guest written by Shahar Link of Mindspire Tutoring & Test Prep
Many people believe that the basic ingredients of success on challenging tests like the SAT or ACT are 1) talent at math or language, 2) how much you learned in school, and 3) how smart you are in general. Both students and tutors can have this belief. It is, however, wrong.
Carol Dweck, in her book Mindset: The New Psychology of Success, calls such a belief a “fixed mindset,” which essentially means that a person is stuck thinking that he or she is more or less born with talents for some things and not for others, and it is not really possible to get smarter at doing things that you’re “just not good at.” On the other hand, there is another attitude, a “growth mindset,” which is the idea that if one works hard at something, and really tries to get better and smarter, then one can become highly skilled at virtually anything.
Dweck, a psychologist who has researched the psychology of learning at Stanford University for many years, shows convincingly that people with fixed mindsets don’t get smarter, while those with growth mindsets do. Growth-mindset individuals show much greater adaptability to challenging circumstances, are better equipped to navigate both failure and success, and learn more quickly. Obviously, these are crucial elements in test preparation.
Other researchers have recently come to similar conclusions. Daniel Coyle, author of The Talent Code, writes on his blog: “If you distilled all the new science about talent development into two words of advice, they would be ‘practice better.’ That’s it. Practice. Better.” In other words, genes, “potential,” etc. have nothing to do with it.
Students and tutors who simply assume that there is some innate potential limit to what they can accomplish as they prepare for a test are setting themselves up for failure. Having worked in the test prep business for almost 15 years, I know that there are a lot of people who have the fixed mindset, and what they do is teach the “facts” and then hope students “get it.” The truth is, anyone can “get it” if they put in serious effort, don’t get hampered by failure, stay motivated, and have the right coaching. And tutors can do a lot to make that happen.
Anyone can acquire a “growth mindset” at any age. It’s about a new way of thinking about the meaning of failure — that failure actually means you are learning, because you are pushing against your limits. Once you realize that, you begin to: a) change the way you think, b) challenge yourself more, and c) work harder. Those are the real key ingredients for success on standardized tests.
It is a privilege to be able to provide this lesson to my students, because it is about so much more than test preparation – it is about how to succeed in life.
Carol Dweck’s book elaborates in much further detail how this all works in the brain, and shows the results of hundreds of studies, as well as how teachers, parents, coaches, and even spouses can apply these findings to get better at everything they do, and help others do so as well. Clearly, one’s mindset is a foundational element of success on standardized tests, and if you are working to get a high score, or help others do so, I strongly suggest you familiarize yourself with Dweck’s research. It will certainly improve your results on tests, but more importantly, make you a more fulfilled person in general. And that’s the goal of this whole business really, isn’t it?
About the author: Shahar Link is the founder of Mindspire Tutoring & Test Prep, a tutoring company built on the idea that anyone can get better at anything if they set their mind to it.
guest written by Eric Clark of Quincy Tutoring
Last week, my friend Mark from My Town Tutors wrote a great guest post for TestSoup. This follow up will give you five things that you should look for in a tutor. Don’t limit your list to these five categories, use the list as a starting point once you being the tutor search process.
Do your due diligence and make sure that each tutor that you hire is a great fit for your student. Each student has a different set of needs, and it is important that the tutor meets those needs adequately. It is important to gain trust in your tutors, but that takes time. Ask for references; if the applicant doesn’t have any, stay away!
Experience tells a lot about a tutor’s ability to do their job well. A tutor may be a great tutor with little to no experience, but experience is usually better. Experienced tutors should be able to adapt a tutor session mid-stream, and help the student reach their potential. Inexperienced tutors can help students, but it may be less efficient. Experienced tutors also cost more, and for some, an inexperienced tutor is the best option.
Quality training is almost as important as experience. There are several great tutor training programs out there, and I would recommend the Crossroads of Learning (CRL) tutor training. When a tutor successfully completes the CRL training they are certified by the National Tutor Association. Tutors that have gone through teacher training are great as well. My Town Tutors has a database of tutors that are/were full-time teachers.
Communication is a key component to a successful tutor/student relationship. Tutors with great non-verbal communication will be extremely successful. Tutors that can ask open ended questions will also be successful, because they require students to make connections. Students will learn far less if they are given direct answers to their question. A good tutor will allow their student to think and come up with their own answer by providing clues that the student can piece together.
