How to ace the IELTS

The #1 Tip on How to Ace the IELTS

How to ace the IELTS

The International English Language Testing System (also known as the IELTS) is recognized worldwide as the most popular English proficiency exam. Millions of people from around the globe take the IELTS every year, and unfortunately, many of them do not pass.

There is one trait, however, that everyone who successfully completes the IELTS has in common. It’s something you might not expect.

Our friends at Magoosh describe it in one word: confidence. Self confidence is key to passing the IELTS with flying colors. Keep reading to find out how to apply this simple principle to each section of the exam so you can ace the IELTS.

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How to Ace the IELTS with Confidence

Project Confidence in Your Interview

The IELTS assesses every aspect of your English skills, including speaking. This section of the test is unique in that it is set up as a one-on-one, oral interview. Just like when you’re applying for a job, confidence in the interview room is a necessity.

Imagine what would happen if you showed up to a job interview overwhelmed by nerves and the fear of rejection. Chances are, you would perform poorly. You might stumble over your words, look down rather than make eye contact, or speak quietly and unclearly.

Your prospective boss would have trouble understanding you, and probably assume that you’re incapable of getting the job done well.

Nobody wants to be that person in a job interview, and you certainly don’t want to come across that way in an IELTS interview. In IELTS Speaking, it’s just as important to enunciate clearly, and pay attention to your body language. Project confidence with every move you make!

Refuse to be intimidated by your interviewer. Think of this part of the exam as an interview for a job that you know you’re going to get. In a sense, the IELTS is your gateway to a new career, either through immigration or university study.

Write Your Essay with Poise

A lack of confidence comes across the most obviously in IELTS Speaking, but in IELTS Writing there are also ways to “sound” confident in your essay.

To write in a confident tone on the IELTS, use vocabulary and grammar that you’re comfortable with. Be sure to include a variety of word choices and grammar constructions, while not overdoing it. Remember to keep it simple. If you use too many big, esoteric words and complex sentence structures, it’ll open you up to making more mistakes.

It can also come across as unnatural, and all of this can hurt your score. But if you write using the words and syntax you truly understand and feel confident in, you’ll be on your way to achieving the best possible IELTS Writing Score.

If maintaining this balance sounds complicated to you, remember that practice makes perfect. Review the many IELTS books and resources that are available so you can become acquainted with writing style and vocabulary.

RELATED- ESL Learners: Are You Making These 21 Common Mistakes?

Stay Calm During Listening and Reading

What makes a general successful in war? “Grace under fire,” as we like to say in English. This means that good military commanders feel calm and confident, even as they face dangers that would make a less confident person panic.

Of course, the IELTS Reading and Listening sections aren’t literally a battlefield. But as you look across a seemingly hazardous reading passage, or face a bumpy ride through an audio track, for a moment it can seem like you’re waging a personal war for your IELTS score.

Try to remain cool, calm, and collected throughout the Listening and Reading sections of the test. Don’t let fear and panic set in. Tips to ace the IELTS

Approach questions, reading passages, and audio strategically. Look for and listen for the most important keywords. If you don’t know the meaning of a written word, or you miss something that was said, stay confident and focused. Look for contextual clues to find the meaning.

Employ elimination techniques on multiple choice questions, and think critically when you need to write down your own short answers. You can practice all of these approaches before you take the test by working through an IELTS study schedule.

Whether you’re taking the IELTS for university admissions, immigration, or employment, one thing is for certain. The more you believe you can pass the IELTS, the more focused and successful you’ll be. Another excellent way to prepare for the IELTS is with the help of an experienced tutor that specializes in English as a second language.

A tutor can help answer any questions you have as you study for the exam. Look for a qualified English teacher near you to receive one-on-one guidance and feedback that will take you one step closer to acing the IELTS. Good luck!

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Guest post by David Recine, IELTS expert at Magoosh. David has a Master’s in Teaching English to Speakers of Other Languages and has been teaching ESL since 2007.

How to Prep Smart for the APs 6 Study Tips You Should Know

How to Prep Smart for the APs: 6 Study Tips to Know

How to Prep Smart for the APs 6 Study Tips You Should KnowNeed help prepping for an upcoming AP test? Take a look at this guest post to learn the best tips to ensure your AP exam scores are where you want them to be…


AP exams are some of the toughest courses you can take in high school. Practically every AP exam not only requires you to excel in answering multiple-choice questions, but also in synthesizing your own unique responses to questions posed in the often-dreaded free-response section (FRQ).

To help you prepare for your AP exams, here are six study tips you should know to make sure you excel this year.

