Take InstaEDU on-the-go with our new mobile-friendly site

Mobile version of instaedu.com

As a student, you’re often running from school to part-time jobs…to extracurriculars…to the library…to home (and then doing it all again). We know your life as a student is increasingly mobile. That’s why we’re thrilled that InstaEDU is now mobile, too — our site is now optimized for smart phones and tablets.

Here’s how it works:

1. Look at your phone. Does it look “smart” — AKA does it have a mobile browser on it? Good.

2. Go to InstaEDU and log in (or sign up for an account).

3. There is no step 3. You should now be set up to browse and message our top tutors and set up or change a lesson!

All of the interactions you know and love — requesting lessons from tutors, messaging tutors about upcoming lessons, finding new tutors to work with — are there. One feature we think is perfectly designed for students on the go, is written lessons. If you come out of a tough class or confusing lecture, you can snap a picture of something you need help with or clarification on; from there, you can upload it to our site and send a written lesson request, all from your phone. While you can’t actually do a live lesson on your phone (yet), this only the beginning of many big plans we have for a fully mobile learning experience.

Try it out and let us know what you think!

SAT Challenge Problem, Part 5: A Garrulous Groom

The SAT recently announced some changes to the famed test and one of the biggest updates is getting rid of “SAT Words” — hard-to-remember multi-syllable words that students learn for the exam, and then … promptly forget.

Unfortunately, the update isn’t taking effect for another 2 years, so if you’re prepping for the May SAT, you’ll still need to spend time learning “SAT Words” but there are tricks to getting the right answer.

Here’s a typical problem and how to approach, from InstaEDU tutor TeLing C.


One way to answer this type of question is to memorize a significant number of vocab words and then check each word pair against the sentence, but that’s not TeLing’s approach. Hers relies more on understanding first what the question is actually asking, and then using a process of elimination to find the answer quickly while covering for any gaps in vocabulary. Here’s her strategy:

The first thing I read the sentence and make sure I understand it. Then I look at the blanks, and figure out what sort of word goes there. The first blank needs to be a word that means talking a lot and the second one needs to be one that describes someone who doesn’t want to talk.


I can just look at the first blank and start to eliminate answers.  A could be a possibility, since garrulous means excessively talkative, so I won’t rule it out. B can’t be the answer because grandiose means impressive or magnificent. C can’t be the answer since vociferous means basically talking loudly.  D can’t be the answer because melodious means something having to do with melody, the groom wasn’t singing. E doesn’t work because munificent means large and generous.


So, by process of elimination, our answer must be A. You don’t actually even need to look at the second word in this question, but you can double check that A is right by seeing that reticent means disinclined to talk.


Looking for some more help on the verbal section of the SAT? Get in touch with TeLing C. or one of our other stellar SAT tutors.


The Best AP Test Prep Strategies

Online AP Test Prep

AP exams start on May 5, which means if you give yourself this week off, you have (gulp!) a little over a month to get ready. Fear not! Whether you’re prepping for a single AP exam or have a slate of five you’re trying to tackle, we’ve collected the best advice for getting prepped for AP exams from around the Web. (And, if you need some extra help, we know where you can find an online tutor who can help).

Tips and Tricks for the AP Calculus Exam from an AP Reader

This easy-to-digest Slideshare from an AP reader has plenty of good tips for getting a 5 on the AP Calculus test. One I particularly like: If you’re feeling nervous, skip around on the multiple choice to answer “easy” questions first so you can build your confidence. She also says it’s imperative to show your work on the free response, so make sure to write out all the steps you’re taking and formulas you’re utilizing to arrive at your answer. You can practice this when you’re studying; do the easy problems you spot first in your assignments, instead of going through them one after another. Hopefully you’re already showing your work when you do your homework; if you aren’t, get started doing this ASAP.