Is the tutor in it for the money? If so, that relationship is not going to work. Tutors need to be invested in their students, much like teachers are. I don’t know a single good teacher that is in it for the money. The students must come first!
As stated in the beginning, use these 5 categories as a starting point in the tutor search process. There may be specific criteria that will come from the initial interview, so don’t be afraid to ask the tutor specific questions. Students should feel comfortable with the tutor from the onset. Don’t get started off on the wrong foot by hiring a tutor that is not a good fit.
The Quincy Tutor Network is only four months old, but it is a great place to start the tutor search. New tutors are registering every week, and there is always room for more. If you are a tutor please consider joining our free network and our LinkedIn Group. Tutors are also given the ability to blog, which is a great way to show potential clients your skill set. As always, feel free to find Quincy Tutoring on Facebook and Twitter.
About the author: Eric Clark is the founder and CEO of Quincy Tutoring, an online tutor network. Quincy Tutoring also offers affordable standardized test prep, and fully endorses TestSoup’s flashcard system. Follow Eric on Twitter and Facebook.
guest written by Mark Molloy of My Town Tutors
A student needs to be able to focus on school and school work to separate themselves from their peers and improve their chances of success in school and later in life.
1. Get a good night’s sleep. It is so important to get a good night’s sleep. It is recommended that teens sleep 10 hours a day. Allowing for the proper amount of sleep needs to be a child’s and parent’s main priority.
2. Eat a good breakfast. So simple, yet many students do not find the time to eat a good breakfast. Running late, grab a fruit. Students who eat breakfast are more attentive and are ready to take on the challenges of a school day.
3. Be kind & respectful to teachers and other students. This is a simple rule that not all students follow. Develop a habit of being kind and showing respect for all people. Even with people you may not like. Show respect and be kind. It will go along way.
4. Pay attention in class. When I was attending school, some students would spend part or all of class writing a note to a friend. (If caught, this note often could be read to the entire class — probably a law suit today.) Today students need to fight the urge to send or respond to the ridiculous amount of text messages that are sent and received by teens. Simply paying attention and participating in class will go a long way towards understanding the material and doing well.
5. Do all your homework to the best of your ability. Believe it or not, there are very few students at the end of a term or school year who are capable of completing all the homework assignments. Sadly, as a school year progresses, some students may not even attempt homework assignments at all. This can be very discouraging and often leads to setbacks in other areas of a student’s life.
Set aside time each night to complete your homework assignments.
6. Get extra help or find a good tutor. Most teachers offer extra help at least once a week. Take advantage of this free opportunity. A student can show a teacher that he/she is willing to work extra hard to understand the material. Working one on one with a teacher can often do wonders for a a student’s understanding of the concepts and material. If extra help cannot be a consistent option (i.e. work or extra-curricular activities), you could find a willing classmate to help.
A student may also want to find a teacher in the area who tutors. My Town Tutors believes “teachers are great tutors!” We have over 180 teachers registered with us. If there is not a teacher in your area, contact us and do our best to find one for you within 48 hours.
The school year is quickly approaching. Relax, enjoy your summer, and be ready to hit the ground running when that first bell rings!
guest written by Michelle Deets Haynes of Clarity Learning
Have you considered whether your own study methods are working for you or against you? Study methods that consume too much time and don’t prepare you well can leave you feeling frustrated and too unmotivated to continue. Whether you’re a busy middle or high school student, a new college student, or a working adult who is juggling classes with family demands, there’s no time for ineffective study techniques.
I consider weak study techniques to be those that leave you feeling rushed, drained, overwhelmed, or bored. They leave your eyes watering while your brain wanders off. However, active, effective study methods leave you saying:
Here are three ways to set up and employ active, confidence-building study methods:
1. Plan ahead and study in chunks. Don’t cram. Cramming leads to mixed-up terms, forgotten steps, and that awful fog of self-doubt that settles on you during the test. It’s better to find several small chunks of time to commit a few concepts and terms to memory than to wait until you “have enough time.”
Smartphones can easily carry around your notes. Review a few pieces of material as you ride to school, wait for your parents, or wait for your own children to finish an activity. That having said, make sure you study everything together at some point in case there are terms or steps that are similar and easily confused. You’re a busy person; utilize your breaks to spread out your study sessions and avoid cramming.
