Making the Most of a Bad Grade: Why Bad Grades Are Important, Too!


Waiting to receive a grade on a report card or progress report (or even a big test or essay) can be nerve-wracking. After spending so much time preparing and working hard, you probably just want to know how you did so that you can be done with the whole ordeal. That’s why, once you do get your grade back, you might be tempted to take one look and move on to worrying about everything else in your life.

However, successful students will treat every grade – good or bad – as an essential form of feedback on their study habits, work ethic, and level of comprehension. Since tests, essays, and progress reports are generally a reflection of your performance or comprehension in a class, grades are the perfect opportunity to take a look at your academic effort and judge how things are going. For example, a good grade, or a grade that you’re pleased with, is a sign that you’re on the right track; keep doing what you’re doing and think about how you can do even better next time.

On the other hand, a disappointing grade can be more difficult to deal with. You might be angry at your performance or at your teacher for giving you a bad grade, disappointed at having fallen short of your expectations, or frustrated that your hard work isn’t reflected in a grade. So how do you respond to a bad grade in a way that’s productive and sets you up for success? Read on to find out how you can make the most of a bad grade.

Dealing immediately after:

You might be feeling a lot of things, but you’ll need a clear, calm head to move forward. Two things can help you do this immediately after receiving a bad grade. First, after looking at your grade, take a breath and step back for a moment, ten minutes, or even a day.  Abby Connell, a graduate of Shaker Heights High School now at Columbia University in New York, says she immediately takes some distance to take care of herself. “I don’t read the teacher’s comments or allow myself to grump about it for too long,” she says. It might be difficult, but taking some time and space will help you move forward.

Second, it can help to put the grade into perspective. If it’s a single assignment, it might not have a huge impact on your final grade. In that case, is it worthwhile to commit a ton of time and worry to this one grade? If it’s the first assignment of the semester, it’s also worth noting that you’ll have plenty of other opportunities later on to make up for this lower grade.

For some real perspective, Abby reminds herself that, “learning is a process and is not defined by one letter grade, or even multiple letter grades.”

Identity the problem:

A bad grade is a sign that something, like your study habits, your effort, or your understanding of the material, is a bit off. To make the most of the experience, you need to determine what’s wrong and come up with a plan for how to how to fix it.

Think about what factors might have influenced the quality of your work that resulted in a bad grade. Did you spend enough time on the study guide before the or researching your essay topic? Did you fail to contribute regularly in class? This is the kind of analysis you should conduct to identity bad habits that are preventing you from doing your best work in school.

Whether it’s a bad grade on a report card, test, or essay that’s bringing you down, you should always consult your teacher. In this situation, teachers are an invaluable resource: They can let you know exactly what you did wrong and what you can do better. They’re the person that knows your work, the material, and the assignment best.

Another benefit of connecting with your teacher after a bad grade, says Abby, is the desire to improve that it demonstrates to your teacher:  “Teachers really appreciate when you show a true interest in learning and growing from your mistakes.”  And these meetings can even go both ways: Your input can help the teacher to clarify certain assignments and topics and make them aware of problem spots in the curriculum.

Come up with a plan:

Now that you have a better idea of what went wrong, it’s time to figure out what you can do to change it. Your self-analysis or meeting with your teacher should have turned up issues that you need to address: Maybe you start studying too late for tests, or approach your essays in a disorganized fashion, or only speak up occasionally in class. How can you adjust your study habits or approach to studying a particular subject? You can consult your friends for advice on how to study effectively. You can also speak with your teacher on exactly what kind of work and participation they expect from you and adjust accordingly. You can also contact a tutor who can help get you on the right track. 

Abby offers some final advice. “In the grand scheme of things, I know it’s much more important to learn the skills or material than to get a good grade just for the sake of a grade!” This is a great reminder that a grade is still just a grade – not a reflection of who you are. And while you should always strive for an A, your real goal should be improvement and learning!

For more advice, contact a tutor today.

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ACT Test Prep: Quality Practice Leads to Scores that Open Doors


An ACT score is just a number.  It doesn’t say anything about what kind of person you are, how successful you’ll be in life, or even how well you’ll take advantage of the opportunities presented in college and beyond.  For this reason, as you know, there is a growing list of colleges who are choosing to go “test optional.”  That said, for better or worse, the ACT score is a number that still matters for most students’ college admissions processes.  And sometimes even the hardest working students at the area’s best schools need a little extra support to reach their full potential.