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1. Follow the Pomodoro method to prep.
It’s hard to stay focused when you’re looking at the same subject for hours on end. Instead, space your practice out! The Pomodoro technique is a popular productivity method. What you want to do is spend 25 minutes intensely studying for your AP test, and then take a five-minute break. When your break is over, repeat the process. Before you know it, you’ll have completed several study sessions in just a few hours.

2. Pace your practice.
This one goes hand in hand with tip #1. It’s incredibly important to make sure you have a good grasp of how long it’s taking you to answer multiple-choice questions. Time your practice sessions. If you’re using a review book, use a timer app or ask someone to time you as you work through a practice test. When you’re practicing, make small checkmarks next to questions you felt you had to spend a lot of time on. Try to identify the similarities in the questions you mark to see if there’s an overall area you need to improve on before the test.

3. Know the rubric like the back of your hand.
A few weeks before the test, make sure you begin reviewing the rubrics for your AP exams. Each AP exam has a rubric on how the graders will assess your ability to craft meaningful responses to the questions asked. A lot of students miss out on easy points by not knowing that they need to do simple things like clearly take a position when stating a thesis. You can find all the rubrics and more at AP Central.

4. Make a + / – list.
One of the fastest ways to improve is by knowing where you need to most help. As you work through different AP practice questions, start a list of areas you’re strong at and areas you need to work at. This is really easy to do. On a single sheet of paper, fold it in half vertically, then put “+” on the left hand side and “-“ on the right hand side. If you’re using a practice site like Learnerator, make note of the tags that you are frequently getting wrong so that you can review them later.

5. Block out certain times throughout the week to practice for your APs.
You may often find yourself being “busy”, but not actually being busy. It’s natural. The best way to fight this is to block off time in your calendar. If you’ve been struggling to get started in practicing for your APs, an effective anti-procrastination technique is to reserve time for AP practice. For example, you could say every Tuesday and Thursday from 7:00 PM to 8:30 PM is AP review time. What you’ll find is that if you block out the time, you’ll have fewer excuses to not study since it’s already in your calendar.

6. Prep smart, not hard.
In high school, I really struggled to grasp this concept. I thought that studying meant putting 10 hours toward a test. Something I noticed though was that I would have friends who only studied two or three hours still do better than I did on the test! It wasn’t so much that they were smarter than I was, but rather that they simply prepped smarter than I did. There’s a difference between studying with purpose and studying for the sake of studying. After every study session, take a second to reflect on what you learned. Ask yourself, “What’s the main insight I can draw from this? How does this relate to X theme on this AP test?”

You can answer 100 AP practice questions not knowing where you went wrong or you can answer 50 AP practice questions and truly understand the reason why you got the question right or wrong. Which student do you think would end up doing better on the exam?

There you have it. Six AP study tips to keep in mind for the next time you begin studying. The APs may be a series of challenging tests, but they don’t have to be. If you study smart, you’ll get the AP exam scores you want. Good luck!

Looking for specific AP test guides? Check out our tips for:

You can also find additional AP resources through these links at TwoFace School!

About the Author
Will Yang is a co-founder of Learnerator, an online platform that provides thousands of AP practice questions. In high school, William took six APs as well as a full IB diploma course load.

Don’t forget — working with a test prep tutor will give you the edge you need as you study! Find a tutor near you here.

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How Hard is the GMAT, Really?

26408408_cb10f054d0_oHow hard is the GMAT, really? Find out the insider scoop in this guest post by online tutor Marcus S...


New students and prospective students planning to go to grad school to get an MBA (or other advanced business degree) often ask me, how hard is the GMAT, really? Some people say it’s hard, while other say it’s easy. The GMAT is unusual in this way. With other grad school tests, such as the LSAT or MCAT, most students assume they are facing a tough exam. Determining the difficulty of the Graduate Management Admission Test is confusing because it has unique features that make it hard to compare to other exams.

The Content of the GMAT Should Be Familiar

MBA programs like to welcome students from a wide variety of backgrounds. If the GMAT tested high-level math, it would give an unfair advantage to engineering and math majors. If it tested obscure vocabulary words, literature majors might have the upper hand. Instead, the makers of the exam only use material they expect everyone taking the GMAT to have studied.

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You probably learned all of the math on the GMAT while you were in high school, and the same goes for the basic economic terminology you’re expected to understand. But that’s an example of why the difficulty of the GMAT is hard to determine: do you remember everything you learned in high school? The good news is that a refresher course is always easier than learning from scratch.

