How to Use Summer Well

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How Much Do You Know About Preparing for the ACT/SAT?


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5 Things to Do Right Now if You’re Taking the SAT in One Month

The SAT Is in One Month – and You’ve Waited Until Now to Study. Here Are the 5 Most Important Things You Need to Do.

We all know the feeling: a big test or project has been hanging over your head for weeks, maybe months. After putting off the work you needed to do until later – tomorrow, next week, next month – you look at your calendar and realize with dread that the deadline is only a month away.

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But if the big test happens to be the SAT, your situation is far from hopeless. In fact, in just a month, you can significantly increase your chances of scoring well on the SAT. The reason you haven’t been studying doesn’t matter now.  What you do with the next month does, and so does your commitment to getting a great score on the test.

In the list below, we share the five most important things to do in the next four weeks. Think of this list as a condensed guide to SAT success; you’ll need to follow all five steps in order to get the best preparation. Armed with a great attitude, a desire to succeed, and plenty of pencils, here’s what you need to do:

  1. Use high-quality resources. Preparing for the SAT is all about practice. That means practice questions that correspond accurately to those you’ll see on the test, content review that advises you on everything you’ll be tested on, and practice tests that reflect the challenge and complexity of the actual test.

Any of the commercially available prep books will offer reasonable approximations of the test, but to be sure you’re getting an accurate sense of the real SAT, as your test date gets closer, be sure to practice with materials provided online by the College Board.

  1. Create a study schedule. With just four weeks to go, you need to make every day of studying count. A study schedule should be an organized plan of attack: what you’re going to study, when, and for how long.

This is a critical step in your test preparation. Since you have a lot to cover in the next four weeks, you want to make sure that you’re doing everything you need to do. The content should focus on your weaker subjects; taking practice tests, as suggested in Step 4, will help you identify those.

  1. Know what to expect by familiarizing yourself with the test format. For this step, be sure to cover how the test is scored, what content is covered in each section, and how much time you have to complete it. Knowing what you’ll be tested on will help identify your strong and weak spots in the Reading, Writing and Language, and Math sections.
  1. Take at least two complete timed practice tests under realistic test conditions. You’ll get a feel for how questions are asked and how you perform in a testing scenario. Not only will this help you track your progress throughout the month, it’ll give you crucial experience with the time pressure you’ll face on test day. Pacing is an important component of test success, and you want as much experience as possible.

Your first practice test will be also a benchmark that you’ll use to gauge what you need to work on over the next four weeks. Use this first test to help plan the study schedule discussed in step two. Be sure to follow step five below, and comprehensively score it!

  1. Identify your weaknesses by scoring your practice test. Comb through your incorrect answers, identify your mistakes, and rework the problem until it’s correct.

Doing this will help you spot patterns in the mistakes you make. For example, you might realize that you struggle with finding the mean, median, and mode, or with questions that test subject-verb agreement. Once you detect these patterns, target the weak subject through extensive content review and hands-on practice.

 

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How to Track your ACT Practice Test Scores

Make Your ACT Practice Tests More Effective By Tracking Your Scores

Many people believe that the ACT only tests your intelligence or academic aptitude. However, this isn’t entirely true! In reality, the ACT tests your ability to prepare for and perform on a challenging timed exam. This means that preparation and practice will have a huge effect on improving your test performance.

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One of the best ways to prepare for the ACT is by taking practice tests. While fitting in a four-hour practice test on the weekend can be a pain, the payoff is huge: by practicing under the same conditions you’ll face on test day, you can get used to the length, format, and pacing of the actual test.

Even after you wrap up a practice test, the benefits keep piling on. By using our score tracking worksheet over the course of many practice tests, you can set a baseline score and record your progress from there. This will help you identify your strengths, target areas for improvement, and make changes to your studying as necessary.

With room to write down your raw, scaled, and composite scores for each practice or official test, a score tracking worksheet will make your test prep more organized and effective. You can download your own here.

Bonus: Combine our score tracking worksheet with our study calendars for an even more organized study strategy! Our study calendars encourage you to schedule a practice test every week, so your score tracking worksheet will come in handy.

