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Tutors wait! Why study skills should make up part (maybe most) of every session

(This is actually a modified version of an article I posted a while back - Parents wait! Why a study skills tutor is what your child REALLY needs. But I think tutors should consider this idea of study skills even more than parents should.) After a dozen years as a classroom teacher and private tutor, I know the routine well. Like clockwork, October and March bring new report cards and parents start to get nervous. “An F in chemistry? I’m afraid I can’t help you there; let’s find you a good chemistry tutor.” This is the kind of dialog I imagine taking place in many households around this time. And chemistry is just an example – insert subject here and the reaction is the same. But that low letter grade on a report card can indicate many things – maybe the teacher is bonkers; maybe one major assignment was weighted too heavily; maybe the student can’t see the board and is afraid to say anything; maybe that particular class is a source of social anxiety; etc... read more

Biology Study Techniques

I just began tutoring a new student in 10th grade Biology.  Biology is my favorite subject and as we were going over terminology and concepts and processes in each section I thought it might be helpful to outline elements that can help in the general study of biology.  I thought this would be a great time to reference some good study techniques from a biological perspective:  I organized my notes into list of 4 valuable concepts.   1.  Take notes:  Obviously right? of course but listen... More than any other subject taking notes in biology is crucial.  Almost all the information that is introduced each lesson is packed with new terms, new concepts and new images of the material.  Taking notes in the form of term definitions, paragraphs describing a process, or drawings is a way to stay on top of complex new material.  I recommend taking notes on a white piece of computer paper without lines, this helps the student to learn... read more

Organic Chemistry: thoughts

Organic Chemistry is always the subject you were warned about that could potentially crush your pre-med dreams. While it does have some bearing on your potential to become admitted to medical school, you should face the subject not with fear, but with love :).   Orgo is by far the most challenging yet most interesting subject you may take as a pre-med student. As a future doctor, organic chemistry sets the stage for you to understand any drug interactions and biochemical processes that you may become privy to as a student or future researcher. Orgo is definitely the cornerstone of pharmacology as well.   While it is true, some minds can manipulate shapes and see things in 3D better than others, the distinct skill set required for mastery of this subject can indeed be learned, but only through practice and diligence. While you may have been able to slack off in Gen Chem and push studying for your exam until the night before, it will not work in orgo... read more

Parents wait! Why a study skills tutor is what your child REALLY needs

After a dozen years as a classroom teacher and private tutor, I know the routine well. Like clockwork, October and March bring new report cards and parents start to get nervous. “An F in chemistry? I’m afraid I can’t help you there; let’s find you a good chemistry tutor.” This is the kind of dialog I imagine taking place in many households around this time. And chemistry is just an example – “insert subject here” and the reaction is the same. But that low letter grade on a report card can indicate many things – maybe the teacher is bonkers; maybe one major assignment was weighted too heavily; maybe the student can’t see the board and is afraid to say anything; maybe that particular class is a source of social anxiety; etc. And let’s be honest – in most high school classrooms, students are essentially graded on their ability to keep track of, complete, and submit paperwork (i.e. homework), instead of their mastery of the material. (Not a good state of affairs, but... read more

3 Time Management Tips to Increase Productivity

Unless you are traveling in a spaceship and moving close to the speed of light, time passes at the same rate for everyone. The Earth takes approximately 24 hours to complete one full rotation on its axis, which has resulted in a day being 24 hours long. So why do some people seem to be able to accomplish so much more when we all have the same amount of time in our day? Simply, they have mastered good time management skills. I have summarized 3 Time Management tips that I have condensed from a number of different resources. Hopefully, these will help you finish more tasks and get you closer to accomplishing your goals. 1) Create a Prioritized To-Do List At the beginning of every day, take 15 minutes to consciously decide how you want to spend your time. This is also called making a plan for your day. Write down everything you need to do that day. This list should include steps needed to complete a S.M.A.R.T. goal, tasks or project items for work or school,... read more

