Study Tips for AP Statistics Test

How to Score a 5 on the AP Statistics Exam

Study Tips for AP Statistics Test

Getting ready to take the AP Statistics exam? Create the perfect AP Statistics study guide these helpful tips from Olympia, WA tutor Tali H.

If you’re nervous about taking the Advanced Placement (AP) stats exam, you’re not alone. This college-level course can challenge even the brightest of mathematical minds. The good news is that there are many methods for maximizing your score on the AP stats test, and we’ll cover some of our favorites here.

About the AP Stats Exam

Unless statistics already come naturally to you, passing the AP stats test will take more time and energy than your average high school class. That’s because AP courses are meant to prepare you for the kind of critical thinking that college requires. If you take the time to learn the concepts, take the AP stats practice exam, and know your calculator inside-and-out, you’ll be in good shape on test day.

Many high schools and colleges give AP classes an extra grade point. While acing average high school classes can get you a 4.0 GPA, AP classes make it possible to get that number closer to 5.0. That’s because an “A” on your AP stats exam can give you five grade points. This also means that a “B” in AP stats equals an “A” in non-AP courses. Be sure to check how your particular school handles grade points when it comes to AP courses.

The three-hour AP Statistics exam consists of two sections: the 90-minute, 40-question multiple-choice section and the 90-minute short answer section (which will have four to seven 10-minute open-ended questions and one 30-minute investigative task).

The exam covers exploring data (describing patterns and departures from patterns), sampling and experimentation (planning and conducting a study), anticipating patterns (producing models using probability and simulation), and statistical inference (estimating population parameters and testing hypotheses). For more information about the exam content, visit the College Board Website.

Here are some tips for pulling together your AP statistics study guide.

1. Have Multiple Resources

The concepts in statistics are relatively easy to understand if the material is presented in a clear, concise way. However, for many students, the textbook doesn’t do the best job of quickly clarifying information. So, what materials do you supplement your textbook with?

This site is beyond helpful for AP preparation. It offers its own free online course, designed specifically with the AP test in mind. Most concepts have an in-depth explanation with examples and two sample questions to answer at the end (in the AP format style), and (this is the best part) excellent PowerPoint videos to visually illustrate almost every concept. Unlike many other instructional videos, these videos move quickly and have been expertly scripted ahead of time. This site also offers graphing calculator technology so you can compute online and on-site, plus links to cheap places to buy calculators and other study materials. Everything you would ever need to ace the exam can be found here.

  • Find a quality AP Statistics study guide

For most AP courses, I recommend getting the Princeton Review AP Test Study Book. But for the AP Stats course, I don’t think it’s necessary, especially if you use the website listed above. The book covers exploring data, and the sampling and experimentation sections satisfactorily. Plus, it comes with two full-length practice tests. However, it is slightly repetitive and confusing when it comes to the anticipating patterns and statistical inference sections, which are the hardest to understand anyway.

2. Know Your Calculator Like the Back of Your Hand

Statistics is very “calculator-heavy,” meaning, if you don’t know how to use your calculator on the test, you’re toast. I recommend getting the Texas Instruments TI-Nspire CX Graphing Calculator, which can usually be found used online for about $60. Before the test, you should be extremely familiar with how to perform tests on your calculator and how to interpret the data. In many cases, especially on the multiple-choice section where no work needs to be shown, you can just plug in some numbers and solve the question. Make sure to bring extra batteries for your calculator when you take the test.

3. Understand the Equations Your Calculator is Doing

In order to get a good score, you need to know more than routine calculator calculations. You need to understand what is actually happening. This is especially important in the short answer section because showing your work is required. In fact, most of the points come from showing your work, and only 1 to 2 points come from having the right answer. This means relying on calculator tricks isn’t going to take you to the finish line on test day.

Keep in mind that some work points may be deducted if you get the wrong answer. At some point in your statistics course, it would be wise to attempt a practice test the long-way, using as little of the calculator as possible (for some problems, it’s necessary), and doing all the calculations by hand. After that, taking the test with a calculator will be easy!

