5 Best Apps for College Students

Best Apps For College StudentsBeing a college student in 2014 has its pros and cons. The competition is fierce and college courses are more challenging and demanding. However, coupled with these expectations come a ton of technological tools and apps that can help make your life easier and more efficient. Here, tutor Natalie S. has picked out a few of the top apps for college students that you should download right now!

1.  Dropbox

This app and desktop tool enables you to back up all of your documents and easily share them with others. You’ll never struggle with emailing large attachments again, and you’ll never have to worry about losing all of your documents if your computer crashes. You can download Dropbox to your desktop, so you can save all of your files to this location instead of on your computer. Then, all of the info in your Dropbox syncs to the cloud and when you log into your account online, the account mirrors whatever you have saved on your desktop Dropbox. If you’re responsible for a group project, you can create a Dropbox folder and invite all of your group members to join. You can save all documents there and any updates will be seen in real time.

2.  Mathway

This app is a great tool for students who are not mathematically inclined and who need additional help navigating homework and prepping for exams. You can utilize the Mathway app to check many math concepts, including your algebra, geometry, or calculus math homework. Also, if you’re stumped on a problem, Mathway will show you step by step how it can be solved.

3.  iTunes U

This is a fantastic app to use in conjunction with your class lecture notes. iTunes U features lectures on all subjects by professors from leading universities, including as Cambridge and Yale. You can download lectures that correspond to the subjects you’re studying, and use iTunes U to supplement your lecture notes and in-class seminars.

4.  SelfControl

This app is designed to block certain websites like Facebook, Twitter, and other social media sites that take your attention while you’re studying. Just download the app and tweak the settings, so you can block specific websites for a specific amount of time. Once you finish studying, SelfControl will turn off, and you will gain access to your favorite time-consuming social media sites once again.

5.  EasyBib

This app is designed to help you correctly format all of your sources, so you can easily create your bibliography page for your research papers. Formatting bibliographies can be a daunting, time-consuming challenge. This app helps you create citations in multiple different styles, including MLA and Chicago. All you have to do is either search for the book or article you want to cite, or enter the basic information manually, and EasyBib will instantly create the correct citation.

Whether you’re struggling with citations, self-control, math or file sharing, these apps for college students are must-haves to download right now!

Natalie S.Natalie S. tutors English, ESL, History, Phonics, Reading, and Test Prep in San Diego, as well as through online lessons. She received her BA in English Education at the University of Delaware, and her MA in English Literature at San Diego State University. Learn more about Natalie here!



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How to Measure the Success of Your Child’s Tutoring Program

8066863117_61b1ccbd93_zHow do you know if you’ve chosen the right tutor for your child? Check in with these helpful guidelines from San Diego tutoNatalie S

If you’ve arranged for your child to receive academic tutoring, you’re already well on your way to ensuring your child’s success in school. But how can you tell if your child’s tutoring session is on track, or if you are wasting your time and money? Whether your child is working with a tutor in one specific subject, for a particular test, or just for general upkeep and review of material, it can often take a while for you to see tangible results. Here are some quick, monthly check-in tips to help you identify if your child’s tutoring program is a success.

One Month

After initially finding a tutor, one of the first things you and your child should do is create a list of realistic and specific goals. For example, if your child is getting assistance with essay writing, one of the goals might be to clearly write a thesis that includes all of the necessary elements for a cohesive statement. At the one month mark, check in to make sure your child is making progress toward these goals. Having a physical list of what your child wants or needs to accomplish will help you determine if your tutor is truly helping.

Three Months

Check your child’s academic grades, and review your tutor’s study tips and teaching process. Part of the reason you initially started to work with a tutor is presumably to improve your child’s grades or test scores. After he/she has spent a few months with the tutor, take a look at exams, essays, and homework during that time. Are your child’s scores improving? Does your child connect with and respond to the tutor’s teaching practices? If so, then your child and tutor are probably right on track. Remember to be realistic with the amount of improvement you expect after only three months. Remember, academic improvements take time!

Six Months

By this point, the majority of your child’s major tests, homework assignments, or classes are close to finishing for the school year. This is a good time to revisit that list of goals your child made at the beginning of the tutoring process. Has your child accomplished or come close to accomplishing all of the goals? Has your child been able to implement on his/her own a few of those study tips that the tutor has provided? If not, discuss with your child and his/her tutor, and make a plan together for how to successfully move forward and accomplish all of the goals.

