Tag Archives: Orange County

Participation Points: Fake It Till You Make It

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

participation-in-the-classroom-orange-county-tutoring

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

irvine-tutoring-tips

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

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.

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 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.

 

Practical Tips for Your First Physics Class Part 2

Irvine Physics Tutoring: Practical Tips for Your First Physics Class Part 2

These final three tips now pertain to solving physics problems themselves. Every chapter in your physics class will include word problems. Sometimes the questions will be exclusively word problems. You need to know how to tackle the confusing ones if you’re going to succeed – book your private Irvine physics tutor today.

4. Draw pictures

Draw your vectors. Draw your free-body diagrams. Draw your circuits. When they tell you that a ball is thrown off a building at a 45-degree angle, draw the ball, draw the building, and draw the angle. Draw your triangles, label everything, and give yourself enough space to make it clear. This will help you avoid mistakes, understand what’s going on, and also help your teacher grade your work or help you.

Many students get lazy with their pictures or try to skip them as a short-cut. Don’t do this. Just draw your picture. Everyone makes mistakes — especially with physics word problems — but a carefully made picture can help you prevent them.

5. Write down your variables

An extremely common issue students have with solving physics problems is not knowing where to begin. Physics classes tend to include a very high number of word problems with multiple sentences, variables, and details. This can feel overwhelming, especially if the problem does not feel familiar, and can lead to giving up before you even get started.

To combat this, you want to pull the details and numbers from the problem and write them down in a list. If they tell you the mass of a ball is 10 kilograms, then write down mball = 10 kg. If they tell that ball is initially moving at 15 meters per second, then write down vball initial = 15 m/s. Listing your variables can help make complex problems generic.

6. When you’re stuck, just try your equations

Once you have all of your variables written down, then you write down any equations you know that might be relevant. Did they mention friction? Write down any equations you have with friction. Is something going in a circle? Write down your centripetal equations. You can also just look at what variables you have and check your equation sheet for equations that use those variables. If you’re confused don’t be afraid to just guess an equation that might be helpful. See where it takes you and if you can solve for anything important. Worst case scenario is you still get the question wrong. But at least you got some work on the page and opened yourself up to partial credit and a chance for success.
The biggest hurdle students have with physics problems is not knowing how to start and giving up. Your equations can help you. Get used to them, even if your class doesn’t make you memorize them. And if you are in an AP class you should get a copy of the AP equation sheet and start using it since it’s the one you’ll have for the test.

If you keep these tips in mind you will have a better chance of doing well in your first physics class. You already know that you should go to class, do your homework, take notes, and study. I don’t need to tell you that again. If you are still struggling with the class and your teacher can’t help you, consider hiring a private Irvine physics tutor to explain the material better and help you overcome your difficulties. Physics tutors are experienced in presenting the lessons in multiple ways to make sure their students understand. They are also familiar with physics and what you need to do to get a good grade.

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.

Irvine Tutoring: Four Things Students Should do Post Winter Break

Four Things Students Should Do After Winter Break

private-irvine-tutor-tips

The holidays are over, it’s a New Year, and students are ready to go back to school. Okay, maybe you’re not prepared to go back, but you have to regardless of how you feel. With a New Year comes new aspirations, goals, and resolutions. Whether you’re doing well and want to keep it up, or you think there’s room for improvement in the second half of the school year, these tips will help you get on track – book your private Orange County tutor today.

Just like the first half of the year, winter and spring will fly by, so get ahead by taking actions now that will benefit you when finals come around. Like a car driving in the snow, back to school in January can start slow then get out of control in an instance. Do yourself a favor and get ahead before homework and tests start picking up in pace. Below are four tips from our private Irvine tutors to help you make 2019 your most successful year yet.

1. Take Stock of Where You Are at

While most of us want to leave 2018 in the past, students will benefit from a review of the previous semester. Check your grades, test scores, homework, and written assignments from the Fall semester. Do you feel like you are behind, doing well, or somewhere in between? What did you struggle with the most and at what did you most excel? By answering these questions, you can look ahead to your 2019 schedule and help plan around your assessment. For example, if you struggled with writing essays, but breezed through your book assignments, plan your study/homework time accordingly. Start the assignments you struggle with the earliest. That way you have time to seek help if you need some, which brings us to our next suggestion.

2. Book a Private Orange County Tutor

Once you’ve reviewed the first half of the school year, it’s time to get help where you need it most. Whether you book a private Orange County in-person tutor from TutorNerds or an online tutor from TutorNerd, it’s always best to sign up early. The longer you wait to start tutoring, the farther behind you fall in your classes. Keep in mind that even if you are doing well in school, you can still benefit from the help of a private OC tutor.

3. Talk to Your Teachers

If you have the opportunity, book some time to talk to your teachers during office hours or before or after class. Ask them how they think you are performing and if they have any suggestions on how you can improve. Your teachers would much rather steer you in the right direction early on than have you begging for extra credit after you bomb your test (READ: Irvine Tutoring Tips: How to Overcome a Bad Teacher).

4. Set up a Schedule with a Study Buddy or Group

A new semester means a fresh start. Avoid falling behind with a designated study routine. While you’ll always have to do some studying on your own, keep it interesting with one-on-one sessions with a study buddy or a weekly group study session. By studying in a group, you’ll be able to get help in areas other students thrive in as well as help them out with their work. Having a designated study session will help with procrastination as well as remind you of important upcoming assignment dates.

Here are TutorNerds, we are happy to help you make 2019 the year of academic success. Call us today to book your private Orange County tutor.

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.