All posts by TutorTycoon

How to Get the Best Letters of Recommendation from Your Teachers

Tips from an Anaheim Tutor: How to Get the Best Letters of Recommendation from Your Teachers

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Letters of recommendation are a requirement for nearly every college application. The majority of these letters tend to come from high school teachers who can give insight into how the student performs and acts in the classroom. These letters can be valuable to admissions officers because they are often the only second-party accounts of the student’s abilities and personality – book your private Anaheim college admissions consultant for the summer.

As such, having good letters of recommendation is important for your applications. However, asking for letters is a topic of significant stress for many students. Which teachers should I ask? When do I ask? How do I make sure they write me a good letter? How should I ask them? These are all common questions, but luckily, they have relatively straightforward answers:

Which teachers should I ask?

Ask the teachers who know you best. It is not vital that you got an ‘A’ in their class (though it is preferred). The letter of recommendation doesn’t have to talk about specific grades. What you want from a letter is for it to be personal and stand out. Many applicants will have letters from teachers that are very generic and surface-level because the teacher doesn’t know the student well. You want a teacher who you are closer too and who can write a more individualized and detailed letter.

If you don’t have a teacher you feel you are close to, don’t worry. Ask the teachers whose classes you did well in and who seem nice or helpful. We’ll discuss how to get a good letter from these teachers soon.

When do I ask?

As early as possible. Ideally, you ask sometime in your junior year. You can also ask over the summer. Teachers get the most requests from procrastinating students shortly before deadlines. A letter is extra work for a teacher. If they have a dozen extra letters to write two weeks before application deadlines, then they are unlikely to be putting in a huge individual effort into your letter. Ask early, and send occasional (friendly!) reminders.

How do I make sure they write me a good letter?

Show them what you want. Many teachers don’t know how to write good letters. It is very common to receive a poor letter from a teacher who had the best intentions. It is also very common to receive a poor letter from a teacher who didn’t know enough about you to write a detailed one. The letter of recommendation should be an opportunity for you to highlight the skills and qualities that you want to be emphasized on your application. Here are two ways to help guarantee:

-Give a list of things you would like mentioned in your letter. This way they know what you want written about and have a reminder of things you’ve done. You can also include what you don’t want to be mentioned if there is something you’re worried about being included.

-Write your letter for them. This is slightly controversial as you are not supposed to be writing your own letters. Here is how you do it ethically: write an example letter that is exactly what you are hoping that the teacher would write. Don’t be humble in it; it may feel embarrassing, but now is the time to brag about yourself. Then, give it to your teacher as an example of what you’re looking for. Ask if they could write a letter similar to the one you gave them and that they can use your letter for reference.

How should I ask?

In person, early, and with material for them to use. If you can’t ask in person because it’s the summer, then it is okay to email rather than waiting for the year to begin. Make sure you include either the list of things you want to be included, or an example letter. When you ask, don’t ask if they can just write you a letter. Ask if they would be comfortable writing a letter touching on the things that you provided them.

It is okay if they say no, or that’s not how they write letters, or that they don’t accept input from students on letters. At that point, it’s usually better to ask a different teacher, unless you are confident that this one will write a good letter on your own. You will find that many teachers will be more than happy to use the guidelines you provide or to simply edit a letter that you already wrote. It makes the process easier for them and better for you. Now is not the time to be embarrassed.

These recommendations are important parts of your application. Do what you can to make sure your teacher is writing a good one.

Our private Anaheim college admissions consultants have a 97% success rate. Book your consultant today.

Michael C. is currently a private math, science, and standardized test tutor with TutorNerds in Irvine and Anaheim.

tutor logo Ask A Nerd! SAT Subject Tests All blog entries, with the exception of guest bloggers, are written by Tutor Nerds. Are you an education professional? If so, email us at pr@tutornerds.com for guest blogging and collaborations. We want to make this the best free education resource in SoCal, so feel free to suggest what you would like to see us write.

Why You Should Do Your College Applications Over the Summer

Do Your College Applications Over the Summer!

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High school students and their parents are always looking for tips and tricks to give their college applications an edge in the admissions process. As a tutor and teacher, there are many aspects of a student’s application that can be focused on and improved. However, these improvements often vary from student to student because of the individual nature of the applications. This is why experienced private tutors are especially beneficial; cookie-cutter, generic advice can only get you so far when you’re trying to optimize your application – sign up for our Irvine college application consulting.

However, there is one tip that does apply to most students that is extremely helpful and often ignored: do your application early.

Students almost always wait until the college deadlines are looming before finishing their applications. Even the most assiduous students are typically only completing their applications in September. My recommendation is to get it finished over the summer. Here are a few reasons why:

More time to edit and proofread

One of the more obvious benefits of finishing your applications over the summer is the extra time you can have without school. You’ll likely have much more free time and fewer distractions so you can focus on your application.

