We’re all familiar with the idea that there are many different learning styles out there. For a quick and dirty overview of the three predominant types, LDPride has some decent explanations that aren’t weighed down with excessive scientific detail. You can also take one of the many tests available online to see which one you are — just do a Google search for “learning styles.”
Of course, you can also think critically about how you learn to figure out your learning style. I’m a man of many hobbies. When I write, I find myself thinking in full sentences, reading a lot, and seeking inspiration in the world around me through in-depth conversation. When I play an instrument, I learn best from hearing the piece performed. When I work on my car, it’s not enough to simply look at what must be done — I must be instructed before I feel confident enough to start turning any wrenches. This suggests that I am predominantly an auditory learner, with some degree of kinesthetic learning present.
While it may feel good to figure out what type of education benefits you the most, it is important to note that everyone has elements of all three working in their brain. If you really want to internalize a subject you need to work on combining all three methods into your studies. This is why I would use the notes I gathered throughout the semester in each subject to construct a study guide for myself that I could read over or have someone else quiz me on before each exam.
Now might be the time for a shameless TestSoup plug. TestSoup’s system allows you to harness all three learning styles with their digital flashcard system. First of all, you will see the information presented to you in a way you’re likely to see it on an exam. That covers the visual side. Then you read the information and process it yourself and can even have someone else read it to you if you have the luxury of a study partner. That takes care of the auditory style. Finally, you’re answering questions with full explanations rather than just passively taking in the information. Score one for the kinesthetic learners of the world.
The point is, no matter what learning style suits you best, it is possible to find a way to study that will cater directly to you. This is what will net you a good grade, and more importantly, a lasting understanding of the subject matter. So take some time to figure out what category (or categories) you fall into. Then use that information to make your studying more effective.
Is it worth fighting a war over edtech? Former Florida Governor Jeb Bush seems to think so. He co-founded the Foundation for Excellence in Education and has made it his goal to “digitize education,” which (from what I understand) involves phasing out teachers and phasing in online learning. For more details, read this short article from Fox News.
Of course, there are those who think that such a war is already being fought. Will Richardson, one of my favorite education bloggers, has been writing about this for a while. You can check out his latest “rant” on the subject here – coincidentally posted on the same day as the Fox News article, although it is a direct response to this more in-depth piece from the Wall Street Journal.
The question is: Will edtech be the downfall of teachers? We have a discussion going on about this already in our LinkedIn group: Edutech Trends, Visions, Passions. Feel free to join in and give your opinion – we’d love to hear it!
But enough with the links. Time for a little editorializing. That’s why people read blogs to begin with, right?
The key element of this discussion comes in only at the very end of both the Fox News and WSJ articles.
In the end, virtual schooling “comes down to what you make of it,” says Rosie Lowndes, a social-studies teacher at Georgia Cyber Academy. Kids who work closely with parents or teachers do well, she says. “But basically letting a child educate himself, that’s not going to be a good educational experience.” The computer, she says, can’t do it alone.
I couldn’t agree more. Edtech is a tool – a powerful one, at that – but it cannot be mistaken for a solution to all our education problems. Sure, you can use technology to do a lot these days. But sometimes there is simply no replacement for an excellent teacher. After all, would you consider yourself qualified to perform a root canal after watching a YouTube video? You might be “better informed” but you’re still not an expert.
Take our flashcards as another example. We aren’t just making these because we think we’ll get rich quick. If we were, we would have quit some time ago. We make them because we firmly believe that studying with our flashcards is one way to help you improve your knowledge, understanding, and (yes) your score on many key standardized tests.
But are our flashcards the only solution? No. In fact, we are very clear in our FAQ section that we don’t believe our flashcards should be the only test-prep trick up your sleeve. Our flashcards are but one piece in the educational puzzle. To treat them any differently would be a mistake, just as viewing edtech and “digital education” as a one-size-fits-all solution to every student’s education would be too.
by John J. Walters
Writing news update posts is always a little bit of a challenge. Actually, writing a post for the TestSoup blog at all is a bit of a challenge for me this time around. I’m a bit rusty, if you must know. Our guest posts have been so successful that I haven’t written a single post for our blog since we got back from co-hosting EdTech Karaoke at ISTE 11, and that feels like it was ages ago. But every once in a while, I need to poke my head in the door and make sure everything is humming along as it should.
Here’s the real challenge, though. How do you make the fact that we’ve updated our GRE flashcard content to be in sync with the August 1, 2011 General Test revisions into a fun and interesting blog post? How do you make people care about the fact that we completely revamped our materials in under three weeks time? Is there a way to dress that up and make it appeal to the masses?
