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Archive for the ‘Tips’ Category

10 Tips For Doing Well on High School Entrance Exams

Thursday, September 7th, 2017

standardized tests

There is almost nothing as stressful as taking a standardized test – especially one that may determine which school you attend for the next four years. And if you’re an 8th grader in Chicago, a lot is riding on how you score on your standardized high school entrance exams.

Although it’s impossible to know exactly what questions you’ll face when taking these tests, luckily there are a few tried-and-true strategies you can follow to improve your scores and reach your potential.

Here are a couple of the tips that we’ll be discussing in our upcoming Ultimate 8th Grade Test Prep workshops, starting Sept. 9 and 12, which prepare Chicago-area 8th graders who are about to take the NWEA MAP & SEHS (for CPS selective enrollment high schools), HSPT (for Catholic high schools), ISEE (for private high schools) and SSAT (for boarding schools).

  1. Guess on questions you don’t know & come back to them later (except on the NWEA MAP)
    One of the basic rules of doing well on standardized tests is answering the questions you know first. If a question looks too challenging, skip it. The questions are all worth the same number of points, so don’t spend your time wrestling with a question when you could be spending time on other questions you know. If you feel like you’ve spent too much time on a certain question, you probably have. Make an educated guess, circle the question so you can come back to it later, and then move on.
  2. Read the questions & answer choices carefully
    Don’t get something wrong just because you read a question wrong or went too fast. Make sure to read the questions all the way so you don’t get tricked. In reading comprehension questions, read the questions and answer choices even more carefully than the passages. Look out for words like “except,” “all but,” or “not,” which greatly affect which answer you should choose. In vocabulary questions, don’t let your brain trick you into thinking it’s a familiar word when it’s actually something different (for example: hollowed vs. hallowed).
  3. Look at ALL the answers before deciding on the BEST answer
    One trap that students fall into is settling on the first good choice they see without even reading all of the options. If there doesn’t seem to be a perfect choice, go with the best choice or, in math, rework the problem until you get a precise answer.
  4. Use process of elimination
    All the correct answers are there, you just have to pick the right one. That’s why it’s often easier to eliminate the silly options first and focus on what is left. This is especially useful in vocabulary sections where the sentence completion has more than one blank to be filled in. And in reading comprehension questions, eliminate the following types of answers:

    • Extremes (these usually have words like “always” or “never”).
    • Duplicates; if two of the answer choices are “happy” and “joyful,” it would be pretty tough to choose between them, so eliminate both.
    • Look for keywords in the answer choices that get to the heart of what that answer is about. Then determine if that key idea is mentioned or implied in the passage. If not, eliminate it.
  5. Double-check before moving on
    The ten seconds you spend double-checking could make a huge difference in where you end up going to high school and spending the next four years of your life, so train yourself to be 100% sure. For math questions, check by plugging in your solution to see that it works or by asking yourself if your answer makes sense. (For example, did you come up with a small decimal when the answer should be a huge number? If so, recalculate.)
  6. For math questions, solve in the easiest way for you
    Ever heard the expression, “There are lots of ways to skin a cat”? Well, there are lots of ways to approach a math problem, too. Solve in the easiest way for you:

    • Back-solve (solve in reverse by plugging in answer choices). This may be the slowest approach, but on the MAP test, time isn’t an issue. So, try it!
    • Estimate.
    • Draw a picture to visualize what the problem is talking about.
    • Write an equation.
  7. For reading comprehension questions, read the entire passage
    Don’t just skim! Make sure you focus on the main ideas of the passage, what the author’s purpose and tone is, and what the piece is really about. When you’re done you should be able to explain the passage in “kitchen logic,” ie, how you would describe what you’ve read when sitting around the kitchen table.
  8. In vocabulary questions, look for clues in the words
    One trick to deciphering vocabulary words is to look for clues, such as smaller known words within the longer unknown word. Example: “prophetic” has the word “prophet” in it. Or see if you can you identify familiar prefixes and suffixes, and use that meaning to narrow down your choices.
  9. Be well rested and fed on test day
    When you’re taking your high school entrance exams, you want your brain to be functioning at its best. To do that, make sure you have had a good night’s sleep and eaten a nutritious breakfast. Then during the test, keep yourself alert with plenty of water and snacks (if allowed in the room).
  10. Visualize success
    Don’t panic! Just do your best. Practice visualizing success and finding a way to block out all distractions before you start each question. Say an encouraging mantra or find another way to remind yourself to stay positive and focused.

