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What Type of Test Prep is Best for You?

There’s no question about it – preparing for a standardized test can take a lot of work. Whether students are preparing for middle, high school, or college entrance exams, it’s important to have a study plan. But how should they study? Students have several options: they can work with a private tutor, join small tutoring groups, enroll in a full-sized test prep class, or study independently. Which option is right for you? Read on to find out. PRIVATE TUTORING Private tutoring is an excellent option for many students. In a one-on-one setting, the curriculum is tailored specifically for each student and moves at a pace perfect for them. The tutor also learns about the students’ specific needs and can recommend strategies that work for them, identify exactly where they may be having trouble, and give targeted feedback. Private tutoring is typically the most efficient form of tutoring, and students move the most quickly through content when working one-on-one. To get started with a private tutor, you can email info@smartcitytutoring.com or submit an inquiry form.  SMALL-GROUP TUTORING Small-Group Tutoring can be an great option for students who are looking for a more collaborative environment. With small-group tutoring, students see many of the same benefits as with private tutoring – personalized attention, feedback, and targeted strategies – and students may enjoy working alongside peers who are going through the same process. The pace of the curriculum will be a little less targeted than private tutoring, but classes are also more affordable for families than private tutoring. Read more about our small-group options at our group tutoring page, or email info@smartcitytutoring.com for more information. TEST PREP CLASSES Test Prep Classes are a good option for students who are more independent. They still provide structure, which keeps students on track as they study, and teachers can guide students through some of the trickier content and introduce them to general test prep strategies. If the pace is too fast for students, they may need to do additional work on their own to keep up, and if it’s too slow, students may need to find additional work to keep them busy. They will also need to take the initiative to ask questions when they need extra clarification. Test prep options are often more affordable for families, and they give students the opportunity to interact with many peers preparing for the same exam. INDEPENDENT STUDY Students may also choose to prepare for standardized tests independently. This option works well for students who are very independent and self-motivated. If they choose to prepare independently, students should carefully select resources to use, such as online test prep accounts or test prep workbooks. They should be mindful that testing is not just about learning the content – there are many different test-taking strategies they should use that may not be clearly outlined in the resources they gather. Students also should make a well-organized plan to ensure they have enough time to learn everything ahead of their test. Students working independently may benefit from 1-3 sessions with a tutor to get started just to introduce strategies and help make a plan.

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Should Your Child Do Homework on Vacation or at Camp?

Over the summer, many New York City kids take the opportunity to leave the city for a bit and travel or go to camp. For students preparing for a standardized test in the fall, I talk to parents who ask, “What should my child be doing while they’re away?”  This question can be tricky. We often recommend that students use the summer to get ahead on test preparation when they don’t have other school work. However, this is the standard recommendation to students staying home – those traveling and at camp will certainly have other things to keep them busy! SOMETIMES A BREAK IS BETTER If your child is going away, our recommendation depends on how they’re doing. If your child got an early start with preparation, or if they’re already scoring reasonably well on their practice tests, it may be best to let your child take a break. Students work so hard throughout the school year, and a clean break from any academic work can help students refresh and avoid burnout come fall. Also, if your child is traveling or at camp, they’re building other important skills – either learning about new cultures, interacting with new peer groups, and problem solving in new settings. SOME STUDENTS SHOULD BRING A FEW TOOLS FOR PRACTICE However, if you feel your child needs a bit of extra support, there are some options for keeping up work over the summer. An easy way to get ahead is to use flashcards. A lot of admissions tests are vocabulary heavy, and students can use flashcards to easily learn new words while traveling or at camp. Students can also use flashcards for other things – memorizing important math formulas, figures of speech, rules, and more. They can also bring math worksheets – while it’s unlikely they will be diving into new, complicated learning while away, doing a problem here and there is an easy way to review math they learned in the spring. Finally, they can bring a journal – many standardized tests have writing components, and when students write in a journal, they practice organizing their thoughts, using grammar conventions and spelling, and adding details to their ideas. MAKE A CONCRETE PLAN If your child decides to do work over the summer, it’s very important to plan ahead. Once your child is in a new, exciting environment, the last thing they’ll want to do is pull out homework. Instead of relying on self-motivation in the moment, make a schedule they can stick to. It’s important to be concrete – you should think about when they will complete the work (where and what time of day), how much work they’ll aim to complete (either a set number of items or an amount of time), and how they will track their progress. It’s also important to set realistic goals – students are unlikely to do a full hour of work each day at camp, but 10 minutes might not feel so difficult, and those minutes will add up over the weeks. PLAN FOR WHEN THEY RETURN Regardless of what you decide to do over the summer, it’s important to have a plan for when you get back. Those last weeks of August can be a great time to get ahead with either private or group tutoring. Click here to learn more about our group tutoring options. To learn more about private tutoring options, email info@smartcitytutoring.com or submit an inquiry form.

