Monthly Archives: April 2013

5 Hottest Tips for Final Exam Preparation

Exams2Spring is here and, along with the promise of long lazy holidays, it also brings that most dreaded of trials – the final exams. Whether you have worked hard all year long or are just emerging from your winter hibernation, getting a good grade and keeping a high grade point average starts with good final exam results. Unfortunately, many students just don’t know how to prepare for exams and often under-perform. We are here to set the record straight! Here are the five best tips for exam preparation.

Planning is Everything
Ever found yourself cramming the night before an exam with tons of work to go through and not enough time? This happens to everyone at some point in their academic careers. Don’t underestimate the amount you have to work through and remember that during the exam period, you will be writing and learning a number of different subjects and may not have as much time or energy as you think.

Start by creating a reasonable study schedule. Ensure that you only leave a couple of hours every day for studying over a long period of time rather than a short period of intense studying. Ensure that you have enough time to study everything before the exams. During the exam period, all you should have to do is revise.

Work Smarter not Harder
Reading whole text books and reams of notes just isn’t practical. Get a study group together and divide the text books into sections. Each group member must summarize the notes and pertinent points from the text books. Choose your study partners carefully; select people who will be reliable and thorough with their notes. You don’t want to lose out because your study group is lazy.

Understanding not Rote
Learning things by rote is much harder. Don’t memorize your notes, understand them. To do this read a section or lesson and then close your text book. Repeat the concepts to yourself or teach a friend, a pet or your house plants. Being able to talk through it will help you to remember.

Some rote learning is inevitable and in these circumstances you need to make a poem or use word associations to help you to remember. For example, if you have to memorize the parts of the eye (cornea, retina, iris and sclera), use the sentence; “Come Rain In Summer” to remind you of the names you need to learn.

Mix it up
Understanding your learning style is key to effective exam preparation. Ask your teacher or your tutor for help ascertaining your learning style. Adapt your materials to suit your learning style. For example, if you are a visual learner, make charts, mind maps and infograms to illustrate lessons. Watch videos and draw pictures to help you remember. Use highlighters and colors to flesh out your notes.

Test Prep
Get old exam papers from your teacher. This will help you to practice for the exams and will reveal gaps in your knowledge. It will also help you to understand the exam style your teacher has and to answer the exam questions effectively.

Eat well to ensure that your brain has the fuel it needs to perform well. get regular exercise to keep you sharp and try to get enough sleep.

Good luck for your exams from all of us at Tutor Doctor!

Note: This entry was originally published on April 1, 2013 on the Tutor Doctor Home Office Blog


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Sunday Morning Shout Out

As we know, words have weight. Well it turns out the words we have about our family’s collective experiences may have the most weight of all.  At Great, Associate Editor, Connie Matthiessen put forward a blog titled ‘The Single Most Important Thing You Can Do For Your Family’.  The focus of the entry was Bruce Feiller’s, the author of  The Secret of Happy Families, recent article that appeared  in “ The New York Times titled ‘The Family Stories’.  . In it, she sums up his findings, namely that families that share their family narrative are doing a lot more than just telling stories around the table.

Stories, particularly stories about how our family members, both past and present, have overcome adversity, go far! They build, what Feiler calls a strong “intergenerational self.” He cites research that shows that children that hear stories about how family members overcame addictions, poverty, adjustments to new lands, new personal circumstances, etc. have a greater sense of personal resilience and happiness, then those that do not hear them.  What matters is hearing that family members faced  a challenge head-on and came out positively on the other side.    (An idealized, glossed over yarn need not apply!)  According to Feiler, stories build an incredibly strong reference point and sense of belonging to something larger than us. They are anchors and examples for our children navigating thru life.

I think of the stories we heard growing up that resonated the most.  There are many that belong to my grandparents. My grandfather on my mother’s side was one of ten children. As the oldest, he left school after eight grade to help provide for his family, but was self-taught and one of the greatest consumers of books that I ever knew. He was also the man who lost his ear in a terrible accident. After a long recovery, he lived a normal , productive, proud, and long life, with us until  95 years old.

