college/free-sat-practice-test.aspx http://www.kaptest.com/College/Getting-into-College/free-practice-tests-workshops.html phone apps: College Board The Official SAT Question of the Day, Ace the ACT, The Princeton Review SAT Lite, Mind Snacks SAT Vocab, SAT flashcard review, Intelli Power Vocab GRE www.princetonreview.com/grad/free-gre-practice-test.aspx www.ets.org/gre/revised_general/prepare/ www.kaptest.com/gre/study-resources/gre-free-practice-test ; http://www.greguide.com/gre-practice-tests.html ; phone... read more

Modal Verbs and Other Such Grammatical Queries

Do the terms "preposition," "verb," "article," and "modal verb" sometimes stump you? Typically, students are taught the word "preposition" in 1st grade. I don't know about you, but I'm pretty sure that if I had seen that long word at the top of a worksheet in 1st grade, I would have skipped right over it, coding "preposition" as a long word that simply did not fit in my schema of the world. Fast forward to middle, high school, and college, and I see that many native speakers often find one or more grammatical device or structure challenging. Grammar lessons learned in elementary school can easily slip from one's mind, leaving students to struggle when applying their skills to essay writing, earning them phrases such as "wrong modifier!" "run-on!" and "awkward!" splattered in red ink all over their graded assignments.   It is one thing to not remember rules of grammar... read more

Why Test Prep Books Aren't Worth Your Money: The Case of Princeton Review

All the major test prep books for the SAT, ACT, and GRE -- published by companies like Kaplan, Princeton Review, Barron's, and Manhattan Test Prep -- are poorly written, conceptually deficient, and, worst of all, riddled with serious errors. Students can't be expected to learn from books that aren't even right! And I don't mean the books are riddled simply with typos, which unfortunately is also true, because they are so poorly edited; I mean they really are riddled with serious conceptual errors. Here's a simple example from the very beginning -- the diagnostic test, of all things! -- of Princeton Review's "1,014 GRE Practice Questions." The problem is on page 24, and the answer key and explanation is on page 38. Not only is their answer wrong; what's worse, their *explanation* is wrong, too! I'll set off the problem by dashes (----) and then add more commentary after. NOTE: The question is a classic GRE "quantitative comparison," so it's hard to... read more

Why Test Prep Books Aren't Worth Your Money: The Case of Manhattan GRE

All the major test prep books for the SAT, ACT, and GRE -- published by companies like Kaplan, Princeton Review, Barron's, and Manhattan Test Prep -- are poorly written, conceptually deficient, and, worst of all, riddled with serious errors. Students can't be expected to learn from books that aren't even right! And I don't mean the books are riddled simply with typos, which unfortunately is also true, because they are so poorly edited; I mean they really are riddled with serious conceptual errors. Here's a simple example from the Introduction (page 23) to Manhattan's Strategy Guides for the Revised GRE. This passage appears in all eight of Manhattan's strategy guides, so it somehow went unnoticed after at least eight rounds of editing by allegedly "expert" readers and test-takers. See if you can spot the error! ---- "If ab=|a|x|b| which of the following must be true? I. a=b II. a>0 and b>0 III. ab>0 A. II only B. III only C... read more

GRE and GMAT Prep, Step 2: Do's and Don'ts when starting your test prep journey!

My name is Scott L. and I am one of the top graduate school entrance exam instructors in the nation. This is because I have a genuine understanding of the tests and how they are constructed. This blog will offer general guidance on how to proceed on a step-by-step basis. If you have any questions or would like to know more about how I can help you prepare for this challenge, please email me directly through WyzAnt. -- Signs that a GRE/GMAT student is heading down the right GRE/GMAT path (or the wrong GRE/GMAT path). You are moving in the right direction if: You have begun earnest preparation at least 6 weeks before your scheduled or proposed test date; you can accept the fact that you have to re-learn (not re-fresh!) math concepts you last thought about 5-10 years ago; and you can accept the fact that your reading level and vocabulary are probably nowhere near where they need to be for GRE/GMAT success (This is true in nearly all cases, no matter what your experience... read more

The GRE and GMAT Skinny: Your blog to success!!!