One Year

The number one way you can check the success of your child’s tutor after a year of working together is to simply talk with your child. Ask him/her if the last year’s worth of tutoring sessions was helpful, and check in to see if he/she is interested in extending the sessions into the next academic year. Subject matters change from school year to school year, and it’s possible your child won’t need a tutor anymore. However, if they find having an outside source to be helpful, then you know that your child’s tutoring program is a success.

Ready to connect with a tutor now? Check out TakeLessons to find a tutor with the qualities and credentials that meet your and your child’s needs.

Natalie S.Natalie S. tutors English, ESL, History, Phonics, Reading, andTest Prep in San Diego, as well as through online lessons. She received her BA in English Education at the University of Delaware, and her MA in English Literature at San Diego State University. Learn more about Natalie here!



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7 Online Resources to Take Your Homework Up a Notch

4623303363_41da494cb4_bLooking for some web-based tools to really amp up your presentations, essays, and studying? Check out these seven online resources for students in this guest post by former English teacher Robert Morris


Who doesn’t like learning? The process of discovering new worlds and concepts you didn’t know existed is always exciting. Although your teachers can make the classes boring, that doesn’t mean that learning cannot be fun. Whenever you need help with certain lectures, you can rely on online tools to help you discover a whole new world waiting to be explored.

  • Easel.ly – When the lessons are accompanied with images and infographics, it is easier for you to remember the details and have a starting point to build knowledge upon. At Easel.ly, you can explore thousands of infographics that make the learning process easy and fun. What’s even better, you can create your own infographics as a way of representing what you have learned.
  • NinjaEssays – What do you do when you find yourself struggling with writing assignments? You turn to NinjaEssays.com, of course! With the help of this website, there is no academic writing task that’s impossible to achieve. You’ll get to collaborate with expert writers and learn from their knowledge, talent and experience. Moreover, you can also hire great editors to cover the final stages of the writing process and make your own content flawless. Your teacher will be happy with the results!
  • Thinglink – Let’s explain the benefits of this tool through an example: you can get the map of Washington, D.C. and use it to explain how a bill is turned into a law over the Capitol building. That explanation can be provided by a link to a website, text, or an embed code for a video. When you’re looking for a simple and quick, but effective way to add more dynamic to your school projects, Thinglink is the way to go.
  • Ipiccy – If you need to edit an image, Photoshop may be too complicated. Ipiccy enables you to resize and crop the image, as well as add great effects and filters. If something doesn’t turn out the way you wanted to, you can easily undo the actions. Of course, Ipiccy enables you to treat images in a more sophisticated way too, so it’s fun to discover its layers and advance your skills step by step.
  • Padlet – All students love it! This virtual board enables you to add and arrange different sticky notes. By personalizing and organizing your notes, you will make the learning process easier than ever. You can turn your Padlet board into a scrollable blog where you can post interesting online resources, as well as your personal writings on the concepts you learn at school.
  • WeVideo – Your teacher assigned a video project and you don’t know where to start? This web-based video editing tool will enable you to transform the exhausting process into a fun experience. As soon as you start using WeVideo, you’ll realize how fun video projects can really be. The tool enables you to upload content, mute parts of the base video, add your own narration, and publish the final product in different file sizes. In addition, you can also add transitions, effects, and themes to make the video look more professional.
  • BigHugeLabs – How about making fun trading cards, posters, and presentations? BigHugeLabs is one of the most effective educational tools for K-12 students. Here is a great example of how you can use it: create a movie poster for the book you just read. Feature characters and themes that convey its essence; that’s a guaranteed way that you’ll remember the story forever.

When studying and writing gets boring, turn to technology! The process of studying can be exhausting at times, but that doesn’t mean you can’t find an easy way to complete the projects and learn the lessons. With the seven online resources for students listed above, you can approach learning from a new angle that will not only make the experience fun, but will also result with better grades.

Need extra help with your studies? Working with a private tutor can give you the one-one-one guidance you need. Find a tutor in your area here!


Robert Morris is a homeschooling dad from New York, circle him on Google+. Now Robert is in the process of writing his first book. He was working as an English teacher for 5 years.

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4 Study Tips When You’re Completely Stuck in a Rut


Feeling burned out? Reset your brain with these helpful study tips from Chicago, IL tutor Hilary B...