I also think of my grandmother on my father’s side.  I think an incredible sense of humor, faith, and work ethic helped her overcome my grandfather’s ghosts of World War II, addiction, and ill-tempered ways, and lovingly raise four children on her own. Then there are my parents’ stories. My father prevailed under less than ideal childhood circumstances, becoming the first in his family to go to college and the most loving father one could have. My mother lost her mother, my grandmother, as a young woman. As she trail blazed a career and balanced having a family, she became and is one of the most dedicated and devoted mothers I know.

As these stories were mine, they have started to become our children’s.  It seems they are often told during the holidays. But reading this article makes me try a little harder to weave them into our common days. It also makes me think of what stories my husband and I are leaving our children about our times as children and what we triumphed over and struggled through, coming out the other side.  Yes there are many! Time to speak up and help our children see their bigger, collective selves!  It’s time for some stories….

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Killer SAT and ACT Test Preparation Tips

GraduationThe SAT and ACT tests are probably the most nerve-wracking and important tests you will have to take in your life (no pressure!) While you may feel overwhelmed by the mammoth task that faces you, good planning and plenty of preparation time will give you the scores you need to succeed. Remember; if you don’t get the scores you want, you can take the tests again. Stress is your worst enemy, so take a deep breath and make a realistic plan that works for you.

Be realistic
You can’t cram for this one! Aim high, but don’t set yourself impossible study schedules. Inevitable failures to comply with your schedule will only leave you feeling nervous and will damage your confidence. Instead, be realistic about how much time a say you are likely to study. Leave time for exercise and socializing so that you can recharge your batteries.

Get a tutor
Tutors are a great way to fill in the missing building techniques and skills you will need to pass. You can also ask your in-home tutor to help you identify your learning style. This will help you to compile the information you need to remember in a format that suits you. This means you will be working smarter and not harder and it will save you time. For example; if you are a visual learner, you can video tape your science experiments to remember the process better. You can make infographics and mind maps to improve your understanding. Compiling information in a way that suits you learning style will really improve your exam performance.

Brush up on your writing skills
No matter how amazing your knowledge and skill, if you can’t communicate your thoughts effectively, you won’t get good marks. Write practice essays and short answers to hone your writing skills and ensure that you are able to get your points across.

Exam Prep
One of the biggest problems for most students are the ways in which the questions are asked. The formats for the SAT’s and ACT’s are very different. Ensure that you do as many past exam papers as possible so you can get accustomed to the way in which the questions are asked. Go through the answers carefully to see how and where mistakes were made so that you can improve your exam performance. There are many sites where you can download past exam papers, some of which are listed below.
Remember; there are no short cuts to exam success. Take your time to prepare and you will do much better than you imagined possible!

Test Prep Sites
Test Prep Practice
SAT Test Prep Review
ACT Test Prep Review

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Eat Your Way To Better Grades

Brain-shinyWhen you’re in exam mode, you usually feel stressed, get little sleep and live on coffee, sports drinks and sugary foods. This creates a perfect storm for your brain to throw a temper tantrum and refuse to perform just when you need it most. Would you run a marathon without a good breakfast? No, you’d know to fuel up and give your body the energy it needs to stay on top of your game. Well, your brain is no different. If you want your brain to perform at its peak, you have to give it the fuel it needs.

What happens when I starve my brain?
Your brain may only take up a small amount of your body weight, but it uses 20% of the energy you burn every day. Without proper fuel, your brain functions start to fail. The first thing that goes is your higher brain functioning and this affects your ability to reason and solve problems. That means you won’t be able to understand the questions, formulate complex answers or communicate as effectively if your brain is starved of the energy it needs to perform.

What kinds of foods do brains need?
Like the rest of your body, your brain cannot live on coffee and sour gummies alone. It needs a balanced diet of carbohydrates and proteins as well as fruits and veggies. There are also healthy ingredients that go a long way to ensuring that your brain is firing on all cylinders:

Antioxidants: Toxins called free-radicals collect in your bloodstream and end up in your brain. Here they break down brain cells. The best way to combat free-radicals is by eating foods high in anti-oxidants. There are tons of these in fresh fruit and veggies, especially in berries (and especially blueberries and acai berries), tea, soy, read grapes, spinach, garlic, carrots, broccoli, tomatoes and whole grains.

