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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

Recommended Materials for SAT Study

  With the wealth of SAT prep materials out there, it can be tough to find the best resources for SAT study. I've been tutoring for the SAT for over a decade, and these are the materials I've found to be the most helpful.     SAT General Study   For all-around SAT preparation, nothing beats The Official SAT Study Guide, published by the College Board. With ten full practice tests, this book contains plenty of study material for all sections of the test. Because the questions are written by the College Board and, in many cases, have appeared on actual administered SATs, they accurately reflect what students will see on test day. (I've never found a test written by a third-party company that comes close to matching actual SAT questions, and I do not recommend third-party practice tests for study.) Working through the questions in this book is the best, most effective way for any student to prepare for the test.   In... read more

A brain teaser

 In the land of Zig-Zag, there are only two types of people: truth tellers who always tell the truth and zig zags who if questioned either tell the truth or lie. The zig zags never lie or tell the truth twice in a row when questioned.   We can infer which of the following:   A) In the land of Zig-Zag, if a person is asked if they are a truth teller and they answer affirmatively, then the next answer he or she gives to a question must be true.   B) In the land of Zig-Zag, if you ask whether their neighbor is a truth teller and the person answers in the negative, then the answer the neighbor gives to the next question is most likely true.   C) Both A and B   D) Neither A nor B

The Grand Old Standardized Tests

Aaah...the the most feared, loathed, avoided tests of the century: the PSAT, SAT, and ACT.   I am here to tell you that you should not let these tests overpower you. A bad first score is not enough to tell your potential. You are capable of improving leaps and bounds, perhaps hundreds of points.   Take my younger brother, for example. He took the PSAT his freshman year with no prior exposure to the test and received a 153. He was not happy with his score, so I told him he would have to practice greatly to improve. With my help tutoring him in math and writing, he was able to improve his SAT score to 1820 his sophmore year. That is a 290 point increase! Using the big blue SAT practice book, he took many practice tests to help him get comfortable with the test format. I went over the questions he got wrong, so he could learn from his mistakes and not make the same mistake the next time. The SAT Question of the Day was another helpful tool he used that... read more

Doing Better on Quizzes, Tests, and Exams - Part II

You can find some really good resources for math test prep in the used bookstores in a college town. Some examples that I like are: (1) Humongous Book of ______________ Problems (fill in the blank with your math topic);  (2) the REA Problem Solvers series; and (3) the Schaum's Outlines. If you don't live near a college town it might be worth a Saturday trip just to buy books. Alternately, all of these are available (used) through the Amazon Marketplace sellers at really low prices.   You should preview each title of these book series that you might be considering to be sure you like the authors style. Each one is different. You may like one series' treatment of Pre-Calc but prefer a different series for Calculus.   So how do you use these books ?   They are an alternate resource for explanations of basic concepts and problem solving techniques. You should use them as 'hint mills' and sources of problems to... read more

Halloween is past, can you see the law school final freight train headed your way?

For Freshlaws (first year law students) the flood of information and mind altering Socratic method classroom discussions often result in an overwhelming feeling of concern as Halloween passes and finals loom in a month or so. Law school finals are like nothing most students experience in undergrad because they are often all or nothing and the resulting grades have such a massive effect on career choices. With the best law firms aiming at the top ten percent of law students by GPA and internships starting after first year, each exam carries enormous weight.   So, in November law students must refine their studying to bring tremendous focus to upcoming exams. The time has come to bring outlines up-to-date and edit them. Review the other students in your study group to cut out slackers and focus on those with the same intense drive. If you feel weak in any subject, it is time to consider seeking out a tutor to give you the one on one advantage that is not... read more

Avoiding "the freeze..." or how to handle Test Stress and Exam Anxiety

How to avoid the "freeze" during a quiz, test, or exam: First, let's talk about what "the freeze" is. The freeze is usually a sort of momentary panic, that makes it very hard to concentrate and focus and solve problems. Does that sound at all familiar? Many students experience it at least once in their lives, and some students face it frequently. When we have a moment of panic, our adrenaline kicks in. We go into "fight or flight" mode, and certain parts of the brain are chemically over-stimulated by the adrenaline. When we are in "fight or flight" mode, it is very hard to concentrate and do challenging problems like math and science problems. Sometimes it takes a long time to calm down and get the adrenaline out of our system. A strong panic can wipe out our best thinking skills for an entire test period, and give us a score that does not represent our actual level of understanding at all. We can actually know most of... read more