The most difficult part about statistics isn’t actually doing the work (since most of that is done by your calculator), it’s knowing what process or test you’re going to use to solve the problem. You’ll need to understand both the terminology and the statistical processes to earn that 5. This is why repetition of material is key!

Working with a statistics tutor can be a huge help toward remembering and differentiating between all the subtle nuances of statistical tests. The array of excellent statistics tutors on can give you the personalized guidance you need to master the AP stats exam. Online lessons make it easy to instantly connect with your tutor, and get your questions answered fast!

Do you have any other tips on earning a 5 on the AP stats test?

Let us know in the comments below!

TaliHTali H. tutors in various academic subjects in Olympia, WA, as well as through online lessons. Since 2010, she has worked with numerous students in elementary, middle, high school, and college in both group settings and one-on-one. Learn more about Tali here! 



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How to Learn New Languages

The Best Way to Learn a Language: 30 Incredibly Effective Tips and Tricks

How to Learn New Languages

More often than not, the main question on a new language learner’s mind is, “What’s the best way to learn a language?”

Between language lessons, grammar books, conversation practice, and exercises, learning a new language can be a long and challenging process. On the other hand, few things are more rewarding than carrying out a conversation in a foreign tongue.

To help you in your language-learning journey, we sought out the advice of language experts around the globe to compile the ultimate list of language-learning hacks.

If you’re looking for the fastest way to learn a language, here are 30 incredibly effective tips and tricks to help you along the way!

 1. Choose a Word of the Day

Word of the Day

Each morning, pick a new word or two to integrate into your daily life. This is much less overwhelming than trying to memorize several different words all at once.

Incorporating new vocabulary into your day-to-day routine will help you commit these words to memory and learn to use them in real-life situations.

For more on this, check out 6 Ways to Simplify Your Foreign Language Learning by Lifehack expert Allison Lounes.

 2. Connect With Friends and Language Partners

Connect With Friends

Textbooks and grammar workbooks are only one small element of learning a language. You’re not actually fluent and/or functional until you can use your new language in conversation.

The best way to do this is to practice with native speakers.

Not sure where to find people who speak your language of choice? Search for language partners online, or explore language events and Meetup groups in your area.

For more on this tip, check out the Zen Habits post How to Learn A Language in 90 Days (guest post by Maneesh Sethi of Hack the System)

3. Always Carry a Notebook

buy a notebook

This tip is especially important if you plan to travel abroad, but it’s a great idea even if you’re staying local for your studies.

Keep a notebook handy and write down anything you don’t understand while you’re studying – watching TV in your foreign language, doing exercises on an app, or listening to foreign music.

Plus, as Go Overseas blogger Jenny Marshall points out, “something as simple as a Moleskin pocket notebook fits easily almost anywhere, and looks downright important when you pull it out to take notes.”

For more, see 5 Easy Hacks for Learning a New Language Abroad

4. Sink or Swim/All or Nothing

sink or swim

This doesn’t mean you need to put your life in danger, it simply means it’s time to raise the stakes!

Put yourself in a situation where you have to learn your new language, or face failure. It may sound extreme, but it’s one of the best ways to learn a new language.

Travel to Germany, and don’t allow yourself to speak English. Sign up for a language immersion program and jump in without looking back.

Whatever you can do to increase your sense of urgency will help you learn your language in a more useful, efficient way.

Want to make sure you hold yourself accountable? Let your friends in on your plans so they can help you stay on track!

 5. Learn Cognates in Your New Language

Learn Cogantes

There are cognates in every language, so no matter if you’re learning Korean, Japanese, Spanish, or German, you can use this language-learning hack to your benefit.

Not sure what a cognate is? Cognates are words that are related to words you already know in your native language.

Believe it or not, you may already know several useful words in your new language!