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Does Your Child Deeply Understand Content?

Summer Group Tutoring Options Available Now!   After teaching and tutoring for the past decade, I’ve recently noticed some remarkable changes around the depth of knowledge some of my students demonstrate.   These days, I primarily tutor for the ISEE and SSAT tests, which means that year over year, I’m working with the same age groups on the same exact content—mostly fifth through eighth graders preparing for difficult standardized tests to get into the middle and high schools of their choice. In the past two years, I noticed that some students I work with struggle with content that previous students thoroughly grasped — especially in areas of foundational math, including fractions, decimals, and negative numbers. Other tutors I worked with noticed similar things—that many students, even those on grade level according to their schools, lacked a deep understanding of some foundational concepts necessary for grappling with more complex upper level work.  As I dug deeper, I realized that for many of these students, the skills they struggled with were those taught during the height of the COVID pandemic, in 2020 and 2021. Although they technically knew the skills—with some reminders, they could simplify a fraction or add negative numbers—they didn’t have a deep inherent understanding of the skills, and instead were just following the steps.  This is a tricky issue to address—after all, if a student can do a skill, how can you ascertain whether they are performing with a deep understanding of a concept that will serve them well in the future, or with merely a surface level understanding that will not fully support future growth? And how can we deepen their knowledge? And measure success? A good rule of thumb is this: if a student can easily recall how to do a skill, even if they haven’t used it in a long time, and if they can apply that skill to a new problem type, then they have a deep understanding of the concept. It’s like riding a bike—once you know how to do it, it’s impossible to forget, and even if you’re in a new environment you still know how to ride a bike. This depth of understanding becomes inherent when students are given many opportunities to use a concept and in many different formats. When learning fractions, for example, students need various opportunities to understand how fractions work using  physical manipulatives (cutting a piece of paper into fourths), drawings (filling in a circle half way), and in the abstract (adding fractions using only numerals and symbols). They should then be able to apply their knowledge to new formats, like solving word problems that ask them to manipulate fractions in new ways, or apply the concepts to everyday life. THE ROOT OF THE ISSUE During the pandemic, teachers, families, and students alike were figuring out how to navigate new technologies, new norms, and a whole new world. Unfortunately, this meant many curriculums were rushed to ensure students covered all the content needed for them to stay on grade level. There wasn’t the time or opportunity for students to deeply explore content they learned, as there once was. And once things returned to normal, schools needed to keep moving ahead – without added time to review and practice former skills. As a result, many students are showing gaps in foundational understanding.  So what should we do? SOLUTIONS Talk to Your Child’s Teacher Your child’s teacher works with your child daily and should have a thorough understanding of their strengths and weaknesses. Ask teachers if there’s anything your child should continue to work on, or if there is something your child struggled with this year or was slow to understand, even if they seemed to pick it up eventually. A teacher may be able to point you in the right direction to build your child’s foundational skills.  Practice Old Skills Once you’ve identified a gap, the next thing to do is practice a concept! After reviewing the basics of any given skill, your child should be able to explain the concept back to you. Ask questions as if you were learning it for the first time. One of the best ways for a student to really understand something is to explain it, then try to explain it in a different way, and then finally, explain why it works. Another great way to practice is to do difficult word problems that require your child to apply a concept in a new format. Make the most of your free time While summer vacations are important breaks for students, they are also opportune times for your child to review missed material or strengthen skills. During the school year, adding remedial practice to your child’s already busy schedule can be daunting, but in summer months it can become much easier and more organic to a relaxed schedule. Make a plan to do a little work each week, so your child is learning while still getting a break. Enlist Support As I mentioned above, it can sometimes be difficult to even recognize gaps, let alone identify how to fill them. Even as a tutor, it sometimes takes me several sessions with a student to identify specific learning gaps. If you’re not sure where to get started, you might find it helpful to have your child work one-on-one with a tutor to identify and address learning gaps. Working with a tutor can support your child not only in identifying and addressing learning gaps, but will also ensure that your child stays on a schedule, chipping away at the work they need to do bit by bit. If your child is already working with a tutor for academics or test prep, ask the tutor if they’ve noticed any foundational gaps, and if so, ask them to work some foundational practice into their sessions! If you’re interested in exploring tutoring options, or if you have specific questions about your child’s needs, please submit an inquiry form, and we’ll reach out to you to make a plan.

