Important Changes to AP Exams 📝

As AP students work hard to adjust to virtual schooling for the rest of the year, The College Board announced this afternoon that exams will be pushed to later in May, with test dates ranging from May 11 to May 22. In addition, all exams will be shorter, just 45 minutes, free-response (no multiple choice this year!) and open note.

It’s also the case that these scores will be more important than ever given that SAT/ACT plans are up in the air this year. Colleges will be looking at other data points for the junior class if SAT and ACT scores aren’t available or limited due to test cancellations.

But studying for an AP Exam is a massive undertaking—even under normal circumstances—and this year’s students face additional challenges as they try to study and prepare on their own. 

Without an AP Coach, students may find themselves overwhelmed as they review all of the material, identify which concepts are important to know, make connections between big ideas, and practice timed writing. 

To help, we’re offering a special online coaching solution just for AP Exams.

If your child is in an AP course, we can help them prepare for their upcoming exam in three steps:

Step 1: Get an AP Coach

We’ll start with a free consultation to learn more about your child’s needs. We’ll then match him or her with their ideal AP Coach based on their course material, schedule, and learning style.

Step 2: Receive Individualized Tutoring (Online!)

The AP Coach will provide six hours of individualized, virtual tutoring sessions to help your child review the material, practice timed writing, and prepare for the unique style of AP Exams.

Step 3: Create a Study Guide

Students identify what’s important from each unit, then create a study guide that makes it easier to study effectively now and find critical information later during the open-notes exam.

Still have questions? We’re happy to help. Check out these FAQs or hit reply to email us directly.

Can’t my child just study on their own?

AP Exams are different from any other exams your child has encountered thus far. They will have to go beyond memorizing facts and learn how to connect big concepts in a new way. Knowing how to identify the Big Idea for the science exam or answer Document Based Questions (DBQs) for the history exam requires a new approach to studying and practice. Our coaches help students review the materials and practice with the new testing style so they can achieve their best possible score.


Isn’t this an open-notes exam? Shouldn’t that make it easier?

AP Exams have allowed for open notes for years, and they still require a lot of studying. Having an open-notes exam makes the study guide all the more important. If the guide is too long, the student will struggle to find what they need in a timed setting. If the guide is too short, they may leave out important concepts they’ll need to reference in the test. That’s why our AP Coaches help students compile a study guide that will be most helpful on the test.


Don’t they learn this material in class?

Yes, but now is the time to review all of that material—and it’s a lot of material! Plus, students will need to develop strategic study guides they can use on the exam and practice answering free response essays in timed settings. It’s a lot to cover, and an AP Coach will ensure they’re fully prepared.

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Did you hear the news?

We’re now offering a new tutoring service just for families with rising seniors! In The Road to College program, our College Application Coaches help seniors…

✓ Create a College-ready Resume

✓ Prepare to Write College Application Essays

✓ Map and Track Deadlines to Submit Applications On-time

✓ And much more!

Most importantly, this service boosts students’ confidence and decreases stress for the whole family throughout the college application process.

Do you know the parent of a rising senior? Forward this blog to them so they can enjoy their child’s senior year stress-free.

Find a College Applicaton Coach

How to Enjoy Parenting a Senior

Parenting a high school senior is exciting! You’ve successfully navigated sleep deprivation, potty training, elementary school PTA, middle school hormones, and driver’s permits. Now, it’s time for the big finale: high school graduation!

You deserve to spend your child’s last year at home making memories and celebrating how far you’ve come.

But for many parents, the stress of college applications robs the joy of senior year.

We believe you (and your child) deserve better. That’s why we’re now offering one-on-one support throughout the application process with our new program, The Road to College.

Get Started Now

In this program, a College Application Guide will help your rising senior…

✓ Map Out All Steps and Deadlines for Applications

✓ Create a College-ready Resume

✓ Find Potential Schools to Match Their Needs

✓ Prepare to Write College Application Essays

✓ Track Deadlines, Complete Applications, and Press “Submit” On Time

✓ Increase Confidence and Decrease Stress

✓ And more!