12 Rules for Learning Foreign Languages in Record Time-The Only Post You’ll Ever Need – The Tim Ferris Experiment.

 6. Use an App

Download an app

Want to learn a new language? There’s an app for that!

Smartphone and tablet apps are super convenient because you can take them anywhere and practice on the go.

There are apps available for just about any language, and they generally include grammar lessons, vocabulary, and pronunciation guides. Apps are also a great way to mix things up; they’re interactive and can break up the monotony of reading a textbook or listening to lectures.

Pro Tip: Try TakeLessons Live for access to free language classes led by live instructors!

– 5 cool apps that will help you learn a new language by Jessica Hullinger.

 7. Focus on What’s Relevant

focus on what's relevant

Learning a new language can be an overwhelming endeavor. It’s hard to determine where to start and which approach to take. To simplify this process, focus on the things that are most important or interesting on a personal level.

If you’re learning French for an upcoming trip, learn the essential phrases that will help you communicate and navigate while traveling.

“You’re more likely to learn vocabulary that’s related to your interests, than you are to learn the names of kitchen utensils (unless you happen to love kitchen utensils) and other stuff that you don’t care about.”

– 21 Tips and Hacks for Learning a Foreign Language by Marelisa, creator of Daring to Live Fully.

 8. Set up a Routine

Set up a Routine

Learning anything new is easier when you make it a recurring part of your life. Make practicing your new language a non-negotiable part of your day.

Remember, learning a language is not a one-size-fits-all experience. You’re more likely to stick to your routine if it’s realistic and feasible. Try to set aside some time every day for you to focus on your language studies.

– The Secret to Learning a Foreign Language as an Adult by David Bailey.

 9. Find and Attend Local Events

attend events

Some of the most rewarding language-learning experiences happen outside of the classroom.

“Local events are a unique opportunity to practice, learn, and at the same time, pursue your other interests,” says travel writer Isabel Eva Bohrer. “There is a myriad of opportunities, it’s just a matter of finding one that is useful, fun, and interesting for you.”

– 6 Ways to Learn a Foreign Language Fast

 10. Remember Your Purpose

why you started

No matter how far along you are in your language-learning journey, it’s important to be mindful of why you started this process. Understanding your purpose will help you stay motivated and keep you on track.

“…if you don’t have a good reason to learn a language, you are less likely to stay motivated over the long-run,” says Babbel author John-Erik Jordan. “No matter your reason, once you’ve decided on a language, it’s crucial to commit.”

10 Tips and Tricks to Pick Up Any Language

11. Track Your Progress

Track Your Progress

Keeping track of your progress will help you celebrate the small victories along the way. This is crucial to help you stay motivated.

Plus, learning a new language generally involves traveling, events, and new experiences. Whether you use a written journal or a digital photo app, keep track of these life-long memories.

“Document your adventures with photographs and add captions in your new language,” says Huffington Post writer Stephanie Oswald. “The more you learn, the more fun your story will become to write.”

– Want to Learn a Foreign Language?

12. Learn the Phrase “How do you say X?”

How do you say x

This is one of the most important phrases you can learn in your new language. If you need to ask for directions, introduce yourself, or ask for help, this phrase is critical.

Not only can this phrase help you build up your vocabulary, but you can also use it to break the ice when you’re not sure how to communicate with someone.

– 22 Tips for Learning a Foreign Language by Mark Manson

 13. Learn What You Need

learn what you need

You know the phrase “take what you like and leave the rest”? Well, it applies to learning a language, too.

Learning every component of grammar in your new language may help you pass a test in school, but this won’t necessarily make you fluent and functional.

Determine the most important things that you need to know, and learn these things first.

“So, put aside the grammar book and get yourself a travel phrasebook instead (they are small and only cost a couple of dollars),” says Benny Lewis from Fluent in 3 Months. “Learn the essentials in a few hours that would be pretty universally needed as the core of basic conversation, and then learn what you want to say.”