The GMAT Is Different From High School, and That’s Bad

The curriculum level of GMAT is essentially high school material, true. In fact, if you were an honors student in high school, you probably went well beyond the algebra and geometry seen on the GMAT. Yet the GMAT is different in several key ways. In high school, timing on tests is usually not a big deal, and many teachers might give you as much time as you need. They want to test your knowledge, not your speed. On the other hand, the GMAT is meant to test your speed (among other things).

The other major difference also has to do with time, but rather than how little of it they give you to answer the questions, the issue is how much total time the test takes, which is over four hours. A big part of GMAT preparation is getting used to working under the pressure that the strict clock brings, as well as building up the mental and physical stamina to stay sharp throughout the long exam.

The GMAT Is Different From High School, and That’s Good

There are also ways that the GMAT is easier than a 9th grade algebra test. For one thing, you don’t have to “show your work.” As long as you end up with the right answer, it counts. Plus, the test is multiple choice, and this format opens up the possibility to use tricks and shortcuts that would make your 9th grade algebra teacher scream, or at least shake her head in disapproval.

So… How Hard is the GMAT?

The GMAT isn’t necessarily hard, but it does require specific skills. What really matters is not how hard it is, but how you do compared to your peers. Remember that unlike the SAT, which most teenagers take, the GMAT is taken only by people who have already done well in college, meaning the competition is tougher this time around. So don’t take this test lightly. But with the guidance of an expert GMAT test prep tutor who understands your strengths and weaknesses and the nuances of the test, you’ll be on your way to acing the exam and earning your graduate degree.

MarcusSMarcus S. tutors online for a variety of subjects. He has been trained and certified to teach classes and give individual tutoring to students in the SAT, GMAT, GRE, and LSAT for the Princeton Review. Learn more about Marcus here!



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How to Get Help Paying Your Pricey GMAT Fees

Ways To Help Pay For GMAT Test FeesThe Graduate Management Admission Test, better known as the GMAT, is a computer-based standardized test that is typically required for admission into graduate management programs (such as an MBA) at colleges and universities across the United States. This test is not a measure of intelligence or business skills. Instead, it assesses skills that are considered to be vital to success in business management, including analytical writing, problem-solving abilities, data sufficiency, logic, and critical reasoning skills.

Approximately 250,000 people take the GMAT each year. The test takes approximately three and half hours (four hours including breaks) and is offered multiple times throughout the year across the US, as well as in many other countries. There is a $250 fee required to take the GMAT.

While the GMAT cost is steep, there are numerous ways for you to receive assistance with paying the fees or even have them waived completely. If you are struggling to afford the GMAT cost, here are a few options for you to consider.

GMAT Fee Waiver Program

GMAC, the Graduate Management Admission Council, allows students with financial need the opportunity to take the GMAT for free through the GMAC Fee Waiver Program. These fee waivers are provided by GMAC to the schools, rather than directly to test takers. Each school is limited to requesting 10 fee waivers per year.

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While schools are encouraged to include these fee waivers in their need-based scholarship and financial aid programs, each school has the discretion to determine which students are in need. Because of this, the process for requesting and obtaining one of these fee waivers varies from school to school. Contact your school directly to learn their process and rules regarding the GMAC Fee Waiver Program.

Grants and Scholarships

There are numerous grant and scholarship opportunities available to help you cover college-related expenses, including the GMAT cost, tuition, and more. Grant and scholarship opportunities are diverse and cover a wide range of merit- or need-based criteria. In addition to contacting your school’s financial aid department for information about grants and scholarships, you can research them using online scholarship search engines, such as,, FastWeb,, and When searching for scholarships, always verify that the one you are interested in is available for graduate students, as many opportunities are limited to undergrad programs.

Employer Reimbursement

If you are struggling to pay for the GMAT cost on your own, many companies offer reimbursement for tuition and fees. By investing in their employee’s degree, the company receives better educated employees. This also demonstrates their dedication to the people who work for them, creating loyal workers who will stick with the company long-term. While the number of employer reimbursement programs have decreased with the economic downturn, it never hurts to talk to your current or anticipated employer to see what options may be available. Even if there is nothing available, your boss will appreciate knowing that you are working to better yourself.


There are so many financial aid and scholarship opportunities available to help you cover the pricey GMAT cost. However, if you are still empty-handed at the end of your search, budgeting is an effective way to make a large cost more manageable.

Analyze your monthly budget and determine any frivolous expenditures or ways that you might be able to save a little bit of extra money. If you can forgo one $5 indulgence each week and set that money aside in a savings account, you will have more than enough money to cover the testing fee by the end of the year. The more you can set aside each week, the quicker you can save up the money to cover the GMAT cost.

