Friday, May 25, 2012

Tips for Fantastic Finals!

Finals time is rapidly approaching, causing many students to feel anxious, stressed, and over-worked. While you can’t take the tests for them, you can build their confidence by encouraging smart study habits. Here are just a few tips for Fantastic Finals:

1.)    Get plenty of sleep. Your brain can’t work properly if you’re overtired, so give yourself the rest you deserve.

2.)    Have someone test you. Use flashcards or homemade study guides to easily condense important material.

3.)    Explain the material to someone else. If there are any areas that are difficult to describe, you will know that’s what you need to study.

4.)    PRACTICE math problems. With a subject like math, practicing ways to solve a variety of problems is the best way to prepare your brain.

5.)    Budget your time – Do not try to cram everything into one day. Cramming can leave you exhausted and frustrated; it is easiest to learn things at a steady pace, over time. You will also retain the material better afterwards.

6.)    Make a snack – Don’t study on an empty stomach. Proteins, fruits and veggies, and nuts such as almonds or walnuts are all great examples of Brain Food.

7.)    Take a break every 30-40 minutes, and so something physical if you can. Go for a quick walk, do some jumping jacks, or just sit outside and breathe some fresh air. Give your mind a chance to reboot.

8.)    Create study groups with friends and classmates. If you aren’t able to meet with friends in person, try getting together on Skype or FaceTIme for study sessions.

9.)    Break down the material into small groups, and study one group each day. This will give your sessions more focus.

10.)  Ask your teacher questions about what the test will cover, and what kind of questions to expect. You will be grateful for the guidance.

These are, of course, just a FEW things you can do to make your study sessions less painful and more productive. Talk with your child and see if you both can come up with your own ideas. As always, getting a tutor is a great way to make sure students are getting the appropriate instruction, even if it’s just to reinforce existing skills.

Thursday, May 10, 2012

The SAT vs the ACT: How to Decide, and Prepare

Test preparation can be confusing and intimidating; even the best students may find the SATs or ACTs overwhelming. This is due largely to the (incorrect) assumption that there is simply no efficient way to study for either of these tests. Today, however, there is an overwhelming amount of preparation material for both the SATs and the ACTs, and in fact most students seek out some kind of assistance when studying. As students are ranked on a percentile score which compares them to one another, not receiving the same level of preparation as other students can put your child at a serious disadvantage.

The first step is deciding which test your child should take. The differences between the SATs and the ACTs  are distinct; do not make the mistake of assuming that because the SATs have been around longer that they are preferred by most colleges. Both tests are credible, and simply offer alternate ways for students to demonstrate their knowledge. Here are a few critical differences between the two:

The SAT:

Gives you the math formulas: The SAT math is primarily based on logical reasoning, so the formulas are provided.

Penalizes wrong answers: The SAT discourages guessing by deducting points for wrong answers.

Uses sentence completions: The SAT tests vocabulary through sentence completions.

Splits test sections up: The SAT is split into 25-minute chunks, with a short break after every hour of testing.

Is scored based on a composite: Each SAT section is scaled on a score from 200-800. These scores are added together to make a final composite score.

The ACT:

Requires you know the formulas: ACT math is based on knowledge as much as reasoning. The ACT also requires knowledge of more difficult math (trigonometry) than the SAT.

Does not penalize guessing: Wrong answers do not count against a student on the ACT. Thus, the percentage of questions students answer correctly tends to be slightly higher than average SAT scores.

Does not test vocabulary: Beyond context-based questions in reading passage (which the SAT also uses) the ACT does not cover vocabulary.

Does not split sections up: ACT sections run from 45 minutes to over an hour.

Is scored based on an average: The ACT is scored on a 1-36 average of each of the four sections. This can make it more difficult to increase an overall ACT score.

Ideally, students should begin preparation at least six to eight weeks before the test, but additional prep time is always beneficial. Some begin studying as early as twelve weeks before they are scheduled to take the exam. Getting your child a tutor is always a good idea, as they can provide guidance, structure, and the appropriate materials necessary for effective studying. The more time you can set aside with a tutor, the better. Tutors can also help diagnose potential problem areas, and focus on strategies that minimize these problems and help to buffer strengths.

