Surviving School

Lets face it. School is a huge part of your life, whether you want it to be or not. Might as well make the most of it! We help make sure you get the grade, get involved and actually enjoy your busy school days.

Common Mistakes when Studying For An Exam


It’s not the mistakes in your exam you should be worried about, it’s the mistakes in the way you study. Fixing up your bad revision habits can have you much more prepared for each exam you take. Here are few common mistakes that you should iron out to help get you the grades.

Cramming the night before

Cramming is the result of procrastination and is the worst thing you can do for your brain before an exam. It’s like taking a marathon before a race day and expecting to perform well. Cramming simply tires out your brain and makes it less effective, especially when done for long hours at a time without breaks. Doing it the night before can also result in less sleep. A good night’s rest is essential before an exam as it’s when we sleep that we store our short-term memories. More than eight hours kip before an exam allows the brain to store everything it’s learnt the previous day. If you’re cramming the night before and going to sleep late, everything you’ve just crammed in could be forgotten by tomorrow because you didn’t give your brain a chance to store it.

Exercising your mind, but not your body

Going for a physical workout can also help prepare you for a mental workout. Exercise gets fresh oxygen flowing to all parts of your body, most importantly your brain. Your mind will feel more stimulated and you’ll be able to retain information more clearly. Her Campus offers some great advice on exercises that you can do whilst studying at a desk, so that you needn’t even leave the house. Of course, a bit of fresh air can further increase your oxygen intake – if you have the time consider a jog or exercising in your garden.

Not researching previous exams

Going through previous exam papers can help you gage a better idea of what’s more likely and what’s more unlikely to appear this time around. Researching such papers might not be possible in all cases, but you may be able to ask a teacher, tutor or another student if they can remember any of the content from the last year. This approach is particularly worth taking if you suffer badly with exam nerves. Much of exam nerves is down to ‘fear of the unknown’ and doing your research into previous tests can get you more comfortable with the structure of the exam if nothing else, giving you a better idea of what you’re getting into.

Thinking revising with friends is always a good idea

Not everyone is a social learner. Whilst some may prefer to be quizzed by other students, to share revision notes and to discuss problems, others may find the social setting distracting or find that it doesn’t allow them to focus on the revision areas that they’re most concerned about. Knowing what other people have been studying and focusing on can be useful and there are sites such as GradeBuddy, in which you can read lecture and exam notes shared by other students. This allows you to still share notes with others without getting involved in potentially distracting conversations. Similarly, be careful of where you’re studying – even if you’re revising along, a setting such as a coffee bar or the local student bar might be noisy or cause you to bump into people who end up distracting you.

Not structuring your revision

Having a structure to your studies can allow you to keep your revision on target, especially if you have long periods of time off for study time. Not building a clear itinerary could cause you to focus too much on certain subjects or exams, not giving time to other ones. Alternatively, a lack of structure could encourage procrastination. Time management apps such as Evernote are great for helping you plan and structure your studies. You may prefer a physical diary in which you can draw a pictures to aid with visual learner or post sticky notes. For long periods off of dedicated study time, adopt a nine to five routine with regular breaks. Give yourself weekends off – if you’ve been studying hard throughout the week you deserve them.

The golden rule is always to plan ahead. Spread your revision out so that you can absorb information in more manageable chunks than simply cramming (as previously talked about). At times you may need to adjust your schedule when an emergency comes up, but as long as you’ve got a basic framework your revision will stay on target.

 



5 Tips for SAT Success


Mastering the SAT can have a tremendous impact on your child’s life but it comes at a cost. Preparing for the SAT can be a stressful process for both children because the stakes are high and for parents because they don’t have much control.

The good news is the process can be manageable. I’ve worked with hundreds of parents and helped to send students to Harvard, Duke, MIT, Cornell, Princeton, and well, pretty much everywhere. I would like to share 5 tools with you that make the process easier.

  1. Start prep early. The single biggest thing a parent can do to help their child succeed on the SAT is to help their child get started early. The best time to start prep is the summer before junior year.

It’s important to leave time to take the SAT three times. Test ability can be improved with effort and learning, but lack of time is something that simply isn’t flexible. Test prep is also heavy, so putting it in the summer is usually easier for students to handle. The summer before senior year is too late to start if you want to take the test multiple times.