How to use the Score Tracking Worksheet

After you’ve taken a test, it’s easy to fill out the score tracking worksheet. First, enter the date and indicate whether the test you’ve just taken was a timed or untimed practice test at home. It’s also a great idea to record your official ACT scores if you’re taking the test more than once, which is why we’ve given the option to record your results as a real test.

Next, write down how many questions you got right on each section. This number is your raw score. To the right of the arrow in this column, there’s space to record your scaled score. Remember, your scaled score is determined through an equating process to produce a number out of 36. You can find a great raw to scale score converter at Prepscholar.com

The final column asks you to calculate your composite score. This is typically the score that you share with colleges, so it’s very important to pay attention to this score as you prepare for the ACT. To determine your composite score, add your four scaled subject scores and divide by four.

If you had any observations, notes, and tips that you want to remember for your next practice test, jot them down in the space for notes at the bottom of the page. You want to provide as much continuity between practices as possible in order to make the most of your studying.

The next time you study, make sure you incorporate what you’ve learned from the worksheet, such as by shifting the focus of your studying to the subjects that challenge you. With a fully completed worksheet, you’re one step closer to getting a great score on the ACT!

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ACT/SAT Prep- Study Calendars

With the winter holidays behind us, standardized testing season is in full swing, with an ACT test in February and the SAT a month later. If you’re taking one and not the other, or happen to be taking both, your studying will have to change accordingly to account for different test material.

Like we always say, extensive structured practice is the key to test success. That’s why we encourage you to develop a study calendar to guide your preparation for the ACT, SAT, or both. A study plan like this will tell you what you’re going to study, on which days, and for how long. Our blog post with six ACT study tips is a great resource and can be applied to both ACT and SAT prep!

For this round of standardized testing in February and March, we’ve prepared two sample study calendars. The March SAT Calendar is meant for students who are only studying for the March 10th SAT. It contains about 5 hours of studying per week, with weekly focuses ranging from Math and the calculator/no-calculator sections to Reading and Writing with time set aside for vocabulary and essay writing.

Our second calendar is for students who are preparing for both the February 10th ACT and the March 10th SAT. This sample calendar assumes a focus on ACT preparation until the day of the test, since this test will be your highest priority in the weeks leading up to February 10th .

After this, however, your preparation will then switch to focus on SAT. Your preparation for the Reading and English sections on the ACT will carry over nicely to the SAT, which is why you’ll want to focus on honing your SAT math skills. This is why we’ve allocated about 205 minutes every week solely to working on math. If you want to learn more about the difference between the SAT and the ACT, and how studying for one can help prepare you for the other, read our article on the subject!

If these samples work with your priorities or schedule, we encourage you to print them out and tape them to your desk or planner. You can also print out our blank calendar  and fill it in yourself!

We recommend you devise a study schedule that fits with your own commitments at home and school while maintaining about 5-7 hours of study per week. Besides sessions, we believe that there are two additional elements to any great study plan: practice tests and breaks! Breaks are just as important as any work you do, so make sure you take time to relax and take care of yourself.

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5 Tips for a Successful Spring Semester

Winter break is a life-saver: you finally have time to relax with friends and family, reflect on the year, and recover from a hard semester. But after a few weeks of intentionally avoiding anything academic, starting school again can feel daunting. Maybe you forgot your school-day routine or you can’t remember any Spanish grammar, but either way – you’re dreading your first day back.

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However, there are a few things you can do to ease the shock of returning to school. These five tips will keep you motivated, organized, and prepared as you go into the new semester. It’ll be summer break before you know it!

1. Clean your area, backpack, and organizers

Miscellaneous papers – old essays, assignment sheets, problem sets, and so on – tend to accumulate over the course of a semester. You might not realize how much space this material, much of it you may no longer need, is really taking up until you clean it all up! You’ll feel a tangible load lifted off your shoulders when you no longer have to dig through the mess in your backpack and folders for that one piece of paper.

Cleaning can help lessen the stress of starting school again – messy materials add to the intimidating or overwhelming nature of a new semester. With your desk, backpack, folders, and binders clear of unnecessary junk, you’ll be off to a fresh start!