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SSAT FAQ’s

Summer Group Tutoring Options Available Now! The Secondary School Admissions Test, more commonly referred to as the SSAT, is a standardized test used by independent day schools and boarding schools to evaluate students applying for admission. Read on to learn some of the most common questions we get about the SSAT. WHAT IS THE SSAT? The SSAT is an exam designed to evaluate a student’s scholastic aptitude. There are several levels: The Elementary Level Test (for application to grades 3 and 4), the Middle Level Test (for application to grades 5 to 7), and the Upper Level Test (for application to grades 8-11). The Middle and Upper Level SSAT tests have six sections: Writing Sample, Quantitative 1, Reading, Verbal, Quantitative 2, and Experimental. Students get a percentile score for the quantitative, reading, and verbal sections. The writing section is unscored, but sent to schools for review. The experimental section is only 15 minutes, and is used to test new questions for future SSATs. The experimental section is unscored. HOW IS THE SSAT SCORED? Students who take the test are given three scores out of 800 (one for verbal, one for reading, and one that averages the two math sections), and all three scores are added into a single, overall scaled score out of 2400. Each score is also converted to a percentile, so students can see how they did in comparison with other students who took the same version of the test. While the essay is unscored, it is important to note that the essays are sent to schools along with the score report and will be evaluated by admissions officers at each school. DOES MY CHILD HAVE TO TAKE THE SSAT? Most students applying to independent schools will take either the SSAT or the ISEE. Generally speaking, boarding schools prefer the SSAT, and day schools prefer the ISEE, but recently many schools have started accepting either test. Additionally, some schools are test-optional, but as many universities reinstate admissions testing requirements, there is a strong possibility that independent middle and high schools may choose to do the same. You can find information about requirements for the specific schools you’re applying to on their admissions websites. Overall, we strongly recommend that all students prepare for one of the tests as they begin their application process. For more information on the overall ISEE and SSAT timeline, read our blog post here. WHEN SHOULD I TAKE THE SSAT? The SSAT is offered approximately once a month throughout the year, and students are allowed to take as many tests as they’d like. In a standard application timeline, we recommend students begin testing as early as August to allow for subsequent testing if necessary. The latest students can take the test in order for scores to be submitted to schools on time is early January.  Please be mindful that some schools will not accept scores from tests taken before August 1st of the application year – to find out if your school will accept earlier scores, you can visit their admissions website or call their admissions office. HOW SHOULD MY CHILD PREPARE FOR THE SSAT? The first thing you should do to prepare for the SSAT is schedule a diagnostic test. Diagnostics are extremely important to get a sense of where your child is starting and to collect data so you can make a test prep plan tailored specifically to your child’s needs. For specifics about preparation, please read our post about preparing for the ISEE and SSAT here. To register for a diagnostic test, please email info@smartcitytutoring.com. Once you have diagnostic scores, you may choose to enlist the help of a tutor or a class to guide preparation. The SSAT includes a lot of new information for students, and the testing strategies may differ greatly from the tests they take in school. A class helps give general instruction and keeps students on a timeline. A small-group or one-on-one tutor can be even more impactful, as this structure allows the curriculum to move at a pace more tailored to a specific student or group of students, and allows for more individualized feedback.  To get started with a tutor, email info@smartcitytutoring.com or fill out our inquiry form. To learn more about our group tutoring options, visit our website’s group tutoring page. HOW CAN I REGISTER FOR THE SSAT? You can register for the SSAT by visiting the SSAT website.

