Category Archives: Academics

Teachers plant seeds of knowledge that last a lifetime. From all of our educators to all the rest, Happy Teacher Appreciation Week!

Assessment-oriented instruction, as I like to call test prep when I’m feeling particularly bombastic, usually follows utilitarian principles. Basically, if something works, keep doing it. Thanks to rich quantitative feedback loops, we can track in real time what allows either an individual student or an entire cohort to more quickly and accurately solve different types of problems. Couple the emphatic pragmatism of test prep with the fact that many practitioners have backgrounds in fields far outside of education and it’s no wonder that theoretical frameworks are rarely primary considerations in tutoring sessions. Nonetheless, educational professionals can learn a lot from educational theory and models, which is why I recently asked expert Erik Francis of Maverik Education to teach a group of test prep teachers about Depth of Knowledge levels.  As far as theoretical educational frameworks go, Depth of Knowledge certainly sounds rigorous. Cooked up by Dr. Norman Webb in 1997 to…

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Those of you who remember the old RIF commercials will probably chuckle at the reference, but the statement is as true today as it was back then: reading is fundamental. Strong reading and writing skills lie at the heart of the best grades, most impressive SAT & ACT scores, and most enduring professional success. Just because someone knows how to read doesn’t mean she reads well. Reading is a skill-based activity that improves with focused practice. That means that students should know how to read properly and then internalize the right strategies by reading challenging level-appropriate texts on a regular basis (HINT: National Geographic may be level-appropriate, but People magazine never is!) The benefits of exceptional reading skills are almost limitless, but include many obvious and highly desirable advantages: increased reading speed (which mean less time doing homework) improved comprehension (which means more knowledge as well as better grades and…

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The research is clear: many students learn better in groups. Students who learn in small groups generally demonstrate greater academic achievement, express more favorable attitudes toward learning, and persist through challenging courses or programs to a greater extent than their more traditionally taught counterparts. Why is this such a surprise? According to the Myers-Briggs Type Indicator, nearly 70 percent of us are considered Extraverted, which means we are energized by interaction with others. Yet, learning is typically structured as a quiet, individual activity. That paradigm serves some students, but so many others need a social component to learn best. Cooperative learning, in which students work with peers in small learning groups to master academic material, consistently produces increased student achievement. According to researcher Robert Slavin, study groups are most effective when students are evaluated both on group goals and individual accountability. Group goals serve to motivate students to help each…

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Like most test prep professionals, I’ve become a relentless proponent of perfect practice, meaning the kind of practice that drives the highest levels of success. My friend and colleague Brett Etheridge of Dominate Test Prep shares the same commitment to perfect practice, which comes out in a detailed discussion we had on his podcast: Proven Principles of Perfect Practice with Mike Bergin Among other things, we covered the following fundamentals of practice: The 4 Steps of Deliberate Practice; The distinction between “studying” and “practice” and the role that each should play in your test preparation The danger of taking too many practice tests; How often you should take practice tests, and things you should do to ensure that they replicate the actual test-day experience; Why some students perform worse on the real exam than on their practice tests, and what you can do to ensure that doesn’t happen for you;…

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In February 2021, NASA landed its FIFTH rover on Mars in a mind-boggling and flawless demonstration of precision, planning, and execution. That human beings could, amidst all of the current chaos and madness of life on Earth, keep their eyes on an exceedingly distant prize to accomplish such a remarkable feat should be encouraging–even inspiring–to anyone pursuing tough goals. 1. Grades and scores are not the goals. I’ve worked with enough dedicated students to know the allure of a concrete numerical marker of ability. No sooner does a test taker break 1300 on the SAT than he or she begins targeting 1400. Academic achievement may be expressed quantitatively, but the numbers don’t tell the whole story. What matters much more is the knowledge that is behind those grades or scores, as well as how a student was transformed along the way. When I see a high ACT score, I see…

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