– Becoming a Man of the World: How to Learn Another Language

 14. Pace Yourself: One Step at a Time

one step at a time

When you’re studying a new language, you usually want to know the quickest way to learn. One of the fastest ways to learn a language, however, is to pace yourself and learn little bits at a time.

“Learn faster by exposing yourself to listening and reading in short bursts, several times a day,” says Get-It-Done Guy Stever Robbins. “Five minutes here and ten minutes there makes the language sink in much better than marathon language study sessions.”

– How to Learn a Language Quickly

 15. Intensity of Study Trumps Length of Study

intensity of study

Study smarter, not harder. How you study is much more important than how much you study.

“What I mean by this is that studying a language four hours a day for two weeks will be more beneficial for you than studying one hour a day for two months.”

22 Tips for Learning a Foreign Language by Mark Manson

 16. Make Mistakes and Learn from Them

Make Mistakes

When you first start using your new language, you’re going to stumble and make mistakes, and that’s OK!

It’s important that you don’t get discouraged; embrace these mistakes as natural steps in the learning process.

“For me, there came a point, though, when I just became totally unapologetic about it,” says Jason, blogger and founder of the Spanish Vault. “I’ve got to start somewhere, and the more mistakes I make, the faster I learn.”

Read more about learning a foreign language from this interview with Jason on Language Surfer.

 17. Start Spreading the News


Watching, reading, listening, and talking about the news in your new language is a fantastic way to learn vocabulary and usage.

Olly Richards, founder of I Will Teach You A Language, recommends this as a Japanese learning hack, but this strategy can be applied to any foreign language.

The news will help you become more comfortable with the language, and also give you up-to-date information about the country and culture.

This tip will come in handy when you plan to travel!

 18. Try the Food

Try the Food

Discovering new foods is one of the most fun aspects of learning any new language! You may discover some new favorite foods or recipes, and you will be able to practice your vocabulary and speaking skills.

It’s a delicious, win-win learning strategy!

– 5 Ridiculously Easy Ways to Learn a Foreign Language by Cher Hale

 19. Use Your Intuition

Use intuition

Learning a new language naturally requires logic and analysis, but many language learners make the mistake of neglecting their intuition.

In many cases, you intuitively know how to interpret social cues and behavior. When you begin using your language in real-life situations, your intuition will come in handy, especially if you hear unfamiliar words or phrases.

Embrace your intuition and natural instincts, they can help you.

“Basically, spend most of your time figuring out meaning from all the cues in a situation,” says Ron, a Language Surfer writer. “But every once in a while, take the time to study the language and understand the language rationally.”

How to Learn a Language Fast: 5 Things to Speed Up the Process

 20. Watch Movies


Put on a movie in your language of choice and take notes on any words or phrases you don’t understand. Pay attention the vocabulary you already know and listen to the pronunciation and intonation.

Don’t just listen watch the characters’ body language and see what you can infer from their actions. You can also watch YouTube videos with language lessons.

FluentU recommends this strategy in this article about learning French, but it’s a great learning tool for any language.

 21. Believe in Yourself


Confidence is half the battle. You have to believe you can do something in order to succeed. So, while you may struggle along the way, pick yourself back up and keep moving forward!

“My belief is that everybody has the ability to learn a foreign language,” says Lingholic writer Sam Gendreau. “After all, you learned your mother tongue, didn’t you? You just have to learn to step outside of your comfort zone and believe in yourself.”

– Learning a foreign Language – 10 Most Common Mistakes

 22. Find Ways to Relax


This doesn’t just mean giving yourself downtime between study sessions (although this is important); find ways to relax in your new language.

Watch TV shows, listen to music, learn about pop culture. Whatever you like to do to relax, find a way to do it using your new language. The point is to enjoy the learning process!

42 Insane Japanese Language Learning Hacks! by Olly Richards

 23. Enough!

tips and tricks template

This one word can be a big help when it comes to learning a new language.

Basically, develop the mindset that you have exactly what you need to learn your new language, and let go of all of the excuses and limitations that would normally hinder you from doing something.

