6 Tips for Nervous Test-Takers

What if I promised you that if you work hard enough you will be accepted to an amazing college? And what if I said that if you do your very best you will end up having an excellent college education? So then, why do hardworking and committed students become so nervous about standardized test-taking?

There’s not a simple answer, as students come from different backgrounds and profiles. Nevertheless, nervous test-takers do share some common traits, so here are some tips to manage those nerves:

 

1. Don't place excessive importance on standardized testing

Yes, your ACT/SAT scores count and colleges do place a lot of importance on them.
That said, they do not solely define who you are or how competitive your application
is. After all, colleges take a holistic approach towards admissions, considering both
quantitative (GPA, ACT/SAT scores) and qualitative (essays, extracurricular activities,
letters of recommendation) measures.

2. Be more concerned about the output, not the outcome

First things first. What comes before knowing the correct answer to a difficult question? It’s always learning. Students must first learn and then perform; never the other way around.

 

3. Moving quickly does not mean rushing

We all know that the SAT and the ACT are fast-paced tests, and nervous test-takers tend
to rush through questions making careless mistakes instead of moving quickly and attentively through the test. The good news is that there are ways to help nervous test-takers control anxiety and focus on test day.

4. Practice, practice, practice

Practice testing is the best way to manage stress and anxiety with real test-taking. Practicing not only allows students to control their fear and anxiety but also solidifies one’s self-image as a good test-taker.

 

5. Don’t forget to breathe properly

Breathing slowly and deeply allows students to calm down both physically and mentally. Control your breathing, and control your focus. 

 

6. Visualize the positive outcome

On test day, past strengths are more important than past mistakes. Don't forget everything you are good at and how hard you had to work to get there. Also, positive thinking helps to overcome negative self-talk. Visualize that high score, and you'll have nothing to worry about.

As Bob Marley said, “Don’t worry, about a thing. 'Cause every little thing is gonna be alright.”

The Early Application Plan You Might Not Know About

Now that November 1st has passed, most students have submitted their Early applications (big congrats on that, by the way!). While many applicants are familiar with the benefits of Early Decision and Early Action, some may still find themselves scratching their heads over the benefits of Single Choice or Restricted Early Action even after they’ve submitted their apps. 

Harvard University

But first, what is it?

Single Choice Early Action or Restricted Early Action (let’s just call it SCEA for simplicity as they are pretty much the same thing), is the early application system used by some of the most selective colleges (Harvard, Princeton, Yale, and Stanford among a few others). What it boils down to is that if you apply to one of these schools by November 1st, you not only have a better chance of getting in, but you can still apply to public schools Early Action. You cannot, however, simultaneously apply anywhere Early Decision. Oh, and it isn’t binding so you don’t have to worry about being locked into this one school in December if you get in. 

What are the benefits of this plan? 

Not having to commit to a single school so early in the process can be great! This allows families to compare and contrast the financial aid packages they receive from a number of colleges and make a well-informed decision about the best academic and financial options. The timing also allows students to apply Early Decision 2 since SCEA notifications come out in December. Finally, the fact that students can apply to public universities through non-binding Early Action plans means that they can still be in the first wave of applicants at a number of schools.

 ...And really, why do colleges offer this?

With colleges, especially ones at this tier, it all comes down to numbers and yield. How many of the students that they admit will attend? 

To that end, SCEA helps the colleges immensely. Because it isn’t binding, it encourages even more students to apply than otherwise might have locked themselves in with Early Decision. So, while the school is gaining more applicants because of that, they are also removing these students from their competing schools’ Early pools. 

Even though students are still free to apply to public universities through non-binding Early Action programs, those schools with SCEA often offer much better financial aid than the public universities can hope to compete with (see the program that Stanford rolled out recently). Even when the price is relatively close, families will most often opt for one of these elite schools even if it means paying a little bit more. 

Stanford University

The final piece working to the advantage of the colleges is the mental factor. While students that are admitted SCEA to one of these schools still have the option to apply in the Regular Decision round to any other college come January 1st, will they? Once you have an acceptance letter from Princeton, do you really want to write all 8 essays for Yale? Plus, you begin to form an attachment with the school that has accepted you already, so no matter where else you get into you will already have an emotional connection with your SCEA school...and are therefore more likely to increase their yield. 