Interested in learning more test-taking strategies? Sign up for our Ultimate 8th Grade Test Prep Workshops, starting Sept. 9 or 12!


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Top 10 Mistakes to Avoid Freshman Year

Monday, June 12th, 2017

Freshman year

Entering high school is one of the biggest rites of passage in anyone’s life. Freshman year is a time of new friends and new possibilities, but it’s also a time of increased pressure because what you do now will have a big impact on where you end up in the future.

Want to put your best foot forward? Here are 10 of the biggest mistakes you should avoid during your freshman year of high school.

  1. Thinking Grades Don’t Matter
    Think colleges don’t pay attention to your grades freshman year? Think again! According to a study of CPS high school students, if you end freshman year with a GPA of 3.0 or higher, then you have an 80 percent chance of graduating with a 3.0 or higher. That means if you’re below a 3.0 at the end of freshman year, you only have a 20 percent chance of bringing it above a 3.0 by graduation. In short, freshman year matters!
  2. Not Joining Any Clubs
    Many graduating seniors look back at their freshman and sophomore years and say they wish they would have gotten involved in more clubs and other extracurricular activities. By joining activities, you can build strong, meaningful relationships with teachers, mentors and peers — all people you can turn to later on when you need support or something more formal like a letter of recommendation.
  3. Making a Bad First Impression on Teachers
    It may not be fair, but it is human nature for people to size others up when they first meet them and then hold onto those assumptions. That’s true of teachers as well. If you’re a troublemaker or slacker during the first month of school, it will be hard to change that reputation with teachers. Put your best foot forward and teachers will have high expectations of you, which will help push you to your fullest potential.
  4. Thinking Homework Doesn’t Really Matter
    It does! In some classes, homework is a huge percentage of your grade. And it’s silly to get Bs or Cs because of missing homework when you could really be an A student. Plus, homework isn’t just busy work — it’s practice. And practice is essential if you want to develop long-term knowledge or master a skill.
  5. Asking “When Will I Ever Need to Know This?”
    OK, maybe you’re not going to be a chemist or literary critic when you grow up, but the critical thinking that you learn to do in high school classes — chemistry, English and others — is an essential skill to have in your adult life. (And if you ask, “Why do we need to know this?” out loud, it will definitely make a bad impression on your teacher!) Instead, try being genuinely curious about whatever subject you’re studying and ask lots of questions to keep the class conversation interesting.
  6. Sitting in the Back Row
    If you want to succeed, sit up front. Sitting in the front row makes it easier to stay focused and engaged, and it makes a good impression on the teacher as well.
  7. Taking on an Overwhelming Workload
    This one’s for all you overachievers out there. You have four years to take all of the interesting and exciting classes your school has to offer. Don’t try taking them all your freshman year. Giving up your lunch period to add an eighth class to your schedule might seem like a good idea now, but you will probably realize mid-year that it wasn’t worth it. Success comes from balancing work and rest. Make sure you have appropriate time for both.
  8. Procrastinating on Purpose
    You might think that you’re someone who works better under pressure, but the truth is we all do better work when we give ourselves time to go through a process of planning, implementation, and revision for any project. Plus, who needs the added stress? So strive for the self-discipline needed to practice good time management and get work done in advance.
  9. Missing a Lot of School
    Do your best to minimize absences; even though you can make up the work, you miss the nuances of a class when you aren’t there for it in person. If you absolutely have to be absent, make sure to talk to your teacher before and after to find out what you missed and make up missing work in a timely matter.
  10. Trying Too Hard to Fit In
    It’s tempting when you start freshman year to want to change your entire image to fit in with a new group of friends, but don’t do this. Remember, being yourself is the best way to be comfortable in your own skin and find the friends and opportunities that are the best match for you.