We’ve made it easy to actually enjoy parenting a senior without worrying you’ll miss an important deadline along the way. Here’s how it works.

Step 1


Schedule a consult to have your child matched with a College Application Guide.

Step 2


Discover where your child is in the process and what they’ll need to succeed.

Step 3


Relax as we guide your child through college applications in one-on-one sessions.


More About The Road to College

Senior year only happens once. Don’t waste a single moment! Click above to learn more about The Road to College, or schedule a consult to match your child with a College Application Guide today.

We’re here for you!

The Surprising Truth About College Essays

Enjoy your child’s senior year without worrying over college application essays. Click here to meet your guide to a stress-free college application process.

Last year, a mom I know did everything right to help her senior write a powerful essay for her college applications… or so she thought.

After looking up the year’s essay prompts for the Common Application, the mom helped her daughter choose a topic. Over the next few days, the child spent hours upon hours outlining, writing, and editing an essay she could be proud of.

So you can imagine the frustration they both felt when not one single school on the child’s list asked for the Common Application essay!

Instead, each school had its own essay requirements. No two were alike.

One school required one 250-word essay from a choice of four available prompts. Another had four required essays, but with a 120-word limit for each. A third required a 500-word essay, but with an additional essay for the honors college application.

This is the surprising truth about college application essays: The requirements have changed a lot over the years, and no two schools are exactly alike!

Parents and students that don’t know how the application process works today often face wasted hours and lots of frustration throughout senior year. But it doesn’t have to be that way!


This year, we’re offering College Application Coaches for one-on-one support throughout the process. (Yes, that includes planning and writing essays for all those applications!) Just click below to learn more.


Learn More!


Do you have any questions about college essays and applications? Do you want to learn more about working with a College Application Coach for a stress-free senior year?

Just submit a request HERE or call 703-934-8282 to speak with an expert now.

We wish you and your child a happy summer and a great senior year. As the college application season approaches, remember—we’re here for you!

Important Deadlines for Rising Seniors

Does creating a college application timeline for your rising senior make you break into a cold sweat? Let us do it for you! Click here to learn more.


Congratulations on making it through your child’s junior year! Can you believe you now have a rising senior?

With college applications on the horizon, you may be starting to ask, “How does the college application process work? And when are the deadlines we really can’t miss?

We get it. The college application process can be stressful. But it doesn’t have to be! We now offer College Application Guides that can guide you through a stress-free application process.

A great place to begin this summer is to map out your child’s road to college, including all the important deadlines you need to know.

Specific dates will vary based on the schools a student wants to attend, the final date of their SAT/ACT test, and more. However, here’s a list of the info you’ll want to look up and put on your calendar before senior year:


  • Final SAT/ACT Test Date – for seniors who want one more opportunity to get the best possible score
  • Early Decision Deadline – for seniors who know which school is their first choice and are ready to commit to attending upon acceptance
  • Early Action Deadlines – for seniors who want to hear back from schools as soon as possible
  • Regular Application Deadlines – for seniors who need to know the absolute final date they can apply to a school
  • Scholarship Deadlines – for seniors planning to apply for scholarships
  • Financial Aid Deadlines – for seniors in need of financial aid via school, state, or federal programs (Note: FAFSA deadlines vary by state)


Mapping out these deadlines now can set you and your senior up for a stress-free college application process. But we know—it’s a lot! That’s why we’re here to help.

Just click below to learn how you can work with a College Application Guide for one-on-one support every step of the way.

Learn More


You can also reach us anytime by calling 703-934-8282 or contacting us online. We’re here for you!

How Better Grades May Mean Our Kids are Less Prepared for College…

We’ve talked about how the now-common retake policy for middle and high school test-takers inflates grades and could impair how well they think they know the material.

Well, it turns out the effects of this grade inflation trend in high schools extend to College Freshman as well.

