How to Prepare For Standardized Tests

Summer is a great time to prep for standardized tests. Whether you are in high school and looking to take the SATs (and SAT Subject Tests), ACTs, or planning to attend graduate school and take the MCAT, LSAT, GMAT or GRE, these months are precious and you for prep and should be used strategically to get the most out of this time.

Why is summer prep so important for these kinds of exams? These exams require pretty intensive, consistent prep. To achieve maximum results, you need continuous uninterrupted prep. During the school year, you can be very busy with school. While you may want to dedicate time to studying for these exams, this studying can get interrupted by school and work commitments. So, the summer offers an excellent opportunity to prep with the right mindset, providing you with the freedom to focus and obtain the best kind of prep.

So, what do you actually need to do to prep? First, you should look at the schools and programs you’re looking to apply to. What scores do these programs need? You should be looking at the average and median scores of these programs to get a sense of where you need to be. Then, you want to see where you are now and plan for how to get there. First, start with an assessment. This could be a mini assessment or a full assessment. Sample assessments are typically offered through the official guides and websites of these exams. Once you take the assessment, you should see your score. This is where planning comes into play.

We have seen over and over again students who spend countless hours working in circles trying to prep for these exams. Many are just never able to get there and others that think they are there, when they are not. They go in, take the tests, but are not able to get the results they are aiming for. That is why it is crucially important to do your planning with a tutor. A tutor can help come up with a teaching plan for you and make sure you stay on plan. The tutor can see the areas you need to focus on, the gaps, and the tricks. Your SAT, ACT, GMAT, LSAT, or MCAT tutor can really help you focus your time and not waste time.

At Prepsmart, we take a unique approach that has worked extremely well for our clients. Firstly, we provide customized, private one-on-one tutoring. This means that our tutors conduct lessons one-on-one, and not in a big class format. We have tested and tried this approach and landed on this. Classroom teaching dos not provide the kind of teaching that students need today. Every student has different areas of strength and weakness, and as such the lessons should be tailored towards their learning abilities. The way we do this is as follows: our tutors create a teaching plan that is customized for students based on the initial assessment. This is in consultation with the students around his or her schedule. The tutoring lessons are one-on-one and the entire attention is placed on the student. Our tutors ensure that the student stays on pace and make adjustments whenever necessary. Practice tests and feedback on tests are a bedrock of our strategy. It is no surprise that 100% of the students we have worked with in the SAT, LSAT or GMAT have hit their target scores after going through our tutoring program.

To wrap up, this summer is a great opportunity for you to get started on your prep for your standardized test. Be strategic and plan for it. Remember, your goal is to ace the test and that means beating the test-maker in his game. The only way to do that is through careful planning and practice.

Achieving academic success: from High School to University

If you are in high school, you are probably thinking about how to navigate the challenges of high school and what steps you can take to maximize your chances of getting into your dream university or program. In this first blog of what will be a series of blogs, we will explore the different criteria and components of a successful university application.

First, let’s make the point clear. We live in an ever-competitive world. If you have your eyes set on attending a top Canadian university and program, then you must know that the competition is tough and that there are many more qualified applicants applying than there are seats for in those universities or programs. In this post, we’ll give go over the areas that you need to pay attention to as you navigate high school. This blog will focus on Canadian universities. In future blogs, we will explore the admissions requirements and process for applying to global universities, such as the Ivy League universities in the U.S. and U.K Universities.

Academics:

Most, if not all, Canadian Universities look at your top six grades in grade 12 for the academic component of admissions. All of your grades will be submitted to the Ontario Universities’ Application Centre, but the programs are going to look at your top six grades, amongst which there may be pre-requisite courses such as Advanced Functions, English, Calculus, and others depending on the specific programs. You should note, however, that universities will look at your grade 11 grades for early admission.

You may think to yourself: This doesn’t sound too hard. All I have to do is go into grade 12 and make sure I do well in my classes. Until then, I have plenty of time to make up for what may be lackluster grades. Well, unfortunately, it doesn’t really work like that. The reality is that you cannot just show up to your grade 12 classes and expect to get 90s when you have not been performing at that level up to that point. You really need to start early on. Look at the program averages for the programs you plan on applying to. The general rule of thumb is that you should be getting those grades in your grade 11 classes and then go to your grade 12 maintaining those grades. If you are not getting those grades, then now is the time to start preparing. Really focus on your academics. Canadian universities place a big emphasis on this requirement and in most cases your performance in your grade 12 can determine where you end up in university, what you study, and what you end up doing in the future. So, in many ways your future academic and career trajectory will depend on your performance in those few short months.

Our advice is to take your grades seriously, and if you need help with your academics seek it. Personalized tutoring, whether it be in Math, Science, English, or French, is a great way to get extra help when you may not be receiving that personal attention in the classroom.

