Study Tips: Become A More Efficient Studier

Study Tips: Become A More Efficient Studier

Book Worm Studying When your kids exit elementary school and enter their middle and high school years, it’s really important that they have the skills to study efficiently and effectively. This will allow them to gain more independence when it comes to studying and stops them from spinning their wheels and getting nowhere when studying for a big test.

Go over some of these study tips with your 5-12th grader and give them the power to use their time efficiently. Everyone will be happier and more productive once they get these pointers under their belts.

Carve out study time.

Block out a certain time slot each day that is dedicated to study time. Whether they need to finish homework, review daily lessons, or study for a test, that time is waiting for them. It helps to know how much time is needed each day by projecting the week ahead. On Sunday, sit down and take a look at what they plan to accomplish throughout the week. Do they plan to take a big test in history on Thursday? Time will need to be allowed to study for that test. Are they finishing up a science project? Make sure time is allocated to work on it. You get the idea.  Knowing your teen has time allowed for each task will take some of the stress out of the week because they won’t be cramming or falling behind.

Use study time sensibly.

It’s hard to avoid distractions, especially when you are home and perhaps the TV is on, people are cooking in the kitchen, or someone is talking on the phone. Make sure your teen has somewhere that is relatively distraction-free to go and study. When there are no distractions, their mind can be focused on the task at hand (studying) and make the most out of their time. If your teen is doing their work on a device, such as a laptop computer, tell them to avoid having any unnecessary windows open. Keeping social media accounts unopened, gaming sites off, etc. will all help to keep them focused on their studies and not distracted by messages and posts.

Study TimeThe evenings go quick – we know! It’s hard to schedule study time that doesn’t conflict with other activities, but try your best. If your teen is too tired, they won’t be able to concentrate and really lock in what they are reviewing. When they are dosing off, encourage them to try a change of scenery. If they won’t be too distracted, have them sit outside on your patio in the fresh air. They need to make good use of their study block so they stay on track and sometimes a change of scenery or a quick 5-minute break will let them clear their head, refocus, and then get back at it.

Develop good note-taking skills.

When you have good notes, studying goes quicker because you don’t have to scour page-by-page for information. They will summarize what you need to know for your upcoming test. When you write notes, it increases the ability to recall that information. Teens can create their own note taking system because it should be one that works best for them. If they are taking notes, and have questions or need to revisit something, have them put an asterisk next to it or some other icon so they can come back to that area later.

Don’t multitask.

When your brain has too much going on at once, it tends not to remember everything and it can also jumble up the information. These factors will reduce your recall ability because you will either be unable to recall the facts or could have them mixed up. Have them focus on one subject at a time and work on it until the daily tasks are completed. Then they can move on to the next subject.

Study With Flash Cards

Make flashcards.

Flashcards are a great way to prep for a test. They can even use their notes as a quick guide to making flashcards. All of the important information should have been pulled out onto their notes. By going through those and making flashcards, they are avoiding skimming every page in the textbook for important information. Flashcards are also an easy way to quiz them and see what areas they still need help on.

Get rest!

Teens tend to lack on the amount of sleep they need during the week. Less than 20% of teens say that they get the recommended 8+ hours of sleep each night. That means over 80% are functioning at a subpar level. Make sure your teen goes to bed at a reasonable time so they are refreshed and ready the next day. This, and a good breakfast, will set them up for a successful day.

What helps your teen the most when it comes to studying for an exam or finishing a big assignment? Leave a comment below and let us know. Others would love to hear what you have to say too!

If you haven’t already, go follow our Facebook page and check out our website to see how My Virtual Academy helps students become better studiers and prepare them for life after high school.

Standardized Tests: Preparing Your Teen

Standardized Tests: Preparing Your Teen

Standardized testing…two words that evoke a lot of emotions with parents and educators and there are people on both sides of the fence. Standardized tests are tests that are administered and scored in a consistent (standard) way. Those who are for standardized tests think that they are fairer since every person receives the same test and then the same system is used to grade each test. The consistency allows for tests to be compared and is considered to be more objective. Due to all of these reasons, standardized tests are commonplace amongst schools and your student is pretty much guaranteed to take several during their school years. These tests don’t have to bring a lot of angst and anxiety to you or your student. There are ways to prepare your student so that they can take the test with confidence!

