3 Good Reasons Why You Should Study for AP Exams

Studying for an AP exam can be a daunting task. The tests are long, in-depth, and cover a year’s worth of material. Especially as “spring fever” sets in, your child may be tempted to study a few times here and there or cram at the last minute, then wing it on test day. But there are three good reasons to study well for your AP Exams. Discuss these with your child and ask how they plan to prepare for test day. Then, click below to match with an AP coach who can help your student study and perform their very best.

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#1. Passing an AP Exam Can Save You Thousands of Dollars

You probably already know that passing an AP exam gives your child college credit, but have you thought about the amount of money that could save your family? In Virginia, in-state students spend an average of $500-800 per credit hour on college courses. Passing just one AP Exam could allow a student to test out of a 3-credit class, saving you between $1500 and $2400! If they attend an out-of-state university or private college, the savings can be even higher.

#2: They Can Kiss That Frustrating Subject Goodbye

If your child dislikes the subject of their AP course and doesn’t plan to use it in their career, they have another compelling reason to study hard! If they don’t pass, they’ll likely have to take a similar course all over again just to fulfill general education requirements in college. Don’t let all that hard work from this year go to waste! Any frustration with the class should drive students to put in the extra effort now so they can say goodbye to memorizing dates or practicing quadratic equations once and for all.

#3: They’ll Have More Opportunities in College

The more credits a student can get through AP exams, the fewer requirements they’ll have to fulfill in college. This frees up their schedule to double major, do an internship, hold a part-time job, take random classes that sound interesting, or even graduate early! College is an exciting time to explore, learn, and prepare for the future. Passing AP exams now will give your child more opportunities later.

Will Your Child Be Taking AP Exams? Here’s What You Need to Know

Now that you know studying for AP Exams is well worth the effort, what’s the best way to prepare for test day? Here are a few tips from our leading AP Coaches:

  • Put test day on your calendar now. You can click here for this year’s AP timeline from College Board. Pay special attention to testing days and the tip on using AP classroom resources.
  • Start preparing now. AP exams cover a LOT of material. Last-minute studying is stressful and ineffective. We offer 8-hour AP Tutoring programs spread out across the semester to help students prepare.
  • Devote study time to every subject. If your student is taking multiple AP exams, we recommend a unique AP Tutor and 8-hour plan for each one. Remember, each test could potentially save you thousands of dollars, so every subject is worth the effort!
  • Get a coach. 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. Plus, students will need to develop strategic study guides to use on the exam and practice answering free-response essays in timed settings. Our coaches help students review the materials, create a study guide, and practice with the new testing style so they can achieve their best possible score.

Don’t rely too much on the open-notes concept. AP Exams have allowed for open notes for years, and they still require a lot of studying. Having an open-notes exam makes creating a good study guide all the more critical. 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.

Get an AP Coach

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 eight 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.

Get an AP Coach

Don’t let spring fever, distance learning fatigue, or subject frustrations cost your child thousands of dollars in college credits or missed opportunities available to those with more freedom in their schedule. We’re here to help your student prepare and perform their very best!

Just click here to request an AP Coach or hit reply to email us directly with any additional questions. We’re here for you!

Learn More in Less Time Podcast

Learn More in Less Time In this episode of the Learning Made Simple Podcast, Educational Connections’ President and Founder, Ann Dolin, M.Ed. will be discussing how kids can learn more in less time. Listen while Ann discusses what study skills are research-proven to be the most effective, how kids can incorporate them into their studying routine, and how students can avoid common studying pitfalls.


Why Do You Want To Learn?

Here are some of the all time most-used excuses…

“I’ll never use that.”

“How will this ever help me?”

“I don’t care about this!”

“Math is boring.”

And of course, the eternal…  “Nope, no homework tonight!”

The origin of these excuses and all the others like them is found in wanting to learn about a specific topic.  If learning is perceived as a chore, it becomes more difficult.

Let’s not kid ourselves.  Every student is not going to be fascinated with Algebra.  So we do things that help them along such as providing structure, a time and place for homework, the proper guidance and support, etc.