AP US History DBQ and Free Response Strategies

Great advice for tackling the non-multiple choice sections of the AP US History exam BenchPrep (they make online test prep curriculum). For both, the advice starts the same: READ THE PROMPT. Taking a few extra minutes to make sure you understand the prompt thoroughly will pay dividends once you start writing — an awesome essay that doesn’t actually answer the question being asked isn’t going to get you the 5 you’re looking for. For the DBQ essay, use the documents provided to create an outline, with a strong thesis leading the way. Make sure to cite the documents in your essay! And for the free response, a thesis and a strong outline are equally important. Practice makes perfect, so work with classmates to come up with a few different test questions and then do the work to write the essay.

6 Tips for Rocking Your AP Classes

Ok, so this article isn’t specifically about preparing for the exams, but it contains loads of helpful information on how to approach the last month of class pre-exam week (minus the part about doing your summer reading — you’ve already done that of course :) ). Yes, it’s obvious not to procrastinate, as the author advises, but she also has a point: If you’re putting off studying a certain AP Physics chapter because it’s hard or you don’t understand, you’re better off tackling that chapter sooner rather than later (the material isn’t going to get any easier to learn). The advice to try different study methods is also valuable. If you’ve been taking notes in a notebook all year, experiment with re-typing those notes. Or, instead of studying with a group, spend time cramming solo for a few nights.

Advice on AP Bio from from AP Graders

This blog post contains super practical, actionable advice gathered from feedback from readers of the AP biology exam. First, pay attention to the specific words used in the free response section of the exam. Know the difference between describing something versus explaining something, for example (hint: describing equals providing details that help someone visualize an object, explaining equals using words to explain a phenomenon or why something happens). Other expert advice includes being precise in your answers — if the question asks for four examples, give only four and not three or five — and knowing that when a question asks for the effects of something, they want both positive and negative effects. Read through this post, then use the advice to help form your study plan for the next four weeks.

I can’t cover advice for every single AP class in a single blog post, but if you want more help devising a study strategy or talking through best practices, get in touch with one of our online tutors. They’ve taken the classes, studied for the exams, and gotten the top scores — and they’re ready to help you do the same.

SAT Challenge Part 4: A Savvy Approach for Confusing Inequality Questions

SAT math problems like this are designed to trick you; you’re supposed to look at the problem, get confused by the multiple components and variables, and make a quick (maybe incorrect?) guess . Even though this problem looks tricky, taking the time to understand the information you’re given and what you need to evaluate the question can let you quickly find the right answer.
SAT Inequality Problem

InstaEDU SAT Math TutorUniversity of Chicago economics major Richard P. nabbed an 800 on the SAT’s math section when he took the test, and explains the best method to tackle this confusing inequalities problem. The challenge: there’s one insight that’s required to make solving the rest of the problem simple. Here’s how he says to approach it:

This is a pretty tricky question because we need to determine the veracity of the three given statements from just one seemingly small given fact.

The key insight here is to recognize that any real number squared will yield a positive number. From here, if we factor the given expression to a* b3c, then we see that b3c must be positive, since a2, a positive quantity, times b3c is positive. Similarly, if we factor b3c into a squared quantity b2 * bc, we realize that bc must also be positive because b3c and b2 are both positive. Thus, statement I is true.

Now, we just need to check if the other statements are true as well. One useful strategy we can use to determine this is to try plugging in some numbers for a, b, and c to try to find a contradiction. If we try a = -1, b = 1, and c = 1, then we have a2b3c > 0; however, ac and ab are both less than zero in this case. Thus, statements II and III are false, giving us answer choice a as the correct answer.

Looking for more help with inequalities or SAT math? Get in touch with Richard P. or one of our other stellar SAT math tutors.

SAT Challenge, Part 3: A Geometry Question Designed to Trip You Up

Last week, The College Board announced massive changes to the SAT. Gone are the historically arcane “SAT words” and the required essay section. And making its triumphant return is a score out of 1600 — not 2400 like it’s been since 2005. While this news may make students nervous (“Is the studying I’m doing right now going to be a waste?”) the truth is that this new version of the SAT isn’t being offered until Spring 2016. So those studying right now for Spring or Fall 2014 tests should stay the course on the study plan they already have in place.