2. In order to retain information, you must be alert and have the intent to retain. Get your body involved in the game. Just reading text off a website, flashcard, or page lacks the impact and retention of DOING SOMETHING with that text. Use an active website like www.quizlet.com to enter terms and manipulate them with the online drag-and-drop games or the voice recognition software.
Also, I prefer matching cards to standard flashcards. Rather than front and back cards, write the terms on one card, the definitions on another. Spread the terms out on the table. Then, similar to dealing cards, match the terms and definitions by placing the correct cards on top of each other. Between scanning for the partner cards, physically setting one card atop another, and checking the answer, you’re actively participating in your study session.
If you zone out while reading, create your study materials as you go to keep yourself tuned in. Read a paragraph and then think of two or three questions and answers. Write them on your cards or type them into your online flashcard system. Presto! You’ve become an active, alert student! No more sleepily reading and re-reading the text to absorb the data. You don’t have time for that!
3. Quiz yourself as part of your study program. Don’t be lured into that over-confident feeling of knowing something without quizzing yourself to see if you truly do know it. As noted in my blog post “Test Yourself Before You Take a Test,” research has shown that self-testing aids retention.
Flashcards can give you that, “Sure, that’s what I meant to say!” feeling. Take the next step. Read the question on the card and then write your answer on a tablet-sized white board to see if you really committed the information to memory. Digital flash cards are just as “fudge-able” and static as the old, 3-by-5 species. Pull up your digital flashcard and write your answer on a white board. Or, speak your answer into the notes recorder of your phone. Hesitations in your recording will expose any uncertainty and point to the areas that need more reinforcement.
Be active when you study. Stay alert through motion, drawing, and voice. Get creative and ask yourself, “How would I make a six-year-old do this?” Then set that up for yourself. Most importantly, ask yourself, “Am I working actively, or am I drifting?” Once you drift, you’re wasting time, and your time is too precious to waste!
About the author: Michelle Deets Haynes is the founder and owner of Clarity Learning, an in-home tutoring service that has served Orange County, CA since 2001.
When you think about it, who do you trust most when it comes to test prep? Odds are, you have your own system for preparing for exams that you developed through years of trial and error. You know approximately what works and what doesn’t for you.
But let’s take a step back from that. How consciously did you develop your own study habits? Did you pay close attention as you cultivated this style of yours, or did you just get used to doing what came easiest and most naturally? Hopefully you didn’t just wing it, but even if you put a lot of thought and effort into your study system there is likely still room for improvement.
We study for so many tests in our lives that the act of studying becomes routine. We stop paying close attention to our methods and we just focus on the simple fact that we are “studying.” It becomes more about fulfilling an obligation; putting a check in the box. And our retention of the material falls by the wayside, along with our study habits.
Why is this? Perhaps because even though the need to practice has been drilled into us since we were very young, most people pay very little attention to how they are practicing. In other words: we know that we need to study often, but we fool ourselves into thinking that we are studying when we really aren’t, or when we’re only phoning it in.
TestSoup aims to change that. We want to remind people that there are smarter ways to study out there. You know the phrase “work smarter, not harder” right? It also applies to studying. Why bother sitting in front of a text book for hours when you could get so much more out of making studying an active process? If you can learn the material more quickly, why waste time doing things any other way?
Getting back to the original question of this post: who do you trust the most when it comes to study habits? Rather, who should you trust most when it comes to study habits? Most likely, you should trust someone who actually has devoted years and years to consciously developing the most effective study system.
In other words: trust a tutor. They know what they’re talking about. Not only are they experts on the specific subject matter, they have spent their careers working out clever ways to make the most out of every hour spent studying.
That’s why TestSoup is embarking on a quest to find expert tutors to write guest posts for our blog filled with study hints and tips. We’re going to be looking for the best, the brightest, and the most creative. We want to help you learn all you can about study methods, so the next time you need to study for a big test you won’t just being repeating those same, tired moves you’ve been making since middle school.
When we are young, our lives are defined by the summer. We look forward to it almost deliriously. In fact, I think the only time we weren’t counting down the days until summer vacation was when we were counting down the days to some shorter (but closer) vacation. Three months of idleness is enough to make anyone with a full-time job more than a little jealous.
They say that summer used to be a time when students stayed home to help out on with the harvest. This was, of course, in the days before a measly 2% of Americans called themselves farmers. Our society has shifted from agrarian and rural to knowledge-based and urban. Today, only 17% of people live in what can be considered truly “rural” parts of America.