But there are things you can do as a parent to make learning more interesting and to make your child want to learn.  Here are a few ideas:

Sports – over Thanksgiving I overheard a 7 year old boy talk to his father while watching the Redskins football game.  They talked about Robert Griffin III and his running yardage and about whether or not to kick an extra point or “go for it.” This is a great opportunity to work on math – by making it fun!  How many different ways could the losing team come back to win?  If the Quarterback runs 4 plays at 5 yards, 10 yards, 12 yards and 18 yards, what is his running average?  The possibilities are endless, but by turning something the child likes into a learning activity, it will help boost understanding academic concepts.

Go see it – here in the Washington area we have a wonderful collection of museums and historic places to visit.  Those in Fairfax, Loudoun and Prince William Counties no longer have to drive into DC to visit the Air and Space museum with the new facility right near Dulles Airport.  Sulley Plantation is a wonderful place to visit to learn about nineteenth-century living.  Mt. Vernon is right around the corner.  The Manassas Battlefield Park is a great place to explore nature and learn Civil War history.  The point is that when a subject becomes tangible and interactive, your child will be more receptive to learning.

Set the example – If you have ever wondered why your child behaves a certain way or likes certain things, just look in a mirror!  Our children do what we do.  Pick up a book and read it!  Set an example by being curious about things that interest you.  It will rub off and you’ll help your child develop their intellectual curiosity too.

Look for ways to help your child want to learn.  If he or she becomes interested in a topic, the good grades typically follow.

Can Eating Candy Make You Stupid?

It just might, according to a UCLA study. Last night kids all over the country went out trick-or-treating and brought home piles of candy. Besides the obvious health issues with eating large quantities of candy like obesity and diabetes, all that sugar may have an impact on your child’s ability to think, something your child’s math tutor or school teachers won’t appreciate!

We’ve all seen it before. Go to a birthday party and the kids get cake, ice cream, and sugary sodas. Chaos ensues. The sugar seems to amp up the activities to a fever pitch.

Of course, the party itself may play a role in the excitement. Being around friends, playing games and the special occasion come together to increase excitement. The sugar is just icing on the cake, pardon the pun.

But now, researchers have found some important linkage between diet and the ability to think. Not only does a high fructose diet impair the ability to remember things and act quickly, but the reverse is also true. Diets high in omega-3 fatty acids tend to counteract the effect.

The research was done by training rats in a maze. The rats that were fed a high fructose diet had a much more difficult time navigating the maze, than the rats that were fed the high omega-3 fatty acid diet. The details are interesting and a good read.

The study found that: “The second group of rats navigated the maze much faster than the rats that did not receive omega-3 fatty acids,” said Fernando Gomez-Pinilla, a professor of neurosurgery at the David Geffen School of Medicine at UCLA and a professor of integrative biology and physiology in the UCLA College of Letters and Science. “The DHA-deprived animals were slower, and their brains showed a decline in synaptic activity. Their brain cells had trouble signaling each other, disrupting the rats’ ability to think clearly and recall the route they’d learned six weeks earlier.”

Yet another reason to make sure your child eats a healthy diet, full of omega-3 fatty acids.

Maybe fish as “brain food” wasn’t just an old wives tale after all.

If Our Kids Are More Distracted Than Ever, How Can We As Parents Help?

More than half of American students consistently do homework using some sort of technology such as a laptop or smartphone.  Sometimes they are using these tools to complete their work, but often times, these gadgets are merely a distraction and cause homework to take even longer.  In my last blog, I mentioned the myth of multi-tasking.  In reality, there is no such thing.  The brain is actually task switching because it cannot accurately focus on more than one thing at once.  If Facebook, surfing the internet, trying out the newest apps and texting are getting in the way of your child’s productivity, there’s help.

Studies show that when students are more aware of how they study best, they have higher GPAs.  When they are able to craft an environment that is comfortable for them, they can become much more efficient at their school work. This ideal study environment will be different for every student, but here are some questions that can help make your child more self aware and give you an idea of how much technology should be involved.  Have your kids ask themselves:

  • In what environment do I get the most work done?
  • Where do I tend to focus best?
  • What time of the day am I most productive?
  • How do I best eliminate distractions?
  • What kind of music can I listen to while studying? (By the way, research has shown that music with lyrics makes it harder to focus, but if it’s a song that your student listens to all the time, their brain will be used to blocking it off and it may actually help with studying.)