How To Study Less, Have More Free Time, And Still Get Higher Grades

As human beings with limited time, energy, and resources, we naturally desire to get the most done with the least amount of work possible. From reading books and experimenting throughout the years, I have accumulated a collection of techniques that maximizes efficiency and has allowed me to achieve a 3.93 GPA while studying less than three hours a day. Below are some of these techniques. Although I have separated it in general and chemistry study tips sections, these study tips can be applied to every class you will ever take in high school & college. Furthermore, some of these tips, especially the blocking technique, will skyrocket your ability to get more done in less time not only in school, but in life in general. I hope these tips will benefit you as much as they have and continue to help me. General Study Tips 1. Study in purely focused block periods Our body functions in cycles. For example, our circadian rhythm dictates when we sleep... read more

3 best ways to keep your brain sharp over winter break

1.  Turn off the electronic devices - I would post links here that point to studies that support this, but is there really any need?  Every time you're tempted to just veg in front of the TV, read a book instead.  It's so easy to just read a book in a similar genre of what you were going to watch on tv.   2.  Eat healthy - More links could be posted on here, but I think this is also a given.  Green veggies and healthy fats from cold-pressed coconut/olive oils are excellent.  Also, consider getting tested for food sensitivities.  Applied Kinesiology is a great testing method.  Remember, not every food sensitivity has digestive symptoms.  Sometimes, the symptoms can be very difficult to identify, but have real, long-lasting effects on your body. 3.  Exercise - Even if you have to stay indoors to exercise, it's still worth it.  Remember to exercise a variety of muscles on all parts of your body.  Isolating... read more

The Key(s) to Truly Knowing Something

I am a firm believer that one does not truly know something until she can put it into a new format. You can take notes from a book or from lectures all day, every day, but until you can put the information into a new shape, you haven't actually learned anything. Make a concept map, put facts and vocabulary into tables or categories, write flash cards, and/or rearrange the information in a new outline. Go really crazy and write a song or a poem, draw a picture, even make something in 3D. What you do or make depends on your learning style, but it has to be something new. I also believe that you only know something if you can summarize it. If you know enough about a subject to condense it into something really compact, like a “cheat sheet,” then you’re doing pretty well. You can capture its meaning in much less space than a textbook chapter. I actually do make “cheat sheets” for most of my tests. I condense all of the information I need for the test onto just a few pages,... read more

Some notes on note-taking

Picture it: The gentle rustling of papers flapping and pages turning, the scratching of pens on notebooks, the snoring of the kid next to you, and your professor lecturing at a speed that makes you wonder if she's going to combust. Odds are, somewhere in this scenario, if you are like me then you're lost and writing furiously trying to take some kind of notes before the slide changes for the 47th time. But there's a problem; the professor is moving faster than you write. Typically the best thing to do is to raise your hand and ask her to slow down. The next step however, comes the point of this Note. The best way to take notes is to take as few as possible! By this I mean why write two words when you can write half of one? It'll allow you to keep up with the professor and return your attention to the board or the slides. "But how do you do this word-cleaving Black Magic, Frank?" you ask? You don't need seven years at Hogwarts for it. It's simple: short hand.... read more

Subject Mastery by Changing Study Habits

I've never been amazing at Chemistry; I've always been the best at Biology. There's just some concepts in chemistry that don't get through to me very well and that brought down my grades in both general chemistry courses in college. Despite studying and completing all homework, I just couldn't increase my grades! As a Freshman, I was stubborn enough to feel like I shouldn't need help from my professor (that view has changed since then)! So, in my frustration, I visited my chemistry professor for advice. What he told me was...so simple, and yet it changed my study habits for life and I haven't turned back.   So what advice could he give me that would be life-changing?    For some background, our homework questions were primarily online through the University website. The homework would pose a question, and you did all the work on scratch paper and then entered your answer in the provided space. There was a dropdown box where you could choose which... read more

Mastering Math

I always enjoyed math, however shortly after beginning college algebra, I began to dread going to class. My grades dropped like a lead weight. Determined to raise my grades, I tried to figure out what was different about this course than other math classes I had taken. It finally dawned on me that prior to college, I had math class every day. Now it was only three days per week. I was spending significantly fewer hours studying and practicing mathematics.   Math is like music. It must be practiced every day in order to maintain and improve your skills. I realized that if I wanted to succeed, I needed to work problems daily. I started doing math seven days a week and soon leaped to the top of the class!