Study Ahead and Practice

Cramming for a test may be how most teens tend to study but encourage them to begin their studying well before the test date. When a student crams for a test, they may think they are able to retain the information, but in reality, they are more apt to make errors and end up in a panic during the test. They might get their facts mixed up or forget them all together. Studying for a week or two ahead of time allows the student to practice and practice until they know the facts like the back of their hand. Also, if you are able to track down practice tests, have your student take them. This will get them familiar with what the test format could be like and will allow them to test their skills and knowledge.

Standardized Testing

Scan the Test

Encourage your teen to take a look at the entire test before beginning. If they see areas of the test that they can answer quickly and correctly, have them begin there. Then, they can tackle the harder areas after. Your teen could also take inventory of how many questions are on the test and then determine how much time they have to spend on each question. This will assist them in budgeting their time and they’ll be able to decide if they have extra time to spend on the hard to solve problems. Also, if a question stumped your teen, clearing their mind and circling back to the problem may allow them to view the question in a new way or jog their memory of the answer.

Take a Breath

It’s easy for student’s to get anxious and start to panic if they hit an area of the test that is difficult to answer. That response is natural, but they should know what to do to cope and refocus their mind, should this anxiety set in. Encourage your student to take a moment, close their eyes, and clear their head. Taking a few slow, deep breaths will reduce some anxiety and will let your teen get a second wind. They will then be ready to tackle the remaining parts of the test with a renewed determination.

Always Read the Questions in Totality

It’s easy to skim a question and think you know what someone is asking but often times, even one word can change the whole meaning of what is being asked. It’s crucial that your student read the WHOLE question before choosing their answer. This allows for less thoughtless mistakes. Misreading and misinterpreting questions account for a lot of the incorrect answers on tests. Should time permit at the end of the test, encourage your student to review their answers. This review should help them catch any mistakes they made.

Process of Elimination

Let’s face it, there are bound to be questions that your teen simply doesn’t understand or wasn’t prepared to answer. Make sure they know how to address this, should the need arise. The best way to handle questions such as these are to use the process of elimination. They should start by eliminating any answers that they know are 100% incorrect. Once the wrong answers have been eliminated, they can make an educated guess as to what the correct answer is. Should they determine there is more than one right answer, they could select the answer of “more than one.” If that isn’t an option, then they are incorrect and they need to choose what answer best suits the question.

A Few Last Pointers…

  • Make sure your teen gets a solid night sleep the evening before the test. Staying up late to study won’t help their scores unfortunately. If they are tired when they take the test, mistakes are bound to be made.
  • Have your teen dress in comfortable, appropriate clothing so they aren’t distracted or fixing their clothing during the exam.
  • Cook a good, well-rounded breakfast for your child the morning of the test. A full belly will keep their mind off of stomach growls and onto the test at hand.
  • Tell them to use the bathroom before the test. A full bladder will be very distracting during the test and they may not be able to leave the room once the test is underway.
  • Lastly, make sure your teen has a few sharpened number 2 pencils and erasers. They may even be able to pack a small handheld pencil sharpener in case they need it during the exam.

Test taking skills are great things to learn and fine tune. People are given standardized tests in almost all years of life and knowing how to prepare, stay calm, and properly answer the questions will help your teen throughout the course of their lives. Have any questions on the type of tests that we administer or on our courses? Our staff is eager to talk to you so please, give us a call at 800-297-2119.

How To Take The Stress Out Of Preparing For A Test

How To Take The Stress Out Of Preparing For A Test

Do you remember sitting in a classroom as the teacher passed out tests that were to be taken? The teacher would walk slowly; making sure all of the students had everything put away and off of their desks. They would put the test face down on your desk to make sure you didn’t get a glimpse at the questions before your fellow classmates did. They would then tell you to begin and sometimes your mind would draw blank. The memories alone are enough to make your palms sweat and your heart race!

Your student faces those same nerves, even though they are schooling in a different way than perhaps you did. Often times (especially in the teen years), preparing for a test happens the night before, leaving everyone in a panic, trying to cram and race the clock. Let’s try to break that habit and set your teen up for success by implementing the following guidelines:

Organize and Make a Plan

Unless it’s a pop quiz, teachers give advance notice on tests. Your teen should let you know as soon as they find out that a test is approaching. This allows you to ask vital questions that will determine how far in advance they need to begin studying. The more organized your student is in the days leading up to the exam, the better off everyone will be. Ask your teen to gather all of the information needed and begin studying sections at a time. This will allow them to avoid cramming for the test. While some think cramming is the way to go, your brain is actually unable to recall all of the information studied at such a rapid pace. Cramming can lead to unfavorable results.

