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Our understanding of the relationship between memory and learning continues to improve. Why not benefit from the latest research by incorporating some of these findings into your own study habits? I help my students come up with creative ways to do this all the time, and wanted to share one of the more helpful summaries I've come across about what works and what doesn't.    Here are a few highlights: Link new information to things you already know Actively participate in your own learning Create both a visual and a verbal memory for the same information Whenever possible, study in an environment that is similar to the testing environment Spread studying out over several days, rather than cramming Avoid multitasking when learning difficult or dense material Review information you're trying to memorize right before you go to sleep Quiz yourself frequently to practice retrieving these memories, making them stronger in the process   You... read more

When I worked for Kaplan, they required all private tutoring lessons to be two hours. That surprised me because I thought of lessons as one-hour affairs. However, I soon discovered that we could get through a lot more in one two-hour lesson than we could in two one-hour lessons. Why? For starters, each lesson always starts with a few pleasantries and takes a couple of minutes to get going. Furthermore, it usually takes 15 minutes or so for students' minds to warm up and perform at their best. So by the time we are at our best flow, if the lesson is only one hour together, we have often used a quarter to a third of our lesson time. In my experience, I've found that 90 minutes works well for most students (exceptions: young students, and students who begin tutoring very close to their test date). With 90 minutes, we can go through the warm up period and spend more than an hour at our most productive level. And 90 minutes isn't so long that it strains students' attention... read more

All cancellations must be made in writing (through WyzAnt messaging) before 36 hours of the lesson start time. If you are cancelling for a reason other than illness or emergency, you will be charged the full cancellation fee equal to the full amount of the lesson.  If you are sick, ill, or not feeling well, you are eligible to receive a discounted cancellation fee ($15-$20, up to 1/2 of the full lesson fee) only if you choose to reschedule the lesson within 1 week (otherwise you will be charged the full cancellation fee equal to the full amount of the lesson). If there is a holiday or special observance, you are eligible to receive a discounted cancellation fee ($15-$20, up to 1/2 of the full lesson fee) only if you choose to reschedule the lesson within 1 week (otherwise you will be charged the full cancellation fee equal to the full amount of the lesson). If you have an emergency, no cancellation fee will be applied only if you reschedule the lesson within 1 week... read more

We all have one: that one subject that our brains just refuse to understand, and no matter how much we study or how hard we work, we never feel like we really truly GET what is going on.   For me, that subject was always Physics. No junior high or high school teacher could ever answer the unending string of "...but WHY?" questions that I needed answered before I could understand even the most basic concepts of our Introductory course. It wasn't that I couldn't understand, but rather that I wasn't being taught these ideas in a way that made sense to me.    As an adult, Physics is now actually one of my favorite subjects to read about because I have found some books written for people just like me, people who need explanations fulls of examples and explanations and lots of pictures! I may never discover black holes or split an atom, but I now know enough that I can understand the people who do those things. :-)     So,... read more

Over the years, I have noticed that many students do not like to take their practice test scores at face value. When students get scores below their goal, the temptation to rationalize is strong.   "On Test Day, I will take it much more seriously, so I'm sure my result will be higher."  "I was distracted during XYZ sections, so my score on those isn't as accurate as it could be." "I only really focused on the Math sections, that's why I didn't do as well on the others."  "I made a lot of careless mistakes."   I'm not saying these are excuses - it's possible that they are accurate explanations - but even still, thinking this way will not serve you well.    For starters, if you're not taking your practice tests as seriously as you would the actual test, that's a problem. The whole point of practice tests is to prepare you for the real thing, so you should treat them as if they... read more

I can't speak for every tutor, but I know that if you work with me I have certain expectations of you in order to ensure that you will see the greatest possible improvement in your score. Luckily, they are really quite simple, and adhering to them makes a huge difference. I've attached a PDF version to summarize my Top 5 Test Prep Essentials that you can download, but I will review each of them below too.    For starters, I may be stating the obvious, but you absolutely must complete all homework assignments. All my assignments are tailored to your current performance and designed to help you achieve your goal score. Many students aspire to achieve dramatic improvements, and I fully believe such improvements are possible. BUT, in order to achieve such goals, it is imperative that you complete every homework assignment. If there is a notable gap between your current score and your goal score, that is perfectly ok, but it makes the homework that much more important... read more

