A few weeks ago, I had the house to myself. And as one does, I asked Alexa to play classical music.
Background: I’ve been really into classical music lately. Since quarantine, I’ve been listening to SO much music – but the constant flow of lyrics was beginning to feel oppressive. It felt like sensory overload – I wanted to listen to music but sans words. Words were too much; they required too much brain power. I can’t be the only one who occasionally feels this way.
Anyways, back to the original story, on like the third or fourth song, Alexa played “Waltz Whitman” by Yo-Yo Ma, Stuart Duncan, Edgar Meyer, and Chris Thile. The song can best be described as blue grass classic … I think? Honestly, I don’t know the official genre, but I love this song SO MUCH!
It’s just really good. When the song picks up tempo, my heart soars along with it. It reminds me of texting a crush – that rush of dopamine when they text you. It’s just really good! So good.
Also, this is the *perfect* study music. It’s upbeat to keep one from falling asleep and has no lyrics to not distract one. Okay, but have you been writing an essay and ended up writing down the lyrics of the song instead of your actual, you know, essay?!? Cuz, um, same. This is why I try to avoid music with lyrics when studying.
I looked around some more, and Yo-Yo Ma, Mark O’Connor, and Edgar Meyer actually made another album together.
Here is the second installment in my series on test taking and prep strategies for the SAT. My parents paid an arm and a leg for SAT prep, so your parents won’t have to! 😉
General Test Taking Tips
Test questions are ordered from easiest to hardest.
The test is ordered from least missed questions to most often missed questions. For the grid-in problems the difficulty resets. So as you go on from the first grid-in problem to the last grid-in problem, the questions will get progressively more challenging.
You can either focus on doing as many easy problems as possible with reasonable assurance that you got them correct.
OR, you could focus on the hardest problems first then do the easy problems because the easy problems should take less time therefore you can put them off until later when you have less time, assuming that because they are easier, they should take you less time to solve.
When in doubt, skip it! Come back to it later.
Skip problems that take you more than 2 minutes to solve.
If you see a problem you know how to solve (but will take you a long time) or have a vague idea how to solve, skip it.
If you see a problem and you don’t immediately know how to solve it, skip it.
How to Save Time
The test answers choices are generally listed from least to greatest or vice versa. If you need to fill in a value, start with one of the middle values. Then you can go up or down if that answer choice doesn’t work.
Don’t show all of your work if you don’t need to. You won’t get partial credit for showing your work. If you can do it in your head quickly and accurately then do it and bubble in the answer immediately.
Know when it’s going to be faster to plug in the various options versus solving for the correct variable.
Getting Better and Avoiding Making the Same Mistakes
Identity areas where you are the weakest and categorize your weakness into the following categories
Silly mistake (ex. simple addition error or mixing up values)
Knowledge based: you didn’t know how to solve that problem
Ran out of time
Avoiding Making Silly Mistakes
If you’re making a lot of silly mistakes, SLOW DOWN.
This may seem counterintuitive, but you have to give you brain the time it needs to function properly. I’d recommend taking practice tests so you can get used to the stress of working under time constraints.
Also, double check your work if you have time.
Generally, I double check my answers before I go back to answer the really hard questions.
If you missed the question because you didn’t understand it and/or know how to solve it, use Khan Academy to learn how to solve questions like that.
The Most Important Tip I Can Give You
All the questions on the test are weighted the exact same. One will not count for more or less than any other, so focus on the ones where you’re absolutely sure you can obtain the correct answer.
Equations to Master
You should be familiar with all the you learn in algebra 1 and 2. Some ones that you should definitely know are
Parallel, perpendicular, and intersecting lines
Point slope form
Equation of a circle
Skills To Master
Splitting the middle
Combing like terms
Good luck with the SAT! Always remember that the College Board is THE devil.
A couple of days ago, I was just minding my own business, looking for an explanation for a question I had been assigned in my SAT prep class. Then I stumbled upon this website called Soft Schools.