So while Single Choice Early Action is a great tool for offering a non-binding, improved chance of admission at some of the top schools in the country, it is always helpful to be aware of the full context behind why the policy exists, and how it benefits colleges as well.
 

BTEX: Why you should care about the chemical components of gasoline

Benzene, Ethylbenzene, Toluene, and Xylene, referred to collectively as BTEX, are chemical components of gasoline.

You're probably thinking, "Ok, great, Roger. But why are you giving me a chemistry lesson about the makeup of what goes in my car?"

The chemicals BTEX are carcinogenic, meaning that prolonged exposure causes cancer. There has been significant research and debate as to what level of exposure to these chemicals indicates a significant health risk. These chemicals are present in the groundwater in almost every industrial area in the world. They are under your gas stations and your factories, they melt your nail polish and remove your paint; you can smell them in your sharpie markers, and sometimes they are in your water.

Apparently, ink, smelling solvents, or drinking water out of plastic bottles don't constitute enough exposure to cause cancer in humans (but that's another story). However, working in a paint thinner factory and breathing the fumes all day will almost certainly land you squarely in the hospital with a laundry list of ailments. Underneath and around the factory are a lot of storage tanks as well. These tanks store petroleum or paint thinner from the factory-- or any other chemical from a long list that will poison you if you drink it. Unfortunately, they leak.  

‘Down here in Kentucky, everyone works at the plant and everyone lives in town. It’s a good thing that they put the houses o’er there on the west side of town because the smell is something awful when the storm winds come from the northeast. I work in the bulk fuel farm so I’m used to it, but the kids aren’t. You see the problem with the bulk fuel farm is that the tanks are old. The concrete is all cracked on the bottom so the benzene leaks out underneath. So whatcha gotta do is fill the tanks with water every day so we don’t lose product. The benzene floats on the water so then all we lose out the bottom is the water. It’s a win-win.’ 
(Image)

Unfortunately, the water is then impacted with benzene and spreads to the aquifer underneath. Leaks like this are common and are measured in feet of product lost per month. In the great plains, the water is deep. Everyone in town has to drill into it to drink and it’s only a matter of time before the benzene reaches it. After the first failed drinking water test, there will likely be a few lawyers involved misdirecting questions and absolving responsible parties. The chemical plant didn’t make enough money to fix the tanks in the first place so they’ll never be able to cover the lawsuit. They’ll just declare bankruptcy and leave the wasteland in place to become a Superfund site (which means the taxpayer has to pay for it).

I have an idea! Let’s just eradicate the E.P.A. entirely and ignore things like this forever because someone else will make sure this never happens again... Just kidding. 

College Life: Myth vs. Fact

Coming out of high school, you likely have mixed impressions of what college is like.

From “everyone is cut-throat and studies really hard all the time,” to “it’s so much less intense than high school, people party every weekend,” anyone you ask will cast a different light on the college experience. You might think you’ve done your research, and you know what to expect, but in the likely event that you have some misconception of what it’s like to be a college student, this article should clear the air.


MYTH: College dorms are gross.

A lot of people like to say that “slumming it” is part of the college experience. From some of the things you hear, you might be half-expecting a cockroach-infested, poorly ventilated, really cramped little box with a bed that’s slightly-too-hard to be comfortable. This image is a bit exaggerated; of course, college dorms are no five-star hotel, but they’re definitely spacious and well-maintained enough where even people coming from nice homes shouldn’t feel too underwhelmed. You may have to slightly adjust your idea of a “nice” room, since you’re probably used to air conditioning, great lighting, a pretty view out of the window, etc. Not all college dorms will have overhead lighting (some just have desk lamps), many won’t have air conditioning, and your view may just be the side of the building next to yours, but you have your own bed, a desk, drawers for personal belongings, and a closet with hangers and shelves, as well as wall-hooks that allow you to make effective use of the space.

 

FACT: Your room is as nice as the effort you put into it.

