## Tools To Get You Studying for the SAT, ACT, SSAT, ISEE and Other Tests

Several of my students took the first New SAT on March 5, and they found the test wasn't nearly as hard as they had feared. Like all new things, standardized tests become less scary and more manageable with familiarity and practice. There are plenty of resources out there to help you get ready for any standardized test you'll be taking, from elementary level through grad school. I've collected a few of my favorites below.

## Pythagorean Pitfalls: Help for Math Students

As I go on my tutoring rounds, I wind up reteaching and clarifying the same material over and over. Certain topics and concepts are just plain hard for students to wrap their heads around. Many kids in grades 6-10 are currently covering Pythagorean Theorem or other geometry topics, and many are struggling (as usual!) with the word problems. If you are a parent, thinking Yipes ! I don't remember Pythagorean Theorem, the good news is that most students find the actual formula pretty do-able. But, they need help in reading the problem and drawing the diagram. Here's a sample problem from one textbook:

## Ratios Are Hard For Student Brains To Learn

Right now, algebra students are studying unit rates, proportions and dimensional analysis. Geometry students are working on similar figures and triangle proportionality theorems. All of these topics are hard for the same reason: They involve ratios, which may seem easy for adults but are actually deeply challenging for the learning brain to grasp. A ratio is the comparison of two numbers, usually using a fraction bar. If there are two dogs and three cats in a room, I could write that the ratio of dogs to cats is 2/3. Like so many things (reading, driving), ratios become second nature with enough practice, and people lose touch with how difficult they were to learn. And like reading and driving, ratios are hard for the brain because they involve simultaneity of thought. The brain is required to multi-task; it must think about the 2 dogs while at the same time thinking about the 3 cats.

## Begin the Year By Noticing Student Progress

Change takes time, but kids DO make progress. It's often easier for me to see the growth in my students, because I don't see them every day. Parents are pleasantly surprised when I point out the gains their kids have made in knowledge and maturity.

## Willpower-Friendly Tips For Students And Adults

Willpower is strongest at the beginning of the day and when glucose levels in the bloodstream are adequate.
You can perform better and succeed in getting tasks accomplished if you plan accordingly:

Bring a snack to long exams such as the SAT.
Avoid making decisions before lunch or at the end of the day.
Plan your day ahead of time (that morning or the night before) and then follow your schedule. Don't just float through the day...

## Helping Students Get Organized For Midterms Study

Many middle and high school students take mid-year exams in January. The keys to effective exam review are to start early and have a plan. I ask students to come up with a list of what they'll need to do in order to be well-prepared for their exams, and most kids are actually pretty good at this part. Here's what one high school student wrote:

It's New Year's resolutions time! Here's a collection of articles plus an excellent book, to help you understand and harness the willpower to succeed in your new plans:   Do You Suffer From Decision Fatigue? Resistance Training For Your Willpower Muscles What You Need To Know About Willpower

## The Surprising Key to Willpower

New Year's is the classic time to resolve to form new habits, but most of us then abandon our good intentions by mid-February, if not before. It turns out that our willpower comes, not from the sincerity of our resolve, but from the glucose level in our bloodstream.The brain runs on glucose. Even when not working hard, the brain consumes 25% of circulating glucose, even though it only takes up 3% of the body's weight. Decision-making is especially taxing, and the brain burns glucose like crazy when it's forced to make lots of fine-grained choices over an extended period of time.

## Knowledge Makes A Great Gift!

Because the holiday season brings family members of all ages together, it's a great opportunity for people to share knowledge. Adults often don't realize how important it is for kids to learn factual information, but information is the fuel the brain runs on!

## Exam Tip: Make the Cheat Sheet You Wish You Could Use

Teachers often allow students to bring "cheat sheets" to exams.

A cheat sheet is an index card or single sheet of paper which the student can fill with all the facts and formulas she needs to know but is afraid she doesn't have by heart. (When given only a 3x5 space to fill, many kids can achieve some truly amazing, near-microscopic handwriting).

Even if you can't actually bring a cheat sheet to the exam,...