No procrastination stress

Application deadlines are a huge producer of stress in high school students. Many students give up on applications or fail to put in their full effort because of procrastination and the stress of the deadline. If you finish early, you won’t waste one second worrying about the deadline.

Time to add more

By completing your applications early and sending them to your favorite schools first, you’ll still have several months left if you decide you want to send more applications. Many students learn about new schools later that they didn’t know about from friends or family after they’ve done their applications. Doing your main applications over the summer still leaves the fall to do any extra applications you want to add.

Find early-bird opportunities

Many schools offer application benefits to students who reach out early. These include early tours of the school (sometimes with travel reimbursement), information packets, early decision or early action applications, and information from admissions officers. You lose out on many of these features if you don’t start early, and you don’t want to be a part of the huge mob of students all contacting schools at the same time before deadlines. Contact your favorite colleges over the summer when they won’t be as busy and are eager to help.

Shows that you’re interested and efficient

Applying to a school early shows the admissions officers that you were interested enough in the school to do the application right away and that you are capable of finishing important things responsibly and early. Colleges look for these traits in students and may value them in your application if you’re reaching out and submitting early.

Better recommendations

Many of your high school teachers will be getting swamped with requests for letters of recommendation for applications in the fall. This extra workload leads to more generic and less polished letters that aren’t ideal for your application. Don’t let this be a factor and reach out to your teacher early to get your letter finished before or during the summer.

Our private Irvine college application consultants are here to help. Book your consultant for the summer today.

Michael C. is currently a private math, science, and standardized test tutor with TutorNerds in Irvine and Anaheim.

tutor logo Ask A Nerd! SAT Subject Tests All blog entries, with the exception of guest bloggers, are written by Tutor Nerds. Are you an education professional? If so, email us at pr@tutornerds.com for guest blogging and collaborations. We want to make this the best free education resource in SoCal, so feel free to suggest what you would like to see us write.

Important SAT Essay Tip From an Irvine SAT Tutor

SAT Essay Tip: The Passage is Trying to Trick You!

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While the essay portion of the SAT is now optional, it can still be a valuable component of your college application – particularly if you’re trying to emphasize your writing or English skills (book your private Irvine SAT tutor today). The directions for the essay are the same for each test:

” As you read the passage below, consider how [Author] uses:
-evidence, such as facts or examples, to support claims.
-reasoning to develop ideas and to connect claims and evidence.
-stylistic or persuasive elements, such as word choice or appeals to emotion,
to add power to the ideas expressed. ”

They will then ask you to choose one or more of these elements and write about how the author uses them and why (focusing on the most relevant features in the prompt). These instructions do not change, so they should be memorized beforehand in order to save time reading during the test. However, the passage itself will be different every time.

Remember that these passages are meant to be persuasive. You will be reading some author’s argument where they are using various methods to try to convince you that their opinion is correct. They also tend to be rather strong and compelling arguments – they are hand-picked for the SAT after all.

These passages lead to a common issue that I see students have: they are persuaded by the author and agree with him/her by the time they’re done reading.

Now, agreeing with the passage does not have to be a bad thing, but it does tend to lead to two problems when it comes to writing your essay:

– You include your approval in your essay
– You don’t notice the persuasive elements being used
– Of these two, the first is common but easy to deal with. The directions for the SAT specifically say that you should NOT say whether or not you agree with the author’s claims. – Many students get motivated and enthusiastic about the cause that the author is championing after they read the passage, and they write about how the author is correct and even bring in extra outside support. This is NOT what you are supposed to do. Likewise if you disagree with the author. You are only supposed to discuss which of the above examples of persuasive elements you see in the passage and how/why they are used.

The second is the more difficult to get past. When you disagree with someone’s argument, you are more likely to be on high alert for any flaws in their arguments or tricks they are trying to utilize. This is more difficult if you agree with them and are simply nodding along in support. It’s easy to be less critical when you agree with someone. So here is the tip to help you notice more persuasive elements in the prompt: Pretend that the author is trying to trick you.

Go into reading the prompt thinking that the author is wrong but that they are trying to trick you to make you believe them. Even if the passage is called “Why People Like Puppies,” you need to be thinking to yourself “I know that people don’t like puppies and this guy is trying to trick me that they do.” It does not matter what you actually think. It does not matter if the author is right or wrong. What matters is that you find evidence, reasoning, and persuasive elements that the author is using in their argument. And it is easier to find the persuasive elements when you have the mindset that they are out to trick you.

Continuing with our puppy example, here are some things you could see:

Author: “Suzy, a suburban mother of three, tells us how her pottery club includes two members who brought their puppies to a meeting one day and everyone unanimously enjoyed their company.”

You: “Suzy and her pottery club are only a small group and specific demographic. The author is just using a happy anecdote to make me believe them.”