Ideally for a good student coming out of a rigorous curriculum, his or her intellectual potential would shine forth on a standardized test like the ACT.  However, for a variety of reasons, not every student can simply sign up, sit for the test, and end up with a score commensurate with his or her full potential as a student.  As with preparation for any high pressure performance, ample effective practice is a necessary difference maker between a stellar performance and a mediocre one.


With all that today’s students must juggle—a heavy course load, extracurricular activities, work and service commitments—implementing a regime of effective practice can be difficult.  Moreover, even if a student is diligent about carving out some time from his or her busy schedule for ACT or SAT test prep, knowing where to start, what to focus on, and how to spend those precious test-prep minutes can be overwhelming.  

That’s why a great tutor and superb tutoring services can make a big difference in the life of a motivated junior.  The Whole Kid’s highly individualized approach to helping students prepare for the ACT or SAT takes the guesswork out of WHY, WHAT and HOW to PRACTICE. Our tutoring services empower students to approach the college entrance exams with a sound strategy, effective problem-solving approach, and also bolster areas of weakness.

Time on task engaged in quality practice is the one thing that will make the biggest difference in moving your score.

What does quality practice look like?

  •      Any of the commercially available SAT or ACT test prep books will work to start.  I recommend buying the one that has the most full-length practice tests in the book.
  •      I always encourage students to practice untimed first, to get comfortable with the test, and then work on timing as the test date gets closer.
  •      Make sure you learn from your practice.  Don’t just go through the motions.  Each practice test will have answers at the end.  Check your answers, and try again problems you missed.
  •      Most test prep books offer short explanations of each answer.  If you get a problem wrong the second time through, check out the explanation.
  •      Finally, make note of any patterns in the types of problems that give you trouble—and then do whatever it takes to unlock those mysteries.

Time spent on quality practice in advance of the ACT or SAT is time well spent.  Given the scholarship and merit aid dollars tied to these test scores, time invested in this way can offer a significant return on your investment, a payoff  that will show up both on your score report and in your merit money offer.

If you need extra assistance, then take the time to contact The Whole Kid for our tutoring services.


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There are Two More Weekends Before the ACT – Now What?


“Spectacular achievement is always preceded by unspectacular preparation.” – Robert H. Schuller

“There is no short cut to achievement. Life requires thorough preparation – veneer isn’t worth anything.” – George Washington Carver

Do you need help preparing for the ACT? It’s never too late to contact us about our tutoring services! We strive to help every student excel in the area they need help in.

How to Make the Most of a Full-Length Practice ACT

The October 28 ACT is just around the corner. Your studying might be well underway, or maybe you’re just getting started. No matter what kind of studying you’ve been doing, there’s one thing that will take your your preparation to the next level: taking a full-length practice test.

Being familiar with the unique testing structure and environment of the ACT is essential. You might have every subject and skill down pat, but the ACT isn’t just about what you know. It’s also a performance. Just as an actor goes through a full dress rehearsal and a sports team runs game situations in a scrimmage, it’s essential to simulate actual testing conditions for “game day” on the ACT. Read on to learn how to make the most of your practice tests.

Simulate actual testing conditions

The three most important aspects of test day that you want to recreate while in your practice tests are the environment, the timing, and the exact procedures you’ll follow on test day.

Environment: This one is pretty straightforward. You’ll be in an extremely quiet environment on test day, so you don’t take your practice test in any loud, busy, or crowded spaces. Avoid any place where you’ll have to contend with outside noise or distractions. That means no music, food (except on breaks), or chatty friends! It’s also essential that you go uninterrupted for the duration of the test. You want to maintain your focus and being pulled out of your testing simulation will break your concentration

Other environmental factors to consider are time of day and seating. All ACT tests are held on Saturday mornings, so you need to be ready to perform early in the day. That can take stamina, so be sure to incorporate this element into your practice tests. As for seating, choose something hard and with a straight back. You might be tempted to make yourself comfortable in your favorite recliner, but it’ll reduce your concentration – if it doesn’t put you to sleep first!

