High School

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Avoiding clichés in your Common App essay
The Common App essay is a near-universal hurdle for American high schoolers. Millions of essays from the same seven prompts are written each year for admissions teams to read. As a result, a handful of clichés have emerged about the Common App essay: the school community service trip, the death of a grandparent, the sports injury—I could go on…
My top tip for improving performance on the ACT
The ACT can be a tough experience. There are tons of questions and little time to complete them. They often seem confusing and misleading, and it’s even easier to become confused when you’re rushing to finish on time. But like all other standardized tests, the ACT relies on a formula. To succeed, you just need to crack that formula.
5 tips for managing writing anxiety
Some writing anxiety is inevitable and even useful. But if your anxiety is keeping you from producing your best work, try the strategies below to improve your writing process.
Solving systems of equations by graphing (even after Algebra 1)
When learning about lines in Algebra 1, you likely learned how to solve a system of (linear) equations, such as the following, by graphing:
Centrifugal force explained
Fictitious forces such as the centrifugal force are fake forces – they don’t really exist! However, fictitious forces are helpful when working in non-inertial reference frames (a fancy term for reference frames that are accelerating, like when we use the rotating Earth as a reference frame). In these frames, F = ma doesn’t hold, and you’ll need to ...
Attempting to become a theoretical physicist: initial steps
If you've clicked on this blog, you must be captivated by the beauty of relativity, quantum mechanics, dark matter, or black holes. Now, you're eager to delve deeper into these subjects. Maybe this moment just happened recently or a few years ago. Regardless, you want to get paid to study nature and attempt to describe it using mathematics. As I ...
The value of seeing: why everyone should make art
“The relation between what we see and what we know is never settled. Each evening we see the sun set. We know that the earth is turning away from it. Yet the knowledge, the explanation, never quite fits the sight.” (John Berger, Ways of Seeing)
How to revise your writing in 3 easy steps
So, you’ve finished the first draft of an essay, paper, short story, or personal statement! You’ve done the first hardest part: sitting down and putting pen to paper. But writing, like any other creative pursuit, is “10% inspiration and 90% perspiration.” In other words, the first draft is just a start. Revising is where the real work happens.
Making mistakes in math class
Learning math often feels like it’s all about right or wrong, like success or failure are the only two possible options and that all of your math expertise is visible as soon as you take a test. What I experienced as a student studying math and now as a math teacher is that this couldn’t be further from the truth. Some of my greatest learning ...
Freewriting: the cure for writer’s block
Writing an essay or term paper can often feel like an uphill battle. We have all been victims, time to time, of the dreaded “writer’s block.” It can be frustrating and overwhelming when you sit down to write but you just don’t know where to start. But fear not! In this blog post, I will describe a helpful technique for overcoming writer’s block: ...
Does reading poetry make you feel grumpy? Lean into it.
Poetry can try the patience of even the most willing of readers. John Milton’s extended similes mysteriously belabor seemingly arbitrary comparisons; T.S. Eliot’s famously infuriating footnotes obscure more than they reveal; and Lyn Hejinian’s non-sequitur-fueled “sonnets” boggle the mind, refusing sense and logic at every turn. If you’ve ever ...
Understanding Demonstrated Interest
At some point in your college application journey, you may have heard the term “demonstrated interest.” But what does it mean? And does it matter?
IQE: Introduce, Quote, and Explain
Though the arguments in our essays might seem clear to us, that doesn’t always mean our audience is going to find them so easy to follow. This is especially true when it comes to citing textual evidence in essays. Our audiences aren’t there with us in the library or at home poring over our books and papers. They’re not in our heads. We always have ...
4 tips for better papers
There’s nothing quite like the feeling of dread that settles in the pit of your stomach when you sit down in front of yet another blank Google Doc with a paper due at midnight. You might even tell yourself you’re not getting the grades you want because you’re just not good at writing.
Breaking into research: a guide for undergraduates and high schoolers
Research is the crucible of scientific innovation. But to many young undergraduate students and high schoolers, participating in this space can seem daunting, untenable, or even impractical. However, if you keep reading, I hope to demystify getting involved in research as a budding scientist and convince you that working towards a publication and ...
How to be a good mentee
If you’ve ever attempted to find a research mentor, you know how daunting it can be. Without existing research mentors who can vouch for your work ethic, breaking into the research world can be challenging. So, once you’ve found a research mentor, it can be even more overwhelming to think about how to develop that relationship. Whether you’re in ...
How to make the most of your college visits
College visits are an important process of the application process, whether they are in-person or virtual tours. Here's how you can make the most of these visits:
5 Tips for writing lab reports
So, you’ve completed the experiment in your high school science class. Now what? After hours in the lab and analyzing your data, it is now time to write a lab report. This can be a hard assignment for students to wrap their heads around. Lab reports are kind of like the essays you have written for English and history, but now it is time to apply ...
How to tackle 10 tough admissions interview questions
Applying to college or graduate school? Interviews will likely be part of the application process! Although interviews can be nerve-wracking, they are a great chance for you to show your personality and give the admissions committee a sense of who you are as a person – in real life, not just on paper! Read on for tips for tackling 10 tough ...
How to make the college admissions process less stressful and more rewarding
Let’s put it bluntly: the college admissions process can be taxing. Between standardized tests, constant deadlines, and the dreaded personal essay, there are myriad sources of stress facing every college applicant. But while studying for any particular exam might provoke some degree of automatic anxiety, the process itself can be rewarding. ...
Writing, in all forms it takes, can be very scary. This is because writing is hard! If you’re anything like me, you may also worry about what others will think of your writing. It’s inevitable that some people won’t like or agree with what you say, but what you can do is make sure that your writing is as foolproof as possible. You’ve probably ...
How to apply to Brown University
Brown University requires three specific essay questions for first year and transfer applications. Each of these questions provides an opportunity to demonstrate how you might benefit from and contribute to the Brown community.
The power of Python
Python has gained a reputation over the past decade as an excellent language for beginners to the world of programming. Why is this? It boils down to two primary reasons: it is easy to read and write, and it comes with a great ecosystem of open-source libraries.
How to write the Common App essay
It may seem overwhelming to write a college essay for the first time. Especially when that college essay is for the Common Application and will be sent to every school that you apply to. In this post, I’ll go over some tips for writing the Common App essay, and what steps you can take to make your essay as compelling as it can be.
Why does chemistry seem so difficult?
I have greeted over 1,000 students to my classroom throughout the 20+ years of teaching AP Chemistry, and the number one question I hear is “Why is chemistry so hard?” I have several responses to that question that I have offered to my students. But first, I want you to read each bullet below and notice which one resonates with you:
Avoiding the “Tragedy of the Commons" or the key to a killer Common App essay
For every rising senior, the infamous Common Application Essay is a bright spotlight. Some fear it, some relish in it, and many grapple with exactly how they can use it to shine in sea of strategic and significant applicants. Initiated as a movement to streamline the process of presenting yourself to a large assortment of schools, the Common App ...
How to start writing about a piece of art
One of the things that makes art history such an interesting analytical discipline is that it examines both the anthropological and creative value of an artwork. Artworks are historical objects that can give us insight into the culture of a particular place and time. Yet artworks also transcend their time and place through their creativity, ...
Quantum Mechanics in 5 minutes
I wouldn’t be surprised if you’ve heard the word “quantum” before. It’s a real buzzword: “quantum computing,” “quantum gravity,” “quantum information,” “quantum entanglement”. But what is quantum mechanics, really? My goal in this post is to give you intuition for what quantum mechanics is, where you can find it in real life, and why it’s so ...