A September 2018 study by the Thomas B. Fordham Institute study finds that not only does grade inflation continue to be prevalent (especially among the most affluent schools), but that only a minority of those students who do go on to college are actually prepared.

As the study notes:

“…a 2018 survey published by Learning Heroes, a parent information group, found that 90 percent of parents believe their child is performing at or above grade level… That’s a lot of misinformed parents, given that one-third of U.S. teenagers, at most, leave high school ready for credit-bearing courses.”

And as one of the authors Michael J. Petrilli puts it, this disconnect could be coming from the inflated grades they’re receiving in high school:

“Conscientious parents are constantly getting feedback about the academic performance of their children, almost all of it from teachers. We see worksheets and papers marked up on a daily or weekly basis; we receive report cards every quarter; and of course there’s the annual (or, if we’re lucky, semiannual) parent-teacher conference. If the message from most of these data points is “your kid is doing fine!” then it’s going to be tough for a single “score report” from a distant state test administered months earlier to convince us otherwise.”

All of this is to say, as grade inflation continues, and we put less and less emphasis on standardized testing, the chances that our children enter college fully prepared decreases…
Unless we monitor and make sure they’re truly learning the material, rather than just “getting by” – which is easier said than done.

What do you think?

Have you had the experience of an exceptional GPA followed by a less-than-stellar SAT or ACT score?
Comment below, I’d love to hear your opinion.

SAT NEWS FLASH: The Accommodations Process Just Got Much Easier!

SAT LogoIf you know anything about what it takes to go through the approval process for accommodations on the SAT, you’ll be thrilled to know that things just got simpler.

Accommodations refer to adjustments made to the administration of the SAT based on a particular student’s needs.  Common accommodations include extended time, extra breaks, large-print testing booklets, and even multi-day testing.

In the past…

In order to be approved for accommodations like the ones listed above, you had to have your child go through psychoeducational testing, which takes time, money, energy, and can cause stress.

But here’s the good news…

If your child receives accommodations at school (like through an IEP or a 504 plan) and the school will vouch for this, your child will qualify for those same accommodations on the SAT without the need for any additional paperwork. A representative from the school will just need to communicate with College Board to certify that the student receives accommodations.

Also, if English is not your child’s first language, College Board is offering additional accommodations including the option of reading directions in the student’s native language and receiving assistance on vocabulary.  By fall of 2017, non-native English speaking students can also get extra time and the option of testing in a space with fewer distractions that the main testing room.

Check out the original College Board announcement here.


Our January Tutor of the Month is…

When it comes to helping students with college entrance exams, organizing homework folders and binders, or studying for Algebra II, Nana Abrefah can do it all. Since October 2016, Nana has worked with students prepare for their upcoming ACT and SAT exams, improve grades in Algebra II and Pre-Calculus, and helped younger students straighten up backpacks and binders. With all his success, Nana is our January Tutor of the Month!

We spoke with Nana to see how he manages his time with students and helps motivate them to complete difficult homework tasks and problems.

What’s the #1 way you engage your students?

The best way I have found to engage students is incorporating their interests—both immediate and long-term—into our sessions. To me, an immediate interest is something like a favorite sport or favorite band. Long-term interests can be goals, like matriculating at a very selective college. For instance, one of my students likes hockey. Thus, to work on English skills (reading comprehension, argument building and analysis, diction and structure), I have him work with newspaper articles on hockey that should be at or above his reading level. He practices active reading and must effectively explain the content and structure of these articles. I have found this method keeps him engaged even on days when he does not have much schoolwork for us to work on together.

This approach can apply to any student; even the most motivated students sometimes benefit from remembering that what they are learning does not exist in a vacuum and probably relates to many things they already like or would like to achieve for themselves. For test prep students who put so much time into studying for one test, it cannot hurt to remind them of all the doors they are opening for themselves!


What is one thing you tell students who are preparing for the SAT or ACT?