2. Make a schedule

After a few week of not doing much, you might have lost some of the habits you formed during the last semester, such as managing your homework with a study schedule. Creating a schedule for when to work and what to work on will not only help you get back into a weekday routine, it will ensure that you’re organized and prepared for your new workload.

3. Start writing in your planner again

As the previous semester wore on and you began to look forward to winter break, you might have felt less motivated to keep track of your assignments and due dates. Now that the new semester is upon us, it’s time to get back in the habit of staying on top of your school responsibilities by writing everything down in a planner. You’ll start the semester off on the right foot by remembering important due dates before the day it’s due.

4. Restock your school supplies

To make sure that you’re ready to be active in class, refresh your school supplies – you can’t write assignments, take notes, or generally do anything at school if you don’t have pens, pencils, and paper! In addition, you might also want some new folders or binders, especially if a semester of traveling in your backpack has them the worse for wear. After all, you have to have the right materials in order to be prepared for a new semester.

5. Set semester goals

The start of a new semester is a great time to implement changes in your work and study habits. Reflect on what you can be doing better – at school, at home, or elsewhere – and set some goals that you want to reach by the end of the semester. A goal might be to care for yourself better by going to bed before midnight or eating breakfast every morning. Or it can be school-related – maybe you want to start your essay assignments a few days earlier. Whatever strengths you want to highlight or weaknesses you want to improve, setting goals will motivate you to keep working hard and ease the transition back to school.

Put yourself on the right track for the new semester by following these tips, which take just a little persistence and have a big payoff. The start of school will be less stressful and more successful!

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ACT: 2 Month “Time Intensive” Study Plan

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Our Two Month Study Plans starts on Monday, December 11.

If you’re beginning your ACT preparation a few months in advance, you’ll have lot of time to practice and prepare. As you probably know, extensive practice is very important. However, it’s not the whole picture. In addition, your studying also needs to have some kind of structure that fits your schedule and goals. That’s why we think a study plan is vital for your ACT preparation. A study plan will tell you what you’re going to study, on which days, and for how long. You can also set goals organized around pacing, subject material, and time spent studying!

A study plan provided by out tutoring service will ensures that your studying is comprehensive. Rather than deciding on the spot what you feel like you need to study, a schedule will help you cover all your material and can allow you to track your progress in reasonable chunks. This will spare you exhausting six-hour cramming sessions as you get closer to the test date!

To give you an idea of what your study plan might look like, we’ve created two samples. These examples differ in the amount of time spent each week on studying. The first time intensive study plan sample calendar consists of five to eight hours weekly studying and taking practice tests.

The less time-intensive sample casual study plan sample calendar consists of two sixty-minute study sessions twice a week. Weekends alternate between another two short study or a full practice test. This adds up to three to five hours a week, making it a good option for a busier individual.

If these samples work with your priorities or schedule, we encourage you to print them out and tape them to your desk or planner. You can also print out our blank calendar blank calendar and fill it in yourself! We’ve included winter holidays, important ACT registration deadlines, and room for you to write your own thoughts, notes, and goals. And remember – include break days in your weekly schedule. Breaks are just as important as any work you do, so make sure you take time to relax and take care of yourself on these days – and every other day, too!

Note: Winter Break and Midterms

The winter holidays, winter break, and midterms in December/January present an issue that is unique to the February ACT test date. Depending on the level of intensity you’d like, you can either choose to continue studying full-throttle throughout your winter break or relax your studying a bit. If you choose to relax your studying during these busier periods, however, keep in mind that successful ACT preparation relies on building up your knowledge and familiarity with a very specific testing style. A few days without practice will make a big difference, so even a half hour a few days a week is better than nothing.

For any assistance in preparing for your ACT, contact our tutoring services.

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

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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

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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.

Let me underscore that point:  “TIME ON TASK DOING QUALITY PRACTICE IS THE ONE THING THAT WILL MAKE THE BIGGEST DIFFERENCE IN MOVING A STUDENT’S ACT SCORE.”

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?

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“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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