Do you ever feel like your brain is in a rut? It’s happened to all of us — maybe there are a set of vocabulary words you just can’t seem to memorize, or a new concept you understand in theory but can’t seem to put into practice. Maybe you just don’t feel quite as sharp as you usually do. But one thing is certain — feeling frustrated and angry isn’t going to help you learn anything. In fact, it’s probably hindering you.

Here are four study tips to help boost your learning and get your brain out of its rut:

1. Pay attention to your state

The first thing I always ask my students when they tell me they are having difficulty with focus, memorization, or comprehension is whether they drink caffeine. I ask this question because state-dependent learning is a real thing, and every student should be using it to their advantage.

The principal behind state-dependent learning is simple: our brain absorbs and processes information differently depending on its state. There are a myriad of factors that can go into your brain’s state. Of course, there are the obvious factors like caffeine and alcohol, but there are also other factors like the music you are listening to or how recently you’ve had a meal. The point is to identify the state factors that help you learn, and to recreate them. So if you learn best when you are listening to the Spice Girls and drinking a cup of Earl Grey, then go for it!

2. Eat a good meal

We’ve all grown up hearing it: “Breakfast is the most important meal of the day.” And as much as we hate to admit it, our mothers were right on this one. Breakfast is the most important meal of the day, but the other meals are important too. If you find you’re stuck on something, go make yourself a well-rounded meal (leafy greens included). Just the act of getting up from your desk to do something healthy will reset your brain, and a hearty, healthy meal will keep your brain going a lot longer than sheer willpower.

3. Put away the flashcards

Sometimes the oldies are not always the goodies, and in the case of memorization this is definitely the case. There are many different methods for memorizing bits of information like dates, places, and vocabulary that don’t involve hunkering down with a stack of index cards. Try creating a mental map of the information you need to remember — visualize each bit of information as corresponding to a detail about a place you know well, like your bedroom. If that doesn’t work, try processing the information differently by drawing it into a picture or incorporating it into a song.

4. Give up — but make a plan for tomorrow

Sometimes your brain just isn’t going to do what you want it to do, no matter how many study tips and tricks you try. Maybe you didn’t get quite enough sleep last night or the neighbor’s dog won’t stop barking. Maybe you just aren’t feeling sharp or motivated. If you feel like you’ve tried everything and it still isn’t clicking for you, then get up from your desk and go do something else. I guarantee using your time productively will ultimately feel better than tearing your hair out over difficulty focusing.

If you need to give up for the night, then give up for the night. But always make a plan to start fresh in the morning. Decide on a time and a place you are going to pick things back up and stick to it — that way you can really relax during the time between deciding to do something else and picking up where you left off. After all, sometimes you just need to let your brain do its thing.


Hilary B. teaches study skills, college admissions, and essay writing in Chicago, IL. She received her Bachelor of Arts in Liberal Arts from Sarah Lawrence College and her Master of Arts in Religion and Literature from the University of Chicago. Hilary specializes in tutoring those who struggle with mild to severe ADD, ADHD, and similar academic and intellectual challenges. Learn more about Hilary here!


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How to Avoid Procrastination & Stay Focused During the Holidays: 4 Easy Tips


Winter break is coming up, but that doesn’t mean you can slack off! Make sure you don’t lose momentum with these helpful tips from San Diego tutoNatalie S


The holiday season is quickly approaching, and no matter which holidays you celebrate, it’s easy to get swept up in the excitement and lose focus of your academic goals. Check out the four easy steps below and learn how to avoid procrastination and stay productive during the holiday season!

1) Set a consistent study schedule and write down your goals for the day. Plan manageable goals to accomplish every day, even on the days you’re off from school. Schedule a few hours to work first thing in the morning when all of your friends are still sleeping, and this will guarantee you get your tasks accomplished, so they are not hanging over your head all day. If you like to sleep in, that’s okay too. Just find a time that works for you, and be consistent.

2) Give yourself breaks. No one wants to do math problem sets or memorize history timelines on Christmas Day or New Year’s Eve. Give yourself a few solid days of rest with no schoolwork. You’ll get more done if you do a little bit of work everyday, but you’re also more likely to stick to your schedule if you take time off on the days that are most important to you.