“Score Choice” (released by The College Board in 2009) allows students to choose what scores they send, so there is now no risk of getting a low score. Students are commonly taking the SAT two or three times.

The topic of when to take the SAT is complex and I have written further about it here.

  1. Apply test prep pressure indirectly. Parents often report that getting their children to start test prep is like pulling teeth. Students are resistant to getting started because the stakes are high, and the process seems insurmountable. This leads to procrastination. Here are my three favorite ways to get things started:

a) Schedule a college visit. This is great quality time for parents and students. It yields real, valuable information and it puts the topic of college (and therefore test prep) at the top of mind, without you having to discuss it.

b) Schedule a test date. Nothing lights a fire like a deadline. My favorite first-time test-date is May or June at the end of sophomore year.

c) Hire a coach. It’s a win-win because the coach solves your problem of managing the process, and eases the child’s job of preparing by making the process more efficient.

  1. Focus prep on weak areas. This sounds obvious, but it’s noteworthy because the execution of focusing on weak areas is much more difficult than it sounds because focusing on weak areas has a difficult pre-requisite: analysis. Analysis is difficult and time-consuming to do so more often than not, it never gets done.

The most important thing you can do is make sure that your child is working with a tool that analyzes strengths and weaknesses for them and provides feedback.

If you don’t have such a tool, you can analyze your child’s strengths and weaknesses by digging through the results of a full-length practice test or a PSAT score report.

  1. Regular, focused practice is the only method of effective test prep. This is the only reliable method of improving test scores. There are no good shortcuts.

The single most common thing preventing students from achieving their goal scores is not putting in enough effort. This is the big weakness of test prep group classes and unguided online tools, both of which lead to low effort levels.

If you don’t do enough work it doesn’t matter at all what method you are using, and no method at all can make up for not putting in the hours. My experience is that it takes a typical student about 100 hours of total prep time for them to reach their natural potential.

Test prep isn’t magic. It’s just regular, focused practice.

  1. Spend more time reviewing work, than doing new work. Students who review every single question they get wrong and record review notes improve more than three times faster than those who do not. So how do you make sure that this happens?

Testive has software tools that manage this process and report back on whether it’s happening so that students, parents, and coaches can all track and manage the process. If you don’t have access to an automated tool like Testive, then watch out for what we call “churn-and-burn” where one does only practice questions with no review.

One final thought: Test prep is a stressful thing. Remember that you’re not alone. We have free tools at Testive, and if you want to hire a coach, we do that too.

Article written by Testive



Own Your Education!


Oh to be young again! You are probably fed up with adults telling you that these are the best years of your life.  However, the truth is they kind of are.  

Ok, so it’s easy for us to forget how hard it is growing up and learning so much stuff.  As you hit mid teens you feel like you know so much yet are talked to with such little respect, or maybe you want to control your destiny a little more but feel like you are being held back.  Whilst it is incredibly hard to respect that your teachers and parents may know best and are tasked with the huge responsibility of ensuring you are educated, healthy and safe, you do have to trust in your adult peers to do just that.  However there are many ways you can take control.  So let’s take a look at what you can do to ensure you are on the path you want to walk.

Education is probably going to be the biggest part of your life until you are around 24 years old.  Once you finish school you will have far more choices on which lessons you take, how you study and where you study.  Until then you kind of have to let your parents and teachers guide you.  That doesn’t mean you can’t throw a few ideas into the pot too.

Perhaps you are desperate to learn more about Europe.  Who can blame you?  As we get older it becomes harder for us to take time out and travel.  You may get the opportunity to do this if you take a gap year, however with more and more people looking for work and stiffer competition than ever before, you might be better off skipping your gap year and working through.  So, this is where you need to start thinking a little outside the box.

Your school will do many different types of school trips throughout the year.  Some of these will be local and during school time, others might be far away and eat into your vacation time.  There is a lot of planning involved, so don’t take these trips for granted, however, maybe you could do some planning of your own.

If there is enough interest in your idea and it fits with the projects your school has set for you, then there is no reason you couldn’t present your idea to your school principal.  In fact, if you can nail out a fantastic pitch, writing all the reasons you think you should go there, researching companies who may be able to take on the organisation and you have a list of pupils who would be up for heading out, you might just impress your tutors so much they ace your plan.