GMAT Test Preparation

Whether you are a naturally strong test-taker or tend to struggle under the stress and anxiety associated with taking timed standardized tests, familiarizing yourself with the testing format and typical questions ahead of time will improve your end results. Set aside a little bit of time each week to study for the GMAT and run through practice questions. And to make the most of your study time, working with a GMAT tutor is an excellent way to prepare for the big day. Good luck!

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5 Pro Tips for the ACT When You’ve Already Taken the SAT

difference between ACT and SAT

Wondering about the difference between ACT and SAT? If both are part of your admission requirements for your schools of choice, you can make the most of your prep time by knowing a few simple pointers. Learn more in this guest post by Merrick, NY tutor Justin L...


So by now you’ve taken your SAT, received your score, and just received an email from the college admissions office about your ACT. Until now, you may have never even considered the test. A few of your friends may have taken the test and mentioned something about science or an essay, but that’s about it. With test day drawing near, you’re going to need to know what to do differently on the ACT. Follow these five easy pointers and you’ll be ready in no time.

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What’s the Difference Between the ACT and SAT?

Just about everything that was on the SAT will be on the ACT. You will still have a minute per question, but this time you are going to want to put an answer down for each one. Treat it as if it’s a normal test at school. Regarding the math that will be on the test, if you took the time to prepare for the SAT math, you are at a pretty good starting point. Every trick that you picked up to prepare for the SAT can be used on the ACT (just make sure you don’t leave any blanks.) However, there will be a few new topics that you are going to have to be ready to face. There are four trigonometry questions, two questions on logarithms, and two questions on matrices (more than one matrix). This is only eight new questions. If you really get stuck on one of these, try not to fret. There are 60 math questions on the ACT. There’s no reason to get stressed out over only two of them.

In With the New

If you can handle SOHCAHTOA, graph and identify the traits of a sine wave on a graph, and work with basic trig proofs, you will be well-equipped for those four trigonometry questions. The logarithm questions are pretty much the same ones that you do in your normal math class. Go back to your notes from school to get an idea of what you will be in for. The matrix questions will be the only real curveballs. You might not have really learned that topic in school, but that’s okay. These questions tend to be straightforward. If you can perform those three operations, you will do fine — if you’re nervous, though, it may be worth your time to work with a tutor to help you review the material.

Conversions Come First

The ACT geometry questions tend to involve figures with lengths given in different units of measurements. One object may be given in inches and the other may be given in feet. Best practice is to convert everything upfront. Make everything into inches and then work through the question. The math will be easier to digest and you will be more likely to come up with the correct answer.

No Formulas

The SAT gave you a handy reference table right at the beginning of each math section. As great as that was, the ACT isn’t going to be so forgiving. That’s one big difference between ACT and SAT tests. At the beginning of your 60-minute, 60-question math section, you are NOT going to be provided with any of those helpful hints. So take the time to get to know your formulas. Take a sheet of paper, go back to one of your SAT books, and write down all of those formulas. Save the paper! Add anything else you may need to memorize to that paper. Take five minutes, twice a day, to review that piece of paper. Memorize it. Learn it. Love it. You will need to know those things for the test.


My students always ask me if the ACT is easier or harder than the SAT. In all honesty, the answer really depends on the student, but I always feel that the ACT’s “easy” questions are a lot easier and the “hard” questions are a lot harder. These hard questions tend to involve functions and conic sections. These questions tend to be more straightforward, but require more advanced, algebraic calculations. Make sure you get some practice in on evaluating functions, function composition, parabolas, and word problems involving functions. A local math tutor (and myself, of course) can easily get you some practice and help as these topics are usually included (and should be included) in your algebra 2/trig class.

JustinLJustin L. teaches ACT math, PSAT, SAT, and test prep in Merrick, NY.  He received his Bachelor of Science in Math and Masters of Arts in Math Education at Adelphi University. Justin has more than six years of experience working with students privately, in classrooms, as well as store-front tutoring companies. Learn more about Justin here!



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3 Tricks for SAT Math Problems with Student-Produced Responses

SAT math

Even if you’ve reviewed the SAT math tips in Merrick, NY tutor Justin L.‘s previous article, the SAT math problems that require a student-produced response can cause a whole new level of anxiety. Read on to learn a few helpful tricks…


It’s very rare to see something on the SAT break a student’s stride and morale worse than the Student-Produced Response (SPR) questions. Everything about them goes outside what you’ve expected on the test. They are not multiple choice, the answers aren’t there, there’s no way to check if you’ve done it right, and they always seem harder. But if you can keep three simple things in mind, you can overcome this stigma and approach these SAT math problems as if they were any other question.