3) Implement a reward system. Reward systems are spectacularly beneficial during the holiday season because there are so many unique activities and tasty treats to experience! If you get a certain amount of work done each day, reward yourself by hanging out with your friends, eating your favorite cookies, or going holiday shopping! If you set some goals and you work to accomplish them, you deserve to reward yourself and have fun.

4) Schedule a study party. While this may sound a little counterproductive, when executed correctly, study parties can motivate you to stop procrastinating and start studying. Make sure to have plenty of study snacks and push each other to work hard for a few hours. Set a timer and work until the buzzer rings, and then you’re free. Since all of your friends are already together, take this time to hang out and relax. If you really want to raise the stakes, create a reward system based on how much you get done. Finished reviewing an entire chapter? Take a quick ice cream break! Completed two chapters? Order a pizza!

These simple steps will help you learn how to avoid procrastination and keep your skills sharp during the holiday season. And don’t forget — if you need additional assistance catching up, the holiday break is also a great time to hire a tutor to help you get back on track.

Natalie S.Natalie S. tutors English, ESL, History, Phonics, Reading, and test prep in San Diego, as well as through online lessons. She received her BA in English Education at the University of Delaware, and her MA in English Literature at San Diego State University. Learn more about Natalie here!



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Learning By Seeing: Ways to Study as a Visual Learner

color-coded notes

Do you learn best by seeing? Learn about the most effective visual learning strategies in this article by San Diego tutor Natalie S

We all know that people learn in various ways and use different processes to be successful. We’ve gone over how to study as an auditory learner and as a kinesthetic learner, for example. Now, we’re going to offer some ideas for visual learning strategies. Check out our tips below to help you study in the most effective and efficient ways for you.

1) Stay organized.

Visual learners comprehend new information best when it is laid out in front of them in text, pictures, graphs, and charts. One of the most important visual learning strategies is to stay organized. Keep your notes from class lectures and readings in order, so you can easily review them. If you need help managing all of the information, try putting all of your notes into one binder and use dividing tabs to separate them into different sections based on either the subject or chapter.

2) Take color-coded notes in class.

As mentioned above, visual learners best absorb and retain information by reading or seeing it. This is why it’s especially important that you take copious notes in class. Write down as much information as you can in a thorough, organized fashion, so you can refer to it later. After you have completed writing your notes, review them again with different highlighters in hand and color-code the information based on subject, theme, important dates, or whatever makes the most sense to you. These notes will help you to better remember and comprehend new info, and better yet, you can use them later as study guides for exams.

3) Create your perfect study space.

This is an important thing for everyone to do regardless of which type of learner you are. Visual learners comprehend information better when seeing and reading it, so it’s important for them to create a quiet study area with good lighting and a comfortable space to settle in with their textbooks, notebooks, lecture notes, and pens, highlighters, and post-it notes. Visual learners should always read with a pencil in hand, and underline, highlight, and make notes in the margins whenever possible. Writing notes on new information and recapping chapters into your own summaries is the best way for you to learn and internalize new information.

4) Use flashcards.

Flashcards are another great visual learning strategy for remembering information and studying for exams. With notecards, you can look at chunks of information instead of reviewing all of the information at once. This makes studying less overwhelming and it helps to teach you the information in manageable segments. You can also use graphs and charts to better visualize concepts.

5) Create a study guide for each chapter.

Visual learners are generally good at creating summaries and picking out the most relevant facts in each chapter. Use this talent to your advantage by creating a one-page study guide for each chapter or lecture, and boil the lesson down to the most important facts. Check out our tips for how to create study guides here.

These helpful tips can aid visual learners in highlighting their strengths and overcoming their weaknesses. Remember, if you still need help studying as a visual learner, speak with a TakeLessons tutor for some additional tips!

Natalie S.Natalie S. tutors in English, ESL, History, Phonics, Reading, and Test Prep in San Diego, as well as through online lessons. She received her BA in English Education at the University of Delaware, and her MA in English Literature at San Diego State University. Learn more about Natalie here!



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5 Tips for Ensuring Your Class Presentation is Unforgettable

class presentation

Do you have a big class presentation or speech coming up? Learn how to make it memorable with these presentation tips from online tutor Carrie M


Have you ever sold a product to an individual or large group? If you are thinking to yourself, “I don’t think so,” think again, because if you’ve ever been charged with the task of giving a presentation to a class of your peers and your teacher you have definitely sold a product! The real question is: how did you do, did you sell your classmates and your teacher on the topic you were presenting or the invention you spent hours creating? The only feedback you may have received was from your teacher with the grade you earned, and that only tells you how well you completed the to-do list of items typically required for a presentation. That being said, here are a handful of presentation tips to win over your audience and make your presentation unforgettable.