To my fellow educators and students,   I know that it is very tempting to give your students answers to their questions immediately, but sometimes it's best to let a student struggle a little. Asking students why they are doing what they are doing can help students to make lasting connections that go beyond that next test or ACT exam. This approach can be frustrating for both teachers and students at times, but it is quite rewarding.   I have a student who was completely scared about sharing their opinion on an answer they gave. Throughout most of the lesson i refused to give them a yea or nay answer. I asked them to talk it out and see if they could understand why they did what they did. The student was correct, but having students explain their answer and even get frustrated with me some helped this student achieve deeper understanding of the material. 

AP Literature Open-Ended Prompt, 1975, #2: Unlike the novelist, the writer of a play does not use his own voice and only rarely uses a narrator’s voice to guide the audience’s responses to character and action. Select a play you have read and write an essay in which you explain the techniques the playwright uses to guide his audience’s responses to the central characters and the action. You might consider the effect on the audience of things like setting, the use of comparable and contrasting characters, and the characters’ responses to each other. Support your argument with specific references to the play. Do not give a plot summary. The Blanks Left Empty Narration is often the crux of the novelist's art. Through skillful use of narration and point of view, a novelist can make his readers acutely aware of not just the events of the novel, but the characters' opinions of those events. This makes it easy for a skilled novelist to deftly control how his... read more

When I first took the CBEST test, I went in without preparation. I past the writing section the first time; the other sections I scored just below 41. Since most test takers write extensively, they will pass the write portion of the test. However, there are test takers that struggle with writing and placing their ideas in written form. Back to Basics The CBEST test, you are given two essay prompts: The Writing test consists of two essay questions. One of the essay questions asks examinees to write about a remembered experience. The other question is designed to elicit expository prose that will permit writers to demonstrate their analytic skills (CBEST, 2013). You are only given two pages for each essay, so your writing must be concise and articulate. Recall the five paragraph essay: the introduction, one paragraph; the body, three paragraphs; the conclusion, one paragraph. Remember, you are not writing a thesis or dissertation, keep it simple. Most CBEST study guides... read more

From my experience, designing a lesson for one student could be challenging due to not being able to include group or pair-work, which is not only a great way for the students to apply what they have just learned with a fellow classmate allowing them to feel more comfortable to make mistakes but also gives the teacher the opportunity to walk around and listen in and find common errors that can be brought up to the class as a whole instead of singling out a single student's mistake possibly discouraging them, but also because after some time the student can easily get bored deterring them from fully learning the material the tutor is teaching. Here are five things I include in each lesson to ensure that the student is actively learning and having a fun time doing so as well.   1) Make your first lesson informal so they feel comfortable with you from the get-go. They will be hesitant until they feel it is okay to mistakes and the sooner you can get them to let their guard... read more

"Mom; Dad,  I'm bored!"  If that is the constant  complaint of your child this week of Spring Break, take heart. There's hope! For those of you in Houston, the Children's  Museum of Houston is offering admission for $12.00 this week. There will be special activities and exhibits to keep your children occupied and learning all week.   libraries are planning special activities such as reading clubs, often free of charge. These activities not only keep your children entertained, but they prevent the loss of learning associated with long school breaks, They can also provide , conversation starters over dinner. Give it a try.

The Economist recently published an article with some surprising research findings about stress. Contrary to popular belief, stress is not always bad, nor is it the amount of stress that matters. Rather, the key determinant of its impact on performance and health is largely psychological.    In one study, researchers divided a set of GRE test takers into two groups. Saliva samples were taken to establish baseline stress levels for all participants. Then one group was told that stress during practice exams is natural and can improve performance, while the other group just took the test. Saliva samples were taken at the end of the exam, and the results from both groups indicated similar levels of stress. BUT, the group that had learned stress can be helpful scored higher on the practice test (and, several months later, on the actual GRE) than those who just took the test.    Even more impressively, in 2012 a group of researchers scoured through... read more

The =CONCATENATE(x) function is one of the LEAST heard of functions in all of Excel. It allows you to combine multiple cells into one cell. There is no limit to how many can be combined, so =CONCATENATE(A1," ",B1," ") will combinie A1 with B1, and place a blank space in between both cells - if they are words that require a space in between. Concatenate Away! 