Avoiding the "freeze," or how to handle Test Stress / Exam Anxiety

How to avoid the "freeze" during a quiz, test, or exam:   First, let's talk about what "the freeze" is. The freeze is usually a sort of momentary panic, that makes it very hard to concentrate and focus and solve problems. Does that sound at all familiar? Many students experience it at least once in their lives, and some students face it frequently. When we have a moment of panic, our adrenaline kicks in. We go into "fight or flight" mode, and certain parts of the brain are chemically overstimulated by the adrenaline. That makes it hard to focus.   When we are in "fight or flight" mode, it is very hard to concentrate and do challenging problems like math and science problems. Sometimes it takes a long time to calm down and get the adrenaline out of our system. A strong panic can wipe out our best thinking skills for an entire test period, and give us a score that does not represent our actual level of understanding... read more

The "freeze," or how to handle Test Stress / Exam Anxiety

How to avoid the "freeze" during a quiz, test, or exam:   First, let's talk about what "the freeze" is.  The freeze is usually a sort of momentary panic, that makes it very hard to concentrate and focus and solve problems.   Does that sound at all familiar?  Many students experience it at least once in their lives, and some students face it frequently.  When we have a moment of panic, our adrenaline kicks in.  We go into "fight or flight" mode, and certain parts of the brain are chemically overstimulated by the adrenaline.  When we are in "fight or flight" mode, it is very hard to concentrate and do challenging problems like math and science problems.  Sometimes it takes a long time to calm down and get the adrenaline out of our system.  A strong panic can wipe out our best thinking skills for an entire test period, and give us a score that does not represent our actual level... read more

The "freeze," or how to handle Test Stress / Exam Anxiety

How to avoid the "freeze" during a quiz, test, or exam:   First, let's talk about what "the freeze" is.  The freeze is usually a sort of momentary panic, that makes it very hard to concentrate and focus and solve problems.   Does that sound at all familiar?  Many students experience it at least once in their lives, and some students face it frequently.  When we have a moment of panic, our adrenaline kicks in.  We go into "fight or flight" mode, and certain parts of the brain are chemically overstimulated by the adrenaline.  When we are in "fight or flight" mode, it is very hard to concentrate and do challenging problems like math and science problems.  Sometimes it takes a long time to calm down and get the adrenaline out of our system.  A strong panic can wipe out our best thinking skills for an entire test period, and give us a score that does not represent our actual level... read more

SAT PREPARATION- Testing Strategies, Vocabulary Improvement, and Language Mastery

Here is an overview of my 5 BEST TIPS for realizing your highest potential on the SAT:   Read and Write Daily- Do not read just fluffy stuff from internet sites or think that your emails constitute all the daily writing you need (join a writer's group and keep a journal).  Most importantly, read thoughtful, intelligent articles from reputable sources (like the Wall Street Journal) on a daily basis on topics that stimulate your thinking and challenge your vocabulary.  This is the best approach for long-term improvement in reading and writing. Study High-Frequency SAT Vocabulary Lists- There are many of these word lists obtainable on the Internet. The problem is that you may not retain the words using a crash-course study approach.  This won't be helpful for long term unless you pace your study of the words and see words in their context.  I recommend a 7 day study approach.  Study 30-50 words each day for two days in a row using... read more

Back to School

My suggestion for students to prepare to go back to school is lay out their books and other stuff needed the night before. Review the assignment or quiz for the few minutes while waiting for the bus to arrive or when the student arrives at school early. Another suggestion would be to get classmates together after school at the main library to study for the upcoming test. Or if that can't work, get online and set up a study session.

A new year and a new start!

WyzAnt wants to know: How should students prepare to go back to school if they only have a few minutes to spare each day? It's hard to get back into "school mode"! I'm finally coming back into education in a formal capacity after privately tutoring for years, and even I'm sometimes having trouble getting back into the groove. But it doesn't have to be scary, and you probably have more time than you think! In my view, there is no substitute for regular, challenging practice, especially in mathematics. If you're preparing for a standardized test like the ACT or SAT, this is doubly true, as the more questions you see that are similar to the ones on the test, the less anxiety those questions will produce!  So that's what people should be focusing on: practice questions. Even one a day will put you ahead of the curve! Standardized test creators often have a "problem of the day" on their websites which is a great start; otherwise, this is exactly... read more

Philosophy of Education for MJ T.