Extracurricular and Community Involvement:

Given the level of competition, many Canadian programs, such as Western Ivey, Waterloo Engineering, and McMaster Health Sciences (to name a few), are today looking beyond academics (meaning top six grade 12 courses) for granting students admission. The reason for this is that schools are looking to admit people who will be successful in their careers. Becoming successful in one’s career takes much more than just strong grades. It takes people with ability to communicate, lead, and connect with others. Universities can identify these traits through students’ personal and leadership involvements. As such, universities will at extracurricular, sports, and community involvements in school and in the community to see signs of these traits. Beyond just using these involvements to grant admission, universities look at these involvements to also give scholarships to students they really want to attract.

Let’s go over some of these involvements:

  • Extracurricular Involvement: These kinds of activities usually entail involvements in after-school clubs, ranging from student government to yearbook to theatre to robotics. Typically any school club or organization formally recognized by your school can fall under this category.

  • Sports: These include involvement in sports teams, at the intramural or varsity level

  • Community Involvement: These include volunteer activities at hospitals, nursing homes, environmental organizations, libraries or other places that make a positive contribution to the well-being of the community. These task should involve you giving back to the community and making a positive contribution.

Leadership:

It is not enough just to be involved in a school club or to be a member of an organization. You need to actually have a leadership role within that organization or school club. Anyone can sign up and become a member of a student club, such as DECA, but having a leadership position is what shows commitment. Beyond displaying commitment, it shows that you were a decision-maker and that you left an impact on the student club, sports team, or organization. Universities are looking for future leaders, so they are going to look at your leadership positions to get an early assessment of this trait.

So, there you have it in a nutshell. These are the areas you should be thinking about and becoming involved in if you have not already. Focus on your academics — make sure you are especially getting strong English and Math grades — but remember that is not all that matters these days. Many programs will want to see outside involvements, and if you have your eyes set on a scholarship then you should really be thinking about becoming involved and getting leadership at co-curricular programs.

Bottom Line:

You need to start preparing early in high school because admissions to universities is becoming more and more competitive every year. Your first priority is to get your grades in order. Look at the average requirements for the programs you plan on applying to. You should already be hitting that average by your Grade 11, so by the time you are in Grade 12 it just comes down to proper and smart execution. Secondly, you need to make sure that you are taking steps to become an involved student. You should ensure that you are genuinely making a contribution to the organizations your are becoming a part of. If you follow these tips, you’ll find yourself in a very strong position come application time.

As always, if you have any questions, we are always here to help. You can send us and email at info@prepsmart.ca and we can set up a free consultation to go over your profile!

Stay tuned for our next blog, where we will look into specific program requirements for some Canadian universities and give you the profiles of some successful admitsz

Yours truly,

Prepsmart Team

Admissions at Canada’s Top Business Schools

Richard Ivey Building at Western University

Ivey, Schulich, Queen’s Commerce, and Rotman School of Management are some of the notable undergraduate business programs in Canada. If you have your eyes set on attending one of these fantastic programs, then there are a few important things you should keep in mind. Following these suggestions will not only increase your chances of admission, but also position you to land a scholarship. First, we’ll look at some of the general admissions criteria. We’ll then deep dive into the requirements for each program specifically. We will then provide you with a sample profile of a student who was admitted to these programs.

Admissions process:

As we have discussed in a previous blog, you will need your top six grade 12 grades for all of these programs. Most business programs will require Grade 12 English, Advanced Functions and Calculus / Data Management as pre-requisites. When planning your course schedules, make sure that you include these classes. Failing to meet one of these requirements will result in your disqualification from admissions. Proper course planning will play a very important role in this process, so make sure that you meet with your academic counselor.

So, what grades should you be aiming to get in your classes? Given the level of competition, you should be aiming for to get 90% or above in these classes as well as an average of 90%+ in your top six grades. Schools will place heavy emphasis on your English and quantitative classes, namely Advanced Functions and Calculus, so you should aim to keep your grades in these classes above 90% for Grade 12. That is not to say you won’t necessarily get in with less than a 90% average, but this is the first criteria that business programs will use to screen you. Take these classes seriously!

Beyond academics, business programs are looking for students who are involved in their schools and communities. As mentioned in our prior post, they are looking for students who exhibit leadership potential. At the end of the day, that is what business school is all about. Business schools want to take students who have leadership potential and give them the knowledge, learning, network and resources to become business leaders. Leadership can come in a variety of forms. It can be through a school club, a sports team, or community involvement. Whatever it is, it should be a position in an organization whose mission you are passionate about and where you are working your way up to hold more and more senior positions eventually.