You have enough time, you have enough resources, and you have enough brain power to accomplish what you set out to do.

“This word should be your mantra when learning a language,” says Language Mastery writer John Fortheringham. “When you find yourself procrastinating, making excuses, and putting off speaking practice out of fear, this string of six letters can help put you back on track.”

 24. Be Kind to Yourself

Be Kind

Again, you’re going to make mistakes and you’re going to struggle.

This is a natural part of the learning process. Don’t fight it; embrace it.

Rather than beating yourself up for making mistakes or not learning as quickly as you’d like to, congratulate yourself for your hard work, and acknowledge your accomplishments – even the little ones.

– The Best Ways to Learn a Language as an Adult

 25. Act it Out

Act it Out

Put your acting skills to the test and role play in your new language. Not only is this fun, it’s effective because you learn how to use the language in different situations.

Connect with native speakers or find some study partners in your area.

Not only is this one of the best ways to learn a foreign language, but you’ll be having fun and making friends at the same time.

End scene!

Pangea Learning

 26. Make Flashcards


Flashcards are useful, portable study tools to help you learn vocabulary and essential phrases.

If you prefer digital flashcards, try these downloadable flashcards from anki.

If you’re feeling crafty, make your own flashcards and bring them with you to study on the go!

7 Secrets to Learning a Language Fast

 27. Storytelling


The Heisig Method, which is essentially storytelling, was developed to help aspiring Japanese speakers learn to read kanji characters. This effective learning tool can be applied to any foreign language.

With the Heisig Method, you create funny stories based on the meaning of each kanji character. So, for your own language studies, get your creative juices flowing and come up with some fun stories using vocabulary words.

This method also helps you break up vocabulary into smaller parts, so that you can master one thing at a time.

Zooming Japan blogger Jasmine T. used this strategy to learn nearly two thousand kanji characters in only two months.

 28. Enlist a Friend

enlist a friend

Any new endeavor is easier and more fun when you do it with a friend versus going it alone. If you’ve challenged yourself to learn a new language, grab your best friend and encourage him or her to do the same.

Of course, your friend may not have the same reason for learning a new language, so you may need to step out of your comfort zone and find some new friends or study partners with similar goals.

“It’s fun doing something with someone else, and often if one person loses motivation, the other person will help keep you both on track. I also am very motivated by wanting to help the other person, and while doing something for myself is also a great goal, doing it for someone else helps a lot.”

– The Best & Less-than-Best Motivations for Learning by zen habits writer Leo Babauta.

29. Learn Synonyms


Learning synonyms in a new language can be the difference between understanding the language in a classroom setting, and being able to apply it to real-world situations. Understanding synonyms allows you to use the correct word in the right situation.

“Fluency is not just the ability to function in all contexts, it’s also the ability to function well,” says language teacher and polyglot Alex Rawlings. “If you haven’t grown up with a language, you will probably be largely unaware of certain nuances or connotations that words and phrases may have. You will remain unaware of these, unless you immerse yourself culturally.”

Rawlings suggests boosting your knowledge of synonyms by learning alternative words when you memorize new vocabulary terms. While this might be time consuming at first, it will help you understand the language on a deeper level, and help you apply your knowledge of the language when you interact with native speakers.

Synonyms: your shortcut to fluency

30. Immersion


This one may be a bit more difficult than the rest of the items on the list because it involves time, future planning, and money – but it’s without a doubt the best way to learn a new language.

Making language practice part of your day is mandatory when you’re in a country that uses that language. It’s no longer an obligation, but instead a necessity to be able to function and communicate.

“When you don’t have any choice but to speak the language you are learning, you will make faster progress.”

Slip of the Tongue

If you’re serious about becoming fluent in a new language, plan ahead or join a language immersion program.

If you don’t think this is feasible, or if you still want to get a great language-learning experience close to home, try these tips to simulate immersion.