How to approximate the value of pi
I always tell my students not to be afraid to ask why. In so many parts of our lives, we are asked to defend our opinions and ideas—to offer evidence and to explain our thinking or reasoning. But sometimes, it feels this is missing from math education, especially in middle school and high school. Math becomes about memorizing formulas rather than ...
So, you’re applying to the school of your dreams! How does that feel? It’s probably a much more complex answer than you would have initially anticipated. Perhaps you feel a burst of elation, followed by a flood of fear, combatted with justifications, affirmations, strategizing and eventually a settling down into acceptance. Perhaps you just feel ...
Why learn to write?
In school, we devote time and energy to learning many different skills, in many different subject areas. Some of these skills may feel more relevant than others. A student who dreams of becoming an artist may bemoan the hours spent calculating derivatives in Algebra, while a future chemist might wonder why she should bother with Social Studies’ ...
How to participate in class without saying a word
Does your grading rubric include a category like “classroom participation”? In my experience, when students learn they are being graded on their participation, their first reaction is to participate more: more frequently, more vigorously, more visibly. They raise their hand as often as possible, even before they’ve had time to really think through ...
A college application guide for rising seniors
The time has come for you to make your college application list. You have worked for this moment your entire high school career. While going to college seems exciting, the application process might seem daunting or exhausting. But I believe the application process can be fun! If you follow these easy steps, you will be good to go in no time.
Decoding and comprehension: the two components of learning how to read
Reading is a fundamental mode of communication and therefore a prerequisite of active participation in today’s world. There are two components to reading: decoding and comprehension. Decoding refers to understanding the relationship between letters and sounds, otherwise known as phonics; comprehension refers to a student’s ability to make sense of ...
Stuck on your common app essay? Forget the prompts!
If you’re anything like many of the students I have tutored (or like me), you opened the Common App essay questions and became very overwhelmed very quickly. There are so many options! And how are they both so vague and so specific? You read:
How to write Stanford's Roommate Letter
Of all the creative college application supplements out there, perhaps the most deceptively simple is this infamous prompt from Stanford University:
An introduction: Montessori in Clyde River, Nunavut (way, way up North)
I’d like to offer a glimpse into one of the most moving and meaningful experiences I’ve had as an educator.
The three pillars of time management
The broad scope of ‘time management’ essentially boils down to three aspects: priorities, organization, and commitment. It is easy to feel overwhelmed when creating your schedule, especially as you enter a new school year. Maybe you’re trying to juggle what feels like a million activities as you’re applying to college or wondering how you are ...
How to boost exam scores with the bucket method
Multiple-choice exams are inevitable in our education system. They crop up for students as early as elementary school, follow students all the way through college applications, and persist in university courses and graduate school entrance exams. Having an arsenal of exam strategies ready to deploy during a multiple-choice exam can significantly ...
Tips for persuasive personal writing
Personal essays pop up across admissions processes, from high school admissions all the way through graduate admissions. They often feature open-ended prompts or encourage you to dig deep into your core values and beliefs. This is a daunting task - so where do you start?
One common belief that I’ve heard about the SAT Reading section is that older high school students just wake up one day and “get it.” When these students start to suddenly excel on questions about tone and paragraph purpose, it can seem like they flicked on a light switch. Students, parents, and other people alike have talked to me about this ...
How to answer the Georgetown supplement
All universities value applicants who have thought through their reasons for applying. Georgetown takes it to the next level: more than a decade after all other major universities made the switch to the Common App, Georgetown remains the lone holdout. “We’re encouraging students to express themselves to us, rather than to a common process,” says ...
The puzzle pieces of an argument
When learning about argumentative writing, my students regularly freeze. The terms claim, reasoning, evidence, and explanation all appear to be the same. They are unsure where to start and where to end. So let’s break it down together.
How to tackle the Bowdoin supplement
Ok, so we all recognize that the phrase “college is the best four years of your life” sounds absolutely ridiculous… it is. In fact, everyone at Bowdoin laughs at this phrase; however, don’t let this discourage you from using Bowdoin's unique supplement prompt to showcase your thoughtfulness and your ability to reflect, synthesize and EMBRACE the ...
Columbia University is one of the world’s most diverse institutions. Their school-specific application questions help create a class of students with different interests and backgrounds. The Columbia admissions officers want to picture how you will interact with your classmates and contribute to campus life. The questions below will help ...
How to answer Yale's supplemental essays
School-specific supplementary essays provide an opportunity for you to share additional insight about yourself that may not have been captured in the main Common App essay. In this post, I will present approaches to Yale University’s supplementary questions. Ideally, these strategies can be applicable for a range of supplementary questions beyond ...
How to answer the University of Virginia's supplemental essays
School-specific supplements are an opportunity to share an intellectual interest, or an element of your life story, that might be missing from your main Common App essay. In this post, I will describe strategies for answering two supplement questions from the University of Virginia. Although my advice is tailored to these two prompts, my hope is ...
How to write the community service essay
Whether in an interview or an essay, all college applicants should be prepared to talk about the ways they have worked to improve their schools and communities. No college wants to admit a passive recipient of community, they would all much prefer to admit an active and engaged citizen who understands that community requires contribution. Use this ...
The “Why College X” Supplement
Perhaps the most straightforward type of supplement question, many schools simply want to know “Why Us?” The word count for this type of response will vary significantly based on the school – from 50 to 500 words.
Leadership essays, or essays where you are asked about your work as a leader in your school or community, are not as common as you might imagine. Given all of the emphasis schools and clubs put on leadership roles and titles, essays asking students to dive deeply into this work are actually pretty rare in college applications. That said, it is ...
JOY! Not just a character in Inside Out, but a supplement essay too!
Increasingly, schools are asking students to reflect on things that bring them joy, satisfaction, or happiness. These can be difficult to write as often the college application process is the opposite of joyful... but these joy essays are here to stay!
Who… are…you? How to write the identity supplement.
In Alice in Wonderland, when the Caterpillar persists in asking “Who… Are…. You?,” Alice stumbles and cannot reply. It’s a good thing that Alice isn’t applying to college, because some form of an essay asking about you (and your identity and/or perspective) is an ever-more-popular supplement question. These are hard! It is important to tackle ...
How to write a college supplement about community
You do not exist in a vacuum and colleges know this! The very common “community essay” is an opportunity for you to tell a story about one community that matters to you and what you have gained from its membership. This is your chance to talk about people you care about (and why!) in a much tighter and more focused way than you can in your Common ...
The combo essay: not a lunch order!
Increasingly, schools are crafting a single supplement question that combines two “tried and true” supplements into one big question. Consider the “combo essay” the way for you to talk about the best aspects of why you want to attend College X combined with the ways you get to talk about your academic interests and passions as specific to that ...
How to answer a challenge question for college supplements
The challenge question is a rare written supplement but is actually a very common interview question. Every college applicant should be prepared to discuss a failure (or something that did not go as they had intended) whether that discussion comes in the application itself or in an interview situation. While, on the surface, challenge questions ...
How to tackle the academic interest supplement
Why are you going to college? Hopefully to learn more about something that inspires you! While you might have many and varied reasons for attending college (someone told you that you had to, you are excited to watch a college basketball game live, you cannot wait to move to a new city), at the root of your college application is the presumption ...
How to prove the Pythagorean Theorem
The Pythagorean Theorem plays an essential role in many facets of math from Euclidean Geometry to complex numbers to trigonometry. Today we’ll explore one of its many proofs.
10 steps to completing your college essay before school starts
It’s that time of year: you’re probably working on your college essay. You might even have a first draft. Great job! Take a breather and enjoy some of your favorite summer activities. When you’re ready to confront your document again, take a look at these revision tips that I’ve put together over years of helping students make their essays into ...