Allow Study Breaks

As your teen is studying, make sure they take breaks so they don’t get frustrated, bored, or overwhelmed. It’s a good idea to take a 5 or 10 minute break every hour. Let them walk around a bit, use the bathroom, grab a snack to refuel. Anything that allows them to mentally and physically take a break is what they should be doing during these breaks.

Study breaks with healthy snacks

Brain Fuel

Teens are always hungry – that seems to be a fact! Let them stay energized and ready to study with some healthy snacks. Avoid sugary drinks and unhealthy, carb loaded snacks that are bound to send them crashing shortly after indulging. Instead, have some healthy nuts, cheeses, fruits, and veggies on hand. That will give them a boost and keep them going!

Dividing Attention

Does your student have multiple exams on the same day? Time to divide and conquer. Start by jotting down the time and date of each upcoming test. Next, think about what subjects might require longer study periods and allow the appropriate amount of time. Does your student struggle in science but excel in language arts? Knowing this allows you to help your teen carve out more time to study for those harder subjects.

Mastering Exam Styles

Does your student get tricked by multiple choice Learning various testing methods and stylesquestions? Do they take guesses because all of the answers seem to blur together? Does your teen struggle with written answers, where they need to provide supportive evidence with their answer? Walk through different exam styles with them and quiz them in various ways. If they toss an answer out to you, ask them why they answered that way. This questioning will prepare them for providing details in their answers, should the need arise.

Tackling the Difficult Areas

Every student has a subject or two they find harder than the others. Typically when a student struggles in a subject, they want to avoid it. Sit down with them and review important concepts and terms. If you identify where they are struggling, make some flashcards of the material. Sometimes learning something in a new way is just the thing our brain needs to let the information soak in. If they are really struggling, then it’s time to reach out for help.

Managing Test Anxiety

There is bound to be a certain level of anxiety when something is being graded and recorded for a grade. It’s just human nature. The tips above should help you and your teen manage their test taking anxiety and prepare in the best way possible. Before your child goes to take the test, remind them that you have confidence in them, that they know the material, and that they’ll do great. A little pep talk has never been known to hurt anybody!

We have confidence in your student and know that they can do great things at My Virtual Academy! Should they feel they are struggling or need any additional support, please let their teacher, mentor, or any of our staff know by giving us a call at 800-297-2119. We are here to help in any way we can! For more on topics like this, head over to our Facebook page and follow us today!!

Quick Tips On Note Taking: Take Notes Like A Pro

Quick Tips On Note Taking: Take Notes Like A Pro

One of the most useful skills you can master when you are a student is effective note taking. It’s a skill that will benefit your student not just in their schooling days, but well into their professional adult life. Note taking helps people retain information longer, better understand the information they are being taught, and improve the recall of information.

Think about it – if notes are written in an unorganized, sloppy way, it will be hard to make sense of them at a later time. Add the fact that your handwriting may be messy if you are writing rapidly and the notes you took are basically useless.

On the other hand, good note taking helps you to:

  • Remember concepts
  • Understand topics in a better way
  • Connect the dots between topics
  • Engage in active listening to your instructor
  • Think about what you are writing

Top Note Taking Methods

#1: Summaries

In the Summaries Method, notes are broke down into little summaries. To do this method, you would take notes during a tutorial as neatly as you can. After the tutorial, review your notes and jot down key things you need to remember, including key vocabulary terms. At the bottom of the notes, write a summary that highlights the key points of your notes. People like this method because they can quickly scan the summary to see if they need to delve deeper and review that days notes in preparation for a test since all of the main points and concepts are called out.

#2: Outlining

In this method, you will use headings and bullet points to organize your notes. When you have topics that have a lot of details and nuances, this is the method to use. It keeps your notes nice and organized, and shows a clear relationship between the topics and subtopics. To use this method of note taking, begin each section of notes by listing the main topic at the top of the page (this is your heading) and add bullet points under each heading for each subtopic and/or supporting facts. You may end up with several different indents of bullet points, depending on how much detail needs to be noted.

More Note Taking#3: Mapping

If you have a lot of information and you want to show how various topics are related, then the mapping method is best to use. It is a visual way to put order to a chaotic topic. Your page of notes will be organized by topic then will branch off into subtopics with additional branches citing detailed information.