Author: “Puppies are the quintessential eliminators of stress on college campuses during finals weeks. Everyone knows that finals are a difficult time, why wouldn’t we support something that helps ease that stress?”
You: “That’s a gross hyperbole that they’re using to convince me. They’re also using a rhetorical question that I know has nothing to do with puppies, AND they’re trying to relate to me by mentioning finals that might appeal to students. I’m onto them.”

Now, these are more lighthearted examples than you may see on the real test, but they get the point across. It would be easy to read these statements by the author, and just think “yes, people do like puppies, this is correct, I agree.” However, you need to look at things with a critical eye. The author is trying to persuade you, to convince you, to trick you – and you need to see how and why in order to ace your essay.

Are you taking the SAT soon? Sign up for a private Irvine SAT tutor today.

Michael C. is currently a private math, science, and standardized test tutor with TutorNerds in Irvine and Anaheim.

tutor logo Ask A Nerd! SAT Subject Tests All blog entries, with the exception of guest bloggers, are written by Tutor Nerds. Are you an education professional? If so, email us at pr@tutornerds.com for guest blogging and collaborations. We want to make this the best free education resource in SoCal, so feel free to suggest what you would like to see us write.

Participation Points: Fake It Till You Make It

Tips From a Private Orange County Tutor: Participation Points – Fake It Till You Make It

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Whether you are in high school or college, you are likely to have classes with grades that incorporate some type of “class participation” credit. More and more teachers are including this factor to help incentivize students to speak up, ask questions, and contribute to communal discussion while in the classroom. It is also commonly included in online or hybrid-style classes where there is a requirement to post comments or reply to others in an online discussion – book your private Orange County summer tutor today.

Your participation grade may be well-defined (two required comments in class per week for full credit, participation in a designated group discussion for credit, total discussions tracked throughout the semester, etc.) or it may be more arbitrary where the teacher simply assigns a grade based on how much they feel you’ve been contributing during the class. This grade is usually around 5 – 10% of your grade, but I’ve seen grades as high as 20 and 25%. Regardless, it should be easy points that you can get.

As a student myself, I despised participation grades. In high school, they were typically the “well-defined” variety, and I struggled when I did not have any questions or what I thought were interesting comments during class. In college, the participation grades transitioned mostly to the “arbitrary” group, and I never knew what my grade would be until the end of the class.

I’ve found that many students voice similar concerns. Maybe you consider yourself to be shy and don’t like speaking up in class. Maybe you just never have any questions that need answers. Maybe you’re embarrassed by your questions and don’t want to look like you don’t understand. Maybe you feel like there’s never a good opportunity or opening in the conversation for you to contribute something. These are all common issues, and it is okay to feel this way.

The advice that I give is simple: fake it.

An easy and effective tactic to solve any of these issues is to come up with a question that you already know the answer to. Take something from the beginning of the lesson, or something you already understood, and ask about it anyway. This might seem counterintuitive, but here’s how it benefits you:

If you’re shy or anxious, it takes a lot of the stress away by asking something you already know. Now, instead of having the anticipation of not knowing the answer and the pressure of having to try to understand and learn something new, you will know that you just need to ask the questions and allow your teacher to give a response you already understand. And, importantly, you will also be getting good practice at making yourself speak up. It’s okay to have anxiety or feel shy in class, but you will need to be comfortable asking questions for when you do need help in the future.

If you feel like you don’t have any real questions, this allows you to get your participation points without the stress. You can ask simple questions that you know, or you can challenge yourself to come up with more complex questions. This can show off your knowledge by still being a question that gets you credit. Remember, the class participation points will help your grade, so you need to treat participating just like any other required assignment: make yourself do it.

If you’re embarrassed by the questions you have, this tactic will allow you to ask questions that you consider less embarrassing. If you feel embarrassed by “easy” questions, then ask something complicated that you do understand. Better yet, ask something complicated that you don’t understand. Don’t worry about the answers your teacher gives and don’t worry about understanding. Remember that you are doing this for the experience and the participation grade. Consider listening to some of your classmates’ questions and mimicking the same types of questions they have. Doing this too, you will hopefully also start to recognize that there’s no need to be embarrassed by your questions and that many of your classmates either don’t care, have the same confusions themselves, or won’t ever think about your question later.

If you don’t know how to speak up and find an opening in a class discussion, this can make the process easier. Often, a student will listen to the previous point and spend some time thinking about a related comment or question. In the meantime, however, the discussion has already changed topics and moved to something else. Now the student has to think of something new, only for the conversation to change again. Combat this by taking something straightforward that you understood and make up your mind to ask it early. Questions and comments like “so it sounds like you’re saying…” “do you mean that…” and “that seems similar to…” are good roots. Similarly, you can purposefully misunderstand someone and ask about it. Remember, you need credit and practice. Your comments and questions don’t need to be profound – they need to get you your points and make you more comfortable in the setting.