Wednesday, May 2, 2012

Reading for Pleasure

Reading for Pleasure

What do you and your kids do for fun?  Texting?  TV?  Computer games? Facebook?  Going to the movies and out to dinner?  Bike riding?  Soccer?

All of these are great activities!  Not including school assignments and various e-messages from friends, how much time do you spend per day reading, just for fun?

Reading a book, usually fiction, has been my favorite leisure activity ever since I learned to read.  I love to get in the lives of other characters, and see how they tick.  I love to vicariously live their adventures.  While I also enjoy TV shows and movies, reading lets you imagine how everything is, and the stories last much longer.  After lugging a large book to Boston, I am finally planning to get a convenient e-reader.

The great thing about reading books is that it is not only fun but has the added benefits of increasing vocabulary, spelling, writing, and of course improving reading skills.  I would even argue that reading for pleasure does all of these things even better than assigned reading because you actually want to be there. Here are the overall benefits in a nutshell:

1.      Reading is relaxing and fun.  You have to pick out your own material, though.  Read what you love!
2.      Readers effortlessly improve their comprehension, vocabulary, spelling, and writing.  This way, you can practice your whole life for the SAT and ACT verbal and writing sections.  As an added bonus, it is super easy to look up vocabulary words on e-readers, if you happen to own one.
3.      Reading stimulates the imagination.
4.      Reading expands the mind by exposing you to different cultures, different walks of life, different personality types, and useful information.  Find history books dry?  Try historical fiction!
5.      Reading for pleasure improves standardized test scores.
6.      Practice is the only way to become an excellent reader.
7.      Once you are an excellent reader, you can advance to more difficult material, understand everything you are learning at school, and even develop a desire to read and learn in greater depth.

How to promote reading for pleasure

  1. Make reading a priority for all family members.  Do not over-schedule other activities; limit TV and computer time.  Consider having a family reading time each day.
  2. Do not force young children to read before they are ready.
  3. Read aloud to your children, even after they learn to read.
  4. Encourage fun reading, such as magazines, comics, and series books.
  5. Read the books your children are reading, and discuss them together.
  6. Help your child find what interests him and choose reading material accordingly.
  7. Allow your child to read easy material, as it will be more pleasurable for him.
  8. Make reading relevant. Follow directions for a recipe or model building.
  9. Take regular trips to the library and book store.
  10. Let children read in bed after “lights out.”
  11. Listen to recorded books on car trips.

This summer, the best thing you can do to prepare for school next year is read for pleasure all summer long.  If your children are young, you can join the library summer reading program and get coupons as a reward.

Happy reading!

Cheryl Gedzelman, President, Tutoring For Success, Inc.

Tuesday, May 1, 2012

Ways to Boost Your Grades This Spring

Are you feeling stressed by the end of the school year?
Do you need a little extra encouragement to keep yourself going through June?

Here are some simple tips to keep your grades (and your confidence!) up this Spring:

Here are some tips to share with your children:

  • Ask your teacher what you can do to increase your grade. It might be easier than you thought.
  • Make a schedule of your tests and quizzes in January. Then map out time in your schedule to review material. Avoid cramming all in one night.
  • While reviewing material (in advance), you may notice topics that you don’t understand. Go see your teacher for help during study hall or after school.
  • You can learn and absorb more by studying with a friend. This is now easier than ever to do with Face Time or Skype.
  • Map out long term projects that are due at the end of the quarter. Divide tasks into days, and enter in a calendar or planner. Teachers expect you to put time and thought into long term projects.
  • Be sure to look at the rubric for each project and check to make sure you complete each item thoroughly.
  • If getting good grades is important to you (I know it’s important to college admissions counselors) some focused planning at the end of each quarter can really make a difference.

Tutoring for Success offers Academic Coaching if you feel it will help, give us a call today.