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Question Order

There’s only one section of your test that will have these and the SPR questions will always begin at question nine. This is important because the difficulty of this section is structured as if it’s two mini-sections. All the multiple choice math problems will go from easy to hard, and then it resets and the SPR questions go from easy to hard again. A lot of students will just go from start to end, which isn’t really the best approach. Think about it: you get to questions seven and eight of the multiple choice and they tend to be pretty tough. These questions take a lot of the time and effort that could be spent on other questions. People tend to get burnt out with these two and rush through the SPRs, and make countless careless mistakes.

I’ve always been a firm believer of focusing on the easy questions first. The best thing to do would be to do the first three (or so) multiple choice, and then jump right into the SPRs. You’ll notice that questions one and two tend to be just as easy as nine and 10. At the same time, questions seven and eight will be just as difficult as the final two SPRs of the section. So pick out all the easy ones first. Don’t get stuck at the end of the multiple choice questions when you have easier questions waiting for you.

Incorrect Answers

For every multiple choice question that you get wrong, the SAT folks will take a quarter of a point that you’ve already earned away from you. This doesn’t apply with the SPRs. If you get one of these incorrect, your points aren’t touched like with the multiple choice questions. If you get it right, then you earn the point. This doesn’t mean that you don’t have to do them, this means you should do them! Even if you guess one of these questions wrong, you don’t get any points deducted.

I’m not saying to dedicate 25 minutes, but don’t leave them blank, EVER. If the question is too tough, then take an educated guess. If the question wants a number between one and 10, guess a number. You don’t have to work out a question you can’t answer, but at least fill something in — you have nothing to lose

Know the Scantron

You have to fill the bubbles in. This may seem silly to even point out, but I’ve seen students write correct answers in the boxes on the scantron without filling in the corresponding bubble. The College Board isn’t going to have someone sift through tests to check for this, so make sure to fill in the bubbles if you want the points.

There’s no negative scantron bubble. All of your answers will be positive or zero. If you came up with a negative answer, something went wrong. Also, remember that fractions are your friend. Don’t waste time and convert all of your answers into decimals, just grid in the answer that you came up with. The test will score 11/5 the same as 2.4. If you have a repeating decimal, play it safe and just enter the fraction. Gridding in .3 for an answer of 1/3 will be graded as incorrect. If your calculator shows you the repeating decimal (.33333333333333) just hit Math, Enter, Enter on your graphing calculator for the fraction to grid in.

Keep these three easy tips in mind and these SAT math problems will be just as easy or just as hard as any other question. Do the easy ones first. Don’t leave any of them blank. Know what you can and can’t grid in.

JustinLJustin L. teaches ACT math, PSAT, SAT, and test prep in Merrick, NY.  He received his Bachelor of Science in Math and Masters of Arts in Math Education at Adelphi University. Justin has more than six years of experience working with students privately, in classrooms, as well as store-front tutoring companies. Learn more about Justin here!



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5 Science Tips for Those Struggling on the ACT


One of the big differences between the ACT and the SAT is the science section presented in the former. Nervous? Don’t worry! Get ahead of the game with these ACT science practice tips from Merrick, NY tutor Justin L...


When I first started working with students who were preparing for the ACT, I was a little squeamish when tackling the science section. Not because of the content, but because the presentation of the material seemed almost foreign to me. As a math person, I was used to the quick hits of the math sections of the SAT and ACT. I had to learn how to approach the questions and lengthy readings so I wouldn’t be stuck reading the same passage over and over. Here are five ACT science practice tips I picked up that students should keep in mind.

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1. Read The Passage First

I remember when I tackled my first ACT practice test, I thought I could be slick and read the questions first and just find the answer in the graph or passage. This is a great tip that I picked up from practicing the English/Verbal sections. On the English/Verbal sections it’s a great idea, but not so much on the science. I guarantee that you will end up reading the same thing multiple times and still end up with incorrect answers. It’s better to read everything first. Analyze your graphs and charts, and read the passage in its entirety. The questions will be quicker and easier if you have a solid understanding of what the passage is really about.

2. Get a Highlighter

This may sound trivial, but there is key information hidden right in front of your eyes. Have your highlighter handy to make a visual cue for you to go back to when you are focusing on the questions. Rereading a paragraph twice is a waste of time and will end up costing you points.