#4: Charting

When covering topics that have a lot of facts or relationships, charting is an easy way to keep your information organized. This type of note taking is very clear and easy to follow. Key pieces of information are called out for each topic. To do this method, divide your paper into equal columns by category. Use the space below each column header to jot down supportive facts.

Excel with Excellent Notes

At first, notes can look like a bunch of chicken scratch but after spending some time rewriting or organizing the notes, they will prove to be helpful study materials. Have your teen try out some of the note taking methods we mentioned and let us know what they thought by leaving a comment below.

For more tips and tricks head over to our Facebook page, and if you have any questions regarding our program and how we help middle and high school students, visit our website or give us a call at 800-297-2119.

Improving Your Memory: Tips And Tricks

Improving Your Memory: Tips And Tricks

In our everyday life, as adults we have a lot of things to remember and the same rings true for your child. Algorithms. Schedules. Formulas. Vocabulary words. Writing assignments. Upcoming test dates. Dates with friends. The list goes on and on of things that your teen is trying to commit to memory.

Every time we take in something new with our senses, our brain briefly holds onto that information. This short-term “holding tank” is our short-term memory. This “holding tank” is very, very small. In fact, if we don’t do something with that information, it will be forgotten rather quickly. That’s right – in order to move this information over to our long-term memory, we need to DO something with it. There are some proven tricks to help improve your memory and move this information from short-term storage to long-term. These tricks work great for people of all ages, but they will be very beneficial when your student is trying to retain information for an upcoming quiz or test!

Put it to music.

If you think back to your earliest memories, one of the first things you learned was the alphabet. To this day, if you are asked to recite the alphabet, you will most likely sing the ABC song. The easiest way to memorize those 26 letters was to put it to song and look, it stuck with you all these years! Encourage your teen to create their own song, rap, or rhyme with the facts they are learning. They could even put their facts to the tunes of their favorite song or create a new one. Doing a simple internet search of songs for the periodic table will give tons of examples to get your teen started. When material is interacted with in such a creative way, it is sure to become a long-term memory.

Scan, read, recall.

Does your student ever find themselves reading a chapter in a book and then afterwards they have no idea what they just read? It happens to the best of us all the time! Sometimes we aren’t fully present and our mind is wandering in a million different directions. To make sure they are taking in what is being read, first ask them to scan the reading for pictures and headings. These are clues as to what the material will be about. Next, as they begin to read, ask them to stop and recall what it is that they just read. This pattern of scanning, reading, and recalling will help lock the key points into memory. It may sound time-consuming to read this way, but it beats having to read and re-read the text over and over again.

Acronyms Help Memory


An acronym is a word or name formed as an abbreviation from the initial letters or syllables in a phrase or word. We’re all used to learning with acronyms because they are so effective. Some examples that many people have heard of include:

  • HOMES: Used for memorizing the Great Lakes (Huron, Ontario, Michigan, Erie, and Superior)
  • ROY G BIV: Used for memorizing the colors of the rainbow (red, orange, yellow, green, blue, indigo, violet)
  • FANBOYS: Used for memorizing conjunctions (for, and, nor, but, or, yet, so)

The easiest way to make an acronym is to list out what you need to remember and then try to make up a word based on the list you made. Sometimes it takes a moment, but with some creativity, the acronym will be sealed in your long-term memory forever!

Break facts into groups.

It’s impossible to memorize huge groups of information. It’s an overload for your brain and even if you were able to somehow memorize the facts, they Grouping Helps Memorywould soon be forgotten because it’s not a realistic way to have your brain store the information. Breaking large information down into smaller groups is the way to go! Consider this number: 4398071625. Now consider this number: 439-807-1625. The numbers are the same but when it’s broken down into a phone number format, it’s much easier to remember. Grouping facts by what they have in common is the easiest way to sort information. Whether people sort things by color, size, region, or characteristics is up to them and the material at hand. Just remember to make sure the groups make sense to you and then memorizing what is in the groups will come easier.

Give your brain a rest.

If your teen had a particularly hard study session, have them take a brief cat nap. Research shows that resting your brain helps transfer short-term memories into long-term. So, whether it is a short power nap or a good night’s rest, be sure to let your rest give your brain a boost.

How does your teen prep for a big test? Do they have any tricks to lock key information into memory? Leave us a comment and let us know! We’d love to hear from you. Also feel free to share your memory tricks with the My Virtual Academy community over on our Facebook page.

Ready…Set…Prep… The SAT Is Right Around The Corner!

Ready…Set…Prep… The SAT Is Right Around The Corner!