My name is Scott L. and I am one of the top graduate school entrance exam instructors in the nation. This is because I have a genuine understanding of the tests and how they are constructed. This blog will offer general guidance on how to proceed on a step-by-step basis. If you have any questions or would like to know more about how I can help you prepare for this challenge, please email me directly through WyzAnt. In this introductory entry, we will discuss the GRE and the GMAT. What are they and what is the purpose behind them. The GRE and GMAT are used by graduate schools to help sort through the hundreds of applications they receive each application cycle. Since most applicants are relatively equally qualified, the GRE and GMAT can serve as the great divide between applicants. Graduate programs use the score differently. Many programs use the GRE and GMAT score as part of a more holistic approach to application review. Other programs, particularly those which have... read more

'Psyching Up' for a standardized test, i.e., the SAT SSAT, ACT, GRE, GMAT, etc., ad naus....

Have you scheduled a time to take one of the standardized tests listed in the subject line? Are you thinking about signing up to take one of them? Have you taken one already, but have decided to take it again in the hopes of getting a higher score? Have you taken one of the tests, and found the experience so rewarding, you plan to sign up and take the same test simply for the enjoyment? (If you’re in the latter category, I’d seriously examine your core values ; < ). Regardless, if you must take one, and nearly everyone does that plans to enroll in a college, university, professional school, or private school, here is a suggestion that I haven’t read about in any of the testing prep manuals or on any of the websites devoted to improving one’s score on these tests. And that advice is to beware of the “positive I’m correct about this answer ‘rush’” This phenomenon may occur on the multiple-choice segments of these tests because, of course, you want to finish and get out... read more

Molecular geometry, electron geometry, covalent bonds: N-A equals S equation

The equation below is used for Covalent Bonds, Molecular geometry, electron geometry, and structural formulas to figure the number of bonds in a molecule. N-A = S equation to figure the number of bonds in a molecule N = needed: the sum of the number of valence electrons needed by each atom (2 for hydrogen, 8 for all other atoms) A = available: the sum of the number of valence electrons available for each atom S = shared: the number of electrons shared in the molecule S/2 = the number of covalent bonds in the molecule If you need any help with these concepts, please contact me for tutoring. Thank you very much, John M.

Physical Exercise and Nutrition DO affect our brain performance and brain health.

As you may know, I am a big fan of the well-known author and brain specialist, Dr. Daniel Amen. He mentions in several of his books that Physical Exercise is good for the brain. I have read of research studies that showed a clear correlation between IMPROVEMENT in students' test scores in math and science, and their level of physical activity (for example, when math class followed PE class, the students had significantly higher scores). Maybe we should schedule PE before all math classes in our schools. What do you think about that idea? This morning I read an online article on the myhealthnewsdaily site, entitled "6 Foods That Are Good for Your Brain," and another article about how Physical Exercise helps maintain healthy brain in older adults too. The second article, "For a Healthy Brain, Physical Exercise Trumps Mental Workout" was found under Yahoo News. The remainder of this note is quoted from that article: Regular physical exercise appears... read more

Resources for Improving Your Vocabulary

The most lasting way to improve your vocabulary is to learn new words (1) in context (by looking up unknown words when you read and keeping a journal of their definitions) and (2) in thematic groups -- NOT by memorizing huge lists of unrelated words. These are some of the resources I use with my students; feel free to comment to add your own favorite vocabulary book! BOOKS -- English Words from Latin and Greek Elements An excellent etymological resource that helps students learn how to recognize Latin and Greek roots in modern English words and use them to predict the meaning of a word. Useful for students of all levels, from high school to college. -- Roget's Thesaurus of Words for Intellectuals This is the best book of advanced thematic word lists I know; I assign it to all my GRE students. The vocabulary is a bit too advanced for most high school students prepping for the SAT, but it's still an excellent resource for anyone -- in high school or not --... read more

How to ace the GRE

I gave the GRE exam back in the year 2009. I secured 720 on verbal and 790 on the quantitative part. I messed up the analytical writing, but I now feel that was due to the nature of my writing and the fact that writing can be subjective. I will try and emphasize on a few points that anybody who is giving the GRE has to focus on in order to give it their best shot. We shall start with the verbal part. The verbal part is supposed to be the more difficult part in the GRE. This is true even for so called native speakers of the English language. Although my verbal score was lower than quants, in percentile I scored 98 on the verbal and 93 on the quants which means a lot of people got clean scores on the quantitative section. Statistics from countries where English is the native language also tend to show that people score more on the quantitative part than the verbal. Mastering the verbal part will require a change in mindset. Its not just about knowing and using English in... read more

The New School Year Is Upon Us!