3. Read the Italics

Again, there’s key information hidden right in front of you! Take your highlighter and make sure to go over the blurbs at the very beginning of the passage. Sometimes it’s in italics (this is a dead giveaway), sometimes it’s a definition of a new word, or sometimes it’s hidden just before a graph or chart. When you look at it briefly, it just looks like some flavor text, but more often than not you will need it to answer one of the more difficult multiple choice questions of the passage.

4. Identify the Trend

Whenever you have to work on data presented as a table, look for a trend. The questions will ask you to figure out whether or not the numbers tend to go up or go down. This may seem simple, but it’s not going to be obvious when you are looking at it in practice. If you can’t identify the trend, sketch a quick line graph. It doesn’t have to be too precise, just eyeball it. See if the lines tend to go up or down, and make a note whenever the lines cross. For example, if the question is asking about the time it takes to boil two chemicals at different altitudes, pay attention to when boiling time increases with altitude, when boiling time goes down and altitude goes up, and when boiling times are the same.

5. 5 Ws

The more difficult passages tend to be the wordier ones and conflicting viewpoint passages with writings from two scientists. When reading, make sure to highlight what the scientist believes in, what they use to support that, what experiments they did, and what the results were. Also make note of what the scientists agree on and what they disagree on.

For some practice, I usually recommend the articles on ScienceDaily. Pick one article a day and go through it with your highlighter. Again, make a note of what the scientist believes in, why they believe that, what experiments they conducted, and what the results were. This is great practice for those like me who struggled with the wordier passages. There are articles on a lot of different topics, so make sure that you select some that interest you and some others that don’t. Your ACT test isn’t going to be filled with much entertainment so it’s best to be prepared for it.


Justin L. teaches ACT math, PSAT, SAT, and test prep in Merrick, NY.  He received his Bachelor of Science in Math and Masters of Arts in Math Education at Adelphi University. Justin has more than six years of experience working with students privately, in classrooms, as well as store-front tutoring companies. Learn more about Justin here!



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5 SAT Math Tips for the Numerically Challenged


Nervous about the math portion of the SAT? Grab an SAT math practice test, sit down, and review these helpful tips from Merrick, NY tutor Justin L...


After you’ve taken a SAT math practice test or two, most students can admit that the actual “math” on the SAT really isn’t that tough — it’s figuring out what they actually have to do.

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Sure, there may be a few shaky topics here and there or something that your teacher hasn’t gone over too much, but for the most part it’s not the actual calculations that frustrate most people. The real challenge comes from digging through the question to figure out what it is they actually want you to do. So to help you through this, I’m going to share some pro tips and get you heading in the right direction.

1) Underline

Underline important information: what X is, what Y is, or anything else that may seem important. Even if you’re not sure, the act of sitting there with your pencil and looking for these things as you read will help you retain the information. I know it sounds silly and way too easy, but if you make a visual trigger for your eye to jump to, you will be able to spot the important info quicker.

When dealing with word problems that are presented as daunting paragraphs, check out the last line or two first. The College Board tends to hide your actual goal at the end of a question. Underline it! Do that first and then read the question. You will have a better understanding of what to do if you know that you have to solve for X (or whatever they may want) at the very beginning.

2) Skip Multiple Choice Questions

Don’t do the questions you can’t get right. Yes, skip them. I’m not going to explain the scoring right now, but if you skip the hard questions, topics that you usually can’t do, and/or the last two multiple choice questions, you will end up better on time, less stressed out, and your score will jump. Try not to skip the first five multiple choice questions and never skip a student-produced response ever! The part twos where you actually come up with the answer and grid in the number do not penalize you if you get them wrong the way multiple choice questions do. Even if you have no clue, just grid in an educated guess.

3) Draw

The geometry questions can be very vague and many students aren’t sure where to start. So always draw a picture and label everything that you can. Most of the time, that’s the hardest part. Once you get everything labeled, just fill in all your blanks. Fill in every angle and side you can, jot down area and perimeter if you can, and then go back to the question. Once you get all the info illustrated and (neatly) labeled, go back to the question. Your handy-dandy diagram will have everything you need to get the answer.

4) Plug In Numbers

If your question is all variables, and those same variables are in your answers, just plug in numbers. Technically, any number will work. Just be smart about it. Use nice, easy, happy little numbers like 2, 5, or -3. Stay away from big ugly numbers like 19 and stay away from multiples of the same number.  If you have to select three numbers to plug in and your first choice is 5, don’t use 10, 15, or 20 as your other numbers. Write down in your test book what you’re plugging in. You will forget. Trust me. Jot down what number you are using for each letter, plug them into the question, get a real answer, then take your numbers that you picked and plug them into the multiple choice answers. One of the multiple choice answers will match what you did.

