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Irvine PSAT Tutoring: Don’t Stress About the PSAT

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

irvine-psat-tutoring

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.

Tips from an Irvine Tutor: You’re Using Flashcards Wrong

Studying with Flashcards: Why you’re doing it wrong

Flashcards are a quintessential tool for students looking to memorize a significant amount of material in a short amount of time. Whether it’s for vocabulary words, parts of a cell, or trigonometric derivatives, flash cards are used by students everywhere to learn the material and pass an exam – book your private Irvine tutor for finals.

And using flashcards is an incredibly effective study strategy – if they are used correctly and with purpose. For such a ubiquitous and straightforward tool, it’s surprising how few students are taught how to use flashcards. Consequently, flashcards tend to be misused and misunderstood. If you are using flashcards, keep reading to make sure that you are getting the most out of your studying.

Looking and Flipping

The least effective, yet most pervasive, flashcard strategy is to just read them like you would read anything else. Students will look at one side, flip it over and read the next side, then move on to the next card. They’ll go through their whole deck this way – essentially just read the list of things they should know. Sure, you might learn your words this way just by reading them over and over, but there are better ways.

The Right Way

Instead of just looking and flipping, the process should be more like this: Look, think, test yourself, then flip. One of the main benefits of flashcards is that they allow you to test yourself. Look at one side of the card, then see if you know the other side before you flip it. Think of the answer, say it out loud, or write it down. I recommend doing all three to make sure you really know the material. Do not just read through the cards and flip through them without testing your knowledge.

Keeping the deck unchanged

Once the deck of flashcards is made, many students just stick with it. They go through the same deck, start to finish until they feel like they know all of the cards. This method is very time consuming and not conducive to really learning the terms you are studying.

The Right Way

Separate the deck into two piles as you study. You should be testing yourself before you flip the card; if you know the other side of the card correctly, then put it in one pile – if not, then put it in a second pile. Even if you got the answer partly correct, put it in the second pile. This will create two decks for you: one with cards you know, and one with cards you don’t. Focus your studying on the “don’t know” cards, putting the ones you master into the “know” pile until the “don’t know” deck is empty.

Then, shuffle all of the cards together and go through the whole deck again. Make sure you still know all of the cards even when they’re all together and shuffled. Studying this way will prevent you from having to go through the whole deck every time instead of focusing on what you need to learn.

Only Using Words and Definitions

Many students think flashcards can only be used for learning vocabulary words, key terms, or other simple concepts with definitions. This leads to simple flashcard decks with dictionary definitions that might not be best preparing you for your test.

The Right Way

Flashcards can be used for so much more than just vocabulary! You can use flashcards for pictures, for example, problems for equations, and more. Anything that you need to have memorized you can consider using a flash card (READ: OC Tutoring Tips: Four Tips for a Better Study Session).

For classes where you need to know diagrams or identify pictures, consider drawing/printing what you need to know on one side of the flashcard. For complicated diagrams, processes, or pictures (anything that you’ll have to label/identify several parts in the same image) you can have multiple flashcards with the same picture but different “blanks” that you have to fill in. This way you can memorize complex concepts without being overwhelmed.

You can use flashcards in math or equation-based subjects, too. Equations that need to be memorized can be flashcards. You can also use example problems and their solutions for complicated problems. For the solutions, considering numbering the steps to get to the answer. When you study with the cards, you can test yourself on what the steps to the solution are. Now if you see a similar problem later, you will know how to approach it.

Other Common Mistakes and Solutions

Sometimes, students will use flashcards in a way similar to a PowerPoint presentation: a title or heading on one side and a list of bullet points on the other. While this isn’t a bad way to write and organize your notes, it isn’t an optimal way to study the information on the card. Break up your larger flashcards into smaller facts and associations if you can. This will make the information more digestible and easier to test yourself on when you’re studying. Paraphrasing and putting things in your own words are good practices in this process as well.

Another common study mistake that students make is studying in only one direction. That is, they’ll always look at side “A” and test themselves by flipping to side “B.” You should always be trying to learn your terms and recognize associations in both directions when possible.