As cliché as it may sound, be confident! These tests are not measures of how smart or worthy you are. They examine specific skills that colleges believe are central to successfully taking on a college curriculum. Even better, these are skills you have been exercising throughout your academic career! You have all the tools to do well; excelling is not an impossible task.  Especially working together with a tutor, you can improve content areas and timing issues if you take the time. It is only natural to feel nervous about the ACT or SAT (top test takers feel this way, too). However, never forget that you are capable and that you have put in the work to succeed! Less time spent worrying also means more time to check your work.


What’s the number one study strategy you use in your sessions?

I think my favorite study strategy is the “Tolerable 10” because it is so broadly applicable. The Tolerable 10 is ten undisturbed minutes of work followed by a short break or debrief. For students who have a harder time focusing, it provides a sustained work period and time to decompress. It gives the lesson a little more rhythm. For test prep students, it also works very naturally to improve timing on different sections, and afterward, we can open a dialogue about the work they just completed.


How do you inspire confidence in your students, especially if one of them is feeling deflated?

To keep my students confident, I try to remind them of precisely why I am there—to help them understand the material regardless of how many methods it takes! Schools obviously must operate on some timeline; I think a common source of failing confidence among students is a feeling of being behind. But when we as tutors are working with students, they have no reason to feel this way! I try to establish this with each of my students. There is nothing wrong with being confused and there is no need to stay quiet or apologize for not understanding something. We are working together to learn and apply that knowledge.

To work with a great tutor like Nana, give us a call today at 703-934-8282!

The College Application Essay: Better to Start Now Rather than Later

EiStock_000015974259Largeven though it’s summer, instead of spending your days watching Netflix and lounging by the pool, your time would be best spent by taking some time to prepare for upcoming college application essays.

Don’t wait until September or October when you are stressed out with homework, sports, and other extra-curricular activities. Now is the time to write your essays so you have more time to think of topics and important achievements, edit and proofread your drafts, work with a mentor on writing, and get all your ideas out on paper. The common application essay questions are already available on admissions websites, which means you have more time to draft an essay.

Here’s how to take advantage of this and make your summer really count:

Create your list of schools & find out their essay requirements

Before you start your essay, create a list of the schools to which you want to apply. Not every school has the common application essay prompt, so be sure to separate the ones that don’t have it on your list – you don’t want to do the wrong essay!

Jot down your accomplishments & achievements

Write a list of your biggest accomplishments and achievements. This is your time to brag so don’t be shy!

Did you win the state championship this year? Did you get a perfect score on your hardest test? Did you solve a problem that had been bothering you for quite some time? Finding out what you’re most proud of can be helpful when figuring out which prompt to write about.

Determine what best topics might be

Have your surroundings or situation at home strongly influenced your beliefs or a path you have taken? Each of us has our own unique set of circumstances and surroundings that often have a profound influence in shaping our lives. Determine what is important to you, share a failure, or talk about a time you challenged an idea. Find more topics on our “The College Admissions Essay: Coming Up With a Topic” blog post.

Find a mentor to guide you through the revising & editing process

Ask someone to proofread your essay and work with you on revising your essay. Some teachers may be available in the summer to help out.

Tutors are also available to help you organize your thoughts into a clear and cohesive essay. If Educational Connections can be of assistance in this process, give us a call today and we can work on finding the right tutor match for you.


Check out these resources on writing your best essay:

How to Write the Best College Essay in 6 Easy Steps


How to Study for the ACT Science Section

ACT scienceThe biggest myth about the ACT science section is that you have to be a science whiz.

Guess what? You don’t!!!

You just have to know science enough to not get intimidated and bogged down with science graphs and tables, even if they are of concepts you are totally unfamiliar with.

After you realize that you don’t have to be a science superstar to do well on the ACT, but that really it’s more about being a strong reader, it’s important to understand what to expect on the Science section and how to study for each of the 3 main types of passages.

Also, the Science Section is 35 minutes long and has 7 passages in total.  This means you only have about 5 minutes per passage. Knowing what to expect beforehand and how to divide your time will result in multiple minutes saved and less stress on test day.