Assuming that summer once had a purpose, what is its purpose now? Are we simply so used to this rotation that we don’t dare change it? More than likely. Globalization has made the nine-to-five office job all but irrelevant these days, yet people still find themselves falling into familiar work patterns. Change is hard for us to accept, apparently.
Now, let the record show that we at TestSoup are not advocating for the end of summer vacation. Long live summer vacation!
But long live education, as well.
Today’s American students have a tough time keeping up when it comes to math and science. We’ve already tried throwing money at the problem. Spending per pupil in America on public education has increased from $2,500 in 1960 to $10,000 today (in inflation-adjusted dollars). Clearly, the key to churning out well-equipped students is not to be found in expensive tech or other budget-busting fads.
Real education happens when students are actively engaged in the lesson. This can be the result of any one — or a combination — of several factors: Quality teachers, a naturally inquisitive mind, supportive family members or friends, or even a desire to get an “A.”
That’s the first part of the equation. The second part is the work. An engaged student is a great and powerful thing, but if you don’t take steps to keep him or her that way then you won’t get very far. That’s why the summer is such an important time for students. Three months is a long enough time to forget the vast majority of what you learned during the past nine — or enough time to forge it into a solid foundation for next year.
America used to make its living with our hands and our backs. During this time it made sense for students to neglect their studies in favor of the harvest. But now we make our living with our minds. Should the fact that we have no fields to plow mean that we are allowed to do nothing for three months?
Take the summer for what it is: a chance to unwind and recharge your batteries. But also as a time to set yourself up for success next year. Read books. Sign up to take classes that you are interested in but had no time for during the school year. Parents (if you have little children), send your kids to a camp that’s more than just playing outside. And teachers, please use the time to improve your skills as well. Our students’ futures are in your hands.
College is no easy transition…for anyone! New place, new people, new opportunities! The key: never let the door close…always OPEN it!
Now that you know how to tackle your anxiety and manage your time, you can certainly MASTER your first year of college. Here are a few tips to guide you to the top (academically, professionally, and socially):
1.Check your email! The first week of school is PRIME time for clubs and activities to solicit you to join them! Actually READ your email! You never know if you only read the subject line! *Personal example: First week of school, I checked my email and found out about SIFE(Students in Free Enterprise) which soon granted me the opportunity I have today working with TestSoup!
2. Read your school’s newspaper/magazine. Even if you only scan the top story headlines, at least you will know what is going on around campus. If you have mastered planning, it is likely that your friends will look to you for plans and or advice around school. You can be the one who is the responsible source for information.
3. Form relationships with your professors up-front. Make it a point to attend their office hours to introduce yourself and do not be shy: ASK QUESTIONS! Professors are passionate about learning and even more passionate about students who crave the same educational success they do. Students can also help professors and educators improve their teaching style and influence the way they approach topics.
4. Always be ahead of the game (sometimes even the professor!) Never wait until the last minute to complete an assignment! Always do it as far in advance as possible, this way if any confusion arises, you can clarify it! You may also save the rest of the class (and maybe the professor) from making the same mistake you did (ie. Typo or unclear directions).
5. Do not be shy as a freshman, or any college student with inexperience. In college, drive matters more than age. Just because you are a freshman, it does not mean you cannot be a leader. Go the extra mile and put yourself out there. If something interests you and you feel passionate enough about it, go for it! *Personal example: September of my freshman year, I became Project Manager overseeing 5 teams (20 total people) working on 5 of Wasabi Ventures, LLC startup companies (TestSoup included!). It was great experience and led me to become co-President of SIFE for the upcoming academic year.
6. Participate! In class, especially in a bigger school, make sure the professor and classmates know your name! A name to a face is very important now and down the road. Participation also demonstrates confidence. A student with confidence is one to admire.
