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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

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

DON'T PANIC! How To Study for a Physical Science Final When You Didn't Learn Anything!

Now that finals have passed for most of the college students on the semester schedule, I'd like to reflect on the panic that arises when students in required introductory physical science classes come to the end of a course and realize that they haven't retained anything! What is the correct approach to triaging such situations? Of course, the best way to engage with material is by answering questions that are similar to those that will be on the examination, and most professors will be kind enough to tell you what the format and types of questions will be. Generally, there are two types of questions you will find: qualitative and quantitative. I'll deal with the best way to study for each type of question in turn.   Qualitative Questions The tendency here is to think that cramming and memorizing facts is the best way to go to answer such multiple choice, free response, or essay questions on qualitative subjects. However, this is not often the case.... 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

Study Skills

Ask any classroom full of students how they study, and you're likely to get a lot of different answers. There will probably be many similar answers, but most people have different methods, locations, and techniques that shortens their study time somehow. Sometimes shortcuts are a great thing- like a shortcut that avoids heavy traffic. The trick to using shortcuts with studying is knowing which ones work, and which ones don't! One of the best ways to ensure that your study time will be used effectively is to take notes during class. Ensuring that your notes make sense to YOU is really important. Your class notes should translate what your teacher is telling you into something that you can remember. For example: the definition of onomatopoeia is, 'the formation of a word from a sound associated with what is named.' If you have a long list of literary terms, the strange spelling of onomatopoeia might get lost with your other lit terms. Writing "sizzle" or "buzz"... 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

"How Much Time Should I Spend Studying on My Own"

I'm asked this question every so often.  When I was a student, I followed a general rule when it came to studying for a class.  For every hour I spent in class, I spent two hours studying or doing homework on my own.  I probably ended up spending more time than that for some classes but 2 hours to every 1 hour of class was my minimum.   Does every student follow this general rule?  Absolutely not!  Which is partly of the reason that keeps me busy as a tutor.  I have had students come to me, sit through a lesson, understand part of what they didn't understand before, then close their book when the lesson is over.  Other than sitting through the class lecture, when do you suppose they opened the book again?  The day I showed up for the next lesson.  Do you think that student succeeded on his upcoming exam?  Most likely, not.     The plain and simple truth that students must understand is that tutor... read more

The Best Way To Study

You have a huge exam tomorrow and you're feeling the pressure. Quick, what's the best way to study? Should you re-read your textbook? Maybe highlight it? Do some underlining? Should you look over your notes? These are common study habits, so should you spend your limited study time doing these things? No. These are actually the worst things you can do for studying. They're common, most likely, because they require very little effort. It's mostly passive. But if you want to actually get something done you'll skip these methods. Instead, you'll work harder, learn faster and learn better. How? By doing something active. Want to know the information cold? Studies show you should practice recalling your knowledge and using it.1 This means testing yourself or working together with a friend to test each other. The act of recalling knowledge is the best way to solidify it in your mind. So what does that look like? If you're studying history, vocabulary... read more

Mastering Difficult Subjects

When you start banging your head against the wall, trying to learn something new--be it art, math, foreign language, science, or that tuba you picked up at your neighbor's garage sale last weekend--can be, well, frustrating. (Not to mention headache-inducing.)  It feels like you'll never get the hang of it, even when you try over and over again to get it perfect.   Trust me, I know exactly where you're coming from.   See, when I was in high school, I struggled with English. No, really! My English literature classes felt like a complete joke. Everybody knew you just wrote a bunch of b.s. that parroted back what the teacher said, you'd get a B--an A if you could use semicolons correctly--and that was it. I couldn't even spit back what we were told in class because I thought none of it mattered, that it was all arbitrary and my teacher just enjoyed being the god of his own little kingdom, giving out Cs to students who never gave him chocolate for... read more

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. 

WyzAnt Wants to Know: Preparing to go back to school

Got this topic from WyzAnt this morning: How should students prepare to go back to school if they only have a few minutes to spare each day? Good question.  I think it's important to spend some time thinking about the big picture of the coming year and getting organized, so that you start out on the right foot.  I believe it's a very personal question, since as a student you have to decide what you want to get out of the coming school year as opposed to the previous one.  What areas did you feel you were lacking?  What are you most excited about?  What are you least excited about or most dreading? And why? Here's something that doesn't occur to a lot of people: what format are you learning in? I'm talking about two distinct things here – your supplies and setup, and the way you approach classes. Let's look at supplies and setup first. Think about your usual note-taking setup... read more

Expand your reading list.

Often you find yourself in a class where the teacher's style does not fit your way of learning. Ideally for a class of 30 students, the teacher teaches 30 different ways, each way customized perfectly for each student. This is impossible. The style of the suggested textbook and reading list may not be the best fit for you.     Just as there are different teaching styles, there are different styles of authors on a given subject. Suppose the subject is Anthropology. Go to your school library, even the Public Library. Browse the various anthropology books and find one which best suits you. Keep in mind that you still need to read the class book. Whenever there is a confusing point, go to the other book and get a different (and less confusing) point of view.

Study tips

So you're having trouble studying for a big test... trust me, you're not alone.  I always share my own struggle with students because then they can understand that not only can you overcome your problems, but you can learn and succeed, as well.  For me, I never learned how to study while I was growing up.  I either never needed to, or couldn't be bothered.  It wasn't until nursing school that I realized how crucial it was to figure out what kind of learner I was... and how to work with it.     Here are some of my "Tips to Successful Studying":   First, you need to recognize what kind of learner you are.  Do you like pictures and drawings?  Do you need to put your hands on things?  Can you really learn by listening?  For most learners... listening to "lecture" is NOT how they learn.  Nowadays, learners need to be involved in the the teaching-learning process, and adult learners, especially,... read more

Ser vs. Estar: To be or To be??....What is the difference!!??

Many of my students dread conjugating verbs. They dread it even more when the verbs are irregular and have the same meaning!!  The verbs ser and estar both mean "to be", so what is the difference between the two?? Ser is used to describe things that are permanent or often unchangeable.  For example, Yo soy de Estados Unidos.(I am from the United States).  The form of ser used in the sentence is soy.  You can not change where you are from. Ser is also used to describe characteristics, professions, religions and nationalities.       Estar is used to describe things that are temporary. For example, Yo estoy en Florida para las vacaciones(I am in Florida for vacation). I am vacationing in Florida, but I am not from there.  There is a little rhyme that is printed in the textbook, Realidades, which helps you remember when to use the verb, estar.  The rhyme goes, For how... read more

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