5 Study Tips to Master the SAT or ACT

The SATs and ACTs are coming… are you ready? Master the most important test of your high school career with these tips.

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1. Practice. It’s no secret that practice will help boost your scores. But how you practice matters. Practice like it’s test day. Create test-day conditions when you study. Complete timed, written tests. Get comfortable writing a timed essay with pencil and paper. Don’t listen to music.

2. Create a study schedule. You’re busy with school, work, sports, extracurricular activities, Netflix marathon binges, etc. That’s exactly why you need to create a study schedule and stick to it. Fit in as much studying as you can during the week. The less available free time you have to devote to studying, the earlier you need to start studying for the SAT or ACT.

3. Know the test structure. What material will you be tested on? When is the registration deadline? How many sections are there? Can you use a calculator? What is a good target score for your ideal college?

4. Read! Reading a wide variety of material in addition to practice tests will not only help with your reading comprehension, but also boost your vocabulary. Read articles in unfamiliar subject areas. Practice identifying the author’s argument. Mark and look up any words you don’t know. Reading up on current topics will also help with the essay portion. Essay prompts are usually general topics, so having a memory bank ready with several novels, historical events, and current events will help you spend less time racking your brain for examples and more time writing a killer essay.

5. Don’t cram for the exam. Listen, this is the most important test of your high school years. So ace it. Plan ahead, prep, and practice. Want an extra boost? Get the help of an awesome SAT or ACT tutor. Our tutors can help you identify key areas of focus, work with you to develop a personalized prep course, and teach you tricks— like when to guess on a question and when to skip it entirely— to help you grab your target score.

Tips from our Support Team: How to Find the Best Tutor for You

Hello, students! This is Lily writing to you from the support team here at InstaEDU. With the semester wrapping up, sometimes you need a very specific type of tutor to help with final projects and review session. With that in mind I wanted to share some of our handy tips for finding the exact right tutor for you.

Need help immediately? See tutors who are available now.

If you’re looking for a lesson right away, you can filter your search results by checking “Ready to teach now!” This will limit your search results to tutors who are available at that very moment to help you. You can message with a few tutors and enter a lesson with any of them in a single click.

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Search profiles for a specific keyword.

After an initial search by subject, you can further search by keywords in a tutor’s profile on the left side of the page. For instance, you can put in a college (i.e.“Stanford”) or something you want the tutor to specifically mention (i.e. “Shakespeare”). This often-overlooked feature can really help you zoom in on the tutors who have the background that you are looking for.

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Look for previous experience with your subject.

When you’re looking at a tutor’s profile, read through their previous experience and top subjects to better understand their history with the topic. This will give you context on whether they have years of tutoring experience, have taught a class, or just know the subject extremely well and have a knack for explaining things.

Browse previous reviews.

The reviews tab is a great way to see which subjects a tutor teaches most frequently and what other students have said about those lessons. Make sure that the comments from past students align with your expectations for the lesson.

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Formulate a concise and clear message.

Before messaging any tutors (I recommend messaging around 5 of them), craft a message that clearly explains what you are looking for in the lesson and when you’d like to have it. This makes it easy for tutors to respond efficiently and let you know whether or not they can help.

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If you need help finding the right tutor for you, the support team is always happy to help. Just visit our Support Center at instaedu.com/support to submit a request.

Happy studying and good luck on finals!

–Lily

Science Behind Interstellar Explained

If you’ve recently been to the movie theaters to see Christopher Nolan’s latest film Interstellar, you may have left the movie like “OMG,” but possibly also like “WTF?” Through the film’s storyline, the audience is introduced to a number of captivating yet complicated topics that former NASA pilot Cooper (Matthew McConaughey) and his team must tackle on their quest into unknown regions of space in order to save mankind.