Treat your class participation grade like the assignment that it is and get it done. This strategy of coming up with “fake” questions can make the task easier regardless of what you felt was holding you back before. It can also give you good practice with speaking up in class for when you do need to ask questions and get feedback. Remember, many students struggle with participation grades and that’s okay if you feel that it’s difficult. To get a perfect participation grade and learn how to speak up in class we can apply the classic adage about confidence: “fake it ‘til you make it.”

Our private Orange County tutors are full of great tips for students. Book your private Irvine tutor for the summer.

Michael C. is currently a private math, science, and standardized test tutor with TutorNerds in Irvine and Anaheim.

tutor logo Ask A Nerd! SAT Subject Tests All blog entries, with the exception of guest bloggers, are written by Tutor Nerds. Are you an education professional? If so, email us at pr@tutornerds.com for guest blogging and collaborations. We want to make this the best free education resource in SoCal, so feel free to suggest what you would like to see us write.

Three More Tips to Get the Most Out of Your Irvine Tutor

Get the Most Out of Your Private Orange County Tutor: 3 More Tips

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We discussed here three pieces of advice to help you have successful lessons with your new tutor. In short, the tips were to send them your material ahead of time, have specific goals in mind that you want them to help you reach, and to show them your previous graded assignments to review. These are beneficial actions that can best allow your tutor to evaluate your situation beforehand and help you work toward your goals in the sessions – book your private Irvine tutor today.

Now we’ll talk about advice for a tutoring session itself. Here are three things that you should and shouldn’t be doing if you want to get the most out of your lesson.

Do Assignments Early

One often under-appreciated benefit of having tutoring appointments is that it makes you accountable to someone else to finish your work on time. This benefit can be amplified if you strive to do your work before your tutoring session. This way, you will already know what parts confuse you and what parts you want to focus on before your tutor arrives. This can save time and energy and also reduce the stress caused by procrastinating. Get your assignments done early and use your tutoring appointments as a deadline to make yourself finish work ahead of time – you’ll be grateful you did it later.

Be Working and Ready

Unless your tutor is bringing you the material you need to study, you should already be working before your tutor arrives. Have your paper/notes/laptop/practice test or whatever necessary materials out and ready. A lot of time is wasted in tutoring sessions by dawdling and getting prepared in the beginning. Get yourself in a studying mindset ahead of time and have your materials ready. This also shows that you are professional and eager to improve – good traits to practice displaying for the future.

Don’t Focus on Complaints

One of the most common conversations a tutor has with a new student is the talk about how the student dislikes their class and/or teacher: the teacher is mean or isn’t fair, the class is too hard or confusing, other teachers give an easier class, your assignment was graded harshly, the teacher doesn’t know how to teach, etc. While many of these problems can be valid – there are many terrible teaches and unfair classes out there – they shouldn’t be a focal point of your Irvine tutoring. If your goal is to improve your grade in a class, then you should be focused on what steps you need to do to accomplish that. You likely aren’t going to change your teacher; you can only change your approach to studying and working. It’s okay to explain the situation and vent to your tutor every once in a while, but don’t become one of the students who only want to complain and gossip instead of working to improve.

Remember: it’s you and your Irvine tutor working together to help you reach your goals. If you set yourself up for success with your tutor, then you will be able to achieve it.

Michael C. is currently a private math, science, and standardized test tutor with TutorNerds in Irvine and Anaheim.

tutor logo Ask A Nerd! SAT Subject Tests All blog entries, with the exception of guest bloggers, are written by Tutor Nerds. Are you an education professional? If so, email us at pr@tutornerds.com for guest blogging and collaborations. We want to make this the best free education resource in SoCal, so feel free to suggest what you would like to see us write.

Irvine PSAT Tutoring: Don’t Stress About the PSAT

Tips from an Irvine PSAT Tutor: Don’t Stress About the PSAT

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If you are considering taking (or have already taken) the PSAT, you might be wondering how important the test and your scores on it are. PSAT stands simply for “Preliminary SAT,” so its predominant purpose is to be an introduction to the standardized testing style of the SAT. The PSAT is a full-length, proctored, standardized test administered by College Board (the same group that makes the SAT). As such, it’s a good early simulation of the conditions and pacing that you can expect on the SAT – book your private Orange County PSAT tutor today.

That being said, I will take a somewhat controversial opinion in stating that the PSAT is not very important or significant for students. You should not worry and stress about getting a good PSAT score or not. You don’t need to study specifically for the PSAT. You also do not have to seek out and pay to take the PSAT if your school is not giving it to you for free (or requiring it). Here’s why:

1. PSAT Scores Do Not Improve SAT Scores

It is relatively well-known that students who take the PSAT tend to have improved scores on the regular SAT when compared to students who never took the PSAT. This is one reason why many schools offer the PSAT for free or require it to be taken – they believe it will boost their students’ eventual SAT numbers a year or two later.