A Final Mistake

The final mistake is not having variety in your flashcard decks. Many students will make their own flashcards and use dictionary definitions or textbook syntax to memorize. Other students will exclusively use pre-made flashcards online or on apps on their phone. In both cases, you want to be able to write flashcards in your own words to promote your understanding. It is good to use other decks in combination with your own to have a more well-rounded understanding.

Flashcards are a valuable tool that can help you memorize and study for virtually any subject. If you haven’t been getting the most out of your studying, or you think flashcards aren’t helpful, try some of these tips and watch your results improve.

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.

SAT and ACT: Specific Tips for Common Problems – Part II

Tips from an Irvine SAT and ACT Tutor: Common Problems

irvine-college-admissions-consulting

For the math/quantitative: The two most common problems I see with the math sections are wasting too much time on a few problems, and giving up on questions because they look unfamiliar. When you review your practice tests, are you running out of time? Were there some questions you never even got to look at? Or, do you find that some questions were much easier than you thought after you see the solutions? You might benefit from these tips – book your private Costa Mesa math tutor today.

First, if you aren’t finishing the whole math sections, you need to learn to prioritize. If you’re spending 5+ minutes on one question, you are likely wasting your time. There might be a much easier question that you know how to do later in the test, but you didn’t give yourself the time to get to it. If you are going to guess, you want to be speculating on the questions that you know you can’t solve, not just the one you never got a chance to look at. You should always be getting to the end of the whole section, even if that means skipping a lot of questions that you think are harder or will take too long.

The next tip is to have confidence in your math ability. Believe it or not, you very likely have learned every topic on the math/quantitative sections of these tests. Many of the questions are purposefully worded and structured in a way to confuse you. The test-makers are seeing if you can look at an atypical question and figure out how to apply your knowledge to solve it.

Making Things Click

Frequently, I’ll have students look at a math problem and say “oh, I never learned this.” Then, when we go over how to solve it, everything clicks and they realize that they had learned the necessary skills. Have confidence in yourself and remember that these tests are not using any outlandish or highly advanced mathematics.

For the reading/verbal: We’ll have three tips for these sections from three more common problems. The first common problem is running out of time. These are timed exams, and if you are a slow reader, that could be a huge problem in the reading sections. There are many strategies for students who run out of time that are dependent upon each individual’s skills. Here are some you can try: Finding passages that look simpler/more familiar and reading them first. It’s better to run out of time on the harder sections than to guess on easier ones.

Never read any passages, only skim them. If you are spending too much time reading, then you can’t afford to read it. Many of the questions will ask for details that will require you to go back to the passage anyway. Read only a couple sentences so you have the main idea, then go to the questions and head back to the passage to scan for any needed details.
Read the questions first. A common tip that some students find effective is to read the questions before the passage so that they know what to look for when they’re skimming. This can help you read faster if you have an idea of what details you can ignore.

Don’t Give Up

Aside from running out of time, another common problem is giving up on a passage before you even get to the questions. The topics of the essays, excerpts, and articles on these tests can be very unfamiliar. Whether it’s about some moment in history you’ve never learned, a scientific process with complicated names, or a work of art from a different place and different time – it is likely that you will encounter reading topics that you have never even heard of.

This is done on purpose. Like in the math section, the test-makers are seeing if you can use your knowledge to extract some meaning and answer questions about something that seems confusing. You don’t need to know anything about the topic, you just need to find the details and keywords to answer the questions.

This leads to the next problem, which is when students do use their prior knowledge. You may be reading a passage that you do know about and have opinions on. The final tip is to make sure that you are objective and literal: unless the question asks you to, don’t make assumptions about the author or the characters in a passage. Also, you must distance yourself and your opinions from what you are reading. You can only use what is written in the passage to answer the questions, and many times there will be answers that are seemingly obvious to you but are false based on the text you just read.

These are just a few of the many test-taking tips that can be valuable for standardized tests. Again, these tips are not relevant to everyone, but they may be useful to you. It is important to identify problems first before looking for solutions. If you aren’t confident in doing that yourself, it can usually be beneficial to seek out an expert to help you locate and solve your individual problems with the test.

