This summer, we profiled Anthony Green, a 26-year-old New York-based tutor who works with the richest kids in the country as they prepare for the SAT and ACT exams.
And he does it all over Skype.
Ninety-minute sessions with Green cost $US1,500, but he promises he can deliver. He’s hailed as the best in the country.
“When it comes to my tutoring business, I have two specialties: the SAT and the ACT,” he told Business Insider. “Both exams present a unique set of materials, challenges, strategies, and tactics; however, the study methods required to beat these tests can be applied to almost any exam and any subject. Educational principles, neuroscience, motivation techniques, and psychology don’t cater to any particular test — they’re useful no matter what you’re trying to learn.”
1. Document all your mistakes. They’re worth their weight in gold.
We all like to be right. We all hate to be wrong. Unfortunately, when it comes to studying, this element of human nature really gets in the way. If you want to get better at something, you need to relish your failures. You need to understand exactly where you’re screwing up, highlight those weaknesses, document them, and then pummel them into the ground.
2. Forget to-do lists! Use a calendar.
When’s the last time you made a to-do list for the day and actually finished everything on that list? To-do lists are horrible devices because they allow us to be optimistic and unrealistic about our time constraints. Finish the book, work out, study for two tests, start the new project, plan the website, write your grad school essays, plan for the GMAT, and clean your apartment this afternoon? Sure!
Instead of using to-do lists, use Google Calendar (free) and block out time for your studies and your tasks. This way, you can’t possibly be unrealistic. When to-do items are just lines on a notepad, they’re not real. When you “slot” them into a timeframe, you have to actually imagine the time that they will require. Read seven chapters of your book in 10 minutes? I don’t think so. Using your calendar to plot your studies will also allow you to stick with your commitments. Instead of the, “Oh, I’ll get it done sometime” mentality, you’ll be able to commit to studying for your test from 4 p.m. to 5:30 p.m. Now it’s real. Now, when someone asks you if you’re free for some random task or distraction, you can look at your calendar and actually say “I’m busy until 5:30.”
3. Get seven hours of sleep … every single night.
You can’t form long-term memories without sleep. You can’t perform without sleep. Your attention span suffers when you don’t get enough sleep. You feel horrible when you don’t get enough sleep, and your motivation plummets. In brief: when you don’t get seven hours a night, you start turning into a moron. Human beings need seven hours of sleep a night, at a minimum, to function properly. If you’re reading this, and you’re a human being, that means you.
I’ve had students’ scores improve by over 200 points on the SAT just because they went to bed at a reasonable hour. I’ve also had exhausted students (pulled an all-nighter the Thursday before their test, etc.) drop ~500 points from their peak performance levels. If you don’t get enough sleep, and you’re trying to study, it’s like trying to chop down a tree with a pizza. It doesn’t matter how hard you work — you aren’t going to get anywhere. And you’ll feel like an idiot.
4. Review > New
The biggest mistake made by most students: they spend more time focusing on new, exciting material than they do on the material they have already worked through. This is a huge mistake.
I’d much rather have my students work through the same SAT 10 times in a row than have them work through 10 new SATs without any review. As I already said, documenting your weaknesses is essential. But it’s not enough to find and document them — you need to keep reviewing them over, and over, and over again.
5. Schedule study breaks in advance.
The human brain can’t really focus on anything for more than roughly 75 to 90 minutes at a time. If you try to study, or work on any project, for longer than 90 minutes, you’re going to be running on fumes. You need to take breaks. So schedule them in advance, make sure they’re at least 15 minutes long, and make sure that you never work on something for more than 90 minutes without taking a break.
When you take your breaks, make them fun. Don’t feel guilty about not working. Relish them and make the most of them. Go on a walk and call a friend, run out for a quick snack, take care of an errand — do something totally different from what you were doing. Allow your brain and body to take a break and switch into another mode. When you get back to your work, you’ll feel much more refreshed, productive, focused, and happy.
6. Ditch the distractions
If you’re studying, ditch the cell phone. Turn off your computer. Turn off the TV. Clean your desk. Hide everything but the textbooks and notepads that are relevant to the task at hand. When you finish, or when it’s break time, you can pull your phone back out and see if there are any amazing new pictures of Sally’s dinner on Instagram — but leave it for your break.
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