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How to Prepare for SSAT and ISEE Testing

Summer Group Tutoring Options Available Now!   You know your child will be applying to a new school in the fall, and you know that’s going to include a myriad of tasks: interviews, application essays, school visits, and of course, standardized tests. While some schools have gone test-optional, many still require tests, and high test scores can still be beneficial even at test-optional schools. We know it can be confusing figuring out how to prepare, when to prepare, and even what test to take! If it all seems a bit overwhelming, have no fear: read on to learn the answers to all of your questions. MY CHILD IS APPLYING TO AN INDEPENDENT SCHOOL. WHAT TESTS SHOULD THEY BE PREPARING FOR? If your child is preparing for entrance into an independent school, your child will likely need to take either the Secondary School Admissions Test (SSAT) or the Independent School Entrance Exam (ISEE). Generally speaking, day schools in New York prefer the ISEE, while boarding schools prefer the SSAT. That being said, many schools accept either one, and if you’re applying to a mix of boarding schools and day schools, you should pick one test. You can decide which to take by researching which test is required by the schools you’re applying to. If you find you can use either test, it may be beneficial to have your student take a practice of each test to see which feels more comfortable, or which they score higher on, and then put your efforts into preparing for that test. We do not recommend preparing for both tests at once if it can be avoided—while the tests are similar, there are a few key differences, and students tend to do better when they remain focused on one test at a time. To learn more about the ISEE, read our ISEE FAQ post here. To learn more about the SSAT, read our SSAT FAQ post here.  MY CHILD IS ALSO APPLYING TO A SPECIALIZED HIGH SCHOOL. WHAT TESTS SHOULD THEY TAKE? If your child is preparing to apply to specialized high schools (such as Stuyvesant or Bronx Science), your child will need to take the Specialized High School Admissions Test (SHSAT). If they’re applying to both public and private schools, they will need to take the SHSAT and one of the private school tests. While the tests are not exactly the same, there is some overlap in content between the SHSAT and the private school tests, and students should prepare for both simultaneously. IS TESTING REALLY NECESSARY? Admissions testing is currently required at some independent schools, but not all. Many schools went test-optional during COVID, and some remain so. However, with universities across the country reinstating admissions testing (read more on why here), there is a possibility independent middle and high schools will follow this trend. Additionally, even at schools where admissions testing is not required, high test scores can further strengthen an application, as it adds one more point of reference for schools deciding between many competitive candidates. We recommend that all students applying to private middle and high schools prepare for testing. WHEN AND HOW SHOULD I START PREPARATION? Testing timelines look different for each student, depending on their extracurricular activities, their school workload, and their summer plans. That said, all students can start by scheduling a diagnostic test to get a sense of their strengths, areas that need work, and to better know how much time they’ll need to prepare. Data from a diagnostic test is invaluable—it lets students know what they’ll need to focus on when they study, and how much time they should allot. We recommend taking a diagnostic in mid-spring ahead of admissions to ensure you have plenty of time to prepare.  To schedule a diagnostic test, email info@smartcitytutoring.com. After you have your test scores, one of our team members will follow up to help make a personalized plan for your child based on their scores. WHEN WILL MY CHILD TAKE THESE TESTS? Most students take their entrance tests in the fall and/or early winter. Students can only take the ISEE once per season, so most students take it once in the fall and once in the early winter. Students can take the SSATs as many times as they’d like, and it is generally offered about once a month, so most students take it two or more times in the fall and early winter. The SHSAT is only offered once a year on a specific date, typically in October or November—you can find this date on the DOE website when it is released. HOW MUCH TIME SHOULD THEY SPEND PREPARING? Preparation timelines vary widely. If a student does extremely well on a diagnostic test, they may only need a month or two of preparation ahead of their exam. If a student struggles greatly, they may need much more time to get comfortable with the material and testing strategies. When planning, families need to consider their summer plans and how much time a student has in their schedule during the school year. Some students are away all summer and need to prepare before and after travel; other students have demanding sports schedules and take advantage of free time in the summer to prepare. On average, students need 2-3 months to adequately prepare for these exams, but some may need more, depending on their starting point. DOES MY CHILD NEED A TUTOR OR A CLASS? While some students are able to prepare independently, most students benefit from a tutor or a class to guide preparation. There is a lot of information on the ISEE, SSAT, and SHSAT tests, and some of it exceeds the curriculum students see in school. A tutor or a class helps guide students through unfamiliar topics and keep them on schedule as they prepare. A tutor or teacher can also help diagnose issues students may have, and can help find a strategy that works for them. While classes are good options for some, one-on-one or small-group