However, the exact same effect is seen when taking any official SAT practice test: the first test you get a lower score, then the next test (even if it’s taken only a few days later) your score “magically” jumps up by 100 points or more. This is simply because students are not used to this type of test until they try it. In the first practice test they learn about the question types, they read the instructions, they get an idea of how fast they need to go, etc.

If you have never taken a practice test, then the PSAT will have this same effect for you. However, a practice test is just fine, and arguably better since you will have the test to go over and review what you got wrong. There’s nothing intrinsically special about the PSAT test itself that brings your scores up. It’s just practice.

2. The National Merit Scholarships Aren’t as Common as You Think

A very common reason given for taking the PSAT is the opportunity to win a national merit scholarship for your score. These scholarships are given to students who score particularly well on the test, and it is a reason that many people give for taking the test.

While I do agree that every opportunity to earn potential scholarship money is valuable, the National Merit Scholarships tend to be blown out of proportion for how available they are. Using the official 2017-2018 annual report, we can find that 1.6 million students took “eligible” PSAT exams that year. Of those students, about 2% got a nice “good job” certificate for their high scores. No scholarships for them. Only 0.5% of students earned a scholarship for their score.

Many blogs say you need to take the PSAT to potentially be a merit scholar, but students should recognize that only about 1 in 200 test takers earn one.

3. The PSAT Is Not the Best Practice

The PSAT is objectively easier than the SAT. It is also shorter but gives you more time per question for some questions. It also does not have an essay.

These differences are not huge, but they are significant. If you are preparing for the SAT for college applications, you want your practice to mimic the real thing as closely as possible. Easier tests might leave you over-confident before the real test. Taking shorter practice tests might not prepare you as well for the length of the actual SAT. This becomes significant if you are planning to do the essay, which the PSAT will not prepare you for. Similarly, the no-calculator section on the PSAT might mess with your pacing since you get nearly 20% more time on PSAT no-calculator math questions.

The purpose of this message is not to convince you to not take the PSAT, or to not take it seriously when you take it. On the contrary, I recommend taking it to all of my students. It’s cheap ($17 – though some schools make it free and others add on a little more in an admin fee), you might win a scholarship, and it gives you proctored, standardized test experience in a testing environment. Ideally, I think students should take a practice PSAT, then the real PSAT starting in 8th or 9th grade. In 10th grade, you can take the PSAT as well (or again), but you should also be incorporating official SAT practice tests in your studying.

The reason for this blog is to reduce the stress associated with the test. If your school doesn’t administer it, don’t worry. You are allowed to take it at a neighboring local school that does offer it, or you can just skip it. You don’t need it to improve your SAT score. You probably won’t be missing out on a merit scholarship. It is not the best way to practice. And if you aren’t happy with your PSAT score, again – don’t worry. You can still do very well on the SAT if you start early, use the best, official preparation material and practice tests, and consider looking into an experienced Irvine SAT tutor to guide the way.

Michael C. is currently a private math, science, and standardized test tutor with TutorNerds in Irvine and Anaheim.

tutor logo Ask A Nerd! SAT Subject Tests All blog entries, with the exception of guest bloggers, are written by Tutor Nerds. Are you an education professional? If so, email us at pr@tutornerds.com for guest blogging and collaborations. We want to make this the best free education resource in SoCal, so feel free to suggest what you would like to see us write.

Get the Most Out of Your Private Orange County Tutor

Get the Most Out of Your Private OC Tutor: 3 Quick Tips

Private tutoring is a solution for academic woes that continues to grow in popularity. Whether it be for a difficult high school class, an essential standardized test, a confusing college course, or a looming cumulative final, more adults and young adults are seeking out tutors to help them achieve the best grade possible. After tutoring dozens of students in each of the above categories and more, here are some of my quick tips for how you can achieve the best results with your personal Orange County tutor.

Send Them Your Material

This tip is first and is first for good reason. If you want to set yourself up for a good tutoring lesson, you should always strive to send your tutor the material you need help with ahead of time. Preferably a full day or two before your session. If you have study guides to review, homework to finish, or just class notes on the topic you are struggling with, then send them to your tutor. If it’s for standardized tests, then send them any practice tests you’ve already taken, score reports you’ve already received, or practice material you’ve already purchased or been given.

The reason is that it will lessen the time at the beginning of your session that your tutor would normally have to take to get acquainted with your specific material and find the best way to proceed. Hiring experienced and qualified tutors is a necessity, but classes are taught by many different teachers with many different curriculums and many different priorities. Your Biology 101 teacher could have wildly different expectations and required topics than other teachers and other schools. Give your tutor some time to review your material to make sure they know what you need help with before your lesson is due to begin.