There you have it – the 30 essential tips and tricks for language learning success! Remember that you don’t have to go it alone on your journey to fluency. By far, the best way to learn a language is with the help of a private tutor. Even if you don’t have any teachers in your neighborhood, online language lessons make it easy to connect with native speakers around the globe.

Do you have some more language-learning hacks to add to the list?

Let us know in the comments below!

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Tips for studying for AP Spanish

13 Must-Read Tips to Ensure a 5 on the AP Spanish Test

Tips for studying for AP SpanishGearing up for the AP Spanish exam? Check out these 13 helpful tips from tutor Jason N. to increase your confidence…


Spanish continues to prevail as the second language of the United States. It is also the most frequently studied second language in high schools, colleges, and graduate schools. If you are preparing for the AP Spanish Language and Culture Exam, it probably means that your Spanish is already strong, and you are on track to becoming fluent. Congratulations!

This AP Spanish test is designed to measure how well you communicate with others in Spanish, how well you can present, and how well you can interpret (and respond to) what you read and hear. This includes your ability to think critically, your overall fluency, and how accurate your grammar is, especially your ability to form coherent sentences. You should pass if you can comprehend Spanish close to how a native speaker would in many different contexts, most of which come from various Spanish-speaking milieu. The exam also gauges your cultural knowledge of Spanish-speaking countries and peoples.

If you’re feeling overwhelmed, bear with me. It may sound daunting, but you can do it! Similar to any standardized or AP test, the key is anxiety management and preparing well in advance. Here are 13 tips that will help you prepare for and defeat the AP Spanish exam:

  1. Get a Spanish tutor! There are tons of study booklets and materials available to help you practice, but a tutor can help you find the best ones, plus provide tips for helping you organize and channel your time. For a limited time, you can also check out one of TakeLessons’ live, online Spanish classes for free.
  2. Practice Spanish on mobile applications. These can help make learning fun and dynamic, where textbooks may fail.
  3. Manage your anxiety! Your fear about bombing the test may become a significant barrier, potentially bigger than the studying and the test’s difficulty itself! Remember, you got this far already. Mindfulness techniques can help — it’s no coincidence that students who believe in their ability to pass usually do.
  4. Begin studying early — preferably four months before. Our brains absorb information the best when it’s presented relatively briefly but consistent over a large time span, such as 30-60 minutes of studying 3-6 times weekly. This is particularly true of language learning — this is why many Spanish classes are scheduled daily for an hour, whereas non-language classes are often scheduled in two-hour blocks once or twice weekly.
  5. Don’t underestimate the importance of practice tests. Kaplan and the Princeton Review both offer practice tests online. There are also many practice tests for the AP Spanish exam available for free online.
  6. Know how to conjugate most verbs, especially the most commonly used ones, like tener, poder, and hablar.
  7. Know the difference between por and para, ser and estar, and conocer and saber. The multiple choice part, which is half the test, tends to focus on this and is formulaic and straightforward to learn and practice.
  8. Know the basic formulas of certain grammatical structures, such as superlatives (Él es el más…).
  9. Know the time tenses, like el imperfecto, perterito, el plusperfecto, condicional, and futuro.
  10. Know plural and singular, and masculine vs. feminine. I cannot tell you how many people have incorrectly answered certain multiple questions, or were dinged in the writing sections due to a silly mistake here. Remember that many nouns don’t follow the basic rule that nouns ending in -a are feminine and nouns that end in -o are masculine. There are many exceptions to this rule, such as el tema and la mano.
  11. Keep your general Spanish skills fresh by practicing regularly! Keep in touch with friends you meet from Spanish-speaking countries and practice with people you know who also speak Spanish.
  12. Watch telenovelas. They can be funny, but corny. If they hook you, they make for great practice!
  13. Download Pandora and listen to Spanish music on your smartphone. Many of them are catchy and learning the lyrics can give your Spanish a great lift!

In conclusion, you can do it! Systematic and early practice is the key. Set up a consistent study schedule, consult your Spanish tutor for additional study tips and conversation practice, and stay positive!