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What’s Going on With the SAT and ACT?

Over the past decade, there has been a lot of discussion surrounding the SAT and ACT. Even before the pandemic there were questions about whether the test was biased, and whether the results were indicative of true intelligence and academic potential. Students struggled to decide whether to take the SAT or ACT, and then later, whether they needed either test at all. In the past few years, many schools have moved away from using standardized tests as a way to determine which students to accept, instead weighing grades, essays, and extracurriculars more heavily as a way to get a better sense of a student as a whole. But now, it seems the tides have turned – last week, Dartmouth announced it will be requiring standardized testing again, and other schools, such as Yale, are also exploring the option of bringing back the requirement. But why? THERE’S BIAS IN OTHER AREAS, TOO Standardized tests have long been criticized as being biased towards wealthy students. Some of the content is more familiar to students who come from more privileged backgrounds, and many point out that success on the test may be due to their access to high-quality tutors and test preparation. But now, proponents of the test are pointing out that although the test isn’t perfectly unbiased, it may actually be the least biased of all the admissions criteria. After all, students with access to better writing programs and tutors may write better essays. Students who attend elite private schools may have access to stronger extracurriculars and may have guidance counselors who can write very personalized recommendations. Those students may have access to interview coaches and consultants, and members of admissions teams reading those essays or conducting interviews may have their own implicit biases. With this in mind, some argue that standardized tests are actually the least biased of all application criteria. And, if it is the least biased measure, schools are now considering whether including standardized test scores in their admissions criteria may be a way to boost both racial and economic diversity now that affirmative action has been dismantled. IT’S INDICATIVE OF SUCCESS – AND GRADES AREN’T ALWAYS Another major argument for standardized testing is that research shows that it’s indicative of academic success in college. Many admissions teams have pointed out that grade inflation has made it difficult to evaluate students based on classroom performance—and they’ve always struggled with the fact that an A at one school may not be equal to an A at another. Standardized tests give students the opportunity to demonstrate their aptitude on an even playing field. Additionally, researchers have found that students with higher standardized test scores have a tendency to do better once they get to college—M.I.T., for example, tracked their students and found that those students they accepted despite lower test scores were more likely to struggle or drop out than those with higher scores. SO WITH THIS IN MIND, WHY AREN’T ALL SCHOOLS REQUIRING IT? Even with all this said, there are still some reasons schools aren’t requiring test scores. For one, preparing for a standardized test can be very stressful—students often spend months preparing for tests, and this can be especially stressful for students who just lived through a global pandemic. Some also feel that it’s unfair to reduce a student to a number, and don’t want their students to feel like that’s how schools view them. Finally, there’s still some lingering inequity in the tests—they aren’t perfect, and some students have more access to resources to prepare than others. SO WHAT SHOULD YOU DO? At this point, it’s hard to predict the future. Other schools may follow Dartmouth’s lead and reinstate testing, or they may decide to keep it optional. With that being said, we recommend that all students at least explore the option of testing—you may end up needing the test if schools reinstate it, and in that case, it’s better to be prepared! Additionally, you may find you do better than expected. Even at schools where testing is optional, strong test scores can further support an already strong application. Finally, the skills learned during test prep won’t only be used on the test—students who prepare for tests like the SAT and ACT are also honing critical thinking skills, reviewing academic materials, and are practicing setting and meeting long-term goals.  If you have any questions about testing or our SAT/ACT tutoring program, we would be happy to answer your questions and provide guidance about timelines and preparation options. You can learn more by filling out our inquiry form or emailing info@smartcitytutoring.com. 