To help us through a tricky geometry problem — one you’d find on the current version of the exam —is Atasha J., a Harvard graduate who gets great reviews for her SAT prep, biology and algebra lessons. Here’s the confusing question:

SAT Prep Geometry

Atasha writes:

This SAT questions is a bit tricky because it combines several geometric principles into one question. If you forget one of those principles, it will be very difficult for you to answer this question. I recommend that students review the basics of geometry as much as they can, because the geometry questions aren’t hard per se, they just requires students to be able to think in a puzzle-like manner.

The first thing to recognize with a problem like this is the fact that the height of the triangle is equivalent to the diameter of the circle. Because we are given the area of the circle, we can then find the circle’s diameter, which also gives us the height of the triangle.

SAT Geometry Problem

Now that we have the height of the triangle, the final step is for us to find the base of the triangle. There are few different methods to approach finding the base, but they all start with recognizing that triangles ADB and ADC are 30-60-90 triangles. One helpful ratio to remember is that for 30-60-90 triangles, the sides of the triangles will be x:x:2x, respectively. Because we have the measure of one side of the triangle and the measure of the angles, we could use trig functions to find the value of line segment DB which is half of the base. However, if will save you a lot of time on the day of the exam if you use the ratios mentioned above.

SAT Geometry Problem

Once we find the measure of the base, we can then plug that value and the value of the height of the triangle in the triangle area formula to find the overall area of triangleABC.  And we find that the final answer is (C).

SAT Geometry Problem

This problem is definitely on the tricky side, and requires you to think through your approach before you start. If it’s been a few years since you tackled geometry, our online geometry tutors can help you get refreshed on the most important formulas and principles. For general SAT math help, set up a lesson with Atasha, or choose one of our other online SAT Math tutors.

Instantly connect to your perfect tutor — every time

online tutoring instaedu

Connecting students with great tutors as quickly as possible is a huge focus of ours at InstaEDU. In fact, when we launched in May 2012, on-demand lessons were the only thing you could do on the site. Tutor profiles, messaging, scheduled lessons, and written lessons all came later.

While on-demand lessons are a core part of InstaEDU (we all know how terrible it can be to get stuck on an assignment the night before it’s due), we’ve seen how much our students enjoy picking their own tutors when scheduling lessons.

So the goal then became: let’s make it possible for students to get help instantly from the tutor of their choice.

Now, on any tutor search results page, you can filter by “Ready to Teach Now!” This will show you all tutors who have indicated that they’re ready to work with you at that exact moment. When you see the right fit, the two of you can enter a lesson in seconds (just click the “Meet Now” link on your chosen tutor’s profile).

Once you meet with a tutor you like, you can easily set up follow up lessons (or even schedule weekly sessions). But for those late-night study sessions, we know there’s no replacement for instantly connecting you to a tutor who can help.

SAT Challenge, Part 2: Why Finding the Error is Tougher than It Looks

Some student struggle with the math section of the SAT; other’s need to spend a little more time focusing on the verbal. Today’s SAT challenge question is one that’s tough for both students who breeze through the verbal section, and for students who find that verbal takes up a bigger chunk of their SAT study time. Philip L., a Columbia University student who has tons of SAT tutoring experience, walks us through how to approach this challenging “find the error” problem.

SAT Prep Verbal Problem Tutoring

Here’s how Philip advises to think about this SAT verbal section “find the error” problem.

This question can be difficult because choice A may throw off many students with its awkwardness. “Five years in the writing” — despite being grammatically correct  is an uncommon and unusual-sounding phrase. The correct answer is choice C, which contains a preposition error. It should be mistrust of rather than mistrust with.

Some students may be tempted to label this as a idiom error question, but it is a preposition error question that can be solved through reasoning rather than memorization. Mistrust is an action verb, so you must put of after it in order to indicate the thing (in this case, “her earlier findings”) that is being acted upon. The preposition with is generally used when referring to associations or comparisons, so it does not work in this sentence.

If you’re looking for some extra help tackling tough SAT verbal section problems like this one, get in touch with Philip. Or, browse all of our SAT tutors to find the perfect fit for you.