Let me give you an example. Tom works h hours at p dollars an hour. So let’s say this guy works 4 hours (h=4) and gets $10/hr (p=10.) It looks like Tom is going to bring home $40 for the day. Take your 4 and 10. Plug them into all of your multiple choice answers and see what comes out to your answer of 40. One of the answers would be p x h and that would be it. If you have a match then you have a correct answer.

5) Don’t Freak Out

Take a deep breath and relax. The formulas are there for you. There really isn’t that much you need to memorize; make yourself a one-page study guide of things to remember and you will be fine. Skip the hard questions. Make sure you use a pencil. Make sure your phone is off. If you made the effort to prepare, did a few SAT practice tests, do well in school, read for fun, and maybe play a little chess you will succeed. Don’t freak out.


Justin L. teaches ACT math, PSAT, SAT, and test prep in Merrick, NY.  He received his Bachelor of Science in Math and Masters of Arts in Math Education at Adelphi University. Justin has more than six years of experience working with students privately, in classrooms, as well as store-front tutoring companies. Learn more about Justin here!



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5 Books to Help You With TOEFL Preparation


Gearing up to take the Test of English as a Foreign Language (TOEFL)? Here, online tutor Marcus S. rounds up the top books to help with your TOEFL preparation…


If you are studying for the TOEFL, it probably means you are moving to another country to attend a university or start a new career. With all of the other paperwork and planning you have to deal with, passing the TOEFL can feel like an impossible task. But with a professional tutor and the best study guides available, you’ll be able learn fast and effectively, and get an excellent score on the TOEFL.

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1. McGraw-Hill Education 400 Must-Have Words for the TOEFL

Not knowing the definition of one of the words in a reading comprehension sentence or vocab question on the TOEFL can keep you from figuring out the correct answer to the question. That’s why the distinguished McGraw-Hill Education company has put together a book that features more than 400 of the most common high-level vocabulary words found on the test. 400 Must-Have Words for the TOEFL isn’t just a list of definitions — it also has 150 learning exercises, plus tips and example sentences, and it gives you free access to an interactive mobile phone app created by Language Labs for additional TOEFL preparation.

2. TOEFL Grammar Guide: 23 Grammar Rules You Must Know To Guarantee Your Success On The TOEFL Exam!

The basics of grammar for a native language are learned subconsciously by children from a young age. Learning the grammar of a different language as an adult is one of the hardest parts of mastering English. The TOEFL Grammar Guide makes the process simpler by teaching you 23 rules that will help you write clear, correct sentences on the exam.

3. Barron’s TOEFL iBT

It’s impossible to properly prepare for the TOEFL without hearing correctly spoken English as you practice. The Barron’s TOEFL iBT test prep book comes with audio CDs that let you listen to questions and directions spoken in English. It also give you seven full practice TOEFL tests, a review of skills needed for the exam, and a CD-ROM that features simulations of the online exam. Along with this, Barron’s test prep program includes tips for taking notes, summarizing long passages, and other skills that will not only help you do better on the TOEFL but become a better student in general.

4. Speaking and Writing Strategies for the TOEFL iBT

The speaking and writing sections of the TOEFL are the most difficult for many students, and this book lets you focus on these challenging questions. Author Bruce Stirling teaches you how to approach speaking and writing answers with a strategy called “argument mapping.” This technique is designed to give you a step-by-step method of answering each question, so you can work quickly and efficiently. Different strategies are given for both basic and advanced test-takers, and the techniques can be used on any type of speaking or writing question on the TOEFL.

5. Official TOEFL iBT Tests with Audio

Once you’ve learned the skills and techniques needed to correctly answer TOEFL questions, it will be time to take real tests written by the ETS testing service. This book includes five practice tests that have each been used as official TOEFL exams, along with a CD to let you listen to the audio portions of the TOEFL.

Learning and perfecting a new language can be overwhelming. If you don’t know where to start and what path to follow, you can end up just jumping around from subject to subject and not improving much. These expert TOEFL preparation books will give you a map to learning the English you need to excel on the test in an organized and thoughtful way.

MarcusSMarcus S. tutors online in a variety of subjects. He has been trained and certified to teach classes and give individual tutoring to students in the SAT, GMAT, GRE, and LSAT for the Princeton Review. Learn more about Marcus here!