Research also shows that when students take breaks from technology, they can improve their focus. There are lots of activities that can relax a student’s mind and improve cognitive processes.  These include:

  • Exercising (playing a sport, taking a walk, or yoga)
  • Playing a musical instrument
  • Looking at beautiful art work
  • Listening to music

All of these activities have been shown to relieve stress and enhance study time. 9VZPKXCBHAZQ

But sometimes, even the most diligent students don’t want to hear how they can use technology wisely when the ideas are coming from their parents.  As a parent of a 14 year old, I’m very well aware of this!

This summer, we’re rolling out our new educational coaching program.  It’s a ten-session, in-home tutoring program designed to help students tackle ways they work best.  We’re also incorporating other strategies for reading comprehension (how to focus and retain when the text isn’t too exciting), note-taking, organization, time management and goal setting.  In addition, we’re offering this unique study skills program to rising middle and high school students in a group setting in Vienna, VA.  Let me know if you have any questions about this blog or our summer classes.

Ann Dolin, M.Ed. [email protected]

President ~ EC Tutoring

Brain Change: Why Our Kids Are More Inattentive Than Ever (View this video!)

Today, I appeared on News Channel 8’s Let’s Talk Live discussing how technology is impacting this generation of students.  Scientists are just beginning to study brain changes by looking at MRIs to determine if constant texting, facebooking, tweeting (you name it!) is changing brains.  Don’t panic; the news is mostly good.  Take a look at this short video for some highlights.

During the segment, Melanie Hastings and I also talked about the lure of technology.  Because of so many distractions, this generation of kids is more distracted than ever, and it’s not by school work.  The class of 2011 had the lowest SAT critical reading score (497)ever recorded.  Some say it’s because of diversity with more and more kids from all backgrounds taking the test, but I wonder if it’s not more than that.  If only the reading portion dropped to it’s lowest levels ever, wouldn’t that point to the fact that our kids aren’t reading for pleasure?  Studies show that only about half read for pleasure.

More on how we can help our kids focus in my next blog post…

Ann Dolin

iGeneration Learning: What’s Going on In Our Kids’ Brains?

I was lucky enough to attend two of Dr. Rosen’s sessions at the Learning and the Brain Conference this weekend.   In addition to presenting his own research, he also summarized other recent studies.  Here are the questions, answers, and other tidbits I found interesting:

  • Why are “screens” so appealing to humans? And when it comes to reading, what is the neurological reason our kids prefer to search Google than read a book? Dr. Gary Small of UCLA conducted fascinating research studying students’ fMRIs when they were asked to do two separate things: read a hard copy book and search the internet using Google. He found that kids’ brains almost fully lit up (almost all areas were stimulated) when they used Google, but that only a very small portion was activated when reading a book. The internet produces a hyperactivity of the brain; it makes people more engaged and stimulated.
  • The more friends you have on Facebook, the more gray matter (associated with memory) in your brain. Also, those with a large amount of friends were more likely to have a larger amygdala (part of the brain associated with emotion). Here’s a good visual of brain maturation. Although association doesn’t mean causation, most here at the conference believe there is a causative affect.
  • Children who play violent video games have less activity in their brains that regulate emotion and aggression. The effects can last for a week after last playing a game.
  • Furthermore, people who are addicted to video games have disrupted brain connections in the areas of emotion, decision-making, and attention.

When it comes to attention, a recent study by Rosen looking at the habits of 279 middle, high school, and college students found the following when the students were observed studying for 15 minutes:

  • All groups could only attend to the task for 3-5 minutes before losing focus. They were able to refocus at about 6 minutes, but then were highly distracted between 8-10 minutes. They became highly focused at approximately 14 minutes, probably because they realized they had just a short time left before the time was up.
  • The most interesting finding was that the number of windows the student had open, the more off task they were.
  • Off-task behavior was highly correlated with lower grade point average (GPA). On-task behavior was correlated with higher GPAs.