Need help with additional AP tests? Check out our tips for the:

JasonNJason N. tutors English and Spanish in Fairfax, CA. He majored in Spanish at UC Davis, lived in Mexico for 3 years where he completed a Master’s degree in Counseling, and studied Spanish Literature and Psychology at the University of Costa Rica. Learn more about Jason here! 



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study japanese

7 Simple Ways to Study Japanese

study japanese

Lots of people are interested in learning Japanese, but they quickly discover that Japanese is not a simple language. With hard work and the right study habits, learning the language can be fun and rewarding. Here are seven easy ways to study Japanese from language teacher Elaina R

When you’re learning a new language, it’s important to start small and slowly build on what you’re learning in your classes or lessons. Consistent study time and practice will help to reinforce both the written and spoken language, grammar rules, and pronunciation. Here are some simple and effective strategies to help you study Japanese.

1. Set Reasonable Goals

Learning a new language doesn’t happen instantaneously. Accept that it will take time and effort. Set small, manageable goals for yourself. For example, challenge yourself to learn five new words or characters every day. Small goals are much less daunting, and your accomplishments will add up over time.

2. Make a Schedule

After you’ve set some goals for yourself, make a schedule to study Japanese. It’s best to study a little bit every day, even if it’s just for 20 to 30 minutes. Set aside a specific time of day, whatever works best with your schedule, and stick to it.

3. Make Japanese Part of Your Day

Constant exposure to the language will increase your understanding and help you learn Japanese faster. In addition to your daily study time, find some creative ways to sneak more Japanese into your life. Try listening to Japanese podcasts, radio stations, and TV shows. Even if you don’t understand these programs at first, listening will help. Download some Japanese learning apps and games to play when you’re bored.

4. Get a Kana Workbook

The Japanese writing system consists of kana (simple characters) and kanji (Chinese-derived characters). Hiragana, one type of kana, is used for conjunctions, word endings, and other filler purposes. Katakana, the other type of kana, is used for foreign-derived words.

There are less than 100 kana characters, and if you learn these first, you will be better equipped to tackle kanji. Don’t just copy them off the internet; buy a kana workbook to teach you stroke order. Stroke order is very important in Japanese. Kana has fewer strokes than kanji, so start with kana and master these characters before you move on to kanji.

5. Read Japanese Books

Once you’ve mastered kana, you’re ready to start reading simple Japanese books. I recommend using basic children’s books to start. Look for books with three- to four-word sentences and a lot of pictures. Amazon has lots of free Kindle books to get you started. Also, find out if there is a Japanese bookstore in your area; many cities have at least one.

6. Learn About Formal and Informal Japanese

Formal and informal Japanese are very different. Though I learned informal Japanese from my mom, I never learned formal Japanese because I never went to school or worked in Japan. I still have to concentrate really hard to speak in keigo, or formal Japanese.

In school and most language learning programs, you will learn formal Japanese, which is used in business settings. If you watch anime or listen to native Japanese speakers, however, you will hear informal Japanese. Read about the differences, and pay attention to which style you hear in conversation.

7. Get a Tutor or Learning Buddy

There’s only so much you can learn on your own. A tutor can help you correct your pronunciation and improve your grammar. He or she can also develop a teaching plan that fits your specific needs. You can practice speaking Japanese with a friend or learning buddy, and apply the new concepts to real-life situations. If you don’t have any friends who are studying Japanese, you can search for a conversation group in your area.

Making the language part of your daily routine is a simple but effective way to study Japanese. What are some other creative ways to learn Japanese?

Elaina RElaina R. teaches singing in Ann Arbor, MI. She is acquainted with many languages and speaks English, Japanese, Italian, and German. As a singer, she pays particular attention to language and pronunciation. She earned a Bachelor of Music from the University of Southern California, and she is currently working on her Master of Music from the University of Michigan. Learn more about Elaina here!


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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.

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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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.

  • – 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, 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, 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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