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My Child is Struggling in School

When you see your child struggling in school, you want to help – but sometimes it can be difficult to figure out how best to do so. Should you help your child study? Call their teacher? Hire a tutor? It may be tricky figuring out how to handle it, but have no fear – we’re here to help! Read on to see how you can support your child in school. ASK YOUR CHILD The first step to take when you see slipping grades is to ask your child what they’re struggling with. Sometimes children don’t know what’s wrong, but sometimes they can easily name the issue. If they’re not sure, prompt them with the following questions:  Is the work too challenging?  Is the work too easy, and are they getting bored and not paying attention in class? Are they struggling to find ways to study? Are they lacking motivation?  Do they understand why they’re learning what they’re learning?  Whatever the issue, if your child can identify it, then you can start working together to tackle the issue. HELP YOUR CHILD PLAN One common reason students struggle in school is that they lack necessary executive functioning skills. Executive functioning skills include all the skills that people use to stay organized, set goals, and study effectively, which are imperative to success in school. If your child is frequently missing deadlines, losing assignments, or if they can’t seem to find time to study, this is a sign they need support in executive functioning. You can help your child by working with them to find an organization system that they can stick to, and checking to ensure they’re using it in the beginning. For tips on supporting in executive function, check out our blog post here. SUPPORT WITH MOTIVATION AND FOCUS Once you have a plan in place, your child may need support as they get used to a new schedule. You might want to organize some positive rewards to motivate your child – for example, you may go to the movies or do another fun activity if they reach their academic goals. If you do this, make sure to keep things positive! You may also want to support your child’s focus. You can do this by holding onto their phone while they complete their homework, or by sitting in the room with them as they work to ensure they stay on track. If you do so, make sure you discuss this with your child ahead of time so you’re aligned – they should agree on these measures as strategies for success to ensure they don’t feel punitive or overbearing. REMIND YOUR CHILD TO TAKE BREAKS One important thing to remind your child is to take breaks! Studying may feel insufferable if a child is expected to focus for hours at a time, but much more manageable if they study in chunks or take short breaks every half hour. Help your child figure out what works for them, and then remind them to get up and move around every so often. REMAIN ENCOURAGING While you’re troubleshooting with your child, make sure you stay positive and encouraging. You want your child to see you as a teammate and a support, but they may feel hesitant to work through issues with you if they’re worried you’ll get upset. Although it may feel difficult at times, remember that your child is trying their best, and that they may need time to develop the skills and strategies necessary to be successful in school. ASK YOUR CHILD’S TEACHER If you and your child can’t identify what exactly they’re struggling with, then the next step is to conference with your child’s teacher. Your child’s teacher sees them each day and keeps track of their progress, and if your child is struggling, their teacher is likely also trying to figure out why! If your child is older, they can ask their teacher for advice first before you reach out. If your child is younger, or if your child has already spoken to their teacher on their own, you can give the teacher a call or schedule a conference to chat about what the issue may be. If your child feels comfortable, it may be helpful to schedule a meeting between you, your child, and your child’s teacher, so all three of you can problem-solve together. LOOK FOR LEARNING SUPPORT Finally, if you’ve tried all of these strategies and your child is still struggling, you may need to arrange extra learning support. Ask your child’s teacher or healthcare provider what they would recommend – it’s possible your child may benefit from a neuropsychology evaluation to check for learning disabilities or other medical issues that may be impeding their learning. You may also want to seek the support of a tutor to help your child work in a particular subject or for general academic support. A tutor can also work with your child on building an academic skill-set, or on building executive functioning skills to support with organization, study habits, goal-setting, and memory.