Initially, I was like “WTF did I just click on?!?”. I lowkey thought it was going to give me a virus. Luckily, it didn’t. But. Y’all. It’s amazing. It has articles explaining pretty much everything you would cover in grades 1-12.
I was really excited by its offerings for AP Chemistry. I just took AP Chem this year and I never had enough resources to practice or apply the new concepts I was learning. For anyone who has taken chem, you know that practice problems are the key to success. Soft Schools has practice questions for AP Chem with answers! on it’s website!
This website is amazing! I’m so in love. I just wish I had know it when I was actually taking AP Chem. I am so excited by this because you can access practice questions which is something even the AP Chemistry course on Khan Academy doesn’t have! I mean, this is pretty huge. Also, you could definitely use a review book like Barron’s to get practice questions, but still – this is free!
They have notes, articles, and quizzes for a bunch APs such as AP Geography, AP US History, AP Environmental Science which I’m planning on looking through to get ahead for school in the fall, and so many others.
Unfortunately, they don’t have all the APs, but something is better than nothing! Here’s a link to all the high school materials on the site.
They say (read: lie) that they have materials for calculus, but it’s basically all pre-calc stuff like logs and trig functions. So if you’re looking for calc help, I wouldn’t use this site. However, my friend who TA’d Calc I and took Calc BC last year said Khan Academy’s Calc curriculum and videos were really good and helpful. I’m planning to use Khan Academy for when I take calc in the fall.
Another really cool feature on their website are the history timelines. I always find timelines to be super helpful to get a broad idea about what was happening in a certain time period. On this website, they have ones pre-made for you. Generally, it’s better to make your own timeline. But if you just need a quick reference guide, this is a really good option. Honestly, the timelines in this website are organized in no particular manner or at least, I can’t tell what manner it’s organized in. For example, after the Rosa Parks timeline is on on the Civil War, so I don’t even know what’s happening there.
Everyone and their mom needs to know about this website. It’s super helpful (though not super easy to use). Trust me, command+F will be your best friend when navigating this disorganized website. You’ll definitely have to plan around with the site a bit to get where you’re trying to go, but I think you’ll probably find exactly what you’re looking for when you (eventually) get there!
This year has been crazy. Amidst all of the craziness that happened this spring, I totally blew off studying for my APs. This year I took two APs: AP United States History (APUSH) and AP Chemistry (AP Chem).
APUSH has been one of my favorite classes this year, so I didn’t really study for the AP as I had done well on all of my assignments (DBQs, SAQ, MC, tests etc.).
Chem on the other hand is a whole other beast. I love chemistry. I really hope. I hope to minor in chemistry in college, but boy has this class kicked my hiney this year. It’s been rough. I love my teacher, but it often feels like I don’t know what I don’t know. This is the scariest position to be in as a student because it’s unclear what you should do when you don’t know where your weaknesses are.
And ladies and gentlemen (+ non binary gentle-folk) , that is why I have put off studying for the Chemistry AP until 6 days before the make up exam. (I decided to take the make up exam because I was seriously unprepared for the May date)
Anyway, now I have no other choice, but to prepare for this exam. Also, studying chemistry is a very convenient excuse to not focus on my very, very sad math predicament right now.
Y’all. I promise I really am a good student, but this quarantine is doing stuff to me.
The Plan, as promised
I made this plan based off of the idea of active recall. I’ve been exposed to this idea from many different youtubers. If you want to learn more, I highly suggest you check out Janice Studies, UnJaded Jade, and Ali Abdaal.
Make a plan. I created this google sheet so outline my goals and tasks for the next week until my exam.
As you can see, I have listed all of the units being covered on the exam this year.
On AP Classroom, my teacher has opened all of the FRQ practice problems for us to do, so that’s my first step of studying. By taking the FQRs I can check my knowledge and see where the gaps are. Although I hate being and/or feeling unprepared, the act of grasping for the information, even if you can’t find it or it’s very time consuming/hard is valuable to building up the pathways in your brain to make the retrieval of that information in the future easier. Geez, what a sentence!