There are some great ideas for the ultimate school trip online, you don’t have to be a teacher to research the idea or to get in touch with the companies to discover all the information.  In fact it is going to help your pitch if you have already spoken to a company who can provide a full package and got all the info.  

Being able to answer all the questions your teachers are going to throw at you, will stand you ten steps ahead of them.  Think about why the trip would benefit your education and if you can link one trip to be positive across 4 or 5 subjects this will work in your favour.  You might be going because you are fascinated by the art, but don’t forget a few days looking at art and architecture will also involve history, geography and cuisine.  So you can link it through to make it a really great, multi subject trip.

Of course there are other ways you can take control of your education too.  Whilst it can seem a little dorky to become a school president it is actually the opposite of that.  Being a school president means you have a say in how your education works.  So it will really play in your favour and give you that respect you have been craving.  You will finally have a voice, so you need to use it for good (no evil geniuses here please)

We have a great guide for getting to the oval office of your class.

Firstly, you are going to find it easier to get ahead if you are involved from your freshman year and continuing that involvement every year.  You will need to participate in sports, volunteer to work on homecoming floats, decorate the gym for dances, and basically get to know the other students at your school besides your core group of friends. Make everybody know your name. If your school offers a class associated with the student body, sign up. This is all great networking experience for later life too, so by embarking on a campaign now you may be giving yourself the extra edge as you head to your first job. If everyone knows your name and you have been friendly and fun, when the time comes to run for class president, you’ll be remembered in the voting booth for your involvement and dedication to the school.

The best way to begin your campaign is to be the first to start campaigning.  Get out there and talk to people as soon as the political season opens.  Keep talking.  Be direct and ask people for signatures.  Don’t just get the ones you are required, get as many as you can.  Hitting it hard and fast means you can ingrain your name and your commitment in your fellow students.  Especially if you have taken the time to get to know what they want.  Give them a voice too.

You don’t have to be a teacher’s pet but it is going to pay if you build a rapport with a couple of teachers.  Keep your grades high too.  You need the respect of the faculty as well as your classmates.  It isn’t uncommon for the faculty members to provide recommendations for office eligibility.  Your teachers will also want students in office who recognize their own interest in the campus because it is you that will be called up to represent your school in front of committees or the district office.  If you have a high quality of work and respect with teachers then they will have the faith in you to represent them best.  Which is a great way of showing you are trusted and respected by the adults who have your future in their hands.  

Listening to your classmates is vital.  Ask them what they want you to accomplish.  If it is realistic then pursue it.  You need the masses to showcase your intentions within your campaign speech so if it touches a note with enough people, you are going to get a great reception.  

Believe in what you say you plan to do in your campaign platform. If you say, for instance, that you plan to begin new traditions, believe in your goal. Don’t repeat what you think your classmates want to hear. Instead, commit yourself to public service. At the same time, think “outside the box.” Come up with your own creative goals for the school.  But don’t make unrealistic campaign promises.  Taking hump day off of school might sound ace in your head, but it isn’t going to happen and will make you lose credibility.  

So when the actual president runs for power they won’t get far if they spend the whole time cracking jokes, however in high school politics you earn points for being funny.  When faced with questions on the campaign trail the best answers are those where you make the students laugh but address the issue, too.  The same goes for speeches. Throw in a joke or two, you know the score, young people love to laugh.  So go for that.  Leave the dullsville speeches to everyone else.

Taking control of your education is possible, you just need to do it in the right way.  So stop pushing the wrong buttons.  Get your head down, think about what it is you want and find a way to take control.

Teachers and parents love to see us putting all the passion we have to good use.  If we are wasting it at home chasing unrealistic goals then we end up being met with resistance.  However if you can put your thoughts down on paper and create a reasoned and grown up proposal you will find you are met with respect and, ultimately, trust.  You might not win every pitch you put out there, but at least you will win the respect of the people who are in charge.

If you can nurture these skills now, you will have a far more rounded future.  Know which battles are worth fighting and which are not.  Then dedicate yourself and push through with your ideas.  

You don’t have much control over your life, so make it count where you do.

 



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