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Find the Right Study Strategy for You

Students know they need to study, but sometimes it can be difficult to figure out how to study. There are so many different ways, and there can be so much material to try to remember! If you find yourself struggling to figure out the best way to study, read on to learn about a few different methods. Try them out, and figure out which works best for you! CREATE AN OUTLINE If you’re in a class where you’re learning A LOT of new information at once, try creating an outline, either by hand or on a computer. Go back through your notes from class, and create a heading for each new important topic you learn about. Then, add in any information you learn about or read about in each category so that all information about a topic is grouped together. Once you have organized all the information, you may choose to condense your outline so it only includes key words and information you need, and so you can get rid of any words or information that aren’t useful. The act of reviewing and organizing information can help you remember it better, and as an added bonus, you’ll have these outlines created to review later when studying for midterms or finals! MAKE FLASHCARDS Flashcards are a classic study tool. To make a flashcard, write a key word or idea on one side of the card and the definition or explanation on the other. This way when you study, you can practice recalling information just like you may need to on a test. Also, you can organize your flashcards to keep track of what you know and what you still need to study – as you go through them, you should make three piles: one for things you easily know, one of things you kind of know, and one for things you really don’t know. Spent most of your time on the second two piles, and go back through the “easy” pile once in a while to review. You’ll be surprised by how quickly your “easy” pile starts to grow! QUIZ YOURSELF The best way to see if you’ve mastered material is by quizzing yourself. Whether you’re answering practice short answer questions or doing sample math questions, your success on the practice questions will show you how well you’re prepared for a test. If you’re acing practice questions, move on to something else, but if you struggle, go back and review! Remember, even if you feel like you know material, sometimes recalling it when it’s not in front of you can be more difficult than you expect – quizzing yourself helps ensure that you really know information deeply. TEACH A FRIEND The “teach a friend” method works well because it helps you consolidate information and put it in your own words. If you have a friend who’s struggling with a certain topic, take the opportunity to explain new concepts, which will help you and your friend! And if you don’t, see if a friend or family member is willing to listen to you as you explain a topic. Finally, if you’re studying alone, try talking to a “friend,” even if it’s the pencil case on your desk! You may feel silly explaining a science concept to an inanimate object, but the act of consolidating and summarizing your learning helps ingrain the ideas in your mind. STUDY WITH A FRIEND Study buddies can be very useful when trying to learn new content! If you have a friend in your class, arrange to meet up a few times a week to go over material. You can summarize the material for one another (as mentioned above), but you can also ask and answer questions about the material to further your understanding. If you have any questions, it can be helpful to have someone there – just make sure you stay on topic and don’t spend too much study time chatting about other things! DRAW PICTURES Whether you’re studying big topics or specific vocabulary words, it can be very helpful to draw little pictures when you’re studying. It may seem a little strange at first, but the act of thinking about a topic, deciding how to depict it visually, and drawing a little picture helps you interact with a concept so you learn it more deeply. Additionally, many people find that pictures are more “sticky” in their minds. You may not remember exactly what it says in one line of your notes, but you’ll probably remember the cute cartoon you drew in the margins! USE ONLINE TOOLS If you get stuck when studying your notes, use online tools to help! There are many helpful resources, like Khan Academy, that will explain difficult topics to you and provide practice questions to help you study. Quizlet is another great resource for studying, as you can view other vocabulary lists and play games to help you study. However, it’s important to keep in mind the limitations of using online support – while it can be helpful, you need to make sure you’re on reputable sites, as there may be some sites that provide inaccurate information. Additionally, often the act of writing flashcards or making outlines is what really helps you understand and remember information, so it may not be as effective to pull premade flashcards and outlines to study.  DO A LITTLE AT A TIME The best way to study is to do a little studying at a time. You may hear about friends staying up late to cram, but this is actually the least effective way to study! You’ll be much better off studying bit by bit, as you’ll have more time to process the material, and you’ll be much more likely to remember the material in the long run. Additionally, studies have shown that sleep is imperative to consolidating information and memories – if you stay up late studying, you won’t have enough time to get the restful sleep needed to really process all of the