These passages are broken down as follows:

  • Data Representation
  • Research Summary
  • Conflicting Viewpoints

Data Representation Passages

Data representation passages are often full of big charts and graphs that take up almost a whole page in the test booklet.  Topics covered range from meteorology, astronomy, ecology, and biology to physics.

You might see:

  • A graph of the different layers of the atmosphere, the earth, or outer space
  • A chart of the life cycle of different types of insects
  • A diagram of how fast cars accelerate under varying driving conditions

What should you do?

Jump right to the questions!

Data representation passages are designed to throw you off your game, but they are where you can save time. They are meant to test your ability to navigate charts and graphs.

Jumping directly to the questions as opposed to studying the passage is the best way to see which part of the chart or graph you need to understand.  As you read the question, treat it like a map and literally move your finger to the axis, unit, or object in the chart or graph that is referenced in the question.  This will guide you to the information you need to find the correct answer.

Doing this will save you about 2 minutes per passage, dropping your time needed for Data Representation passages to a mere 3 minutes or so.

If you are starting your ACT preparation months before an exam, then you have the choice of skimming data representation passages before delving into the questions so that you become familiar with the kinds of topics that will be covered.  This is a good approach in the early stages of studying and helps prevent you from getting overwhelmed by unknown science concepts.

Research Summary Passages

Research summary passages present a short description and a few accompanying diagrams illustrating a specific experiment or two.

The general approach is very similar to that of Data Representation passages—jump to the questions.

However, many students benefit from:

  • Skimming the introductory passage that describes the experiments or research to become familiar with what is going on
  • Perusing the charts and diagrams to help navigate back to them from questions
  • Determining what the experiment is measuring—is it the speed of meteors, the strength of visible wavelengths as seen through a microscope, or how a substance’s properties change when exposed to different temperatures?

Since you have about 5-6 minutes per passage (after shaving off valuable time from Data Representation passages), only spend about a minute or so skimming the introduction and trying to understand the specifics of the experiments and how they are set up.

Conflicting Viewpoints Passages

These can be zingers. They are passages that look like they belong in the Reading Section more so than the Science Section.

Conflicting viewpoints passages have a description summarizing one scientist’s view on a science-related topic and then another description summarizing another scientist’s view on the same topic.

These passages are designed to drain your time, since you do have to read them like you would a passage on the Reading Section. So don’t let them! Since there is only one of these passages in the entire section, save it for the end so that you can use only the time you have remaining to work on it.

The key things to look for while reading are:

  • In what ways the scientists agree
  • In what ways the scientists disagree

The goal is to spend enough time reading so that you have some mental (or written) notes on the differences and similarities between the two passages. If the first scientist claims that substance X melts at a higher temperature under certain conditions, that should be a red flag for you to note what the second scientist thinks about the melting behavior of the same substance.

When you’re done reading, start with questions that refer only to passage one, then move on to questions that just refer just to passage two, and end with the questions that refer to both passages, which are the hardest ones.

If you are short of time, then just read the first passage and find all the questions that pertain to it before doing the same for the second passage.  Then make your best guess on questions pertaining to both passages.

General Tips for the ACT Science Section

  1. Watch axes—sometimes units of measurement decrease the higher on the axis they are.
  2. Check units—this is an age-old trap but it works, so check that the units in the question match the units you found on the chart/graph.
  3. Double check paired answer choices—paired answer choices are ones that offer two sets of answers that are the same, aside from one change like “increasing” or “more than.” It’s all too easy to narrow your answer choices to two of the wrong choices, so read slowly and double check your work.
  4. Guess—this tip pertains to all sections on the ACT so even if you’re short on time, intimidated, or totally lost, always pencil in an answer for every question.

Remember: You can become an ACT Science Section whiz without being a master of science!

Understanding the types of passages, how to approach each, keeping in mind the general tips listed above, and practicing again and again and again before the actual exam is how you can ace the ACT Science Section.