Philosophy of Education for M.J. T. To me the purpose of education is threefold: (1) provide students with a basis of knowledge, (2) teach students how to reason so that they can continue their education throughout their lives, and (3) instill in them a life-long excitement about and love of learning. Students must acquire a basis of knowledge, a framework on which to sort out and understand how various aspects of information in any subject area fit together to make the whole picture of where we have been and where we are going as a civilization. Science affects philosophy which affects the arts … ad infinitum. Nothing exists in a vacuum-sealed box. All knowledge is recursive and intertwined - reaches out and affects many areas outside the discipline in which it begins. I liken this basis of knowledge to a needlepoint tapestry mesh framework. The threads of different strands of information are worked in at various points. In some way every thread touches every... read more

Time for Test Prep!

Well, it is the time of year when the frenzy and buzz of talk about classrooms, teachers, textbooks, pencils, folders, and schedules begin. Some of you might be thinking past this year and onto high school or even college, or perhaps you have already signed your child up for the SSAT, HSPT, SAT or ACT test. Now is definitely a good time to start preparing for those tests. In general, students need a lot of practice before taking any of the official tests. The SSAT and SAT tests students on concepts that they might not have learned yet, such as Geometry, or vocabulary words that are beyond the scope of their classes and reading assignments in school. These tests are difficult because students also need to learn some test strategies and approaches to do well on the exams. My advice: prepare early! I have seen students improve greatly over 4 - 6 weeks with steady and consistent practice. By increasing vocabulary, critical reading and quick calculation skills, students will... read more

Confident

My cousin once asked, "Where do you get your confidence?” Before I had time to consider the idea, the response came out, "I've made mistakes, and I'm not afraid to make mistakes in the future.” In public speaking, writing, and publishing; the speaker or writer must be confident. Confidence builders for me always include preparation. Here are ways I prepare to write and to present. Brainstorming. The first step is good old-fashioned brainstorming. I prepare by thinking about the topic. What do I know? What do I want the audience to know after I'm done? How will I go about finding information for the content I do not know? while driving is one of my favorite times to ponder a topic, the audience, and the purpose of the writing or presentation. I call it TAP. Once I've considered the topic, audience, and purpose (TAP), the majority of planning is done. The second step includes drafting. I choose to outline presentations and use paragraphing of thoughts for... read more

Be Like Water...

Humans have a tremendous capacity to learn and adapt. However, we consistently build barriers that hinder our natural ability to change and grow. Many people, regardless of age, perceive themselves as not being talented enough to excel at math and science. They view math and science as the realms in which only scientists, engineers, mathematicians, and geniuses truly soar. Nothing could be further than the truth. Sure, possessing a natural affinity towards these subjects helps. Yet, a supposed lack of talent does not prevent you from learning. The path may be more arduous. The journey may be longer. Nevertheless, you possess within you the fire to endure. Willpower, dedication, self belief, and an open mind can compensate for any lack of ability. Bruce Lee was a legendary martial artist, actor, and philosopher who continues to inspire millions with the sheer intensity which he pursued his endeavors. Frail, sickly, and small as a child, Bruce Lee overcame many physical... read more

Summer Tutoring

SUMMER OPPORTUNITIES Now that students, teachers, parents and tutors have had a chance to catch their breath from final exams, it's time to make use of the weeks we have before school starts back. Consider all that could be accomplished in the next few weeks: Areas of math that students NEVER REALLY GRASPED could be fully explained. This could be elementary skills like adding fractions, middle school topics like systems of equations, or high school areas like sequences and series. Students could have a TREMENDOUS HEAD STARTon topics that will be covered in the first few weeks of school. Imagine your son or daughter being able to raise their hand to answer a question in the first week of school because they had worked several problems just like the ones that the teacher is demonstrating. ENORMOUS PROGRESS could be made in the area of preparation for the standardized tests (PSAT, SAT, ACT and more) that are so important to getting into a great college. STUDY... read more

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