Timing: The practice test is the best time to gauge your pacing. Don’t skip sections, return to other sections, or in any other way tinker with the timed structure of the test. Don’t leave the test, except for ten minutes between the Math and Reading sections. It’s hard, but taking the full three hours to exactly simulate the test will build your endurance. Use any remaining time in each section to check your work.

In addition, don’t use your phone to time yourself. Use a watch instead in order to limit distractions.

Procedures: You want to simulate the testing environment, so follow the same process and directions you’ll encounter on test day. That means using an authorized calculator (again, not your phone), a number 2 pencil, and bubble sheets (if possible). Follow the test booklet instructions exactly.

After the full-length practice test

What you do after the test is just as important as the practice you gained by taking it! This means scoring the test, correcting your wrong answers, and reflecting on your experience.

You should grade your test the day you take it, if not immediately after. The questions and your reasoning will be fresh in your head, which will make it easier to understand and fix your wrong answers. It’s very important to rework your wrong answers (do the problem over again) so that you can learn to do the problem correctly. You’ll be able to identify precisely where you went wrong in your reasoning behind each incorrect answer. Once you identify your problem areas, you can start working on solutions and narrowing your study focus. Adjust your studying  for the final two weeks accordingly.

It’s also important to reflect on your experience. What surprised you the most? Pay attention to how you felt during the test. You might have been hungry, tired, thirsty, cramped, or a million other things that you weren’t expecting. However, now you know that you should bring a water bottle, eat a bigger breakfast, and so on. If the practice test is like a scrimmage, then your reflection is the team meeting that follows each practice. Ask yourself what went wrong, what went right, and changes you need to make

As you reflect, pay special attention to your timing. Identify the sections which you had the most trouble finishing in time and begin improving your timing in those sections by doing “time trials”. For example, the English section asks you to answer 75 questions in 45 minutes. That means you have approximately 36 seconds for each question. Rather than subjecting yourself to 45-minute study sessions over and over again, limit yourself to completing 15 questions in 9 minutes. These short “sprints” are an effective way to prepare for the full test.

Now, it’s time to congratulate yourself. You’ve earned some rest and relaxation after working so hard and for so long taking this full-length practice test. Remember, taking practice tests and utilizing tutoring services is the best way to prepare for the actual test. Without a doubt, you have taken your studying to the next level and with it, your chances of success.

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Information About ACT Prep


Studying for the ACT can be daunting. With four sections and 215 questions to prepare for, you might be feeling overwhelmed as the October 29th test approaches. But with the right attitude, a little help from efficient tutoring services from The Whole Kid, an appropriate approach, and study techniques, you’ll arrive at test day prepared and confident.

Our study tips will give you the tools you need to come up with your own study plan, while our awesome customizable study calendar  will help you implement your plan. We’ll help take the guesswork out of ACT prep so that you can focus on what’s important – preparing for success.

ACT preparation isn’t “one size fits all”. Instead, when, what, and how you study will depend on three things: where ACT prep falls among your other priorities, what concepts you already know (and what you need to brush up on), and the amount of time you can spend studying without exhausting yourself. These conditions will vary immensely from student to student, which is why your ACT preparation should be flexible and based on your circumstances. Going through these steps will ensure your test prep is efficient, useful, and realistic.

We suggest you go through these steps in order to make a study plan. This process will give you a great idea of what to expect from yourself as you budget time to study, what subjects and skills you need to improve, and how to maximize your study time without overwhelming or burning yourself out. After making your study plan, you can create a study calendar to organize your time and studying.

Expectations: Success on the ACT probably isn’t your only priority right now. If you’re juggling school work, family responsibilities, and extracurriculars, you should determine how much time you have for ACT prep. For example, three hours of studying a day isn’t very realistic for most people, especially if you also have practice, dinner, and schoolwork to get done! Once you know how much time you’re willing and able to dedicate, you’ll be able to rearrange your schedule and commitments or necessary.

What you know and what you need to know: Your study time is valuable. Why waste time studying the concepts you already excel in when you could be mastering the material you actually struggle with? In addition, different subjects require different skills and a variety of study techniques. By pinpointing your weaknesses, you’ll know exactly what you need to work on, as well as how to work on it. Your study schedule will change and shift depending on what you need to work on, so figuring this out as early as possible will make your preparation more efficient and save you time.