1. Tell a Story

People of all ages relate to personal stories. When you incorporate a story from your life that connects to your topic, your audience’s ability to engage and connect will increase immensely. This is one of the best presentations tips, because your audience will leave remembering the story you shared and, therefore, will remember what it was you taught or “sold” them.

2. Integrate Different Media

A medium is simply the way in which we communicate — for example, music, artwork, movies/videos, and PowerPoint. Often presenters get stuck in the rut of standing behind a podium or desk reading off a screen or notes as they present material to an audience, and this is often the reason their presentation is completely forgettable.

When you watch a movie it is rare to have the setting and tone remain the same, so why should your presentation be any different? Just as with your stories, the media you choose to incorporate should be appropriately used and should have a connection to the topic on which you are trying to present. If you are doing a PowerPoint presentation about the Southern Colonies, for example, have links within your PowerPoint to videos or photographs about the Southern Colonies (this could be how it looks now compared to then or a map showing what the landscape looked like during that time, etc.).

3. Tickle Their Funny Bone

They say laughter is the best medicine, so why not include some humor in your presentation? Your audience is sure to rank your presentation as unforgettable when you lighten the mood with a bit of laughter. Of course, you want to make sure that your jokes are appropriate to your audience and the topic. This can also be achieved through the stories you share. For example, if you’re presenting information on the effects social media has on today’s high school and/or college students, you could add “hashtag” to everything you say, and then show a YouTube clip of the skit “#Hashtag” with Jimmy Fallon & Justin Timberlake.

Word of caution: Be sure to view clips prior to showing to ensure they are appropriate for your class.

4. Provide Tasty Treats

Food plays a significant role in our lives — we need it for nourishment and sustainability, but it is also used to mark events in our lives such as birthdays, graduations, baby showers, the loss of a loved one, etc., and we use it to connect to others. So, if food is so significant why not make your presentation unforgettable with some treats or candy? For the college crowd, baked goods are an excellent item to have sitting out for your audience to partake in as they congregate before your presentation and, also, as they are listening to you present. For the high school crowd, baked goods may be unrealistic, so candy would be a better option. You can use it to get audience participation by asking a question and the person with the correct answer earns a piece of candy. If you are able to bring in cooked/baked items, it will leave a huge impression on your audience if the food chosen relates to the topic being presented. For example, if your topic is on the 13 Colonies, make some food that would have been served during that time period.

Word of caution: You may need to check in with your teacher before bringing items. Also, be mindful of allergies. Avoid anything with nuts if you are unsure of your audience. Your teacher should be able to provide you with the types of allergies within your class.

5. Know and Be Passionate About Your Topic

If you are knowledgeable and passionate about what you are presenting, your audience will leave feeling the same. No matter what medium you use, you need to make sure you know everything there is to know about the topic you’ve chosen or have been given to present. If you know your topic forward and back then your passion will increase as well, and it will in turn make your presentation unforgettable. You need to be able to present the material like a story in itself and be able to answer any questions that might be thrown your way. Nothing makes a presentation more forgettable than a presenter who has to read directly from his/her notes or PowerPoint, and who is obvious about how much they dislike the topic. Be the breath of fresh air to an audience, and wow them with your depth of knowledge.

May these tips be your jumping off point to the most unforgettable presentation of your academic career. Good luck!

CarrieMCarrie M. tutors in a variety of subjects online. She earned her BA in Elementary Education as well as Exceptional Student Education (special ed.) from Flagler College in St. Augustine, FL. Learn more about Carrie here!



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Learning By Listening: Ways to Study As an Auditory Learner

Auditory Learners

Do you learn best by listening? Find out about the most effective study strategies for auditory learners in this article by San Diego tutor Natalie S

People generally learn new concepts in a few different ways. Some people are tactile learners; they use a hands-on approach to grasp and understand new material. Others are visual learners; they have to see a concept in order to comprehend it. Lastly, there are auditory learners. The most effective way for auditory learners to understand a new concept is to listen and hear the information. It is more common to be a visual learner than an auditory learner, and because of this, teaching strategies in schools are often geared toward visual learners. This makes comprehension of new ideas and lessons a little more difficult for auditory learners. If you are an auditory learner, check out our tips below to help you study in the most effective and efficient ways for you.