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Get Ready for Midterm Season

The holidays are over, we’re back from break, and for some students, this means it’s almost time for midterm season. The upcoming midterms may seem daunting – after all, you need to know a whole semester’s worth of content – but if you break preparation down into easy, bite-sized chunks, midterms don’t have to be a headache! Read on to learn a few tricks to make midterm season feel more manageable. GET ORGANIZED What makes midterm season tricky is that often, you’re not preparing for one test – you’re preparing for several, all at once! One way to stay in control is to get organized. Put any important dates or deadlines in a calendar so you’re never surprised by what’s coming, and to make sure you turn in all assignments on time. To learn more about how to make an effective study plan and schedule, read our blog post here. IDENTIFY THE FORMAT OF EACH TEST Tests can be created in several different formats, and that’ll affect how you study. A multiple-choice test will be different from a short-answer test, which will be different still from an in-class essay. Ask your teachers what to expect to see on your tests, and then make sure when you’re doing practice questions and quizzes, you’re evaluating yourself in a format that matches what’s coming on test day. TAKE A PRACTICE TEST Some teachers offer practice tests before a big midterm, so if your teacher does, use it! Take a practice test to get clear on your strengths and weaknesses, and which of your tests may require more studying than others. Once you make those determinations, go back to your calendar and schedule in time to study. If your teacher doesn’t give you a practice test, you can go back and look over tests and quizzes from earlier in the semester to see which ones you aced, and which could use a bit more work. You can also ask your teacher for blank copies of old tests so you can redo them and see how much you remember! STUDY – IN THE WAY THAT WORKS BEST FOR YOU! There is no one-size-fits-all method for studying. As you grow as a student, you’ll need to determine the best way to study for you. You may find that making a comprehensive outline is a good way to organize and review content. Or you may thrive with flashcards – making flashcards can be a good review, and quizzing yourself with flashcards is a great way to practice the recall you’ll need on a test. You may also learn well from “teaching” content to a friend or family member – if you know the content well enough to teach it, you certainly know it well enough to ace an exam! Try some different strategies, and see which seems to help you the most. You may want to use one or several different strategies as you study. QUIZ YOURSELF As you study, make sure you’re taking time to quiz yourself throughout to evaluate your progress. Did you really learn all you needed to know from your last study session? How well do you really remember those vocab words? Take some time to give yourself small quizzes after each study session to ensure you’re retaining all of the information you’ll need. FINALLY, STAY POSITIVE! Midterms can be stressful, but they can be useful, too. Teachers use the data from midterms to evaluate whether students are learning what they need, and they can plan reteach lessons or can slow down the curriculum if students struggle. And you can use your midterm scores to evaluate your own progress – these scores can tell you whether to keep doing what you’re doing, or if you need to make a few tweaks in the semester ahead. Either way, remember that these tests are designed to help you understand your learning – so just do your best!

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