Category Archives: Academics

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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Life throws all kinds of tests at us, the ones we feel ready for as well as the ones we’d rather avoid. Sometimes we can choose our challenges, and sometimes they choose us. More often than we’re willing to admit, the biggest and most fearsome tests turn out to be the ones that change our lives for the better. When Deepak Chopra said, “Obstacles are opportunities in disguise,” he may well have been talking about entrance exams. Many schools and academic programs in the U.S. and around the world use entrance exams as part of their admissions process, not as barriers to entry so much as screens to ensure that extraordinary opportunities accrue to extraordinary applicants. My friend and colleague David Blobaum of Summit Prep sought extraordinary opportunities when he was in high school. To reach his goals, he had to pass all kinds of tests of tenacity, intrinsic motivation,…

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Built to Last: Successful Habits of Visionary Companies, one of the cornerstones of any business library, introduced a concept for stretch goals that has eclipsed the work itself in terms of enduring fame. In the book, Jim Collins and Jerry Porras discussed the BHAG–Big Hairy Audacious Goal–as a a powerful way to stimulate progress: “A BHAG is clear and compelling, needing little explanation; people get it right away. Think of the NASA moon mission of the 1960s. The best BHAGs require both building for the long term AND exuding a relentless sense of urgency: What do we need to do today, with monomaniacal focus, and tomorrow, and the next day, to defy the probabilities and ultimately achieve our BHAG?” The authors focused on big, hairy, audacious goals for titans of industry and unicorn entrepreneurs, but not all moon shots need be driven by a profit motive. Anyone can set a…

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Clearly, 2020 has been a year of adjustments for students and teachers alike, but thankfully, technology and a little bit of creativity have gone a long way towards making it possible to tutor your children efficiently and effectively without losing that personal connection that one on one tutoring provides. When it was clear that the pandemic was going to keep me out of the office, I called my son who is a high school English teacher in Virginia and an admitted tech geek; his web site is appropriately titled teachernerd.com. I could see him smiling as he calmly walked me through my options. They ranged from simple and inexpensive to ridiculously complex and expensive. I chose an option that would make the most of what hardware I already had and only required a $100 purchase. I have Zoom loaded on my MacBook Pro. I recently upgraded my internet speed, so…

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Critics of standardized tests often paint those assessments as aloof from everyday exercises of knowledge and learning, conveniently ignoring the primacy of reading and written communication in most activities. That’s right: tests like the SAT and ACT evaluate the kind of reading and writing skills that matter in school, work, and life. Math, however, seems to be more of a disconnect; how often do you need trigonometry or geometric theorems in your non-scientific day-to-day? However, tests like the SAT and ACT do assess math skills and knowledge that matter beyond high school, from broad conceptual quantitative literacy to creative problem solving. One more oft-overlooked skill that carries into real life is modeling, the application of math skills to answer questions about real world situations. What are some common examples of modelling? How much does a shirt with a retail price of $40 cost during a 30%-off sale? How long will…

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