Have Concrete Goals

Make sure you know what you want to get out of tutoring. Are you working toward your social science degree and really need to understand everything in your statistics course? Are you trying to get through your last math class and just need to make sure you pass? Is your GPA important to you but you don’t really care about AP Lit? These are all things that will be useful for your tutor to know.

If you’re aiming for specific test scores or working towards a specific goal, a tutor can help you achieve that – if you tell them. Teaching someone math who’s failing and needs to get a C will have a much different approach than someone who is already doing well but wants to get an A. And both cases are different than teaching someone who really wants to learn and understand to do better in the future rather than someone who wants to get a grade and never do it again. These differences can change how your tutor will approach your lessons and studying recommendations.

Show Them Your Grades

Anything that you have that you’ve already finished and is graded: quizzes, tests, practice tests, essays, projects, etc. Seeing how you’re doing on these assignments can be instrumental in diagnosing your specific problem areas and finding appropriate solutions.

How you do in an Orange County private tutoring session isn’t always indicative of how you’ll do on your own in a classroom or testing setting. Reading a passage and answering questions quickly might be easy when you have your tutor to help, but that doesn’t matter if it doesn’t make sense and you have to read the paragraph four times when you do it on your own. In math class, you might understand the lesson but make simple mistakes on the test. If your tutor sees this pattern in your grades, they can dedicate more time to repetition or revisiting specific problem areas. Viewing these grades can also give them an idea of what your teacher is looking for, how they make their test, and how strictly they grade. This is all important in how they should proceed with your tutoring.

Don’t forget that the job of a tutor is to help you achieve your individual academic goals. In order for them to be effective in this task, you should provide them with all of the tools you can. If your experienced tutor knows what your goals, can review your material on their own, and can view and evaluate your performance, they will better be able to tailor specific lessons for you that can best help you succeed.

Book your private Orange County tutor from TutorNerds today.

Michael C. is currently a private math, science, and standardized test tutor with TutorNerds in Irvine and Anaheim.

tutor logo Ask A Nerd! SAT Subject Tests All blog entries, with the exception of guest bloggers, are written by Tutor Nerds. Are you an education professional? If so, email us at pr@tutornerds.com for guest blogging and collaborations. We want to make this the best free education resource in SoCal, so feel free to suggest what you would like to see us write.

Last Minute AP Exam Advice From an Anaheim Tutor

Tips From an Anaheim AP Tutor: Last Minute AP Exam Advice

The AP Exams are upon us! If you are taking a test or tests this week or next, you might be looking for some final pieces of advice to get a good score – it’s not too late to book a private Anaheim AP tutor.

There’s a whole population of students across the United States that are stressing and studying for their big exams who are in desperate need for last minute help. Unfortunately, the internet has been filled with generic, repetitive, and otherwise unhelpful AP exam “tips” that dominate your search results when you’re looking for help. You’ve seen them all before: “make sure you sleep,” “eat a good breakfast,” “take deep breaths,” etc.

Everyone has heard these words of wisdom at this point. They have nothing to do with the AP exams and are not useful for students looking for practical advice. If you’ve made it to the end of high school and are taking AP exams, but don’t know that you should try to sleep before a big test, then you might need to reevaluate your priorities.

Instead, here are some tips that you might not have heard yet, and will hopefully better help you navigate your preparation for the exams.

I Have More Than Two Days Left to Study

1. Take a Practice Test!

Please, if you haven’t taken a practice test yet, take one now. Stop reading, find a test (preferably an official one), and take it. Hopefully, your teacher has already had you take at least one practice test, but if not, you should be striving to take multiple before the real thing. There is nothing like taking a full, timed mock AP exam to prepare you for the real thing. Look at what you did wrong on your practice test, then try to improve it on your next practice test.

2. Find Accountability

Have someone make sure that you are doing the preparation you need to. It is difficult to self-study and hold yourself to a schedule (especially for many high schoolers), so find someone to help you. Whether it’s a friend or classmate who agrees to take timed practice tests with you, a parent or teacher who supervises your study schedule, or an experienced tutor who guides you through your progress, everyone can benefit from a little accountability. It’s much harder to procrastinate when someone is expecting and waiting for you to show them your work.

3. Get Feedback

Taking practice tests and using study guides is great. You can study effectively and efficiently on your own. However, it can be tough to know where you stand in terms of succeeding at the test. Look to a teacher – who has likely overseen many students taking the same exam – to help you figure out what you need to work on or improve (READ: Irvine AP Tutoring: 5 Ways to Improve Your AP Exam Score).