Go from surviving to thriving during exam prep
There’s no question that preparing for standardized exams can take a toll on our emotional and physical well-being if we are not intentional about our approach. To reach your highest potential on a standardized exam, you must take your wellness schedule as seriously as your exam prep schedule. But what should you focus on? The following 5 pillars ...
Where to begin on the personal essay
You’re nearing the end of eleventh grade, and you’re approaching that daunting but thrilling task that you’ve been imagining for years: you’re applying to college! Even before you make a College Board account or begin narrowing down your college choices, you probably already know about that one super critical piece of the puzzle: the personal ...
How to get a top research internship in high school
Looking to do research and unsure about where to start? Follow these simple steps and you'll be well on your way to developing your interests, making connections at a university, and demonstrating your passions for a particular field of work.
How to solve (almost) any math problem
Math is all about problems -- questions for which you don’t currently know the answer -- and problems can be really frustrating. That feeling of being stuck, for me, goes from a scattered confusion to a mind-numbing blankness. It’s really easy to shut down and give up, so the first step to solving any math problem is to persist! Don’t let the ...
How to be a prodigy (in two very difficult steps)
You’ve probably heard of Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart. From an early age, he was known as a child genius. Before the age of ten he could play multiple instruments, had composed many musical pieces, and had a little gift known as perfect pitch. Perfect pitch is the ability to hear a musical pitch and be able to name it, on the spot. It’s incredibly ...
Application essays: the power of story
The blank page can be a daunting place for even the most experienced writers, and application essays can be particularly stressful. How do I encapsulate myself in something like six hundred words? What do I need to come across about myself to the reader? And how do I best convey it? It can feel like a tall order, I know.
The key to cracking standardized tests
On May 7, 2002, a sportswriter questioned NBA superstar Allen Iverson about his dedication to his team and his alleged failure to attend team practices. The next few moments would go down in NBA history as one of the most iconic interview responses ever given, and produced the now-infamous line: “We talkin’ about practice!”
3 tips on how to find your first research mentor
Are you an undergraduate or high school student looking for your first research mentor? Doing research is an incredible experience that teaches you to look at the world in a different way, work together in teams, plan out tasks for hours, days, weeks and even months in advance but, most of all, research teaches you patience. That last lesson ...
5 weird moments in European history
Some people say “reality is stranger than fiction,” and throughout the course of human history, this has definitely been true. Here are just five of those moments that were as strange – or stranger – than something you would find in books or on tv:
3 tips for more effective studying
Whether in high school, college, or graduate school, studying is an important skill. Most students do not have an abundance of free time, and even if we occasionally do, we’d probably rather spend it with friends or pursuing personal passions rather than trying to re-learn or re-study material we didn’t quite absorb the first time around. So how ...
How to study for Chinese dictation quizzes

How to ethically use WolframAlpha, Mathway, and Photomath
As a middle school and high school math teacher, I’ve seen my students try to get out of doing work in all sorts of ways. If you haven’t heard of WolframAlpha, Mathway, or Photomath, you may want to stop reading this article now - the temptation may ruin your hard-work ethic.
Be a STAR: strategy for college interviews, job interviews, and more
Talking about ourselves can be hard, especially in a high-pressure situation, like a college interview. The STAR method is a strategy that will help you knock the interview out of the park!
What’s the most dreaded letter that could appear on a transcript? I’ll wager that it’s not a “B,” or, gulp, a “C”, but a “P” as in “plagiarist.” In fact, if Hester Prynne were a 21st century student, instead of the protagonist of Nathaniel Hawthorne’s 19th century novel The Scarlet Letter, she’d probably be less concerned about having the letter ...
Suitcases and schedule scrapes: “packing” more punch into limited study time
In his book, Outliers, Malcolm Gladwell lays out criterion that in some ways has become the anecdotal darling of pop-academic culture. You’ve likely heard of it: the 10,000-hour rule. Mastery, Gladwell purports, is a matter of numbers. Put 10,000 hours of focused practice, and you can achieve mastery of a complex set of skills. Imagine the ...
Good writers start as good readers
Writing is a conversation. Whether you anticipate your audience to be a friend, a panel of scientists, a room full of legislators, the owner of a pizza shop, the divine universe, or oneself, to write is to put forth one’s wish to be heard. By extension, to read is to be in the position of the listener. Just as we learn to speak and to express ...
Where ideas come from
A lot of people who sit down to write a story are worried they don’t have any ideas. They think people who do have ideas are very special, or different in some way to people who don’t. It’s for this reason that authors are so often asked where they get their ideas from. The people asking think that the author will reveal the magical secret of ...
To ask or not to ask? That should NEVER be the question
My family often refers to me as “the questionnaire” because I am constantly peppering people with questions during all of our conversations. What can I say? I spent four years as both an English literature student at Bates College and a reporter/editor for my college newspaper. I simply always have questions to ask of myself and those around me. ...
How often do you start writing an essay with a great idea in mind, only to lose steam—or worse, lose track of your argument—well before you meet the length requirement? Have you ever reread a paper draft only to realize what you’re arguing on the first page isn’t quite the same thing you’re arguing on the last one? These sorts of problems are ...
Introduction to Functions
You’ve made it through algebra: now it is time to start talking about functions. While functions are often used to make upper-level mathematics easier to understand, they can be confusing at first. So – what is a function? How do functions relate to the algebraic equations we have used before? And how do they help us with mathematics and computer ...
How to choose the best college for you
The college admissions process can be really stressful—there are exams to take, essays to write, recommendations to request... our to-do lists seem never-ending. But the vast majority of our concerns with this process circle around the same question: What do I need to do to get into this school? This is, of course, an important question—and there ...
Computer science buzzwords explained
Computer science can be intimidating! Especially when people use lingo you aren’t familiar with. The goal of this blog post is to help you start understanding some of the computer science buzzwords.
How to communicate better: unlocking language’s hidden meanings
We all know that language is a powerful tool for communication. Sometimes it can be surprising how much meaning is conveyed in the shortest of sentences. Language is composed not only of the direct meaning of the words used, but also of many additional layers of meaning that arise through prior knowledge, background information, word choice, and ...
5 easy steps to good writing
Great chefs don’t cook wonderful meals on the first try. They’ve been in the kitchen for many sessions trying things out before they put a dish on the table. Writers need to do this too. Plan, practice, and prepare for the writing project you have in front of you. Break it into manageable chunks of about 2-3 hours each. These chunks need to be ...
Why I love teaching English
“I’m not good at writing.” “I don’t really like reading.” “I don’t think of myself as a writer.” “Why do I need to learn how to write? I’m going to study engineering!”
Why I love teaching Spanish
In the spring of 2020, when we were all locked down due to the pandemic and feeling cooped up and anxious, I got an email that lifted my spirits. It was from a former student who wrote to thank me for writing him a letter of recommendation for an internship with his local congresswoman that led to a job after graduation. He revealed something that ...
Why everyone can love math
“I hate math!”
I have always been fascinated by human emotions and behaviors, as well as the unique ways in which we interact with ourselves, others, and the world. I initially learned about a field that addresses these very phenomena—that is, the field of psychology —when I was in high school. However, I didn’t consider it as a possible career path until ...
It’s not uncommon for people to find history the most boring subject in school. It often gets a bad rap in popular culture, too. In Harry Potter, for example, the History of Magic teacher, Professor Binns, drones on and on and frequently puts his students to sleep with boring lectures about arcane material. When I tell people I study history, they ...
This is not your average college admissions timeline. Rather, this is an outline of a thoughtful and purposeful college process, one that begins your freshman year because it's a journey of discovery, reflection, and articulation. Read on to see Cambridge Coaching's suggestions for how to structure your high school career with respect to your ...