7. Communication is KEY: with friends, professors, advisors, etc. Socially, keep in contact with friends and develop relationships. Relationships and your own support system are very helpful in college when discussing goals, personal lives, and during stressful exam times! Academically, keep in touch with your most talented and influential professors-you never know when you will need a reference or a friendly face to chat. In terms of advisors, especially if you hold a leadership position of any sort, retain contact and always encourage new ideas and never stop developing new ideas. Most of all, don’t forget about your forever-supportive family at home
8. Back to Planning is Proactive: PLAN AHEAD! Bring an umbrella, always have your graphing calculator, and highlighters are MUST! Most importantly, combine your Time Management skills with these new skills and prepare for ALL EXAMS/Quizzes/Papers AHEAD of TIME! For example, by Junior year (if not sooner) start planning for Graduate School. Create a favorites folder in your web browser for top B-Schools, Med Schools, or one of your choosing. In accordance, plan for your admissions by seeking references, editors/critiques for résumés, and admissions essays. Last but certainly not least, prepare for ENTRANCE EXAMS such as GMAT, GRE, or even AF PDG in advance! Your best resource is for this kind of test prep is TestSoup. TestSoup provides AFFORDABLE, FAST, and ACCESSABLE test prep with its web and mobile based flashcards: BlackBerry ready(iPhone and Android coming soon!) Check it out! Try 25 Free today! www.testsoup.com
1. In order to manage your time effectively (and to reduce stress), invest in a 15-minute or hourly planner. This will enable you to set a rigid study schedule for months ahead of time! I know it seems intimidating at first, but trust me it will change the way you live your daily life (for the better!)
2. Establish a routine (this goes along with the idea of the planner); get up around the same time everyday and get to bed around the same time. When scheduling your study time, try to make it around the same time each day, for the same amount of time.
3. Post-Its are my best friend. I believe they are a necessity to life. Post-It flags come in very handy when studying for big standardized tests such as the GMAT. You should flag* the pages, questions, and/or topics that you need to review and write tips, tricks and notes you thought of while studying. This way you do not waste time figuring out what you already discovered! *Make your life even easier…utilize TestSoup’s flag for review feature on their web and mobile based flashcard system!
4. Stay focused. If your planner says to study for 3 hours; study, and study ONLY. That means turn off and displace your cell phone, and disable your facebook. Isolate yourself from all distractions and keep it that way until you are done! That also means no snack breaks…come prepared to “preparation site” with a bottle of water and eat a healthy snack/meal beforehand!
5. Keep “tabs” on where you left off in your previous day’s studying. The best way to keep track would be to create a comprehensive study guide and check it off with the date completed when you feel confident enough. The topics that continue to trouble you, circle and review them until you master them. It is important to outline the main ideas of each topic and record equations on a formula sheet so as you are doing your final review, you can quickly go over everything and dive deeper into the areas that do not jog your memory as quickly.
If you are serious about dominating the GMAT, you must get serious about your game plan. Below is a recommended study plan:
DAY 1: Go to www.mba.com and download the free GMATPrep software. Take a simulated CAT test in a relaxed state, but follow all time constraints and take the recommended 10-minute breaks between sections. This will give you a good idea of where you would score on the actual GMAT if you were to take the test tomorrow. * Most people will score 30-50 points lower on the actual GMAT (nerves, anxiety, mentally drained, no repeat questions for OG)
DAY 2: Go to www.testsoup.com and sign-up for over 400 GMAT flashcards for just $9.95/year. One of the biggest problems with most study plans is that most people do not review flashcards from day #1. 90% of test-takers need a solid refresher course with core concepts, test strategies, and test hacks. This is exactly what TestSoup will give you.
Also on day 2, begin reading a denser book or magazine than you would normally read. Try to read 4-5 books in 90-days that you would normally never read cover to cover. For example, On Liberty and Utilitarianism by John Stuart Mill; Any book by Socrates; The Economist; The Wall Street Journal. Pay attention to sentence structure. Ask yourself why the author is writing the passage. What is the scope?
ACTION PLAN: 3-HOURS: Study all the TestSoup flashcards. * Make sure you “flag” the flashcards you do not know or understand and review them 2-3x/week.
DAY 3: Make a small investment in some other great resources:
DAY 4: Review TestSoup Flashcards
DAY 5: Continue reviewing TestSoup Flashcards
DAY 6: Continue reviewing TestSoup Flashcards
DAY 7-21: Study, review, understand the explanations of every question/answer in the Official Guide Quantitive Review and Official Guide Verbal Review.
DAY 22: Take the second full-length CAT test using the GMATPrep software.
DAY 23: Focus on your weaknesses! * Most people make the mistake of reviewing various concepts and strategies they already know.
DAY 24: If you are weak in quant and find yourself not getting better:
If you are weak in verbal and find yourself not getting any better:
* You may want to change your approach to critical reasoning questions. Most GMAT prep programs tell you to read the question stem first and then go back to read the statement. Try the reverse and see if it helps. Read and understand the argument first, then read the question stem second.
Stay tuned for Days 25-50 …