If there are a few areas that you struggle with but are great at the rest, then you might be wasting valuable time by continuing to do full-length tests and reviews. Conversely, if you know your stuff but you are leaving several questions blank on your practice tests because you run out of time, then you may need to focus on pacing and prioritization instead of continuing with your flashcards. Find a teacher, tutor, or someone otherwise experience with your test who can look at your practice tests and help you find what to do next.

I Have Two Days or Fewer Left to Study

1. Cram. But Cram Selectively

A common piece of advice before any big test is to stop studying, relax, and focus on being in a healthy, well-rested, positive state of mind. Apparently, “studies show” that studying the night before the test does not improve test results when compared to good night sleep.

This advice is partly true. Don’t stay up all night, don’t cram full study guides and practice tests the day before your exam, and don’t try to memorize a semester’s worth of material overnight. But that doesn’t mean you can’t benefit from cramming. Pick three to five facts – whether it’s vocab, formulas, or some history – for you to bluntly memorize before your test. Pick things you aren’t already confident in, and cram and memorize them. Only pick a few, but make sure you know those few very well. If they come up on the test, you might get an extra question or two correct that you wouldn’t have if you hadn’t crammed. Do not exhaust yourself memorizing tons of facts right before the test. Do pick the last few things that your short-term memory can hold to help boost your score a tiny bit.

2. Stop Studying Sooner and Optimize

We’ll keep this short. A lot of the general and common knowledge regarding big tests is true: stop studying right before the test, get good rest, eat good food, get to a good mental state. Do not read this guide and think that you should wear yourself out cramming and doing practice tests. Practice tests in the days before, small cramming before the exam, but rest and self-help before exam day.

3. Trust Yourself

The AP exams are less out to trick you than other standardized tests. They are testing for knowledge. If you’ve kept up with your studying, then you likely do have the knowledge to answer many of the questions. Trust yourself, try not to overthink, and don’t get in your own head when reading the questions. Students change the correct answer to an incorrect one more often than vice-versa on most multiple-choice tests. It’s easier said than done, but this is your last reminder before the tests.

Good luck on your AP exams!

Michael C. is currently a private math, science, and standardized test tutor with TutorNerds in Irvine and Anaheim.

tutor logo Ask A Nerd! SAT Subject Tests All blog entries, with the exception of guest bloggers, are written by Tutor Nerds. Are you an education professional? If so, email us at pr@tutornerds.com for guest blogging and collaborations. We want to make this the best free education resource in SoCal, so feel free to suggest what you would like to see us write.

Irvine Math Tutoring: The Unit Circle

Irvine Math Tutoring Tips: The Unit Circle – Learning and Memorizing Made Easy!

The Unit Circle is a staple of trigonometry and precalculus classes. It is a circle with a radius of one that is centered at the origin of a two-dimensional coordinate system. Essentially the simplest circle that we can put on our grid – book your private Irvine math tutor today.

Nearly every class will require students to memorize specific angles and they’re coordinates on this circle. For example, the “top” of the circle is at 90° (the angle is measured from the right side of the x-axis, or the “East” stem if you think of it as a compass) which is the point (0 , 1) since it is straight up and the unit circle has a radius of one. Similarly, we get (0, -1) at 270° at the bottom of the circle. The harder memorization comes in when you look at some of the points that are don’t lie perfectly on our axes. See an image of a typical unit circle below.

the-unit-circle

image taken from Wikipedia, submitted by Jim.belk

Here, we see the points we mentioned, but also a lot of pi symbols, radicals, and many fractions. This image can look quite daunting since most teachers expect you to be able to draw it yourself on command. So, let’s dissect how to learn it more easily with much less memorization.

First, we need to know how to use radians (a way to measure angles without degrees). We won’t get into why radians are the way they are in this post, but you understand them on the unit circle. You’ll need to know two facts:

A circle is 360°

A circle is 2π radians

With these two facts, we can convert between the two with some dimensional analysis. It’s like how knowing that 12 inches is 1 foot allows you to figure out that 4 feet is 48 inches. For some examples, here is how to find 30° in radians:

Here we set up the fractions since we know that 2π is the same as 360°. You cross multiply and divide to find x, simplifying the fraction at the end. Here is the same concept except converting from radians to degrees. Let’s say we have π/4 and want to find it in degrees:

Here we had some more fractions to work with, but the pis cancel out to give us 45°.

Now back to the unit circle. The unit circle is better memorized as two circles instead of one. On one circle they count by 30° increments (which we just learned is equal to π/6 radians) and on the other, we count by 45° increments (which we also just learned is equal to π/4 radians). Here is circle number one:

unit-circle

Notice the bold terms.  They all have a denominator of 6.  This circle corresponds to the blue lines we see on Wikipedia circle.  But notice how much easier it is to memorize in increments of π/6.  One π/6, Two π/6, Three π/6, Four π/6, etc. up until all the way around the circle is Twelve π/6.  The unit circle is just simplifying the fractions!  12 π/6 is just 2π since 12/6 = 2.  Just count the π/6’s around the circle and simplify the fractions.  Much simpler than memorizing all of those fractions.