Are you entering freshman year this fall? Sign up for our Freshman Bootcamp, taking place Aug. 14-18 in Chicago, where you’ll develop your own learning methods and discover strategies to make studying more effective and efficient. Sign up today!


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8 Ways to Avoid Summer Brain Drain

Monday, June 12th, 2017

summer reading

In sports, taking time off from practicing makes athletes slow and flabby. The same is true when it comes to school.

Multiple studies have shown that students who don’t do any studying over the summer can face significant academic setbacks in the fall. In fact, a 2011 study by the RAND Corporation found that the average American student loses the equivalent of one month of learning in both reading and math every summer.

That’s why it’s so important to find fun, creative ways to continue learning throughout the summer. Here are eight ideas that you can try to avoid summer brain drain:

  1. Do Your Summer Reading Early
    Instead of putting off all of your summer reading until the last few weeks of break when your brain has already turned to mush, try reading a little bit each week to keep your brain in shape. You can even make a reading calendar for yourself with deadlines for when you will reach certain pages in the books you’ve been assigned and check your calendar each day and celebrate when you reach your goals.
  2. Start a Book Club
    Need some motivation to get your summer reading list finished? Why not call a couple friends from school and create a book club? Pick a date when you all agree you’ll read the book by, and then get together at someone’s house, order a pizza, and talk about the book. Sounds much more fun than doing it yourself, doesn’t it?
  3. Do the Crossword Puzzle
    Feeling bored during the day? Grab a newspaper and challenge yourself to finish the crossword puzzle. Not only do crossword puzzles test your knowledge of a wide range of facts, but they also force you to recall unusual words and keep your vocabulary sharp.
  4. Volunteer
    Instead of sitting around playing video games, why not find an organization that could use some help? Ideally, look for an opportunity that aligns with your future goals, so if you want to become a doctor, volunteer at a hospital or nursing home; if you’re interested in going into architecture, you can build houses with Habitat for Humanity. You’ll get the chance to adapt to a new environment, learn new skills, and think in new ways. Plus, it’s a great thing to put on a future resume! Check out this list of great volunteer opportunities.
  5. Read for Fun
    Yes, you read that correctly. Reading can actually be fun, especially when you’re not going to be tested on it. Head to the library and pick out something that interests you or ask a friend who enjoys reading to give you some recommendations. And it doesn’t have to be fiction. Check out some memoirs or biographies of people you admire to inspire you.
  6. Do a Project
    A great way to work on your planning and execution skills is to come up with a project that you’d like to complete over the summer. You could redecorate your room, build a bench, organize a fundraiser or plant a garden. You’ll be really proud of yourself when it’s complete!
  7. Explore Chicago
    There are so many amazing museums and noteworthy sites here in Chicago you could keep yourself occupied for weeks! Whether you take an architecture boat tour or head to the Art Institute, Adler Planetarium, or Field Museum, you can always learn something new. Just remember to check out parts of the museums you haven’t been to before and challenge yourself to take in new information. Click here for a list of Chicago museum free days.
  8. Take an Academic Workshop
    Another great way to keep your brain in shape over the summer is by attending an academic workshop to give you a leg up when you get back to school in the fall. At Educational Endeavors, we have a wide range of summer workshops including an SAT/ACT prep workshop, a writing workshop, a workshop to help you write your college essays, and study skills workshops for incoming high school freshmen or college freshmen.

Want to avoid summer brain drain? Sign up for one of our academic enrichment workshops this summer! Classes start the week of July 11.


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