What if I told you that there’s a way to describe the waves of the ocean, the winds in the skies, the motions of celestial bodies — almost everything around us — and harness that information to create great things? This tool does exist, and it’s a science so fundamental that its principles guide our understanding of everything from microbes to ...
How to streamline a draft
One way to make sure your writing is clear (beyond writing "good sentences") is to take a look at the content of your paragraphs. The technique I'm going to detail in this post is perfect for a first draft, but can be used for final drafts too. I like to use this method when I need to cut some words to make a paper shorter, or before and after a ...
How to plan and organize historical research
Designing and executing historical research for a short essay, seminar paper, or thesis can be daunting. How do you find a primary research question, and how do you know which sources will help you answer this question? How do you read and take notes on sources once you've found them?
Tips for studying biology
I am often asked the question, “Brooke how do you study for biology?” We know to use practice problems to study for physics, or pathway diagrams for chemistry, but biology is different: it is a lot of memorizations!
My first day in the gym was intimidating. I always thought the gym wasn’t for me, and so I had tried to avoid it as much as I could. I remember feeling slightly embarrassed as I picked up the smallest weights in the gym with my slender arms. However, overtime I was able to pick up heavier weights and noticed that my arms were slowly filling up the ...
The PSAT: what it is and isn’t for your college application process
Although designed as a test for 11th grade students, sitting for the PSAT might also be appropriate for 9th or 10th grade students. To better understand what the PSAT does (and does not) represent in terms of the college application process, here are some answers to common questions:
To ACT or to SAT? That is the question.
“Do colleges like one test more than the other?” “Isn’t the SAT harder?” “What if I’m terrible at science?!” “But all my friends took the ACT!”
Dreaming and designing: a short guide to your many lives
One of the most impactful books I’ve read this year is Designing Your Life: How to Build a Well-Lived, Joyful Life, a phenomenal guide by Bill Burnett and Dave Evans, who lead the Design Program at Stanford University. Evans and Burnett break down the principles of design thinking and demonstrate how they can be used to build a life that is ...
A language study routine that actually works
So you're studying a new language, and you've been told that you need to make time to review and study vocabulary regularly. That makes sense. You tell yourself you'll do it. You may even make some flashcards and spend time drilling them two or three times early in the semester when you are full of good intentions. But if you're like me, the ...
Reading is hard. But it doesn’t have to be.
There is no denying it. In the age of the attention economy, bright stimulating screens, and exhausting schedules it is very hard to sit down and read with focus. Whether we are talking about a novel for English class, a source for AP U.S. History, or that dense SAT Reading passage from the Federalist Papers, it is hard to truly dig in and read ...
What to do for college applications as a rising senior (in August)
After what was hopefully a restful and relaxing summer, you are ready to start school again this month (or next, depending on where you go to school)! You are officially a senior now. Much about your college process will come into clarity in the next few months. All of the work you have already done will be such an advantage to you in the weeks ...
Breaking down the common app personal statement
The common app personal essay can seem like a daunting task to tackle. Not only that, misconceptions abound about how to write this "all-important" essay and what to put in it. Not to worry - Cambridge Coaching is here to dispel these common misconceptions and give you some tools to start your writing on the right foot!
What makes a good descriptor?
Cliche is natural; originality, not so much. Pre-packaged phrases like “bring to the table,” “at the end of the day,” or “read between the lines” are overused and now lack their meaning, becoming a kind of automatic thinking, according to George Orwell. But why? Because triggering automatic thinking in a listener is helpful to a speaker if he or ...
Why and how I learned seven languages (and am learning two more!)
English and Japanese: Growing up bilingual but also investing time and effort The first two languages I learned had no reason to be learned other than geographic, structural factors — I spoke Japanese at home and English at school. Though there have been numerous studies on the inherent benefits of multilingual environments for language learning ...
An international student’s guide to US college applications
International students (who typically require an F-1 visa to study in the United States) account for an increasing percentage of matriculated undergraduate and graduate students each year. I was an international undergraduate student myself, and I remember that the process of applying to colleges in the US seemed so intimidating and overwhelming ...
Degree or no degree, everyone should be a computer scientist
If you were to ask someone why they didn’t want to be a computer scientist, their most likely answer probably would be: “I just don’t want to spend my life coding.” While coding is certainly a component of the life of many computer scientists, there are many who do not even touch code. I would even argue that the allure of studying computer ...
What to do over the summer as a rising senior in high school
Happy summer, rising seniors! I hope you are taking some time to enjoy yourselves. I'm here to tell you that you do not need to work on your college applications each day to have a successful college process. This is a great time to continue the slow and steady work you have already begun, but it is also important that you find time to rest and ...
Five steps to flawlessly edit your writing
There is no such thing as a perfect essay, but there certainly are imperfect ones. Botched grammar, careless typos, and ineloquent wording will be sure to raise the eyebrows of admissions committees, teachers, and professors alike. When the stakes are high, careful editing can make all the difference.
To succeed as a historian, question what you think you know
On an April 2021 episode of SNL, Bowen Yang appeared on Weekend Update as the iceberg hit by the Titanic. Yang’s ‘iceberg’ is ostensibly there to promote his new album, but after prodding by Weekend Update host Colin Jost, he gives in and starts talking about The Sinking.
How to organize a paragraph: the MEAL plan
Composing a clear paragraph is a foundational skill in academic writing. In high school, you may have been taught that a paragraph requires a certain number of sentences – maybe three, maybe five. But paragraphs come in different lengths, and rather than follow strict rules about word count or a requisite number of sentences, it’s important to ...
It’s no secret that higher education has become increasingly competitive in recent years. Starting in high school (or earlier), students may begin to experience pressure to “perform”—get straight As and a perfect SAT/ACT score while juggling 37 extracurriculars to get into your dream college, make Dean’s List every semester and launch a start-up ...
How to remember what you read
Maybe this sounds familiar: you’re sitting in class, racking your brain for the answer to a question you know you should be able to answer, but the information’s just not there. You’re frustrated. You spent hours doing the reading, yet now it’s like it evaporated from your head.
What is demonstrated interest? How do I show it? Why should I care?
Colleges increasingly rely on calculations of a student’s “demonstrated interest” (or "DI") to make decisions about admission and offers for various merit scholarships. It is important that students and families have a true understanding of DI to see how it can support an application.
Tackling the AP English Language and Composition essays: part 1
More than any other test, the AP English Language and Composition Exam is dominated by essays. Three timed essays—the Synthesis Essay, Rhetoric Essay, and Argument Essay—will take up most of your time on the exam, and count for more than fifty percent of your score. In this three-part guide, I’ll walk you through the process of writing timed ...
The TOEFL Reading section involves several distinct types of questions. In preparing for your test, it is important to know: what kinds of questions there are, how to identify each kind of question, and how to answer each kind of question. This lesson will teach you how to identify and answer what the TOEFL calls Inference Questions.
College Alumni Interview do’s (and a few don’ts)
First, the do’s: 1. Be on time and look professional. Log into the Zoom link early and wait. Be sure your “Zoom shirt” is appropriate.
How to get to know a college when COVID means you can’t visit
As COVID was canceling proms and making graduations “drive-through” last spring, it was also causing a major shift in how colleges and admissions offices were introducing themselves to students and families. Students and families began to wonder, “How can I get to know if X College is right for me if I can’t visit and see it for myself?” Just ...
How to balance redox reactions in acidic and basic solutions
Balancing redox reactions is an essential skill for the Chemical and Physical Foundations section of the MCAT, the GRE Chemistry Subject Test, and the AP Chemistry Exam. Today, we will learn how to use the half-cell method for balancing redox reactions in acidic and basic solutions. We will first balance a redox reaction in acidic solution, then ...