The new school year beckons - be it middle or high school, college or post graduate study. Fall college visits, applications and essays are also just around the corner. Get a jump on what you or your child may need in terms of support for specific academic subjects, computer skills, standardized tests (SSAT, ISEE, PSAT, SAT, ACT, ASVAB, GRE, etc.). I look forward to continuing my track record of success with students to assist them in maximizing their potential and achievements. David

Which Books to Get for AP or SAT or MCAT Practice?

I was asked this question recently by several mothers about which book (singular, not plural) they should get for their sons for their upcoming tests. To both of them I replied: "Get the Princeton Review edition of the book." And while I believe this to be the CORRECT answer, this answer unfortunately is misleading because what I actually want to say is, "Get ALL editions of the book." For example if there is a Barron's version, a Kaplan version, a Princeton Review version, etc. etc. of AP Chemistry, then I would advise the moms to get ALL of these books for their sons (assuming of course that they'll read them). The reason is because one book doesn't have enough practice problems. From experience, after reading the first test preparation book or textbook, the student will have a rather hazy outline of the subject material. Books 2-5 make the outline clearer. Most students don't begin to really understand the subject until around Book 7. And that's... read more

Test Prep Students-2: “We don’t know what we don’t know” About Selecting Test Dates

I struck up a conversation with a home-schooling mom the other day. Parent of a middle-school student, she told me I should talk to middle school parents about this topic because, as she put it, “We don’t know what we don’t know.” In my blog post “Test Prep Students 1: Before Our First Session, Please,” I mentioned planning ahead to give yourself more time to prepare. Since then, I’ve come to believe that you can’t have too much time to prepare, regardless of what you are testing for * High school graduation (Minnesota GRAD) * College National Merit Scholarships (PSAT/NMSQ) * Advance college credit (AP, CLEP) * College admission (ACT, SAT, TOEFL, IELTS) * Professional licensure (such as the Minnesota Teacher Licensing Exam—MTLE) * Graduate school admission (GRE, GMAT, and again TOEFL or IELTS). Students as young as 12 or 13 can successfully answer many of the ACT Questions of the Day (QOTD) http://www.act.org/qotd/ and SAT QOTD http://sat.collegeboard... read more

The Secret Life of a Tutor

Sundays are days to be lazy, to hang out with friends, to read books or swim in pools or play outside. Today is an exceptionally hot Sunday in early June. Since I got up, I've been holed up in my home office, working on tutoring. Even though I've spent the past nine or so hours (with breaks for shrimp tacos, diet Coke, and ice cream) working, I haven't actually had any students today. I realized that not many people are aware of the "behind the scenes" of tutoring (well, at least of good tutoring), and it's gotten me to think a bit about the concept of having an "hourly rate." Realizing that mine is one of the higher rates on WyzAnt, I thought I'd share a bit of the "secret life of a (good) tutor," so you might have a better idea of what you're getting for your money. Although I work very hard during our tutoring sessions to make them as productive and educational as possible, it's everything I do when you aren't around that helps me do that... read more

Bridging the Summer Gap

It is no surprise that students lose some of their edge for education over the summer. After all the saying goes, "if you don't use it, you lose it." Summer is a great time to prepare students for the next school year. Tutoring can provide a means to not only stop the loss but also allow students to gain valuable skills for the next year. Imagine the edge your student could have in next years' math or science class if he or she had summer sessions with a certified teacher familiar with the state board curriculum and requirements? Summer is also a great time to prepare for standardized tests. SAT, PSAT, ACT or ASVAB. All of these tests provide information about a student's future potential. Students who are better prepared will score better and be given greater opportunities. That is why the test-prep industry is such a huge market. If you don't believe me, just stroll down that aisle of your local bookstore. However, as helpful as these self-help books can be,... read more

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