To help demystify a few astrophysics-specific topics discussed in the movie such as using wormholes to travel to distant parts of the galaxy, the physics behind alternate dimensions, tidal forces caused by the gravitational pull of black holes, Einstein’s Theory of Relativity, and the physics behind aging at different rates explained by the famous Twin Paradox just to name a few, InstaEDU has teamed up with its own physics, astrophysics, and cosmology tutors to not only help shed light on these topics but to open a dialogue between you, the reader, and our experts who can help explain the answers that you’re looking for.

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Here to answer questions about the physics of Interstellar is one of InstaEDU’s “Interstellar” tutors, Jessica K, PhD from University of California, Berkeley and astrophysics tutor on InstaEDU.

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InstaEDU: In the movie, Cooper and his team travel through a wormhole to shortcut their travel through space to a far-off galaxy. Can wormholes really exist?

Jessica: Wormholes have never been observed in nature, and in fact most theoretical physicists believe they cannot occur naturally.  Wormholes do not violate any laws of physics, and in theory could be created by an advanced civilization.  But currently (as far as we know) they only exist on paper, not in reality.

InstaEDU: So what is a super massive black hole, like the black hole in the movie nicknamed Gargantua?

Jessica: Black holes are known to exist and there is even a black hole at the center of our Milky Way galaxy.  Black holes are simply a huge concentration of mass in a very small volume.  A super massive black hole is a black hole with a lot of mass in it (i.e. a million times the mass of our sun).

InstaEDU: In the movie, the space-faring team visits Miller’s planet, which orbits close to the black hole Gargantua, and finds that there is an actual difference of elapsed time between the time on that planet and on Earth (about 7 years on Earth to 1 hour on the foreign planet). How is this possible?

Jessica: Time is relative and our experience of time is not absolute but a function of how fast we are moving and the gravitational field we are in.  This has been verified experimentally by taking identical clocks and flying one in a jet plane (or putting one at a different elevation) and seeing how time passes differently for the two clocks.  Because the gravitational field near Miller’s planet was so huge (due to the supermassive black hole) they experienced time slower than people on earth who were in a smaller gravitational field.

InstaEDU: Is it really possible that Cooper, the main character in the story, could age slower than his daughter, Murph, who lives on Earth?

Jessica: Yes, this is possible and is commonly described in physics by the “Twin Paradox.”  The “Twin Paradox” could occur if one person (say, one of two twins) was in a dramatically different gravitational field than another person (the other of the two twins), or if one person moved much faster than another person. This would cause them to experience the passage of time differently and thus age at different rates relative to each other. So theoretically, two twins born on the same date could have different ages if one were to travel near the speed of light while the other stayed on earth.

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InstaEDU: On Miller’s planet, the team experiences some monstrous tidal waves due to the tidal forces of the nearby black hole. Can tidal forces really be that strong?

Jessica: Tides are caused by the gravitational field at one side of a planet being different than another side of the planet.  On earth this is caused by the moon exerting a gravitational pull on the ocean water.  You could imagine that if the moon were a lot bigger this could cause bigger tidal forces and more dramatic waves.  However, the way the waves were visualized in the movie I don’t think is accurate.  It would be less of a “wall of water” and more dramatic changes in the depth of the ocean.  However it looks cooler the way they did it.

InstaEDU: Now on to the really good stuff. In the movie, Cooper ejects from his ship in the black hole and lands in the event horizon where he encounters “The Tesseract” — aka the black hole’s gravitational singularity. This place is represented as a place where the laws of space and time become infinite. First off, what are singularity and the event horizon? In theory, can a place like this exist where the fifth dimension is represented three-dimensionally?

Jessica: A singularity is the place inside the black hole where the gravitational field is so strong (due to an almost infinite density of mass) that the curvature of space and time become infinite.  An event horizon is the edge of a black hole.  Once you cross the event horizon you can not escape the black hole’s gravitational pull and are stuck inside forever.

In Interstellar the manifestation of the singularity is a place where one can navigate both time and space dimensions.  This is allowed by the strong gravitational field warping space-time onto itself.  In reality if such a place existed inside a black hole, any living thing would be ripped upon entering the black hole before getting to the singularity… or if they somehow got there, wouldn’t be able to escape to report on what they saw.  It’s hard to imagine with our current knowledge of the laws of physics how someone could take advantage of a tesseract-like place, even if it were to exist.