How To Prepare For Back To School In Minutes A Day

For students who want to prepare to go back to school but only have a few minutes to spare each day, I would suggest making a plan. For younger students, a parent can organize a set plan for which subject to review each day of the week. For instance Monday: 15 minutes of Reading Comprehension Tuesday: 15 minutes of Math facts Wednesday: 15 minutes journal writing etc. If a student struggles in a particular subject more time should be spent in this area. Every little bit helps. 15 minutes of reading a day is better than nothing. As well it is important to remember that reading is reading regardless of the medium. Reading a comic book still counts as reading. Allow students to read what they enjoy. For older students I would even suggest unofficially quizzing yourself/summarizing what you have learned each day. For math, search online and find fun puzzles or math games online. All in all make it fun and it won't feel like a chore. 

Time Management for "The Jack of all Trades."

Hello fellow tutors and students! This is my first blog post, but I do feel that it is an appropriate one. If you are the type of person that loves to get involved in every single thing, but still love to get good grades, don't fret. I'm one of those people, too, and even though it can get mind-boggingly stressful sometimes, it all pays off in the end. I'm here to give you a few tips on how to make it without dropping any activities.    1. Schedule Your Day      I cannot stress this one enough. The night before, schedule out time blocks for everything. Even if it's not specific (algebra here, philosophy here), make a slot for homework time. For example, on Monday, I have class from 9:30 to 12:20, then I eat lunch until 1, then go to my Student Government office hour. From 2:30 until 6:00, I have homework. At 6, I go to dinner. From 7 to 9 I either have free time to go to my club meetings or work on more school work. 9:00 is musical, and... read more

Believe in yourself first, study second.

But do both.  Self-confidence is the trust you have in yourself, a feeling inside that you can do it.  Just as athletes  compete and win who believe they can compete and win, so, too, students must have a positive and constructive outlook to realize their own "personal best."  So the first best study habit is to believe in yourself.  Only then can the adage "Perfect practice makes perfect" really come true.  

Preparation for Returning Back To School

No matter what level or grade you or your child may be returning to, there are always a few key tips that can help prepare for success.   Step One: Take just a few minutes a day to get yourself back in the study habit. That is, when you come home spend about 15 to 30mins organizing a study chart for assignments or just reading.   Step Two: Once the chart is in place, then stick to the schedule--update the schedule every week like for instance on a Sunday afternoon. Step Three: Read, read, and read. Even reading a simple article in the newspaper, keeps your brain functioning at optimal level. Step Four: Find your trouble areas. For instance, if you are a weak writer or reader, then engage yourself in practicing writing sentences or crossword puzzles (Hint: all crosswords come in all levels and age groups).   Step Five: Find a tutor. If you are unsure of how to manage your study time, or how to sharpen your weaker skills, then... read more

Studying Habits For Finance Courses and ANY course in general!

The best advice I received from my college professors:   Before taking any exam always complete EVERY single question at the end of the chapter, even if they were not assigned for homework.   This piece of advice was given to a student 30 years ago who ended up becoming a professor at the same university he attended. During his lectures he made it a point to give the same advice to his students and explain its origin.   I had the pleasure of taking classes with both professors and hearing the same advice several times throughout each semester. Now it's my turn to pass along the same advice. If you want to fully understand the conceptual and computational aspects of a finance course, do every single problem at the end of the chapter. The end result - mastery of the subject and usually a 100 on the exam :)   This really does apply to any and all courses as well, since it is a very good study habit.   The history of how... read more

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