I don’t know. I just… Don’t. Know.
What I do know is this: they’ve been talking about updating the GRE — the standardized exam that all applicants to grad schools must take — since 2006. But they didn’t do anything about it until this year. They say that now the test is more in line with the skill sets that are important for success in modern graduate programs. And I’m sure it is.
Changes to a test like this cannot be made lightly. Maybe that’s why they spent so long talking about it before they made their move. Fortunately, TestSoup isn’t constrained by multiple layers of bureaucracy. When we see a test that needs quality, up-to-date study content, we move. It’s what we do, and we make no apologies for it. Should we?
It all goes back to the vision of our founder, Brian Reese. You see, back in the day (and by that, we mean almost two whole years ago), Brian was studying for the GMAT, and he was spending a lot of money on test prep materials. Some were worth the cash, but the vast majority of them weren’t. So he started making his own flashcards, and after a very short while he saw the scores on his practice tests going up.
Fast forward to last year and Brian had assembled test prep experts to help him produce flashcards for several other standardized tests. Of course, creating relevant content was important then, and we’re not going to stop now. What kind of players would we be if we bailed on the game as soon as things got interesting? I mean — could we still call ourselves “players?”
You may not care about the GRE. I understand that. But if test prep is in your future (and I would love to see a future that doesn’t involve some amount of studying) then you should know that TestSoup plans to continue staying relevant and up-to-date. That’s a promise that extends to every one of our tests.
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.
guest written by John J. Walters
This is the second “announcement post” I’ve written for TestSoup in about a month. If we don’t stop soon, our hubris will no doubt become our undoing. But today we focus on happier things, because today I have the pleasure of announcing to you that TestSoup’s entire flashcard line is now available as apps on Apple’s mobile operating system. So if you have an iPhone, iPad, or iPod Touch, check us out!
The good news is that all these announcements havene’t gone to our heads. Our apps are the same, low price as the online cards. I mean, come on! It’s not often that you can find a convenient way to study for an upcoming standardized test for less than the price of a fancy sandwich.
I won’t lie to you. We actually have questioned our sanity on that issue. But our loss is your gain, as they say. Maybe we’ll wise up down the line, but for right now we’re simply kicking back and enjoying the increased cool factor that comes with being in some way associated with Apple’s lineup.
We’re also working on creating free trials with 10 sample flashcards of each set (for those who like to try before they buy) literally as I type this post, so I expect those to be finished and available quite soon. Watch our Twitter feed for updates on that.
The goal, as it has always been, is to make test prep affordable, mobile, and intuitive. We’re still keeping our “sign up and start studying in under 60 seconds” thing going. We’re just trying to make it so you don’t have to be seated in front of a computer to use our system. As a side note, if you’re a fan of carrying around 850 page tomes that prove beyond the shadow of a doubt that you are, indeed, studying for the GMAT, then our service might not be for you.
TestSoup means to change the way people study for tests. We started our quest to end expensive, ineffective, and inconvenient test prep a little over one year ago with our online flashcards and similar apps for the Blackberry operating system. Now we’re moving forward once again with our iOS apps. And, before you send me any angry emails, let me be the first to state that our Android apps are already in development. Patience.
We’re also looking to expand both our offerings and our reach. Already, more than 25 schools endorse TestSoup as an official way to help improve your scores on standardized tests. And we’ve started a similar partnership program with qualified tutors. Finally, if all that isn’t enough for you, we have plans to begin working on eBooks and online quizzes in a continuing effort to make studying more interactive and more efficient. So stay tuned.
I was inspired by this flippant blog post from Bethesda World News to write about the difference between smart studying and just cramming answers into your head to help you pass an exam. Obviously, there is a big difference, and this difference becomes quite apparent when you’re talking with someone who knows only enough to get by (the slacker student who is convinced they have it all figured out) and someone else who actually understands the material (the professor — hopefully).
Let’s start by considering just how complex and fascinating a thing our own memories are. Memory is not an on-off switch — it’s not like we either remember something or we don’t. First of all, there are several different types of memory. But think about the times when you know something but you just can’t recall it at a particular moment. Why does this happen? I’m going to be completely honest here: I don’t know. I’m not a doctor. But I do have what I consider to be a reasonable hypothesis.