Residential College at Yale

If you walk around a dorm building and inspect all of the rooms you pass by, you will notice a large variety in terms of how nice the rooms seem. This discrepancy isn’t due to the room actually being better or worse than the one next to it, since the rooms are essentially identical in a hallway. Instead, the rooms differ based on how the residents decorate them. Instead of air-conditioning, invest in a nice fan and your room won’t get unbearably hot or humid on those 80-90 degree days. If the overhead lighting in your room isn’t great, buy a nice floor lamp. You can always maximize your space by lofting your bed and storing anything you don’t use frequently underneath. Also, the walls of dorms are pretty bland, but if you decorate with posters, whiteboards, pictures, calendars, etc. you can add a sense of personality to the room. A microfridge for the room so you can stock up on ice cream and cold drinks can make you want to spend even more time in your room, and buying a cool chair (I personally recommend a net chair) can turn your room into the go-to hangout spot for your friends in the dorm. Don’t go overboard, though, because you shouldn’t be spending your life savings on a room you’ll only live in for a year or two. Check out your school’s dump-and-run sale at the beginning of the semester, find local stores with good prices, and turn your room into your personal getaway.


MYTH: People party every weekend… and sometimes weekdays.

I won’t lie to you, those people exist. The people who you sometimes think to yourself “do you ever attend classes/why do you go to school at all?” For some people, it’s possible to go out all of the time and still stay on top of their school work. For most people, however, going out is a treat for getting ahead on your work and earning some free time. There are a lot of factors that will also determine your social scene. Some people stay in their dorm all weekend, watch Netflix, play cards with some friends, and get a lot of sleep. Other people are running around campus going to random events, playing sports, checking out local shops or restaurants, etc. Depending on the size of Greek Life at your school, there could be parties every Friday and Saturday, or there could be a big party once every 2-3 weeks. Thursdays out are fairly common for people who party a lot, and occasionally Wednesdays for those who really party all of the time. At the end of the day, though, people don’t have unlimited energy, or unlimited resources to throw parties, and you can’t fail out of school if you want to maintain your college social life, so Sunday-Tuesday should be fairly quiet on most campuses most of the time. 

 

FACT: Most students work hard and play hard, they party when they don’t have work to do.

Sometimes, you just need to blow off some steam, and even the most academically-focused students will go to parties when they feel up to it. However, for the typical student, this is only when they feel that they have no pressing work to deal with. The same student could vehemently refuse to go out on Friday because they have a project due on Monday that they haven’t made that much progress on, but enthusiastically organize their whole group of friends to party on Saturday because they worked really hard on that project and feel on top of their work. Striking the perfect balance between socializing and studying (and sleeping) is what will allow you to have the most fun in the grand scheme of things, so find yourself some friends who have similar work habits and are fun to be around, and you should never feel that you are working too much or having fun too rarely. 


MYTH: Students stay up all night in the library and get 3-5 hours of sleep.

Students who are majoring in infamously difficult topics may seem like zombies if you see them walking back from the library at 2AM, or falling asleep in the middle of a lounge area with notebooks strewn all over a table. In reality, a lot of these students like to be a bit overdramatic with their work. What the person who stayed up until 4AM won’t tell you is that they didn’t start their work until 10:30 PM because they weren’t in the mood to, so they took a nap and watched some Netflix. Sometimes you really will get overwhelmed with work and have to sacrifice some sleep to make sure it gets done, but this doesn’t happen every day, or even every week. At college I’ve actually met more people who go to sleep before 10:00 PM than I did in high school (also, you probably wake up later for college classes than you did for high school). Students really like their sleep, and you might have 1 in 10-15 friends who actually stays up all night doing work and never sleeping.

FACT: Students who manage their time efficiently can still get their normal 6-8 hours of sleep.

If your classes end at 4:00 PM, you may be exhausted, so you should take 30 minute to rest and recuperate. If, however, you let that break last until you get back from dinner at 8:00 PM, that’s when you will start to enter dangerous territory. Some days you might not actually be able to start your work until after dinner because you have classes/clubs straight from 9-7. On other days, though, when you get out at 4, you should probably go to a library by 4:45 and try to get your work done for 1-2 classes before dinner. Sometimes it’s hard to motivate yourself to keep going straight through for 12 hours, but it’s completely worth it when you finish all your work before 11:00 PM, can hang out with your friends for an hour, and still get a decent amount of sleep. In the 30 minute or 1 hour breaks you may have between classes, you may convince yourself that there’s not enough time to do work, so you’ll just save it for later. Even if you can just do the reading for an assignment, or go print something that you’ll need later, you’ll do yourself a favor to use every opportunity you can to prevent work from piling up at the end of the night. Remember that your future self isn’t another person, it’s just you in a couple of hours. Don’t dump all your work on your future self; split the job and it’s a lot easier in the long run.