Now that we know the angles of the unit circle, we have to learn the coordinates at each angle.  The ones on the corners aren’t bad since those are just variations of -1, 0, and 1 and we can tell what the coordinate pair should be.  For the remaining 8 points, here are the only two numbers we need to memorize:

Again, we won’t go into why these are the numbers since we’re just focused on memorization. Notice here that they both have a denominator of 2. Then, notice that √3 is larger than 1. Every coordinate point will be a combination of these points, so just look for which side is bigger. If the x side looks bigger (like in π/6), then the x side gets the √3/2 and the y side gets the 1/2. For 10π/6, notice that the longer side is in the y-direction and is going down. This means the y coordinate get the √3/2 and it is negative: (1/2, -√3/2).

Notice now that the bold terms are all with a denominator of 4. Here we count by π/4’s instead of π/6’s. This circle corresponds to the red lines on the regular unit circle. Here we count increments of π/4 until we get to 8π/4 which is our full circle of two pi. Memorize that these are the two circles that are put on top of each other for the full unit circle. Both are just counting until you get to 2π.

Now we’ll learn the coordinate points for this circle. The “corners are still the same as the blue circle ((1,0), (0,1), (-1,0), and (0,-1)), and we only have one number to memorize for the diagonal angles in between:

All of the coordinates for these angles on the unit circle will be √2/2 for both x and y. Just don’t forget to include the negative signs when necessary. So, for example, 3π/4 will be (-√2/2, √2/2) and 5π/4 will be (-√2/2, -√2/2).

If you can keep these two circles separate in your head it will significantly help you when drawing your own: and without the brute force memorization of every reduced fraction that many teachers suggest. Notice too that the diagonals of the orange circle fit perfectly between the diagonals of the blue circle since 45° is halfway between 30° and 60°.

Though memorization is still necessary, hopefully this guide will save you from mindlessly cramming and consequently forgetting your unit circle as you delve deeper into trigonometry.

From trigonometry to statistics, our private Irvine math tutors are here to help. Call TutorNerds today to book you Irvine math tutor.

Michael C. is currently a private math, science, and standardized test tutor with TutorNerds in Irvine and Anaheim.

tutor logo Ask A Nerd! SAT Subject Tests All blog entries, with the exception of guest bloggers, are written by Tutor Nerds. Are you an education professional? If so, email us at pr@tutornerds.com for guest blogging and collaborations. We want to make this the best free education resource in SoCal, so feel free to suggest what you would like to see us write.

La Jolla Tutoring: Things Students Can Do Before The Year Ends

La Jolla Tutoring Tips: Four Things College Students Can Do Before the Year Ends

la-jolla-private-tutoring

The year isn’t over yet, but summer is on the mind of many students. While you cram for your finals – book your private La Jolla tutor today – it’s okay to do a little planning for your summer. College students are expected to stay busy and add to their life and work experiences over break. Here are four ideas to get you started.

1. Apply for an Internship

As you know, the job market is more competitive than ever and a good degree isn’t enough for highly sought after positions. Graduates are expected to have at least one internship in the field in which they wish to work. Make sure your resume is up to date, and have a template for a cover letter ready to go for when you find a promising internship. Most internships aren’t paid, but allow you enough time to pick up a part-time job.

2. Make a list of Goals for the Summer

Whether you want to learn a new language or visit a new country, summer is the perfect time for self-improvement. Choose things you enjoy and are curious about, then commit enough time over the summer to reach your goals. The more skills and life experiences you can pick up over the summer, the more prepared you will be for the next year of school

3. Look Back Then Move On

While it’s important to reassess the school year, it’s also important to not dwell. Don’t beat yourself up over missed opportunities or lower than expected grades. Commit to improve and move on. Our private La Jolla tutors are here to help you catch up over the summer and give you the confidence to make next year even better.

4. Plan a Trip

After a long, grueling school year, you’ve earned a vacation! Whether it’s a road tip in your home state or a trip abroad, summer is the perfect time to feed your wanderlust. Traveling is a great way to grow as a person, and will allow you to try new things and get out of your comfort zone. No matter how far you go, a trip to a new place will make you more confident as you head into a new school year. Look into study abroad opportunities at your University.

End the year strong with the help of a private La Jolla tutor from TutorNerds.

tutor logo Ask A Nerd! SAT Subject Tests All blog entries, with the exception of guest bloggers, are written by Tutor Nerds. Are you an education professional? If so, email us at pr@tutornerds.com for guest blogging and collaborations. We want to make this the best free education resource in SoCal, so feel free to suggest what you would like to see us write.