InstaEDU: Lastly, if someone wanted to learn more about topics like the ones presented in the movie Interstellar, where would you recommend that they start?

Jessica: Most of the topics from the movie can be understood by learning about Einstein’s theories of Special and General Relativity, which can be done using Youtube videos or renting some good books. Kip Thorne, who is a theoretical physicists from Caltech and an executive producer for Interstellar, also wrote a book explaining the science behind the movie adequately named “The Science Behind Interstellar.” You should also chat with tutors, like me, on InstaEDU that can tutor in topics related to the movie Interstellar!

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Want to message with experts in the fields of astrophysics, physics, and cosmology? Connect with InstaEDU’s online Interstellar tutors and set up one-on-one tutoring sessions with your favorite tutors to learn more about topics discussed in the movie and in the astrophysics community overall.

What college admissions officers look for in your essay

Today’s post is by Bob Patterson, former Director of Admission at Stanford University, he has worked with thousands of students for the last 18 years of his career.

Your college application essay or personal statement is your one opportunity to introduce yourself to the admission board, and put a voice to your test scores and GPA. Writing a self-reflective deeply personal essay can be trying. What do college admissions officers really look for?

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Can you write?

Fundamentally the essay should serve to show your writing skills. Writing is an essential part of college courses, and the application essay allows admissions officers to see if you will be able to meet the demands of the writing curriculum at their school. Your essay should be well organized and properly formatted, and free of grammar and spelling mistakes. Thoroughly proofread – don’t just spellcheck.

What will you bring to the college community?

This essay serves as a means to show what you can contribute to the college. Admissions officers want to see you as an active contributing member of your community. This doesn’t mean you need to have 1000 community service hours. A unique genuine interest in the arts, a sport or activity all serve to highlight something you can contribute to the campus.

Personal Reflection

To allow us to get to know you, your essay should include personal reflection. While the other areas of your application will speak to the breadth of your extracurricular activities, the essay should focus on revealing depth in one area. Write a genuine thoughtful answer to the prompt showcasing what motivates you and why. Be compelling.

When writing your essay, start early, be yourself, be honest, take a risk and keep focused.

Believe me, I have read so many generic essays that were well written but didn’t tell me anything about a student. Admission officers want to know you and what makes you unique. It is not necessarily about the experience but what your take away was when you returned. How did the person, event, or experience change or reinforce who you are as a person and how will you contribute to the campus?  Test scores do matter but not as much as you think. Hey, it is only a 4 hour test on one Saturday afternoon, and what you did in high school is so much more important.

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Want even more college admissions help? Connect with Bob and other Chegg college admissions counselors.

So you failed a midterm – now what?

The awful feeling when you get back you midterm grade, and it wasn’t what you hoped for— we’ve all been there. Don’t let your test scores get you down; you can still pass the class. With a little pro-active studying, you’ll be able to take back your grade.

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Identify Your Weakness

Cry, freak out, eat an entire pint of Ben & Jerry’s (no judgement). It’s okay to be stressed out and disappointed in your grade. Once you’re calm and clear-headed, look over your exam. Did you bomb the whole exam or just do poorly in one section? Did you totally misunderstand the assignment or just one part of the material?

Once you’ve zeroed in on where things went awry, you can plan a study strategy to get a better grasp on concepts come finals.

Take Advantage of Office Hours & Talk to Your Professor

No matter where you went wrong, you should start by meeting with your professor or TA. Ask them to review your midterm with you and help identify how you can improve. Most professors will gladly offer suggestions on how to boost your grade in the future. Discuss your areas of strength and weakness. Was your midterm an essay? Review your professor’s notes and comments and ask for advice on how to improve your writing and argument on the next assignment.

You can also ask about opportunities for extra credit in the class. Meeting with your professor is the first step in proactively saving your grade.