MYTH: Communal bathrooms and kitchens are weird.

Except for your siblings, you may have never shared a bathroom with anyone. Your biggest worries are probably “People aren’t going to flush the toilet and it’s going to smell all of the time,” or "people aren’t going to wash the sinks after they brush their teeth or shave and they’ll always be clogged,” or worst of all, “someone is going to pull open my shower curtain without thinking”.  In terms of kitchens, you’re most likely used to the free-for-all with your family where everything is open to everyone, and you feel uncomfortable leaving something in the dorm kitchen for fear it will be stolen. These unfavorable scenarios rarely, if ever, actually happen in college dorms, because most other students are coming into the dorm with the same inhibitions as you. Some people will actually have poor hygiene and not be fun to share amenities with, but most people were raised with some manners. Also, at some schools, staff will clean the bathrooms, and resident advisors will make sure there are repercussions for people who leave dirty dishes in the sink all week, steal food, etc. 

 

FACT: Everyone is an adult in college, if you have good habits you likely won't have to deal with anything too gross.

You’re not living in the bathroom or the kitchen, so even if they’re not sparkly clean all of the time you shouldn’t have an issue. If anything, the biggest worry in the bathroom and kitchen is running out of paper towels because people clean so much (it happened nearly every week my freshman year). Keep your toothbrush in a holder, don’t leave your toiletries on the floor, put your name on your food, and respect other people’s belongings. Just because it’s a shared bathroom doesn’t mean all of the bathroom products everyone brings with them are also shared. If you always wash your hands, wear shower flip flops, make sure to eat off of your own clean plates and silverware, etc. then you have nothing to worry about from other people. The people you are sharing the kitchen with aren’t sloppy five-year-olds who’ve never washed a dish in their life and don’t clean up after themselves, they’re also adults who want to live in a dorm where the public areas are clean. 


MYTH: It’s hard to start making new friends after having the same friends for years.

Many school districts keep the same group of students together from K-12, so you’re used to seeing the same people every year on the first day of school, and coming back to mostly the same friends every year. The idea of getting tossed into a totally new pool of students whom you’ve never met before can seem intimidating at first since you can’t remember the last time you had to find a friend group from scratch. Firstly, you aren’t leaving your old friends behind, so you can still keep in touch with them while you figure out your new friend situation at college. Second, you’ve spent the last 12-13 years of your life developing the skills to socialize with people your age, so you are definitely prepared to go meet new people. People like to think they’re the only one coming into college without a lot of friends, and that most people are coming to college with a group of childhood friends that they’ll hang out with. The truth is 95% of people aren’t going to college with their close friends, and you’re not at any disadvantage compared to everyone else.

FACT: Everyone is excited to be in a new place away from home, and if you’re friendly, they usually will be too.

Colleges have orientation week for the sole purpose of integrating all of their new students into campus. There will be dozens of fun activities every day that hundreds of other students will attend, and since college is a self-selective process, you will probably have something in common with a lot of them. No one is bored during the first week of school. You just started an entirely new phase of your life and everyone is revving to go out and explore. You might meet people on a pre-orientation camping trip, you might meet them at a freshman waffle-making event hosted in one of the dining halls, you might meet them at a major-fair where students can see the types of research and projects that go on in their fields of potential interest. The point is, there are innumerable opportunities to meet new people. O-week is the one time where no one will find it weird for you to be extremely friendly out of the blue. You can knock on random people’s doors to meet people in your dorm, you can introduce yourself to strangers in the dining hall and have a meal with them, you can invite a passersby to join you for a board game or a party. As long as people get a friendly vibe from you, they’ll be willing to at least try to get to know you. You don’t have to become best friends with everyone you meet at the beginning of the year, but having a lot of acquaintances can help you join various friend groups for fun activities because you’ll have mutual friends with people all over campus.