Top grammar errors to avoid
Throughout the years I’ve spent reading and writing, I’ve seen my fair share of grammar errors. But few are peskier, or more pervasive, than the two I’ll discuss in this post. So common are these two grammar errors that I regularly encounter them in professional writing — sometimes even in articles by full-blown professors! These two errors often ...
How to use root words to learn vocabulary
Retaining new English vocabulary is challenging, whether you’re learning English for the first time or studying for standardized tests like the SAT or GRE. The challenge arises, in part, from the sheer volume of words in English. English’s massive lexicon comes from words in several other languages, and learning some of these words—more often ...
Using pKa to predict protonation state
When you've learned about pKa, you've most likely used it in acid-base calculations. However, some exams may ask you to apply a conceptual knowledge of pKa to predict whether a chemical compound is charged or uncharged.
How to choose the right college essay topic
Choosing the right topic for your college application essay can feel daunting. How are you supposed to make yourself stand out from the crowd? What are you supposed to do if you’re just “normal”? How can you say anything meaningful about yourself in only 650 words?
Before anything else, congratulate yourself. You wrote something! That’s huge! Writing is hard. Having something is so much better than having nothing. Something can be revised. And revising can be a lot of fun, as long as you have the right support. Here are some tools to help you navigate the revision process:
Up close and personal: how to prepare for a close reading paper
Close reading? Shouldn’t we already be reading “closely” for class? Correct! But the term “close reading” also describes a very specific type of literary inquiry in which one pays careful, prolonged attention to a small chunk of text (or art object) in order to produce an argument about that text and how it works. Close reading is the ...
The Intermediate Value Theorem explained by everyday life
Calculus can be tough stuff. Calc AB was the first AP class I ever took in high school, and though I love the subject now, I certainly didn’t love it when I was first struggling with limits or with the chain rule for derivatives.
Working from home means I can adapt myself to the capricious schedule of bread making. Dough waits for no one (and it will not rise more quickly if prodded!). I’ve loved baking since childhood, but I discovered bread more recently.
How to approach initial value word problems
We’ve all been there: on a homework set or in an exam, you turn to the final page and, to your dismay, it’s a wall of text. The dreaded Word Problem. Some of the words are useful, but some of them are meant to distract. Let’s look at a strategy for answering initial value word problems.
S’more fun: simplifying limiting reactants using chocolate
Stoichiometry: it’s the bane of many chemistry students’ studies. It’s so easy to get tangled up in a jumble of numbers without any idea of what’s actually going on.
Reading is fun. I promise. Take it from me, someone who used to hate reading. I started hating reading in high school because we read so many books in class that I wasn’t interested in. But I soon learned that reading one boring book does not mean all books are boring. Find books that interest you, and do not compromise. If you read the first ...
How to make sure you don’t fall behind during distance learning
Let’s be real: it’s hard to focus on school at home. And as COVID-19 cases persist and online learning remains part of our lives, it is important to not fall behind. Here are some tips to help you stay on top of your work while learning from home:
How to study for standardized tests like the SAT, ACT, and SSAT
Study actively, not passively. In order for your brain to truly remember something, you must make your brain work. Reading your textbook or class notes is a good start, but studying actively will always improve your memory (and your scores). Try answering questions out loud or writing down answers as you go along to make your studying a more ...
How to think like an AP Rater/Reader on the AP English Language exam
As someone who tutors AP English Language and Composition (lovingly referred to as AP Lang) and as someone who struggled with timed writing herself, I know how daunting a task it can be to score a 5. Luckily for you, I’ve also served as an AP Rater/Reader and can offer some additional insight into what we are told to look for while scoring a ...
How to revise anything
The most important part of writing is rewriting. Whether you’re working on a term paper, a personal statement, or a lab report, getting words on the page is just the first step. Even if you’re writing from an outline, the process of writing inevitably leads you to unexpected and interesting places. That’s part of the joy of writing, but it’s also ...
5 Tips to make you a more successful writer!
Like many other tutors, what has been most useful for me is building myself up to writing. I use a lot of “tricks” to get around my anxiety about writing, and it often takes me several tries to get started. And with the pandemic, there are even more reasons to be distracted. Here are some tricks that have worked for me!
Remote vs. online learning
With students unable to currently attend school in person, students, teachers, and staff are working to improve education at all levels. Some universities now find the need to articulate the difference between Remote classes and Online classes. This distinction allows us to think through some important issues in distance learning that can help us ...
Explaining eight common Chinese idioms (“chéngyǔ”)
“Chéngyǔ” (成语) are Chinese idioms that usually occur in groups of four characters and often originate from old fables in classical Chinese writing. As a testament to China’s long history and rich culture, chéngyǔ have persisted as a fundamental component of modern Chinese language in both formal writing and in everyday language. There are over ...
Six ways to brainstorm more effectively
At its core, writing is about discovering relationships between words and ideas. Your brainstorming process can and should reflect that central goal from the very beginning of the writing process. Here are a series of investigative approaches to help you expose and explore these relationships:
Editing for parallelism: one writing lesson from the proverb
When I teach my students to become their own editors, I often tell them to be on the lookout for opportunities to use parallelism. Parallelism is the repetition of the same grammatical structure in successive parts of a sentence. (Grammatical structure is just a fancy way of saying some combination of nouns, verbs, and other parts of speech.)
A beginner’s guide to analyzing historical documents
Most high school and college-level history courses will require that you read, interpret, and analyze a document or set of documents from the past—otherwise known as primary sources. In this post, I will provide five basic questions that you should ask about your document(s) that will kickstart your thinking about the past and serve as a starting ...
Introductory statistics: are my data normal?
Statistics is fun, I promise! But before we can start having all the fun, it is important to describe the distribution of our data. We will need to handle problems differently depending on the distribution.
Boosting your SAT score the second (or third) time around
It is no secret the SAT is a grueling, intimidating test. The first time taking it is an experience in itself, and a combination of nerves and mental fatigue often keeps students from performing at their very best. Luckily, students can take the SAT multiple times to achieve the score that they are aiming for. I took the SAT 3 times, with my score ...
Tone and mood
When attempting an analysis of a text for English literature classes, such as the IBDP course, some of the advanced features that students have to understand concern tone and mood. It is customary to associate tone with dialogue and speech, and mood with the setting of novels. However, tone and mood are not just features of fiction and can also be ...
Studying at home: how to keep up with work while learning online
In the early stages of the COVID-19 pandemic, most of us had to deal with the sudden reality that we could not go to school physically. We might have had have school content posted online or packets of work to complete, but we were likely not allowed to physically be at school with our teachers and classmates. We were, essentially, homeschooling.
How to fit you into your personal statement
The question “what do you like to do for fun?” has always stressed me out. As someone who preaches work-life balance and champions new experiences, I like to imagine myself as the type of person who would quickly rattle off an impressive and well-rounded list of hobbies and activities. The truth of the matter is that each time I am confronted with ...
How to tackle sentence and paragraph sequence questions on the SAT
The style questions on the writing and language section of the SAT can often be the most difficult. While you’re working to memorize your grammar and punctuation rules, it is also essential to develop strategies to tackle each type of style question.
Where do Taylor series come from and why do we learn about them?
Taylor series can often seem a bit mysterious the first time that we learn about them. The formula for the Taylor series of a function f(x) around a point x=a is given by
What is implicit differentiation and how does it work?
One topic that seemed a bit mysterious and magic to me when I first learned calculus was implicit differentiation. In this post, we’ll start by reviewing some examples of implicit differentiation and then discuss why implicit differentiation works.