Read part one here.

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.

SAT and ACT: Specific Tips for Common Problems – Part I

Tips from an Irvine SAT and ACT Tutor: Common Problems

These pieces of advice are more specific to taking the actual tests themselves. If you are looking for general advice about how to study and what materials to use,  read my previous article.

Instead, here I will cover more specific tips that can give you an edge on the test depending on your specific situation. These are common situations that I have found many of my students in when taking the tests, and implementing these tips has great success in helping them remedy their problems. These tips are not universal; you must take practice tests first to evaluate if these will apply to you.

The Essay

For the essay: First-grade essays you’ve written during practice tests using the guidelines and sample essays (or have a private tutor grade your essays for you) and determine where you are at and where you would like to be. If you have a low score looking to bring it closer to average, you need to determine where the problem lies. Three common scenarios I see with these scores are: not writing nearly enough, having very sloppy grammar and sentences, and failing to effectively respond to the prompt.

Of these, the first and third are easiest to remedy. For students who aren’t writing enough, we practice timed writing. Using simpler prompts and shorter time limits, they focus on getting more sentences and ideas onto the page in the time limit. Unfortunately, speed can be a huge problem for many students taking timed standardized tests. And, as unfair as it may be, it negatively affects your score if you can’t write quick enough.

The same strategy can be used if you aren’t answering the prompt effectively. Except, instead of writing many sentences in a short time limit, students should focus on making strong outlines or bullet points on how to answer the prompt. The essay needs to have substance, and that substance needs to be thought of quickly before it can be executed.
Grammar and overall writing issues have less cookie-cutter solutions and vary even more on a case to case basis. It is important to write a lot and have someone to review and correct your mistakes.

If your essay is already good but you are looking for an even better score, you can consider practicing implementing new elements to help improve your essay and make it stand out. This can include proper use of semi-colons and colons, more complex vocabulary words used correctly and appropriately, and varying sentence length and sentence structure throughout your paragraphs.

Stay tuned for part two!

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 Need a Private Irvine Tutor This Spring

Four Reasons to Book a Private Irvine Tutor This Spring

 

Spring is around the corner, and students are counting down the weeks until the end of the school year. While it’s tempting to daydream about summer break, now is the most crucial time of the year for students to focus. With AP exams, finals, and testing only weeks away, it’s critical for students to keep up their good study habits. You’ve worked hard all year to get good grades and high test scores, so this spring shouldn’t be any different. Stay focused, work hard, and keep up your curiosity.

TutorNerds is here to help. Offering the most experienced private tutors in Orange County, TutorNerds can assure that you finish the semester at your full potential. While there are many reasons to book a private Irvine tutor for the spring, we’ll focus on four of the most common.

1. Keep You on Track

With prom, spring sports, and extra curricular activities ramping up, spring can be overwhelming for students. Private tutors can help you navigate your schedule and make sure you are on track with all your assignments and studies.

2. Catch Up

Even the best students will have a chapter or two with which they struggle. Don’t make the mistake of assuming it won’t be a big part of your final. A private tutor will help you catch up and master the areas you’ve struggled with so you’re prepared for anything on test day.

3. Score High on Your Finals

Finals are the hurdle every student must jump before crossing the academic finish line into their summer break. Don’t assume that because you’ve done well all year and scored high on previous tests that you will ace your finals. Start studying early and rely on the help of a private Irvine tutor to go over any material you struggled with in the past.

4. Test Prep

With test dates for the ACT and SAT in April and June, some students might start feeling overwhelmed. In addition to prepping for finals, they have to take one of the most important tests of their academic careers (READ: Orange County SAT Tutor Tips). There’s no better way to prep for the SAT or ACT than with the help of an Irvine test prep tutor. Our test prep tutors have all scored high on their tests, and have helped thousands of SoCal students improve their scores. From going over practice tests to improving your math skills, our test prep tutors are here to help.

Don’t wait until a week before your finals to book a private Irvine tutor. Call us today to connect with the most experienced tutors in Orange County.

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.