When a piece of information enters your brain it can go any number of places. Perhaps you will disregard it entirely. Maybe you will give it a small amount of your attention and store it very temporarily (such as for the duration of a conversation). If it’s important, hopefully the information will get processed and stored somewhere ready to be converted into a long-term memory. But just because a piece of information is stored doesn’t mean we’ll always be able to access it at will.
In some cases, we may not know enough about the information to know that it’s relevant and worthy of recall in a particular instance. In others, we may not even be aware that we’ve learned anything related to the task at hand. It is only through a solid understanding of a subject that we can develop the neural network to connect all the random bits of information that we’ve ingested on a subject to make good use of our memories.
Here’s where the difference between the slacker who crammed right before the exam and the professor who has been studying this subject for years is thrown into sharp relief: the slacker may be able to spit back the correct answer when posed the exact question that he is used to, while the professor actually knows enough to answer questions that are only loosely related to it. Why? Because the slacker has ruthlessly created only one pathway to the information in his head; the professor has developed a vast network of interconnected ideas, any one of which can be used to tap into the main source of knowledge on a subject.
The slacker method may work for an exam, but it’s unlikely that you’ll ever be asked those same types of questions in “the real world,” thus rendering his study efforts useless after the course is over. Maybe he won’t care (he is, after all, a slacker), but many of us do. We go to college not for the degree but for the education. For this reason, we seek understanding first and good grades second, and so we study smart.
President Obama recently signed legislation into effect that will pump $2 billion dollars ($500 million per year over four years) towards community colleges, which already saw a 17% spike in enrollment from 2007 to 2009. He is calling for community colleges, “the unsung heroes of America’s education system,” to produce an additional 5 million graduates by 2020. Amidst these difficult economic times, Obama points out that two-year education programs are more important than ever.
TestSoup could not agree more. The unfortunate reality of higher education is the opportunity cost associated with attendance. Four year programs place such heavy demands on students’ time that they often have time for little else. What about those who want to study who can’t afford to give up their livelihoods? What about those who are attending school while raising a family? What about those who just want a leg up with a career change but are a bit beyond dorm life?
For people in these situations, and many others like them, community colleges are there to help, just like TestSoup. With a wide variety of test preparation and study solutions, TestSoup can help students prepare for final exams, placement tests, and even keep up with class work. But the benefits of the program don’t stop there. TestSoup also has offerings for teachers that can help them give their students the technological edge to succeed in today’s world.
If the President wants America to make better use of our excellent system of community colleges, then TestSoup is right there with him, with high-tech online services for universities, school districts, individual classrooms, and even government networks. Our education solutions can boost enrollment by offering students the resources to dominate their next test, encourage them to immerse themselves more completely in their subjects, and facilitate the sharing of resources across departments or even districts.
Community colleges are all about giving people the opportunity to find the sweet spot in their education, their careers, and their lives. And TestSoup is here to help.
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.
1. Buy the Manhattan GMAT sentence correction book. It is by far the best sentence correction book on the market (at least for the money)
2. The sentence correction questions and reading comprehension passages (in our opinion) are more difficult on the actual GMAT vs. GMATprep. In addition, OG 11 and OG 12 questions are pretty much maxed at the 650 level.
3. When dealing with critical reasoning questions, try reading the passage first and the question stem second. 90% of test prep companies will tell you that you can save a lot of time doing it the other way around, but we disagree. The problem is that if you read the question stem first and the passage second, you tend to “skim” the passage and look for certain information. Wrong answer choices hurt those who “skim” the passage. Try it and see if it works. It does for a lot of people. In addition, try some critical reasoning questions from various LSAT prep materials–LSAT questions are more difficult than you will see on the GMAT.
4. READ DENSER WORKS than you would normally read. You will improve your reading comprehension a ton if you start doing this. The resources mentioned below will also help you in the sentence correction section. Read 3-5 passages per week from each resource below:
As you study/read with these resources, begin asking yourself some questions:
1. What is the topic (subject)?
2. What is the scope of the topic (subject matter)?
3. Why is the author writing about this?
4. What is the overall structure of the passage?
5. What is the author trying to say?
As you do this, use a laminated board and marker and begin writing down the answers to these questions. This will help lead you to the most correct answers on the GMAT. In addition, studying with these resources will help train your brain to understand confusing subjects that you may know nothing about.
A few more tips:
1. Read actively and don’t “skim” over passages
2. Find the conclusion statement. This is usually in the first or last paragraph.
3. Paraphrase confusing subjects/statements in your own words. This will help you stay focused on what you really need to know.
Stay tuned for quant tips!