Hopefully this article cleared up some of what you’ve heard about college. Take everything you hear about college with a grain of salt, because not every hyperbole applies to everyone, and you won’t know what the college experience is like until you try it yourself.

 

Alex W is a current college sophomore at Cornell University.

LogicPrep in Inc: To build or not to build your own software?

Thinking About Building Your Own Software? Ask Yourself These 3 Questions First

To build or not to build your own software? It's a question that many business owners face. Our Founder and CEO, Jesse, was just featured by Inc. talking about why LogicPrep eventually decided to use a bespoke solution. When we set out to design our own software, our goal was to create an agile product that reflects our teaching methodologies and processes and allows us to provide a consistent experience for our students and instructors alike.

However, after going through our own journey, is this the right choice for all companies? Maybe not. Jesse encourages business owners to ask themselves these three questions first:

  1. What business are you really in?
  2. Is there an off-the-shelf, third-party solution that would work?
  3. Does your software support scalability?

Be sure to read why these questions are important to consider by clicking the button below!

Top 5 ACT Verbal Tips You Need to Know Before Test Day

With the ACT coming up this weekend, we've compiled a list of need-to-know Verbal tips to think about as you're getting ready for test day. 

1. Fail to prepare, and you prepare to fail

The day before the test is not the day to learn anything new. Test preparation is like preparing for a marathon: the work you do 2 months before is more important than the work 2 days before.

 

2. Read full sentences 

In the midst of the test, you can sometimes begin to get tunnel vision and break the test down into pieces that are too small. Tone and context are important, so if something doesn’t make sense, simply read it again as a full sentence.

3. Keep it simple

When in doubt keep things short and simple. Concise, clear writing is elegant writing. Remember, the ACT hates redundancy, loves clarity, and always tricks students by throwing in extra commas. 

 

4. Watch the clock

Have the confidence to stop one hard question from derailing your progress on the test. The Verbal section is a full 75 questions! So, if you aren’t 100% sure about one question you need to find a way to keep your momentum going.

 

5. Trust your gut

At some point you will have to rely on their intuition—that is perfectly okay. The hope is that all the practice you have put into the process has refined your intuition--even somewhat unconsciously. 

Looking for a new podcast?

Although I live near Oxford and used to work for the University, this week I discovered something I didn’t know before: the University has a huge library of podcasts, available for free on iTunes. 

Browsing through, I was struck by the huge range of topics on offer. You can search by podcast series, by people, by college and by department: The Philosophy Faculty, The Mathematical Institute, The Physics Department, the Department of Experimental Psychology, the Law Faculty, to name just a few. 

My eyes scanned intriguing topics such as: Exploring the early universe with gravitational waves, Women poets in WW1, The Science of Mindfulness,  Torture and Human Dignity...

I settled on the series entitled “Big Questions with Oxford Sparks,” which are short talks and interviews with Oxford’s professors and researchers on the big questions we face today. I found plenty of interesting talks: How fast is Greenland moving? How do you teach a machine to drive a car? How do you turn an orange into a grapefruit? 

I listened to: Should I take a selfie with a wild animal? Conservationist and Ecologist Dr. Tom Moorhouse explains the impact of tourist attractions that take us up close and personal with wild animals (performing dolphin shows, riding elephants, etc.). Tom has been researching the effect of this on the animals and on conservation efforts that are in place. He encourages us to research these sites thoroughly before visiting them and read reviews online on sites such as TripAdvisor before considering visiting. He found that on TripAdvisor if 20% or more people gave bad reviews, that was a good indication of there being a problem with animal welfare at the tourist site. This was a really interesting talk that I learned something from in under 13 minutes! 

This resource is a great way to expand your knowledge and thinking and to provide you with a new viewpoint. If you don’t have iTunes on your computer, you can access all the podcasts here!

LogicPrep in Teen Vogue: Early Decision College Applications

Last year, many of the nation’s top colleges drew more than 40 percent of the incoming freshmen through Early Decision.

As if finding the perfect college for you wasn't daunting enough, there's also the choice between Early Decision, Early Action, and Regular Decision. We hope you've read this article by Lindsay and this article by Grace talking about the importance and value of applying early to help you navigate the college application process as best as you can.

