Preparation is the Key to Success

Whether you’re taking your ACT, SAT, AP tests or your History final, when it comes to education and testing, preparation is the key to success.  Here are some ways to be prepared for any class or test:

1)      Get organized.

Have a dedicated binder or folder for each class you are taking.  File each class’ notes followed by the assignments related to that material.  By keeping your school work organized, you will be able to refer back to your class notes and materials to review the concepts.  When you finish your assignment, put it in the appropriate binder to avoid forgetting to take it with you.

It’s also a good idea to keep a calendar at the front of your binder with all your assignment due dates written down.  For long term assignments, set a reminder to go off on your smart phone 2 weeks, 1 week and 3 days before the assignment is due to avoid procrastinating on the project.

2)      Put pencil to paper.

While you’re in class, take notes.  When you do your assignments, take notes and show your work.  There’s no point in taking notes if you can’t understand them later.

3)      Prepare your materials.

When you do your homework, find an uncluttered work surface, and organize your materials before you begin.  Have a pencil (or two) and an eraser handy.  Make sure your calculator batteries are working.  Get some scratch paper.

4)      Give yourself some time and some quiet.

I know you’re busy.  Volunteer hours and extracurricular activities don’t leave as much time for homework as you might like.  Write a homework appointment in your schedule, and don’t stand yourself up!  By setting aside time for homework each day, you won’t overbook yourself.  (Share your calendar with your parents, so they know not to schedule activities over your homework time)

When it’s time to do your assignments, turn off the TV.  Turn off the ipod.  Silence your phone.  Focusing on one thing at a time is a lost art in our multi-tasking, over-stimulated culture, but focusing on one task at a time and eliminating distractions makes you more efficient.  Because we aren’t used to focusing on one thing for an extended period of time, this might be hard for you at first.  Try this: set a timer for 15 minutes, and work diligently during that time.  When the timer goes off, set another timer for 5 minutes, and take a break.  Repeat.  When focusing for 15 minutes gets easier, gradually increase the work time by five minute increments.

Since everyone has a different learning style, your best method of preparation might look a little different than this.  You can learn what your learning style is and learn how to best apply that style to all your classes throughout high school (and on into college) with Get Smarter Prep’s Study Skills class.  Study skills like time management, organization, and homework planning will serve you throughout high school and college, and will even be great skills when you enter the work force.  Study skills also cover speed reading, reading comprehension, and writing skills.

Do you want mad study skills?  Check out our Study Skills class!

Gina Claypool is a Tutor at Get Smarter Prep.

Finals in College

Finals in College

Unlike in high school, college finals are spread out across a week’s time, with each class getting assigned a particular day and time. This doesn’t mean that you won’t have two finals on one day, but it does mean that you’ll have significantly more time to study between tests than you did in high school. Sometimes students grow complacent and assume that they’ll have plenty of time to study for each class, but unfortunately, final exams in college tend to be comprehensive (ie. over everything you’ve learned that semester). Unless you’re awesome at last minute studying (many of my students think they are but their scores say otherwise), I suggest preparing your study schedule weeks in advance.

When I was in school, it seemed like all the final paper due dates and final exams happened at the same time. It seems like this is still the case as I watch my students start to glaze over and stop doing their homework right before finals weeks.

I suggest that, with your syllabi in hand, you sit down in mid-April with your calendar and figure out a game plan that keeps you on track to finish everything. Maybe you’re going to write a page a night to get that Econ paper finished by mid-May. Maybe you’re going to review anthropology lectures for 15 minutes after dinner to prepare for the final.

Planning makes sure that your future self, who could potentially be working into the wee hours of the night for a week straight (during what tends to be some of the most beautiful weather of the semester), is not going to curse your lazy, Game of Thrones-watching past self.

Madison Huber-Smith is a Tutor at Get Smarter Prep and an Adjunct Professor at Johnson County Community College.

The Super Bowl and Test Prep

The Huffington Post Blog had an interesting post by Nancy Berk, Ph. D., titled “College Admission Tips to Learn From the Super Bowl.” It is a terrific, and timely, read, and we hope everyone gets a chance to check it out.  While all ten of her lessons apply to college admissions, a two of them apply to test prep as well.

Lesson 4: Have a strategic game plan.

Should you take the ACT or the SAT? The GRE or the GMAT? Is a standardized test required for entrance at the school(s) you are interested in? We strongly recommend you take a practice test before starting so that you can see which test fits your strengths. We offer free ACT and SAT practice tests every Saturday at our office – sign up here! For other testing, give us a call!

Lesson 2: Know the rules of the game. Do your research. Ask questions. Talk to those who’ve been there including college students, their parents, teachers and coaches.

Is there a guessing penalty on your test? How much time do you have for each section? Familiarizing yourself with the structure, timing, and scoring of your standardized test will help you feel more comfortable and confident.

Do your research, take a practice test, and learn the rules of the game!

One more important lesson: don’t wait until the last minute!

Author Linden Schult is a Master Level Tutor at Get Smarter Prep.

Standardized Testing

Standardized testing is a blight on our educational system. It exists simply because of the overwhelming number of applications to undergraduate and graduate programs. When grades, personal statements, portfolios, and letters of recommendation fail to winnow, admissions committees look to a timed multiple-choice exam. They need a tiebreaker and this is the “best” the system has come up with. It’s deplorable, but I’m here to offer you advice about how to do better, not to complain about things we can’t change.

Before you start worrying about this test, make sure the schools you are looking at actually require it. Equally important, look at the average and middle 50% of scores for the accepted students. It is important to have a goal score before starting test preparation. If you already have your goal score, congratulations! Also, make sure that you ask about the relationship of those scores for admission as well as scholarships. Even a small increase can make a big difference for scholarships!

Want to find out where you stand? Sign up to take a free practice test at our office!

Author Stephen Heiner is a Premier Level Tutor at Get Smarter Prep.