Omega-3 oils: You already know that fish is good for your brain – that’s because it contains oil from the Omega-3 family which helps to improve your memory and brain functioning. The best brain fish is salmon, but you can also find omega-3 in eggs, canola oil, flaxseed oil, wheatgerm and nuts.

Fiber: One of the biggest problems for exam writers is the dreaded crash. If you started your day with a doughnut and a cup of coffee, you’re in for a nasty surprise. About an hour after your breakfast, your blood sugar will crash and you will start to feel tired and lethargic. You won’t be able to keep your eyes open and you’ll find it harder and harder to concentrate.

Ensure that your body has a steady supply of energy by consuming foods high in fiber. Fiber helps to slow the absorption of sugars into the bloodstream which means you will have enough energy to last you all the way through the exam. Foods high in fiber include beans, fruits and vegetables, nuts and seeds and whole grains.

Following these tips will help make sure you have enough brain power to get through your exams by giving your brain the fuel it needs to succeed.

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Sunday Morning Shout Out

A funny thing happened the other day. I was doing a craft with our youngest daughter and found myself enjoying it. Mind you, I consider myself a creative person, a creative thinker, etc, but not that kind of creative.  For me, I have to confess that doing crafts with my kids is an act of love, not joy. Until most recently, it has ranked right up there with getting my eyebrows waxed.

Many moons ago and a trip back in a time machine later, I was a kindergartner in art class. I remember the nun who taught us art  having us do a project with Styrofoam peanuts. I think we had to decorate a bell with them. I didn’t make a peanut, I made a mess! There was more glue than anything that day.  Probably a sea of glitter, too!. I do believe that is where my craft “angst” started.

elmers glueHi! I am Nicole and a recovering craft avoider. I recognized the redemptive value of crafting with kids. (Not just saying this) Crafting helps kids in a myriad of ways. ( I am not a paid spokesperson for a crayon or glue company). It helps them build their creativity and critical thinking skills. Over the recent break, my daughter and I had to make something out of a recyclables. We constructed a cat out of a juice bottle and old paper. Both of us leaned into the project and came up with some good ideas about how it make our cat realistic looking. Better yet, our kindergartner took the lead!  It really was pretty cool and spurred a conversation about recycling!

Whether it is playdough and scissors for the early writer or crocheting for the older child,  arts and crafts help kids with fine motor skills.. There are so many fun ways, outside of Styrofoam balls to build these important skills.. Crafting is pleasurable! (Shocking personal revelation, I know). Who doesn’t like seeing  the fruits of their labor take form?  Mass cringing and mass avoidance aside, I have always admired people who can do arts and crafts with their children. As   grace, luck, fate, karmaensuing diasaster    would have it, my girls love to craft! They are very good and patient with it. I guess I need to be!


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High School Junior Prep For Senior Year

College-PreIf you are entering into your last year at school later this year, there is so much you can do to help expedite your preparation for college. From taking extra courses over the summer to brushing up on your reading, there are ways in which you can improve your grade point average, work on improving the strength of your college application and get ready for the biggest academic change in your career.

Set Your Goals
This summer, take some time to decide what you want from your senior year. Knowing where you going will make it easier to plan the year ahead. If you intend to go to university or college, sit down with your parents and discuss practicalities; how much can you spend on tuition, which schools offer courses you want to take, where do you want to go to school etc. Now download course requirements and applications from the internet so that you know what grades you need and when you have to send in your application.

Give yourself a large list of possible schools so that you have a healthy set of choices. Don’t limit yourself to a few of the same kinds of schools. If you aren’t sure about what to study, speak with your school councilor. Do some online aptitude tests to see where your strengths lie and then investigate careers where you can use your skills.

Brush Up On The Extra Credits
This summer holiday, do some activities that may give you an edge on your college applications. This will include charity work, internships and summer jobs. Anything that you can do that gives you some experience in the field or rounds you out as a person is a good idea.