Have you ever received a graded essay handed back with the phrase, "Needs more structure," or "structure needs work?"   Creating a structure for any written word, whether it is poem, essay, news brief, or novel, is an integral part of the message you intend to convey. Using long, convoluted sentences as means to convince the reader that your argument is very simple will usually only give the opposite impression; simple arguments are best conveyed with short, simple sentences. (For example, the opposite is true in Jonathan Swift's essay, "A Modest Proposal," in which he uses didactic and complex language in an effort to "convince" the people of England that the solution to their hunger and poverty problem is to eat their starving infant children; his complex sentences reflect the sarcastic and satiric nature of his essay, reflecting that he does not see cannibalism as a real solution.)   Structure also helps you keep... read more

Well, okay, it's not incorrect, but it's flawed and by a mathematician's standards: morally wrong.   I'm sure at one point you boringly learned the order of operations. These are the set of rules that tell you whether you should do multiplication before division or addition before subtraction to get the correct answer on your math problem.  1) Parentheses (brackets) 2) Exponents x^x 3) Multiplication 2*2 4) Division 2/2 5) Addition 2+2 6) Subtraction 2-2 7) Get the right answer :)   Except, you don't always get the right answer.   For example: 8-2+1. Is it 5 because 8-3=5? Or is it 7 because 6+1=7?   Is 6/3/3 equal to 2/3 or 6/1?   The issue here is that focusing on the order of operations can lead to ambiguity and obscures the real beauty of mathematics.   A mathematician will tell you that 8-2+1 is actually 8+(-2)+1, which is unambiguously equal to... read more

During the school year, many of the students I work with have jam-packed schedules replete with extracurriculars, sports, and demanding classes. Adding test prep into the mix can complicate schedules even further. So why not take advantage of the time students have off during the summer to get ahead, so that when school resumes they won't have a heavy additional workload to worry about?    There are many reasons why summer classes benefit students. One of the most obvious relates to what is known as the "summer slide." Most students lose about two months of grade-level mathematical proficiency over the summer. In fact, in a meta-analysis of 39 studies that examined the effect of summer vacation on academic achievement, researchers found that summer break was detrimental for both math and reading skills, and that the amount of deterioration increased with grade-level.    Many times I work with sophomores and juniors in high school... read more

Translator: Google Translate is a great way to translate words and short phrases from your native language to English   Vocabulary Builder: Build your English vocabulary with fun worksheets               ****This is a "living" blog post that will be updated periodically.

Tutoring is a two way street. Both sides of the party need to put in 110% of effort in order to see positive results.   A tutor needs to be enthusiastic about the subject. They need to be passionate about what they are teaching. Throughout my college career, I had a better experience and better results in classes where my professor was enthusiastic about the class. Adversely, teachers who don't show enthusiasm, do not connect with the students, and the students refuse to create that connection as well.    Another healthy tutoring tip is patience. Nobody likes a pushy tutor! Yes, be assertive, but being too pushy will annoy the student. Patience allows the student to digest the material and to create cognitive connections.   Positive encouragement is also a good way to make lessons fun. There are teachers who scare their students by giving them discouragement. When a teacher gives the student positive encouragement, the student feels good... read more

Study skills With the school year just starting, it's important to build study skills that will last through the year. Here are some tips to help create good habits now—TEN not-so-easy steps to develop self-discipline as well as become a strong student and an independent person. When December rolls around, you and your child will want to have great study skills to call upon to identify problems, plan projects, and meet deadlines.   STEP ONE: Identify your strengths What is your favorite subject? Where do you excel? What makes that subject fun for you? What skills do you have that make you good at it?  STEP TWO: Write them down Sing your own praises. Make a list. Why? First, just to make yourself feel good. Second, to build some confidence. Third, and perhaps most importantly, to see how you can apply your strengths in subjects that do not come as easily.  STEP THREE: Identify your challenges What is your least favorite... read more

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