But what is “dx” really? Calculus terms explained
The symbol “dx” comes up everywhere in calculus. For example:
Two common grammatical mistakes to avoid in polished writing
There are no hard and fast rules in writing. But even if an experimental poet or an avant-garde novelist has dispensed with capitalization or written an entire novel without the letter E (yes, a novel like this really exists!), this does not mean that you need to follow suit. Your personal statement, for example, is not the place to defy the ...
The music of Mandarin: learning the five tones of the language
Learning Chinese is challenging but fun! Even the parts that require repetitive practice can be enjoyable with the right framework and point-of-view.
Authentic and vulnerable reflection in your college personal statement
The personal statement is one of the most important factors in your application. But in the end, it’s your story. Here’s the secret: it doesn’t matter what you write about; what matters is how you write it. If you write astutely and creatively, and if the story is yours, your essay will be unique and unforgettable.
Confronting commas on the SAT writing and language section
You see commas everywhere when you're reading, and you may put them everywhere when you're writing, but do you really know when to properly use this tricky punctuation mark? The SAT requires you to know exactly when a comma is either necessary or obstructive, so it is important to take the time to learn comma rules as you prepare for the writing ...
Becoming a good test taker
You’ve heard it over and over: “She’s just a good test taker.” The phrase clings to standardized tests, where some students have the luck of Steph Curry sinking 30-foot shots while others feel like Shaquille O’Neill at the foul line. Like shooting a basketball, we often treat test taking as innate and immutable, but any basketball coach will tell ...
Homonyms
English is one of the languages in which spelling is a big deal. Spelling bees were created in English, and the concept is not present in other languages in which words are more often pronounced just like they look. In English, we have words that are pronounced the same but have different meanings and spellings (homophones). We also have a lot of ...
Grammar: one to 1
When learning a new language, students almost always begin with the alphabet and numbers. We use letters, of course, to form words, which form sentences that express ideas of varying complexity in a form that people who read this written language can understand. Numbers designate a different kind of language, one that conveys equations and ...
Setting S.M.A.R.T goals
Every August, my family takes a trip to Long Beach Island, New Jersey. Growing up we would use the final two days of the vacation to begin school-supplies shopping on the mainland. To this day, the third week of August still smells like freshly sharpened pencils. As we got older, the trips to Walmart and Staples were replaced with a new tradition. ...
What’s that sound? Diphthong (diptongo), hiatus (hiato), and understanding Spanish syllables
Ever wonder why when you try to imitate native Spanish speakers it just doesn’t come out right? It might have something to do with syllables!
Tackling unfamiliar problems on the SAT math sections
Let's face it: there's no way to control exactly what math questions will pop up on test day. Questions at the beginning of each section tend to be simple and straightforward--you might be asked to isolate a variable, determine the slope between two points, or solve a system of equations--but later questions can often feel like they've come out of ...
Betwixt and between: difficult grammar rules explained
English is not the easiest language to learn. This may be because of the many exceptions to its rules or because the same combinations of letters can be pronounced in many different ways. English also has one of the largest vocabularies of any recorded language, which means English speakers can say what they mean in a lot of different ways, but ...
Having worked through a long physics problem, you finally have an answer. How do you know if it’s right and all that work wasn’t for naught? In this post, I will cover a few quick strategies that can help rule out wrong answers.
Top 5 pitfalls to avoid when writing the supplemental “Why college X?” essay
Many colleges require students to write school-specific supplemental essays. These are usually some variation of what I call the “Why Us?” prompt. For instance, Yale asks, “What is it about Yale that has led you to apply?” and Columbia requires 300 words on, “Please tell us what you value most about Columbia and why.”
4 ways to beat writing anxiety on the personal statement
Writing is a daunting task. To transform your nebulous thoughts into a linear string of words requires a special kind of concentration. And when it comes to writing personal essays, like those required for most undergraduate and graduate applications, you are asked to not only concentrate but also be introspective. It’s no wonder that many of us ...
An application of calculus: finding optimal road networks
Suppose that we have many towns spread across the country and we are trying to connect them with a network of roads. If we would like to do so by laying as little road as possible, how do we do it? In this blog post, we will use Calculus to tackle a special case of this optimization problem.
Understanding elasticity of demand in economics
You may have heard in your econ class about a good’s elasticity of demand, or about “elastic” or “inelastic” goods. Consumers’ elasticity of demand is just a fancy way economists talk about how sensitive people are to changes in a good’s price.
High school chemistry: What is it? Can I be good at it?
The word “chemistry” inspires so many emotions. To some, it brings about the excitement of mixing together glowing liquids and crafting the perfect radioactive potion that, when consumed, will turn you into the Incredible Hulk. To others, it’s discombobulated numbers and letters on a piece a paper in a classroom, a concatenation that strikes fear ...
What physics equation sheets can do for you, and what they  can’t
In your time taking physics courses, you will likely run into one that deals with equation sheets. These can be note cards or an entire sheet of paper, and anything that can fit on it is fair game and can be brought into a test. The natural reaction might be to try to cram and squeeze an entire textbook on those sheets using really, really tiny ...
For many students, the reading section of the SAT is daunting. You’ve read plenty of books over the years, and your vocabulary is pretty good (estimable, adequate, respectable, even laudable!), but the prospect of analyzing four long and two shorter passages over the course of only sixty-five minutes can feel like an impossible task. Luckily, as ...
Tips for studying effectively for the SAT and ACT
It can be overwhelming to think about studying for the SAT or ACT. Where do you even start? In this post, I’ll outline a few key strategies to guide you through your test preparation.
5 tips to improve your writing
I was recently helping someone with a comparative essay they had to write for school. This person did not like writing—a common enough state of affairs. They felt that they had no talent for it. The process frustrated them. I could see that they were struggling in part because they were trying to do everything at once (come up with ideas, write ...
SAT Reading: Which comes first? The passage or the question?
It depends. I’m sorry, but it does. There are essentially two opposing strategies for passage-based questions: read the passage first or read the questions first and consult the passage as the questions demand. Probably the most widely advocated strategy is to split the difference, and to read the passage first, favoring speed over retention of ...
What to wear on test day (seriously)
Advice for test day is easily doled out, and often hard to actually follow.
How to spend the summer before your senior year of high school
If you’re a high-school student at the end of the spring semester, you’ve likely got two things on the brain: passing your finals and summer vacation. Hopefully, in that order. But summer vacation is no longer all fun and games. These days, there’s the expectation to fill June, July, and August with resume-building activities. Family vacations get ...
The #1 strategy when approaching the ACT Science section
The Science section of the ACT is often the section that kids find the most frustrating before they prep. It always comes down to one simple issue. How can you read 6-7 studies, analyze their respective graphs, and answer 40 questions all in just 40 minutes?
How to Write A Résumé In High School
This may be the first time you're writing your own résumé, and the task can feel daunting. You may be asking questions like: how do I write about myself? How do I highlight my very little experience? What is the format of a résumé?
How to write a successful personal statement
The personal statement is an integral part of a job or school application because it showcases the applicant’s personality in an intimate way. The resume is a list of objective accomplishments and successes that the applicant has earned, but the personal statement highlights passion and aspirations that cannot be listed in simple bullet points. ...
The key to mastering mathematics? Quit memorizing.
There are many misconceptions when it comes to the subject of mathematics. One of the most common myths I encounter is related to the way one approaches learning math.
What is a thesis statement?
Every paper you write in college should have it. Sometimes professors call this a “thesis statement,” sometimes a “claim,” and sometimes they don’t really specify what it is. But it’s essential — and sometime elusive. But it shouldn’t be!
A guide to limiting reactant problems... using sandwiches
An everyday limiting reactant problem You’re expecting company and totally forgot to go grocery shopping. What on earth will you feed your guests? Sandwiches! You have some ingredients to whip up some sandwiches. So, let’s assume you are going to go through with making these sandwiches. You need 2 slices of bread, 3 slices of meat (can’t be ...