Well, we have one more article for you to read.

Lindsay was just featured by Teen Vogue giving her expert insight into the world of Early Decision college applications and acceptance. In the article, she answers all of your questions: What is it? How does it work? What are the pros and cons? Is it the right choice? Be sure to read the full article by clicking the button below.

As Seen in Forbes: Why and How Proper Preparation Makes a Difference

Proper preparation isn’t just something we teach our students; it’s at the core of how we run our business. Lindsay was recently featured in Forbes discussing how planning ahead can make a world of difference.

"Whether you are a freshly funded startup or an entrepreneur bootstrapping, every dollar counts. Yet what many busy entrepreneurs may not immediately realize is that making the most of your capital requires being prepared. Perhaps it’s because our organization specializes in education, but I think about this often: Not doing your homework can be inefficient and costly. Far too often, business owners hire a great service and fail to make the most out of their investment because they aren’t able to commit adequate time to prepare."

Improve Your ACT Score by Practicing This Skill

A lot of students starting out the ACT or SAT prep process freeze up when it comes to the reading section. They'll say, "I'm just not a fast reader," or "not a good reader," or "I don't remember what I read." Often, they're already better readers than they think they are ... but there are ways to get even better.

Reading is a skill you practice and improve at throughout your whole life. The more you do it, the better you'll get at moving quickly and absorbing what's on the page ... and you'll also get good at recognizing what your brain needs to hold onto, and what's less important. So here are some tips to maximize your reading skills, not just for the test but for life -- which, of course, is what it's all about.

PRACTICE, PRACTICE, PRACTICE 

As with anything in life that you want to be good at, it all comes down to practice. Results don't show up overnight but over a sustained period of dedicated application. And the best way to build practice into your life is to ...

 

MAKE IT A HABIT 

If you just say to yourself, "I'm gonna practice my reading this week -- I really mean it this time," the week is likely to come and go (again) without you ever cracking that book. But if you say, "This week, on Monday through Friday from 7:00-7:30 pm, I'm going to sit in my favorite chair with [book that I'm really excited about] and try to get through X number of pages," your odds of actually doing it go way up. Best of all, before long it becomes second nature: instead of having to force yourself to sit down at the same time every day, you'll find it feels strange NOT to.

 

PICK SOMETHING YOU LIKE 

The best way to keep yourself practicing anything is to find the joy in it, and reading is no different -- so choose something you think you'll like. When I was going through a Stephen King phase in high school, I had a teacher scoff, "It's like chewing gum for the mind ... there's no substance!" Maybe, maybe not, but who cares?! It doesn't have to be "great literature" ... it just has to be fun!

 

GET A READING BUDDY 

Find someone who wants to read the same book, and challenge each other to get through chapters so you can talk about it, the same way you would about Game of Thrones or anything else you love. Even better: do it together, in the same time and place, so you can really hold each other accountable.

 

SEE, DON'T HEAR

Many people, when reading, hear themselves actually saying the words in their head as they go along ... meaning you're only reading as fast as you can talk, which is a fraction of the speed you're actually capable of. This is called "subvocalization," and you want to train yourself out of it. Instead of hearing or listening to the words, try to visualize what the words represent, and suddenly the book will become a fast-paced movie in your mind.

 

"CAST" THE STORY WITH YOUR OWN PEOPLE AND PLACES.

This is similar to the memorization technique called a "memory palace." Here's how a memory palace works: in order to memorize something -- say, items in a long list -- you envision yourself walking through a familiar environment, such as your house, and "placing" the different items at locations in the house. The premise is that, by linking these new items with places that are familiar to you, it will create associations that you can hold onto. The same idea can work when you read. If a new character is introduced, maybe imagine that she looks like your second-grade teacher, and it might be easier to remember the things she says because she has a familiar voice. If the book takes place in some grand mansion, maybe it can look like that art museum from that class trip last year, and you'll remember that the first scene in the book happens in the room with your favorite painting on the wall.

 

Whatever you do, recognize that your "inner reader" will really kick into gear when reading is not a chore, but a pleasure. If you've never liked reading, I can practically guarantee you it's just because you haven't found the material you click with or the reading habits that work best for you. So if this sounds like you, keep looking ... and keep reading!