1) Cancel out noisy distractions.

As an auditory learner, sound is the most important aspect of your learning environment. Find a silent place to study, so that you are not distracted by ambient noise. If this option fails, invest in some noise-canceling headphones.

2) Hire a tutor.

A tutor can sit with you one-on-one while you re-read information aloud. You can also work with peers in the same way, reviewing and teaching the information to each other. This is a great way for auditory learners to engage in new material.

3) Record your lectures.

A class structure that is primarily based on lecturing is great for auditory learners. If your teacher permits it, ask if you can record the lectures, so you can listen to them again at home when you are reviewing the information. These recordings end up being great study tools to use later when preparing for exams.

4) Create a mnemonic device.

Experts suggest that this is one of the best learning methods for auditory learners. If you’re struggling to remember a specific concept or piece of information, try creating a mnemonic device for it. Turn the information into a song, a rhyme, or some sort of word association. By creating an interesting association, you’ll be more likely to remember the information.

5) Teach yourself.

If you learn best by listening, then try talking to yourself. Read the material aloud while you study, and review the concepts out loud as if you were teaching a class. This combination of reading and speaking the same information aloud will help you comprehend and internalize the information quicker.

These easy tips and tricks are designed to help auditory learners study more effectively and efficiently. Good luck!

See also: how to study as a visual learner and kinesthetic learner.

Natalie S.Natalie S. tutors in English, ESL, History, Phonics, Reading, and Test Prep in San Diego, as well as through online lessons. She received her BA in English Education at the University of Delaware, and her MA in English Literature at San Diego State University. Learn more about Natalie here!



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Speed Reading – Can it Really Be Done?


Want to learn how to read faster? Tempted by all the promises of speed reading programs and classes? Find out if there’s truth behind the strategies in this guest post by Ann Arbor, MI teacher Elaina R


Imagine a library full of frantic-looking students, their eyes darting back and forth as they flip through textbooks. These students are attempting the controversial art of speed reading. Unfortunately, many of these students will probably find that they remember very little of the information they are so busily scanning.

This begs the question: do these strategies for learning how to read faster really work? Or is it a fantasy thought up by busy students? Let’s explore the concept of speed reading, whether or not it works, and what might work better.

What is Speed Reading?

Speed reading involves quickly glancing through text. The goal of this type of reading is not to absorb every word. Instead, readers want to quickly understand the gist of the text. They want to be able to regurgitate important themes and summarize the text, even if they miss the details.

As you can imagine, speed reading only works in certain situations. Unfortunately, reading a textbook isn’t one of those situations. There are certain things you cannot scan through with good results.

Speed reading is best for simple reading, such as:
• Mainstream news articles
• Advertising emails and letters

Speed reading is bad for complex reading, such as:
• Textbooks
• Scientific articles
• Literature

Speed Reading Techniques

For lighter reading, here are some tried-and-true techniques that can help you glean the overall themes quickly. Although these techniques probably won’t help you read Chaucer any faster, they might help you clear your inbox or read the news in less time.

  • The glance-over: Look over chunks of text a few lines at a time, picking out important elements (such as nouns and numbers) as you go.
  • The diagonal: Cut a diagonal through each paragraph with your eyes, searching for these important key elements.
  • Just read faster: Look at each line individually, but at a very rapid pace.

Better Than Speed Reading

If you are tempted to try speed reading in an academic setting (you forgot to study for the big test, for example), know that you aren’t going to learn how to read faster in one night. Instead, here are a few techniques that may be more useful to you:

  • Read just a hair faster: Instead of attempting to read at lightning speed, go for just a slightly brisker pace than usual. Don’t go overboard – just be conscious of your speed and, while still reading and processing each word, see if you can handle a few more words per minute.
  • Chapter summaries: Many textbooks come equipped with summaries at the end of each chapter or section. Others have key words grouped at the ends of chapters. Use these! If you have to study a whole textbook in one night, read all of the summaries and look up any specific topics that are confusing.
  • Headings and tables of contents: You can also go through textbooks and look just at the headings and subheadings. Alternately, take a gander at the table of contents. Use this as a guide to help you revisit (and properly read!) the hardest sections.
  • Study buddies: Get together with classmates, compare notes, and test each other. If you don’t know where to start, try randomly flipping to a page in the book and asking each other questions from it. If one section is no problem, move on to the next one.