College interviews: dos, don'ts, and common questions
Remember that the college interview is as much an opportunity for the school to learn about you as if is for you to learn about the school. There is no right answer during an interview (it should be thought of more as a conversation); though there are some helpful things to remember when you step into your first interview.
Electron configurations: a must know hack
Imagine this...you’re taking your general chemistry midterm and you’ve decided to shuffle through the exam and complete all the hard things first. You’ve totally underestimated how much time those problems were going to take you and now you have three minutes left to write the electron configuration of 10 elements. Untimed, this would be easy to ...
Formal charge: what they didn’t tell you in your chemistry class
Formal charge is the charge that a bonded atom would have if its bonding electrons were shared equally. Note:
Tips for writing an exam essay in 80 minutes
We've all been there. The teacher is at the front of the classroom with a pile of blue books. She begins handing them out. You scrawl the name and date on the front and wait for her to start the timer. As you open the first page, an overwhelming white page stares back at you. And you panic. Luckily, there are ways to prepare for essay exams that ...
Writing a thesis and topic sentences in your personal statement
Every applicant who needs to write a personal statement struggles with structuring their personal statement. It is hard enough to muster the courage to brainstorm your most salient life experiences on paper; now, the most important part is structuring your personal statement with your thesis and topic sentences.
The importance of keeping it simple: clear and concise writing
When I was a high school AP Biology student, my teacher used to walk by my desk during multiple choice exams and whisper, “You didn’t really mean to circle B there, did you? Keep it simple.” He knew I was an overthinker. Instead of circling the simplest and most obvious answer—which I often knew to be the right one—I would overthink the question, ...
3 ways to better analyze poetry
“Cikgu Tess!” “Pagi.” “Miss. Look lah.” “Alyaa—why?” “Girl’s bathroom,” she says. “Cikgu, you touch?” Our state has the highest concentration of venomous snakes in the region. “Is it poisonous?” I mime the action of being bitten (by my hand) and then dying. “Mm, don’t know.” In 2017, I taught ESL, literature, and political science at a rural ...
7 essential tips for ANY standardized test
Whether you’re applying to college, graduate school, law school, medical school, or even some jobs, standardized tests are often part of the process. They can be intimidating, long, arduous, and confusing, but with some practice, you’ll learn how to overcome any test-taking anxiety and stay focused. Here are a few tips and tricks for going into a ...
The top strategy for the math section of the SAT and ACT
Complicated algebra is the last thing many students want to deal with on a high-stakes test like the SAT or ACT. Yet it seems like there is no way around it, with the alphabet soup of variables scattered throughout the exam. Thankfully, there is a strategy for those problems where your algebraic manipulations are leading nowhere. It’s called ...
An introduction to supply and demand
What is supply and demand? In economics, supply and demand is the relationship between the quantity of a commodity that producers wish to sell at various prices and the quantity that consumers wish to buy. Though it is a seemingly straightforward relationship, in practical application it can become quite complicated. In this blog, we will use an ...
How to have success as a student athlete: tips from an insider
Ah, the student-athlete. In today’s landscape of college admissions and college scholarships, many of us recognize the importance and opportunity given to the student-athlete. In performing well and playing on a school’s team, you earn both a spot in the classroom at that institution and a “salary” (i.e., a scholarship) for attracting revenue to ...
How to make introductory physics exciting (when you're bored out of your mind)
Why do many students find physics so boring? Cutting-edge physics research gets to address amazing, deep questions: "What is all the stuff in the Universe fundamentally made of?” and “Where did all this stuff come from anyway?” Yet college-level introductory physics courses on Newtonian mechanics can feel quite...mechanical. Why does introductory ...
A quick list of ACT literary devices
Welcome back to my SAT/ACT reading section blog. The topic for today: literary devices. These terms come up infrequently but often enough that it’s worth giving them a look over before the test to be sure that you have them down. If they come up, you can get another question right, and if they don’t, you can save what you learned for a future SAT ...
Tips for getting a perfect score on a standardized math test
SAT, ACT, SSAT, ISEE, GRE. What do these acronyms all have in common? Well, they’re all standardized tests, but more importantly, they all have multiple-choice math test sections. Despite whether or not they’re accurate indicators of student performance in the classroom, lab, or office, they are all essential for entry into some educational career ...
To write a memorable college essay, tell a story
Essays Without Concrete Information Are Quickly Forgotten As I regularly tell students in my AP English classes, essays full of generalizations aren’t worth the paper they are written on. An essay that fails to include concrete examples of the concept under discussion is forgotten the moment the reader reaches the end—if, indeed, the reader gets ...
Introduction to physics: the language of the universe
In elementary and middle school, we learn mathematics for the sake of mathematics, we are never told what mathematics can ultimately be used for or why mathematics is useful other than the fact that it can help us make change and do our taxes one day. What they should be telling you is that the laws of the universe are written in a language that ...
How to write a killer essay in 3 easy steps
We’ve all been there: staring at a blank document, practically able to feel the creeping imminence of our paper’s deadline. For so many of us, it’s really hard to sit down and actually channel our thoughts into a coherent form, let alone one that’s structured and based on an argument worthy of praise.
My strategy for a perfect score: ACT Reading and MCAT CARS
If you’re reading this, I imagine you’re looking to improve your reading score on either the ACT or the MCAT and ideally, you’re in one of two boats: You are consistently a few points shy of that 36 on the ACT Reading or 132 on MCAT CARS and are looking to bridge that last gap Are struggling with the reading section in general, and are looking for ...
New Year’s Resolution: Get More Sleep
If you’re in college or grad school and your New Year’s resolutions include plans like “earn higher grades,” “complete more work on time,” or even just “be more productive,” there’s one more resolution you should add to your list: get more sleep. It might sound counterintuitive—how do you get more done by making a resolution to spend more time ...
In my last post, I laid out four reasons why you should schedule that “optional” alumni interview advertised on universities’ pages for prospective students. In today’s post, I’ll describe how to hold a conversation that is valuable for you, and for your alumni interviewer, as they draft their report for the admissions committee.
Why you should opt-in to the (optional) alumni interview
You’ve labored over the first draft of your personal statement, requested letters of recommendation, and taken the SAT one last time— and, finally, winter break arrives. With it comes ample free time to commit to the “optional” elements of the college admissions process, such as college visits and what I’ll discuss today: the voluntary “alumni ...
Solving the “I’m not good at math” problem
You’ve heard it before. Or you’ve said it. I’m not good at math. I hear it from seventh graders struggling with fractions, high school students preparing to take the SAT, friends at a restaurant when splitting a check, and even from parents assuring me that their child’s own difficulties are in fact genetic. And while I’ve heard it countless ...
How to draft a college personal statement in 4 easy steps
There is no use beating around the bush: drafting your personal statement is one of the most challenging components of the college application. Even the most confident writers struggle to distill their identity within the bounds of a word count. The personal statement requires serious introspection about your life and long-term goals, and thus can ...
The top 3 reasons you should study Latin
There comes a moment in the careers of most middle- and high-schoolers learning Latin, and also among some college students considering it as a possibility when picking classes; a moment when they ask themselves (or their parents, or their teachers), “Why do I need to study this?” After all, Latin is a dead language; unless you plan to become a ...
Applying to college in the fall of your senior year of high school is like adding on an extra class: between the Common App, secondary applications, and any remaining test prep, your college application doesn’t just reflect your academic abilities—it requires you to really show them off. However, along with demonstrating your writing and ...