I check my answers for the FRQs. When I check my answers, I write down the correct answer, the explanation, and where I went wrong/why. This process helps you identify where you went wrong, and helps you to have better reference materials in the future. I’ve actually gone back and looked at old practice problems and seeing where I went wrong helped me avoid that mistake or recognize it when I made the same mistake again.
If I am understand the content, I will move on to take the Schoology quiz my teacher posted to make sure my understanding is solid. For those of you who don’t know, Schoology is an online school management system similar to blackboard, delta math, classroom dojo, and google classroom. In Schoology, your teachers post materials such as syllabi, study guides, test scores, quizzes, and homework. Schoology is the backbone of my school.
If my understanding is incomplete then I will watch the AP Live Videos on youtube, linked here. These videos are a fantastic resource, and I highly recommend them, but they are super time consuming to watch. However, I have not found another source of such high quality videos that teach to the depth of APs. I also like Bozeman Science videos, but they’re a bit hit-or-miss with AP Chem, linked here.
I label my mastery on the google sheet. Green is good, I definitely understand it. Yellow is a bit unsure, but I kinda go it. Red is Oh my Jesus, send help!
Overall, this is my study plan, we’ll see how well it works. I’ll update y’all in an upcoming blog post post June 2!
Having a plan is so important. It just makes everything feel more manageable. It’s like you’re no longer shooting into the dark. With a plan, you can see the target. It may be a tough shot, but you can see the target. That’s all you need.
Today, I will be sharing a time-lapse of me answering some questions to study for my upcoming biology quiz and some of my favorite tips for studying biology. Link to my study with me.
Right now, I’m taking Honors biology as a junior. Honors Junior biology at my school goes into the same depth as AP Biology, but covers fewer topics and doesn’t really have the label emphasis that AP Bio has.
Bio has been my hardest class this year, so I’ve really had to sharpen my study skills. Here are my tips!
Read the textbook before class.
This is huge. I cannot emphasize this enough. Biology isn’t really that hard conceptually, but there are so. many. freaking. details. To keep ahead of the curve, preview the material (if you can, take notes) the night before, so you’re not totally blindsided in class the next day.
Study early and often
Units such as biochemistry, cellular respiration, and digestion have a lot of moving parts. As soon as you complete learning a concept, begin to study it even if the unit (or the test) isn’t near. This is when you should start making your flashcards. I didn’t listen to my biology teacher when she told me to study the Lewis diagrams of the functional groups every day, I got a D+ on that test. Don’t make the same mistake I did. If your teacher gives you a practice test, do it! Make sure you study before taking the review test though, so it will be a truer description of what you actually know. Do it a day or two before the test, and review your mistakes and correct them.
Go to office hours
This goes without saying, but don’t wait to the last minute to clarify a concept you don’t understand. If your teacher says something you don’t understand in class, jot it down, and go to office hours at the earliest possible time and ask about it. Teachers often explain concepts so that the largest portion of the class can understand, but they know some students won’t get it and will likely be able to explain it another way. But you’ll never know unless you try.
I don’t think I can say enough good things about Bozeman Science! Honestly, some of the best content for AP Science classes. 10/10 would recommend. I have a system when it comes to watching online videos in biology. I watch the Amoeba Sisters first because their videos provide easy-to-follow but basic explanations of concepts. Then I watch the Khan Academy videos to get a bit more detail. Lastly, once I kind of understand what’s happening, then I watch the Bozeman Science videos to cement the knowledge in finer details.
Make comprehensive study guides
Biology is a memorization intensive class. You can’t get around studying, so you might as well get good at it. I recommend using the provided study materials such as a list of topics that will be on the test and working from there. Make study guides by using your lecture and textbook notes together to explain the topics and concepts on the test.
Good luck with biology. It’s my least favorite science, but I hope with these tips it won’t be as miserable for you as it is for me. Haha.