If there are courses that you have been struggling with, get a tutor. Use your summer holiday to fill in any gaps in your skill set so you have the best possible chance of getting into the school of your choice next year.

Start Learning Life Skills

One of the biggest hurdles for many college students is the challenge of living independently. If you’ve never used a laundromat, take a load in and try it out. Learn how to cook some of your own meals and take public transport if you haven’t before. All these experiences will help you to cope with living away from home and you will less stressed about everyday life at college.

Summer Courses
There are some elective courses you can take over the summer that will beef up your college application. Ask your councilor to give you details about these courses. Some of these courses are conducted at community colleges which is a great way to get accustomed to campus life.

Take a deep breath. College is a fun and exciting time in your academic career, and while you are looking forward to it, make sure that you take time to enjoy your senior year and spend time with your friends, many of whom will be moving away soon.

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Sunday Morning Shout Out…A Bit Late

So certainly, this is how it sometimes goes.—Particularly with kids. This spring breaking family broke.  Or should I say the house of cards fell down. Or did it?

We tend to save traveling for other times of the year. When breaks occur, I tend to don the recreational director hat. I like to have some sort of agenda or itinerary of events to spice up my children’s time off from school. Mind you, it’s nothing crazy. It seems like we have crazy, warped speed too often, like most American families, during the regular school year. I am talking things like sleepover at grandparents’ houses; playdates; storyline; cooking special things, etc.  What is it that they say about the best laid plans?

Like Dominoes, we started to fall right before Easter. The first one of us went down Friday night with a fever and  a bad cough. We got through most of Saturday without incident. Our six year-old seemed to be completely on the mend. This particular virus seems to like hide and seek as much as the kid!. It reared its ugly head Sat. night. Sunday, Easter morning, a glorious morning, a sickness free morning., it seemed like a sickness free day.  Yet drowning out the echoes of happy kids looking for eggs, was an ensuing cough from a little toddler boy. The thought was that it could be nipped right then! But I was busy. Golumbki/cream puff making day was hijacked by a 24- hour stomach bug. Mind you again, I am usually fortunate. I don’t get sick very often. If I do, it is usually very short-lived and usually not of the stomach variety. Additionally, like most homes, mama holds up the house of cards. If she goes down, so goes the house. Thus, I swear by sheer will, I often avoid sicknesses that every other family member has had.  But I digress.  It just wasn’t in the cards, the mama house of cards, this time around. What does a mother do?  This happened to come on at my own parents’ home. Thus, I am convinced our house of cards couldn’t completely fall, because I was under my mama’s house of cards.  With my mother, both my parents really, and also my husband who took over when I came home, the house of cards got quickly rebuilt.  –Not so much paper in those cards I guess, but brick, fortified by my family’s love and hopefully Lysol that works!

So the week kind of continued that way. I got better, not 100%, but better and able to take back the normal household reigns and routine. This was just in time to watch our other daughter start to falter and our son worsen. One doctor trip later, our son has been diagnosed with an ear infection. Our six year-old continues to be chased by this weird sinus/upper respiratory infection, My husband is trying to not to completely succumb to it. Our oldest reports vague symptoms of a sore throat. We are supposed to go away for the weekend to see some out-of-town family. This could go either way.

Sometimes when things go awry, other things make up for it.  We seem to draw closer when one another gets sick. My girls were each other’s best playmate this week, whereas in healthier times they may have had  more time with friends than with one another. Doing normal things are more appreciated. During  a  hiatus from sickness, we had a super fun playdate and library outing.,  On some of the few nice, warm enough days, I was able to get outside with the children and enjoy spring unfolding.. My girls were able to see their cousins, great-aunt, and grandmother for a special outing. Times like this underline how fortunate we are that our children have their grandparents so close by and that they play such a huge role in their lives.  I have the deepest appreciation for our parents who support us 120% during challenging times all the time really.  I believe it also helps my husband and I better appreciate what each other does and support each  other that much stronger. So I guess the house of cards is far from having been blown down. She’s been reminded of what she’s made from….

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