Now you have a study plan! You know what you need to study and how much time you have per day to study it. The next step is to create a study calendar for the month leading up to the ACT. To help you out, we’ve gone ahead and created a customizable calendar for you. You can adjust the amount of studying each day depending on your own schedule as well as choose what subjects you’d like to focus on. Rather than telling you exactly what to do without regard to your abilities, schedule, or availability, our calendar provides the structure and information for how to study effectively and efficiently in the month before the ACT.  

For more tips on preparing for the ACT, reach out to our tutoring services, so you can get prepared. You can also download a calendar to help you study below.


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Organization Tips For The Start Of School


Congrats! You’ve made it through the hectic first few weeks of school – now what? As you get to know your new classes, teachers, and workload, now is the best time to start perfecting your study habits. One of the tutoring services we provide is to help you get organized to be a motivated student. These tips will increase your productivity and get you ready for a great school year.

Set A Schedule

At this point, you have a good idea of how much work is required for each class. Make a study schedule so that when you leave school, you know exactly what you’re going to be working on and how long you’ll need to work on it. Maybe you have more French homework on Tuesdays than on Thursdays, and a calculus problem set every Wednesday – adjust accordingly!

In addition, it’s important to organize your time in a way that works for you. If staring at math homework for two hours leaves you cranky and confused, try taking a five-minute walk every half hour instead. Setting a daily schedule will help you manage your priorities, make you more productive, and ease your stress. Most importantly, when you’ve made a schedule, stick to it!

Find A Great Study Space

Your environment can have a huge effect on your productivity, so find a space that works for you! For most people, this means a place with few distractions, so put away your phone and make sure your friends won’t interrupt your studying!

A specific room, desk, or even lamp can also help you work! If you’re not sure how to start, try keeping track of all the places you work. Is the dining room too noisy? Does the lamp in your bedroom hurt your eyes? You’ll only know by exploring and learning what works best!

Finally, if you spend 15 minutes wandering around your house or library looking for the “perfect” spot every time you study, you’re not working efficiently. By having a go-to study spot in your house or elsewhere, you’ll save yourself time and be able to get right to work.

The beginning of the school year can be hectic and stressful as you adjust to a variety of changes. By organizing your time and finding a study spot that keeps you focused, you’re giving yourself the tools to adapt to a new school year and succeed!
If you’re interested in our tutoring services or more tips to help you excel, then contact us today.

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Choose College or Change it Up?

Upward mobility and academic prowess is typically considered a path of first choice among the educated parent; however, many out there must toy with other options as it becomes apparent that the road may present barriers that won’t concede.  –Cindy Evans, TWK Education Blogger

Read the NYT article here.

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PEP Meets Prep

What do you get when you mix a downtown kid with an uptown sport? Apparently higher academic success, a quest to game on in college and plenty of mentors who thrill in sharing their passion. Urban Squash Cleveland, with a little help from local funding and college squash courts, is growing its racket talent and prepping PEP students for their continued success.
     –Cindy Evans, TWK Education Blogger


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Drifting Off Not So Bad?

Dan Scotti, Lifestyle Writer for Elite Daily, offers an honest Gen Y perspective on soaking up missed sleep opportunities during class time. While of course I wouldn’t recommend this to my own children or students whom I tutor, some experts conclude that you may “draw” a level of successful retention in a place somewhere between daydreaming and earnest attention. This idea stems from the notion that humans are not designed for continued energy output without intermittent breaks or mental rest periods.

Read Dan’s article here.


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Opacity: A University Word

If you’re wondering about the root of the rising costs of college tuition, let’s begin with opacity. This you won’t need a college degree to understand.  The liberties taken to promote wealthy prospective applicants and out of state interest aren’t always transparent. The 2014 CNN documentary Ivory Tower helps us to understand how this outsized spending trickles down.


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ADD–Some Helpful Reminders for Those Who Have to Live With Us

by Tim Tibbitts

I can’t figure exactly who wrote this piece, but for me–as a 47-year-old who copes with ADD every day,  “Twenty Things to Remember If You Love a Person With ADD” rings true.  The article offers insight into a myriad of complex mind activities. While all of us can relate to a portion of these symptoms, simply because the world is spinning fast under foot everywhere, these twenty points will help you to take a fresh look at the hard-to-love genius at the dinner table, classroom, or anywhere within their battleground.

Hey Look

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