Tips From an Irvine SAT and ACT Tutor

The SAT and ACT Study Plan: What to Use and Who to Trust

private-irvine-tutoring

Standardized testing has evolved to become a significant factor in determining students’ options for their educations after high school. The SAT and ACT are at the forefront of these tests that can have an impact on what schools a student gets accepted into and what scholarships they may receive for their education – book your private Irvine SAT tutor today.

Since the SAT and ACT have become so important, many companies have developed books, classes, guides, and other forms of study material to help you get a better score on the tests. With many options available to you at varying levels of cost and commitment, what are your best options? This study plan will briefly discuss what the focus should be on when preparing for these tests to help you optimize your time, avoid being taken advantage of by greedy companies, and (most importantly) maximize your score.

Study with practice tests

First, let’s discuss the best way to begin preparing: practice tests. This cannot be stressed enough. If you are going to be taking a standardized test, you need to familiarize yourself with the exam: the layout, the time limits, the question types, the directions, etc. The first test that students take is almost always their worst because they ran out of time, went to fast, didn’t understand some sections, or got overwhelmed or burnt out by the length of the test. Do not make your first test an official one. Make it a practice one and give yourself time to get used to the test.

Use official resources first

That leads us to who you should trust. You now know that you need to prioritize practice tests to study, but whose practice tests should you use? You’ll find a dozen different practice tests and practice books in the test prep section of the library or bookstore. Some are better than others, and some are outright trying to deceive you. So, who should you use? The official materials. This cannot be stressed enough.

This is a mistake that most students make when they’re preparing for these exams. If you had a test coming up in your science class, would you instead use the textbook your teacher gave you to study or a different one that you found at the store? If your teacher gives you a study guide, do you ignore it and find a different teacher’s study guide from a different class? The people who make the test know and understand what is on the test, and they provide the best resources to study.

The College Board administers the SAT. They offer several printable practice tests for free on their website collegeboard.org in the SAT section. They also offer online tests and prep partnered with Khan Academy, an app for daily practice, and a yearly study book with more practice tests. The practice tests also have answer keys, explanations, and can be scored. For the SAT, use the College Board before going to any third parties.

ACT Inc administers the ACT. They offer free practice multiple choice and writing tests. You can find their website at act.org and specifically their prep material at act.org/the-act/testprep . They also offer an official prep guide, ACT Academy, and online prep. Again, you can find explanations, answers, and scores with the official ACT material. For the ACT, use ACT Inc before going to any third parties.

Third party test prep companies cannot always be trusted. Over the years, I have tutored many students who have come to me with books they have already purchased asking for help. Every time I have done this, I have found questions or material that would never be on an actual SAT/ACT. Someone experienced with the tests should be able to spot these poorly chosen questions quickly, but a confused student would just be wasting their time studying them.

These companies crank out huge numbers of new questions and practice tests every year, but they are not the official test makers. They are not held to the same standard as the College Board or ACT Inc, and they always have some percentage of faulty or unrealistic questions.

Finally, a common tactic these companies employ is to make the material too hard. They make diagnostic tests, sample questions, or the first practice tests harder than they should be (or they score them more harshly than they should). This way, you get a lower score than you expected, and you feel the need to use their material to get better. Then, when you take the real test, you get a higher score than you did on their overly difficult material. Your score went up, so the test prep must have worked, right?

Never trust a score from a third party’s test unless you have also taken an official practice test and received similar results. Just last year I had a student hire me for tutoring the day after he took an SAT practice test and received a score of around 1000. I had him take an official practice test and he “miraculously” scored in the 1200s. I was able to help him improve more from there, but it was not my work that gave him that substantial initial bump. The first score was a lie.

Trust experienced tutors

If you are seeking outside help for your test preparation, you can have great results with someone experienced with the tests and helping students prepare for them – book your private Irvine ACT tutor today. An experienced tutor should have a studying system that is based around a core of taking practice tests regularly (official practice tests ideally) and is tailored to suit your individual needs. There should be an evaluation period where they find your specific problem areas and help you focus on what can be improved.

Every student is unique and no secret strategy will be optimal for every student. Having someone who knows the tests inside and out can accelerate your studying and help you achieve the highest score you’re capable of.

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.