This goes without saying, but the best way to get to know the material is to actually read it. Learn how to manage your time so that you can complete assigned readings, take notes, and really absorb the material before crunch time. Not only is a natural reading pace more effective, it can also be fun. If you have trouble managing your time and studying well, consider hiring a tutor to help you hone these skills.

ElainaElaina R. is a writer, editor, singer, and voice teacher based in Ann Arbor, Michigan. Her book Slaying Your Admissions Essay Dragon shows how to write application essays that are actually fun to read. Elaina has served as an editor for several notable books as well, including NFL great Adrian Peterson’s autobiography Don’t Dis My Abilities. Learn more about Elaina here!


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How To Pass a Test You Aren’t Ready For |Test Taking Strategies

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Didn’t study for a big upcoming test? Not all hope is lost. Take a deep breath, and try these test taking strategies from Denver, Co tutor Clarence M...


We’ve all been there before: It’s the day of the test, or the night before, and you realize there is no way you will be able to get through all your studying. But that doesn’t mean you can’t get a decent score on the test — you just have to play your cards right.

Stop Studying

My first suggestion is to stop studying! With an overwhelming workload and dwindling time you will most likely make yourself increasingly frantic and undermine any confidence you still have. Instead, make sure you are reasonably well-nourished and well-rested. Then perhaps briefly look over some sort of review or outline of the material to tie what you’ve studied together. Finally, if you have time, try to exercise for a few minutes, as the endorphins will make you more relaxed and confident. And make sure to get there early!

Multiple Choice Questions

To begin, go through the whole test quickly, answering all the questions you know off the bat and marking the ones you don’t know. Quickly getting some problems completed will help build your confidence and settle your nerves. It will also ensure you get all the easy points available and help to alleviate time pressure later on.

Always do the multiple choice questions first. They are easier, trust me. They provide cues that help to trigger memories otherwise stymied by the glaring white spaces beneath short answer questions. I’ve found that incorrect multiple choice options can often be used to answer other questions later on in the test. This is especially true of questions where you know generally know what the answer should be but are blanking on the actual term.

Once you’ve gone through the entire test, come back to the multiple choice and try to answer the questions you’ve left blank. With a basic grasp of the subject, you should be able to whittle most multiple choice questions down to two or three plausible answers. That means you should get about half those questions right if you are purely guessing between the two best answers. But you aren’t just guessing, which means you’ll probably get more than half those toss-ups right!

Short Answers

Now that you’re done with the multiple choice you can move to the short answer section. If there any numerical questions, make sure to scrupulously “show your work,” as teachers tend to give a lot of partial credit if you do. If you are unsure of the proper way to show your work numerically, you can always throw in some written explanations. It’s a bit dorky, and definitely humbling, but it can earn you a few points.

Likewise, try to over-explain your written answers. Sometimes in vaguely circling around an explanation a few times you’ll hit upon the right answer (or what the teacher is looking for). If you choose this approach be careful not to invent things or add unrelated information, since this will make your answer seem like an uniformed guess and could invalidate it.


Finally we get to the essays (hopefully there aren’t any!). I struggled with writing timed essays for the first two years of college. It’s hard. My advice is to read the prompts at the start of the test to get a head start on thinking about them. Then, before beginning to write, jot down a quick outline of your major arguments. When writing, stay on track. You are going to do better if you hit all the points in your outline and conclude it well than if you leave it half-finished (which is what I used to do). Also, if you don’t have a lot to say, a concise conclusion is a lot easier to write than some long-winded explanation of a shaky argument.

If you follow these tips you should be able to salvage a decent grade. But please don’t continue to rely on this strategy. Rather than trying to cram before a test, do your best to stay up on your work and reading. Also, try to consistently work with a tutor instead of turning to one once you start to struggle and fall behind. Regular lessons will help solidify your grasp of the subject as you go. Between better study habits and these test taking strategies you should be able to get an even better grade on the next test!

ClarenceMClarence M. teaches analytical chemistry, biology, creative writing, science, Spanish, and more in Denver, CO. He has a Bachelor of Science focused on environmental microbiology and ecology, and has also studied history and writing at the collegiate level. Learn more about Clarence here!



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