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Sure, we have all heard our math teachers say "Study for your test tomorrow." While we can all agree the importance of studying and getting prepared for an exam, not many math teachers actually tell you HOW to study. I am sure we have all spent time making flash cards, staring at our notes, or watching last minute videos on youtube, only to realize the test results often don't correlate to our effort. Before long, these upsetting experiences and test results created a scar in our minds, that statement we have all heard before: I am just not good at math.   The truth of the matter is, many people who have expressed their inability to understand and perform well on mathematics simply don't know how to study for a math exam. After all, those negative signs and multiple choice questions are often so tricky, even though you calculated every step correctly until the very end, all it took was one single mindless error that can well ruin the entire result. If we closely... read more

Would you like to earn a grade that is one letter higher?    Here's the tip!   Before you turn in your paper, make sure to follow these basic steps:   Make sure you answered all the questions.  After all that work you don't want to miss points because you forgot to go back to that question you skipped. Make sure you followed the directions all the way.  Be careful and re-read the directions for each section.  Sometimes students miss a lot of points because the questions were two part questions, and the students only answered one part on each question.  In which case, half of the points would be lost. Make sure to double check all calculations if doing math work, and double check punctuation, spelling, and grammar if writing an English document.  Sometimes students miss points because they were going a little too fast, or for whatever reason made "silly" mistakes.  Just double check.  That... read more

There are two basic levels of study skills with which I attempt to help people. The first is what we might call basic or rudimentary skills. These have to do with establishing good habits that lead to successful study. The latter is more advanced and has to do with conducting research, discerning the authenticity and value of sources, and so on. The purpose of this article is to provide basic advice to those struggling with basic study habits.   Difficulties with basic study habits are usually rooted in a lack of understanding of the subject being studied -- leading to frustration -- and general distractions. If you are having trouble progressing in your studies consider trying the following:   Study at the Same Time Every Day Find a time of the day when you typically feel calm and there aren't a lot of interruptions. Make that your routine study or self-improvement time. With practice, this will condition your mind to go into "study mode"... read more

Just the other day  I had a conversation with a parent about what's wrong with schools today.Among many things, we agreed that students don't get the chance to really learn the material. They just don't practice the skills enough. Is it because they spend all their time preparing for standardized testing? Is it lack of time in the classroom? Or is it just plain old boring ? Well, boring or not,  repetition is necessary. You heard me right. If you practice something over and over again you will remember it! I can prove it . Marketing gurus use this all the time.  How many of you reading this blog know about the Geico Gecko? Now prior to that commercial, how many of us would have known to call that green  lizard a "Geico"? Very few, I am sure. We would've just said it was a lizard but  because we have seen that commercial pop up on our screen thousands of times. We know about the Geico Gecko even if we didn't want to know about it.  Here's the... read more

I recently read an article which reported the favorite books of 50 celebrities (actors, musicians, politicians, etc). I noticed that several of them mentioned that they started out hating reading because it seemed to always reminded them of schoolwork and school until they made a special connection with a particular book. After that, reading became a joy!   I've long found this attitude surprising because I can't remember a time (after I learned to read, of course) when I didn't love to read. Weird, right? I'm pretty sure I'm in the minority here, but I think I can explain why reading has just never felt like a chore:   1. My parents never placed restrictions on what my siblings and I could read.   This may seem like a terrible idea to parents wary of their children getting their hands on "Fifty Shades of Gray" and similar age-inappropriate material, and I can't blame them. While my parents did not place formal restrictions, they made... read more

I remember how nervous I was during every major test in my life. The SAT, AP Tests before undergraduate school. Then there was the dreaded GRE required for admission to graduate school. Fast forward: my master's degree test involved a full day of writing (with no notes or books). My doctoral exams involved a full day of writing, three times a week for one week (also with no notes or books). Talk about torture! And then there was the faculty review ... whew! But you know what? I needn't have been nervous and neither should you, because "testing" begins the minute you walk into the classroom door. If you pay attention in class, do your homework, stay focused (you can always "play" later), take good care of your mind and body -- exercise a little to relieve stress and stay healthy -- and create a peaceful environment in which to study a little bit every day during the school week, you should be able to retain information and write to the best of your... read more

A lot of people - especially high schoolers and college students - are anxious about math and other subjects. Do you know why? It is because they take them and their ability to achieve high marks in them as a measure -maybe the only measure - of their worth. They are terrified of failing and of losing out, be it on money or prestige or anything they value. Or maybe they're anxious about some future scenario like getting into college. They kick themselves to work harder, achieve more, but this never works. The only way to understand anything is in the present. Presence makes problems easy or irrelevant.    You can practice presence in many ways. One good way is to sit quietly doing nothing. Another is to fix your eyes on a point for five minutes. Yet another is to repeat a sound for a long time, or count to a large number. The ability to be still inside is so important. It lets all things be known.

In my experience as an educator, certain factors are more intimately tied to academic success than others. The all-too-common assumption often made by those struggling in the classroom is that some students are born intelligent, while others are not. This assumption generally takes it for granted that intelligence is some innate property, with the unfortunate effect that those who feel they are less intelligent often feel discouraged and are tempted to give up. If you have struggled with the temptation to accept a failing or barely passing grade, then I hope I can offer you ways to improve! While it is true that different individuals possess different levels of intelligence, I have not found intelligence to be anything like the most important determinant of success. The reason that intelligence alone is insufficient for long term success is that just because a person has a quick mind, or can understand difficult material faster than the average person does not mean that she possesses... read more

Many students do not realize that they need to invest time and focused personal study in order to pass challenging subjects such as Geometry, Algebra II, Advanced Math, Chemistry, or AP English.     These classes need to be taught carefully, step by step, and the student needs to make sure they master each class before entering the next class.     Many students do not take the time to look up vocabulary words they might not be familiar with.  The student should use a good dictionary, look up each unfamiliar word, write down the word and its definition so that the student can learn the word, even if it has not been explained in class.  This way the student can build upon prior knowledge.     Students need to sit and read, carefully and thoughtfully, about their subject matter.  Alone, with no distractions.   And they need to develop these habits as they proceed along throughout high school and college... read more

Please examine the evidence for yourself at  However, the upshot is that, while I'm a big advocate for technology in many things, for some reason, handwriting seems to be a better retention tool than typed notes for most students.  (Though I myself had great success in college initially writing my notes, then reshaping them into a polished version on a computer when the material was still fresh and I remembered what all my own shorthand meant).  Take a look.

(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

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 how to... read more

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. You... read more

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 it’s a topic... read more

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, errands,... read more

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. Likewise,... read more

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 one or... read more

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. Try to develop... read more

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 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 question... read more

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