In a nutshell, Rosen found that the following factors in the study predicted good school performance:

  • How much time the student spent on task.
  • If the student had strategies for studying (more on this in my next post).

And the following factors predicted poor school performance:

  • Switched from task to task often (multi-tasking).
  • High amount of daily media consumption.
  • And most amazingly, whether the student checked Facebook just ONCE during the 15 minutes. This is the factor that was most correlated with lower GPA.

The question isn’t whether technology is good or bad, it’s about how kids can use it wisely. Part of that includes something called “meta-cognition” which is a fancy way of saying “thinking about thinking”. In order for students to regulate their own online habits they must know how they learn and pay attention best. More on the latest on meta-cognition in my next post.


Questions or comments? Please post them below!

Ann Dolin, M.Ed. — President — EC Tutoring


iGeneration Learning: How Technology Rewires Brains and Teaching Strategies

For the last three days, I’ve been attending the Learning and the Brain Conference sponsored by Johns Hopkins University.  Almost one thousand individuals in education-related fields from all over the country have come to Crystal City to learn about the latest brain research from the world’s leading neuroscientists and psychologists.  This year’s conference title, “Web-Connected Minds: How Technology Transforms Brains, Teaching and Attention”, is of tremendous interest to me as an educator and more so as a parent.  I have questions like:

“Are our kids’ brains different because of their attachment to technology?”

“What are the long-term effects of technology on our kids?”

“Is technology causing our kids to have shorter attention spans?”

The bottom line is that neuroscientists have just begun to study the long-term effects of iPads, iPods, texting, Facebook, YouTube, video games and basically anything with a screen.  Through my next few blog postings, I hope to consolidate some of the newest research from this conference.

The first keynote I attended on Friday was given by Larry Rosen, PhD, from California State University.  Here are some of the basic take-aways from his talk:

  • Although our brain only weighs two pounds, it uses 25% of our energy.  It’s a myth that we use only 10% of our brain.
  • Functional MRIs (performing a task during an MRI) have found that thinking about something actually activates more (and different) parts of the brain than hearing, speaking, and seeing.
  • Our kids are thinking all day long…about technology.
  • There are two types of distractors during learning: internal and external.
  • Thinking is an internal distraction.  Kids may be contemplating, “I wonder if anyone “liked” the photo of me water skiing.”  A common internal distractor is Facebook.  In fact, every one out of five page views on the internet is of Facebook.  More on external distractors later.
  • Rosen says our kids are suffering from FOMO (Fear of Missing Out).  When they don’t have their phone in hand, they are panicked that they’re missing out on something important.  Yet when we take their technology away, it actually creates more anxiety.  When kids are in FOMO mode, they are not fully available for learning.
  • Solution?  Tech breaks.  Allow your child to have his or her phone during homework.  It can be on the table, just turned over (out of sight, out of mind does not apply to this generation when it comes their phones).  Students should work for 15 minutes, and then take a one-minute tech break.  This one-minute break greatly relieves anxiety and kids are better able to focus.
  • There is no such thing as multi-tasking.  The brain actually quickly shifts from one task to another.  When kids are doing many things at once such as texting, looking at Facebook on their laptop, and reading a text book, they are not doing any one thing accurately.
  • When they are working on many things at once, including homework, they prolong the amount of time they must spend on their assignments.
  • This makes sense to us as adults, but studies show kids think they can work just as efficiently in this manner.  A good solution is a tech break.

In addition, Dr. Rosen described characteristics of the iGeneration (born 1990-1999).  They:

  • Are more liberal.
  • Are more idealistic.
  • Are more socially connected.  Their #1 vehicle is Facebook.
  • Think have a strong desire to be entrepreneurs and believe they can succeed.
  • Have a strong work ethic when they can focus.  The problem is that they cannot focus well because of so many distractors inherent in their environment.

More on technology’s impact on focus and attention in my next blog from the Learning and the Brain Conference.


I’d love to hear your comments or questions!  Please post below.

Ann Dolin, M.Ed. — President — EC Tutoring