It’s the start of the New Year and spring will be here before we know it. For high school students, spring means one thing: time to take the SAT! This is a big test that carries a lot of weight, so don’t procrastinate studying or assume that 4, 5, or even 6 weeks will be enough prep time for your high school student. The earlier you can start, the better so let’s make a plan of attack and figure out the best way to get your student motivated and ready to knock this test out of the park!

The SAT, or Scholastic Aptitude Test, is traditionally taken by high school students in the spring of their junior year, but can be repeated in the fall as a senior. The test assesses students’ knowledge in the areas of reading, writing, and mathematics and is considered the nation’s most widely used admissions test among colleges and universities. As we mentioned, it’s a big deal so it’s crucial that your student is as prepared as they can be before taking the test.

Here are some easy-to-follow guidelines on how to begin preparing your student for this important test:

Get to Know “The Beast”        

There’s no way to know exactly what questions will be asked on the SAT, but you can get a good idea of the type of questions by taking a pre-SAT test. The pre-SAT tests can be found on various websites and often times are offered through various local schools as well. These are usually given free of charge and have been composed in conjunction with the folks who actually create the SAT every year.

This pretest is great because it allows your student to see what their strong points are and what areas need additional time and attention. The pretest also gives you a glimpse into the potential wording of problems and the types of things covered on the test. These pre-SAT tests are highly beneficial and we strongly urge your student to take at least one.

Creating and following measurable goals

Set Goals and Expectations

It won’t be realistic to think that your student can master all they need to know in a short amount of time. Nor will it be realistic to think that they won’t have to come back and revisit the material they learned in the first week of test preparation. Setting realistic goals of what you want to achieve and detailing out how you expect your student to achieve those goals will be very beneficial. These goals should be broken down into manageable, weekly mini-goals.

When goals are setup in this manner, the student feels the burden has been lifted somewhat because they know the expectations are realistic and (hopefully) they had a hand in setting the goals. If they are hit from the get-go with unrealistic expectations, they will feel defeated before they even start. When making the goals, try to not focus too much on your student obtaining a certain score on their SAT. Focusing on a particular number can add to the pressure your student is already facing with such a big test on the horizon.

Break Out the Books and Study!

You know your teen needs to study, but where do you start? As we mentioned, the pre-SAT is going to be of huge help in this regard. If your teen has taken the pretest, review how they did. See what areas need improvement and start there. Jot down the topics/areas that were their weak points and delve into them. Keep in mind that the areas where they excelled shouldn’t be forgotten. Once your teen has become proficient in the areas they struggled in, have them circle around and revisit the areas where they excelled. You would be surprised what material can be forgotten in a short period of time. By revisiting all of the areas frequently, the information will stay fresh in your student’s mind.

Seek Out Help

Preparing for the SAT can be overwhelming. Don’t be afraid to admit if you aren’t able to Teachers and parents helping studentshelp your teen understand a particular math equation or decipher literature. There are tutors dedicated to helping students with this particular test prep. The tutors will not only help your teen improve their test score, they will help drill home the methods behind the madness and strengthen your student’s core knowledge. The benefits to obtaining a SAT tutor are endless and are highly recommended.

Stay Focused and Determined

It’s perfectly normal to be overwhelmed or even get discouraged at some point along your preparation journey, but have no fear because in the near distant future, this test will be behind your teen and you will have a student on their way to college! Preparing for such a big test can take a long, long time but, like all good things, success comes to those who put in the effort. If your teen seems overwhelmed or like they need a break, offer them one. Test preparation time doesn’t need to be run like you are a drill sergeant, but you should help them stay focused and working toward their weekly goals.

In Summary…

This is a big test for your teen. They already know the pressure is on when it comes to preparation and taking the test so make life more manageable for them by sitting down together and creating weekly study goals. Enroll them in the pre-SAT so they can see where their strengths and weaknesses are. If they just aren’t catching on to a subject area and you are unsure of how to explain it to them, reach out and get a tutor. Lots of parents do it, especially for SAT preparation, because it’s a lot of material to study and can be overwhelming at times. Should you do everything in your power and your student still doesn’t quite make the grade, don’t fret. They can always retake the test the following year, giving them a chance to raise their grade.

We are so happy that your student is at My Virtual Academy and we feel that they have the skills needed to succeed at the SAT and upon graduation. Should you have any questions or need additional help preparing your student for the SAT, contact us by calling 800-297-2119 or reaching out to us on our website. Happy studying!