Use All Your Resources

Let’s be honest— every student could use a little extra help. Now that you’ve identified what you need to work on, use all your available resources to ace your future exams and assignments. Go to class, take notes and actually participate.

After class, re-evaluate your study habits. When you know you’re stuck on a concept, connect with a tutor who can help walk through the subject and make it easier to understand. Tend to procrastinate? Commit to meeting classmates to study at a specific time. Boost your writing grade by having someone review your papers before you submit them.

5 Tips to Stop Sunday Procrastination

It’s Sunday morning. You’ve made it to the library, your schedule is totally clear for the day, and you’re planning to make a major dent in your work for the week. Before you start, you just want to quickly check Facebook in case anyone has posted photos from that party last night…

Next thing you know, it’s 4pm and all you’ve done is open your stats textbook to the correct page. Don’t worry; we’ve all been there. To help you avoid those all-nighters, here are 5 tips to stop your Sunday procrastination:

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Split up the Work

It can be overwhelming to see all the work you have in front of you. Where do you even start? Your assignments can feel a lot less daunting if you break them down into smaller subtasks. Rather than thinking about an entire essay you need to write, it’s way more manageable to first focus on creating an outline.

Give Yourself a Break

No one can focus for hours at a time – you end up not working effectively. Heading to the gym, or even a brisk 5 minute walk outside the library will keep you refreshed, alert, and ready to jump back into studying. Another good idea is meeting your friends for a meal at the cafeteria – it’s a great break from the library and a chance to grab something other than coffee, redbull, and vending machine snacks.

Prepare to Focus

Don’t tell yourself that you can be productive while doing homework in your bed. Next thing you know, you’ll be re-watching the entire first season of Breaking Bad under the covers. Head to the library, a quiet study area, or at the very least, sit at a desk. With fewer distractions around and a focused mindset, you’ll be less inclined to procrastinate.

Treat Yourself

You need some motivation to keep focused on a grueling day of homework. Try rewarding yourself every time you cross something off your to-do-list or finish a task in the hour of time you gave yourself. Good study rewards could be checking your Instagram and other social media accounts, taking a lap around the library to chat with friends, or even watching a quick episode of your most recent Netflix addiction.

Use Some Self Control

If you can, keep that laptop closed! You’re going to get a lot less done if you’re scanning Twitter, Facebook, and Reddit every five minutes. If you need to use more drastic measures, try out “Self Control App” on the iTunes store. You can block your favorite, time-wasting websites and set a timer for how long they’re off-limits. Not even deleting the app will get those sites unblocked for you.

5 Study Snacks to Bring to the Library

The first day of the semester is a distant memory, and the library now feels like home. Eating certain foods can help you improve your study focus, retain more information and stay mentally alert throughout your gruelling study sessions. These brain food snacks will satisfy your growling stomach and help you get better grades.

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Binge on Blueberries

Evidence from Tufts University suggests that eating blueberries may help to delay short term memory loss, so all those flash cards won’t be forgotten the moment you walk into your exam.

Crunch Some Broccoli

Broccoli is a known source of vitamin K, which enhances brainpower and cognitive function. Pair it with some hummus to help keep you full longer and prevent any embarrassingly noisy stomach grumbles.

Treat Yourself To Dark Chocolate

Resist that Snickers bar in the vending machine, and stick to dark chocolate. Dark chocolate is jam-packed with antioxidants and has enough caffeine to help you stay awake. Plus, as an added bonus, the smell of chocolate triggers relaxation in the brain.

Go Nuts

Many types of nuts contain essential fatty acids to help boost your brainpower. They’re also high in iron to help increase your mental alertness and ability to retain information. And they’re easily transported and full of protein to help keep you full and uninterrupted.

An Apple a Day

Eating an apple a day will keep the doctor away, and it is also a great power snack for studying. Apple peels contain powerful antioxidants called quercetin that help enhance memory function.

Let us know what your favorite study fuel is!