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5 Important Test-Taking Tips to Overcome Anxiety


Do you get nervous before taking exams? You’re not alone! Here, New York, NY tutor Lauren P. shares some helpful test taking tips for overcoming your anxiety…


You’ve already used every tactic and justification to convince your subconscious to let go of test anxiety. Despite your logical arguments, if you can still feel the tension in your body and panic flooding your brain, don’t lose hope. Take a deep breath and consider the following solutions.

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1. Stop fearing the unknown (or expecting the worst)

Almost all fear is simply fear of the unknown. Another kind of fear comes from expecting the worst. This, of course, is also unknown since we cannot predict the future. To take your upcoming test out of the realm of the unknown, try one of the following:

• Over-prepare, so you can be confident.
• Pay attention in class, keep organized notes, and complete all reading and homework assignments.
• Use fun and informative online test prep, practice tests, and study forums to learn information in a new way.
• Search for subject or test-specific apps, YouTube videos, Quizlet pages, or resource websites.
• Study ahead of time independently, with a partner, in a study group, and with your tutor.
• Set up appointments with your teacher to get extra study materials and his or her personal tips for doing well.
• Take a practice or pre-test (ask your teacher if he/she has one).
• If possible, practice in the actual test setting. (Mentally, this will trick your brain into feeling calm in the test-taking setting and prevent you from feeling anxiety or drawing a blank on the actual test day.)

2. Establish positive associations

The brain is an amazing and infuriating tool. It forms subconscious positive and negative associations that can lead to anything from post-traumatic stress-induced fainting or salivating hunger. Use the following strategies to replace your negative test-taking associations with positive associations.

• Schedule regular study sessions with a post-study party or reward.
• Make cramming fun with friends, snacks, and music, or a post-study meal or movie.
• Schedule a post-test celebration. (This will help you associate tests with rewarding celebratory experiences.)
• Keep a positive frame of mind in the test setting.
• In the actual test, keep something with you that brings you back to a calm state of mind. For example, use scented Chapstick or lotion that reminds you of the beach.
• Take a one-minute break to visualize your “happy place” or “play” your favorite song in your head.

3. Visualize

The power of visualization is so real that doctors have proven that the effects of an athlete visualizing the specifics of an intense training session and successful competition are as beneficial as actually exercising or practicing. If positive visualization has measurable effects on an athlete’s capabilities and success, it can for you too! Visualize breezing through the test, correctly and confidently answering questions, and receiving it back with a perfect score.

4. Keep perspective

As odd as it may sound, the best way to eliminate anxiety is to not care at all how you do or what happens. If you complete all of the above suggestions and are still panicked, it is time for you to take a step back and keep perspective. Think back to past experiences of anxiety. How much did the outcome really matter? Now realize the same is true for this test. Ask yourself how you will feel about this when you are 80 years old — will it really matter? Will it even matter in 10 years, or even one? Probably not.

Maybe you are screaming that this test does affect your life in the long-term. It is time to assume the positive attitude that everything happens for a reason. Most standardized and admission tests that carry long-term consequences allow you to take them multiple times. If not, what is the worst that can possibly happen? Maybe you are not meant to do well on your SAT because you will end up at a school where you will find your true calling or your soul mate. While this may sound crazy, it is important to keep perspective. Remember that everything happens for a reason, and in five, 10, or 15 years, it probably won’t matter anyway.

5. Be honest and upfront about your needs

Okay, okay, so you do care about the score and this does matter. Stop trying to be superhuman and deal with the anxiety on your own. Tell your teacher ahead of time that you have test anxiety and need accommodations. What would relieve your anxiety? It is in your rights to ask for double the amount of time, a proctor to read the test aloud, a small group setting, or a completely separate location without any other students or distractions.

Speaking from experience as a student support coordinator, more than one in 10 students use one of the above testing modifications. If your school is resistant, download a 504 form and have your doctor sign it, explaining that you need extended time or a separate location due to testing anxiety. There is no need to be concerned that use of accommodations will affect your reputation as a stellar student. A large percentage of students benefit from accommodations, and the use of them are completely confidential and unknown to college admissions offices, prospective schools, and employers.

So, to review the above test-taking tips: review your materials with your tutor, take a practice test in the same or a similar test setting, ask your teacher for additional support, establish positive associations, plan for celebration, and visualize positive outcomes. Once you’ve done all that, you will be ready to take your test anxiety-free.

LaurenPLauren tutors in various subjects in New York, NY. She has her Master’s Degree in Education (with a concentration in students with learning disabilities), and is a certified NYC Special Education teacher. Learn more about Lauren here!



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