How to solve kinematics problems: a guide to vectors
This article is the third chapter in a series on how to understand and approach kinematics problems. The first chapter covered position, velocity, and acceleration. The second chapter covered solving kinematics in one dimension Now we are going to take a quick detour into vectorland so that we’re ready to approach kinematics in two (and even ...
The key to selecting the right answer on the SAT & ACT: part 2
Welcome to part 2 of my post on English strategies for the SAT and ACT! If you didn’t read part 1, you can check it out here. Picture it now: you’re breezing through the ACT English Language Arts or SAT Writing and Language section. Every question come easily to you, as you follow what your ear tells you is right. You didn’t need to learn grammar ...
How do I use punctuation on the ACT and SAT exams?
Punctuation usually comes up in questions that ask you to choose from among a collection of different pieces of punctuation. Think about the use of each punctuation mark, and find which one has the use that is needed for the particular sentence. Pro tip! Don’t forget to read the entire sentence, not just the underlined part. You need to know the ...
Speech is silver, silence is golden: how pausing transforms communication
Many people probably recognize the second part of that proverb -- "Silence is Golden" –– as an oft-quoted adage to dictate the importance of quiet in our busy, noisy lives. The full version, as written above, originates in English thanks to Thomas Carlyle, who translated it from part of a larger German work in 1831. The translated passage begins, ...
ACT testing tip: how to identify main and subordinate clauses
For the ACT English exam, it is essential that you can identify and, if necessary, fix problems with main and subordinate clauses. Why? Because many grammar and punctuation rules require you to recognize your main subject and main verb.
What is the phospholipid bilayer and what determines its fluidity?
All cells are surrounded by a cell membrane that forms a barrier between the cell and its surroundings. This membrane is often referred to as the phospholipid bilayer. As you can probably tell from the name, a phospholipid bilayer is made up of two layers of lipids. The fluidity of this membrane must be maintained within a certain range for the ...
A guide to your teacher's feedback: common abbreviations defined
If you are a student, you have probably seen a fair share of markings on your papers to indicate errors or ideas for improvement. If you are a teacher, you have made many of these markings and know how important it is to streamline the correcting process. While individual teachers or editors may have their own systems of signaling suggestions in ...
Although it may feel like you have to have the perfect application to get into college, with acceptance rates at some top-tier schools dropping below five percent, there is no perfect formula for being accepted to college. Your goal instead should be to present any “problem areas”—a dip in your GPA, lower test scores than you wanted, or other ...
An introduction to blood types: genotype, phenotype, inheritance, transfusion, and more!
What determines blood type? Contained within their cell membranes, some red blood cells have special glycolipids called A and B glycolipids. People with blood type A have the A glycolipid in their cell membranes, people with blood type B have the B glycolipid in their cell membranes, and people with blood type AB, have both glycolipids in their ...
Why does English borrow so many words from other languages?
The Canadian blogger and free-lance reviewer James Nicoll created the following epigram on the English language: "English doesn't borrow from other languages. English follows other languages down dark alleys, knocks them over and goes through their pockets for loose grammar."
How to sketch any graph by eye
Equations in math are useful but they’re also kind of inefficient – for each x value, you have to do a separate calculation to figure out what y is. Graphs take that equation and turn it into a visual, something you can look at and immediately see what happens at different values of x, how the function changes, and more!
What is moment and how do you calculate it?
When I tutor my physics students, I want them to understand the fundamentals of the concept, not just how to plug in numbers into an equation. I wished when I was learning physics, my teachers drew upon real life applications more, things we already understand about the world to help us really get it.
5 key differences between American and British spelling conventions
Before America became a nation, the colonists who arrived to establish the country spoke English. From England. As there was not yet an authoritative source for how to spell words correctly in English, the colonists spoke English they were used to back home and wrote much the same way, using the way language was written in English literature as a ...
How to write an excellent history paper
I love the film Bill and Ted's Excellent Adventure and I've seen it more times than I can count. It is about two teenagers on the brink of failing high school, unless they ace their final history exam. The Hollywood twist? The protagonists acquire a time machine that allows them to travel through different eras of history. Throughout the film, ...
Four mathematicians you should know
Math has changed a lot over the years. When most people think of math, they likely think of someone sitting quietly at a desk with a book or some paper. It’s an unmoving image. When we think of people who are good at math, we conjure up people who blaze through problems quickly and alone. They follow the rules in math and in life. But this is a ...
How to solve kinematics problems, part 2
This article is the second chapter in a series on how to understand and approach kinematics problems. The first chapter covered position, velocity, and acceleration. Now that we understand these quantities, we are going to use them to solve problems in one dimension.
Don't actually 'break a leg': common English idioms explained
One of the recent lessons I gave to my English Language Learners involved English idioms and their origins. An idiom is a saying that does not mean what the words literally express, but rather it has some representative meaning behind the words. Often, the reasons for the meanings of idioms are obscure; in this post, I will try to bring to light a ...
Breaking down nephron functioning into six easy steps!
The nephron is the kidney’s smallest functional unit. It works to ensure that the urine you excrete leaves your body in the correct volume and concentration. This is a complicated process, but once you master it, it is exciting to understand this important function of the human body!
How to use this guide This blog post is the first in a series on how to understand and approach kinematics problems. It is meant to supplement your class and textbook. I will focus on practical applications, how to solve problems, and common mistakes that students make. If you want to learn the basics of kinematics, I recommend a textbook, but if ...
Cracking an AP Bio biotechnology question
The AP Biology exam for 2017 is set for the morning of Monday May 8th. So it’s that time of the year again to begin reviewing past concepts and doing practice exams.
Tips and mnemonics for memorizing amino acid structures
Learning amino acid structures is a challenging part of biology and biochemistry coursework. Many students feel totally overwhelmed by the task. The best way to master this skill is lots of repetition (here is a link to a Sporcle quiz that may help you with the repetition part) but it can be helpful to have tricks and mnemonics to get you started. ...
If you’re the parent of a teenager, chances are good that a few years have passed since you had to graph a polynomial or find a derivative. Since high school math covers topics that people working outside of STEM don’t come across very often, many parents don’t feel like they can give much help to their teenage children with their math homework. ...
Revolving curves to make solids
Have you ever wondered where the formulas for volumes that you studied way back in geometry come from?
The five most essential tips for AP Chemistry review
Here are five tips to ace AP Chemistry -- you can begin right now!
What is the subjunctive tense in English?
One grammar category that seems to be widely untaught is the names and functions of various verb tenses. For those who have studied a foreign language, the existence of these constructions is not so foreign, but native English speakers rarely learn what the subjunctive – in English – even is, let alone how to use it correctly. The same goes for ...
A list of common homophones and their differences
What is a Homophone? There are many more words in the English language than one might expect, given how similar their pronunciation and spelling can be. They're usually nouns and adjectives, except for those that function as conjunctions or contractions. Once you accept that English contains many pairs or groups of deceptively similar words with ...
How to decode word problems on the SAT
Mathematical applications on the SAT The College Board emphasizes that the Mathematics section on the new SAT is intended to test especially the mathematical knowledge that will be relevant for a broad range of careers—not only the mathy professions like accounting, statistics, or chemistry—as well as for the needs of daily life. Mathematics for ...
Essential components to the personal statement: how to tell your story
Sharing your story in a clear, compelling way is an important skill that will come in handy for the rest of your life, from writing personal statements to presenting yourself in interviews. It’s also a skill that’s not often emphasized in high school and college English classes, where literary analysis is highly prized. How can you hone this skill?
One for all and all for none? Grammatical rules for one, neither, and each!
In this blog post, our resident grammar girl reviews the impossibly confusing rules for singular subjects that refer to plural groups; subject-verb agreements involving"each", "all", and "none"; and last (but not least!) "neither", "neither", and "nor" and how they relate to your verb choice.