When you reach Grade 12, it comes time for filling out the supplementary applications in addition to submitting your grades. It’s very important to execute effectively on these apps because they are what the admissions committees at lot of times look at to differentiate candidates who otherwise look similar academically. After submitting your grades through OUAC, you have to fill out supplementary applications, where you showcase things about yourself beyond academics. This is where you can differentiate yourself from the thousands of other applicants. These supplementary apps vary, but most if not all will have an essay component and some have video interviews. These essays offer a great channel for you to authentically express yourself, your ideas and your passions to the admissions committee.

Specific Program Requirements:

Western Ivey:

Academic Requirements: Minimum 90% average in top six Grade 12 courses. English and one math course, such as Advanced Functions or Calculus, must be included.

Supplementary App: Essay questions on leadership and well roundedness. There is also a video interview.

Schulich, York University:

Academic Requirements: Top six Grade 12 courses. Grade 12 English, Advanced Functions and either Calculus or Data Management are pre-requisites.

Supplementary App: Leadership profile (list of extracurricular activities), essays, and video interview

Queen’s Commerce:

Academic Requirements: Top six Grade 12 courses. Grade 12 English, Advanced Functions and either Calculus or Data Management are pre-requisites.

Supplementary App: Personal statement essay and supplementary essay

University of Toronto Rotman:

Academic Requirements: Top six Grade 12 courses. Grade 12 English and Calculus are pre-requisites. Expected that Advanced Functions is taken as a co-requisite or pre-requisite for Calculus. Average of high 80s in your top six Grade 12 courses, though that is the minimum requirement.

Supplementary App: Includes two short written components and a video response

Sample Profile:

Justin Casey is a student who we advised and had a very successful outcome in the admissions process.

Acceptances: Western Ivey, Queen’s Commerce, Schulich, Rotman

Academics:

  • Top six Grade 12 grades: 90%

  • Average in Advanced Functions & Calculus: 94%

  • Extracurricular and Leadership Involvement: Vice President of Student Government, Captain of Badminton team, Chapter Lead for DECA, Volunteer at Sunnybrook Hospital

Comments: Justin was accepted to all of the above business programs. At first glance, we can see that he has a good academic record and strong leadership profile. His academic credentials, though strong, are similar to those of other qualified applicants. So, compared to much of the applicant pool, his grades are decent but not extraordinary enough to “wow” the admissions committees and grant him admission just based on his grade. He does have a strong average in his quantitative classes, so that’s a big plus for him.

So, what ultimately helped Justin get into all the schools he applied to? The answer is his leadership involvements. Justin is not involved in tens of extracurriculars where he is just a member of those clubs. He is involved in a few clubs, but holds significant leadership positions in them. As such, he has what we could called “depth” over “breadth”. That is exactly the kind of attribute that the admissions committees look for. They want to see people who have spent the time identifying their passions and dedicating significant time to furthering those activities. This, combined with a compelling personal story about his upbringing with a single mother, is what earned Justin a spot at all these great schools.

Stay tuned for our future posts and Happy New Year to all of you!

Warm regards,

Prepsmart Team

Going from a ‘C’ student to an ‘A’ student

In grade 9, I was a 60s student. In fact, I failed my first French test. I was barely managing to get 60s in all my other subjects when my classmates were getting 80s and 90s. I didn’t know what I was doing wrong. I did my homework, I did my readings, I felt that I studied hard, but I never did as well as my classmates. What was my problem? I didn’t know what it was, nor did I know who I could ask help from. My parents didn’t know how they could help me and who they could approach. They felt that this was my potential because they saw me really giving it my all My grades stagnated. I never believed that one day I would ever become a 90s student.

But, one day, it all changed. It was the winter of my Grade 9 year and we had all gotten back from Christmas holidays. It was my new years resolution to improve my grades and I was willing to do whatever it took. I sought the guidance of an academic advisor. Ever since that session, my academic career trajectory has completely changed and everything has started to click for me. The advice I received from this academic advisor was really life-changing. What the advisory told me that what I was doing wrong had nothing to do with the amount of time I spent on homework or studying for tests, but rather for failing to properly plan out my goals. After speaking to me, he reiterated that I had built myself this high-level goal of getting 90s, but I had not actually come up with a specific plan on how to get there. What he suggested we do is to come up with a roadmap and a timeline on when I could realistically expected to start getting 90s student. What that meant was that I was not going to suddenly make a jump to get there, but that it would be a gradual step that would take time and would require patience. Realistically, as a 60s student, I needed to work my way up the ladder and set specific milestones for myself. I should be measuring 5% and 10% improvements and ensuring that I maintain those grades, before thinking about attaining 90s.

So, together, over the course of the coming days and weeks, we sat down and developed a 2-year roadmap which included specific targets for every semester along the way. What I had to ensure was that I was working towards hitting smaller milestones. This not only helped me with better planning and a more fresh mindset, but this roadmap approach translated to me developing study plans for my individual classes. By creating study plans for each class, I was able to break down my goals into specific, measurable steps. I was no longer stressing out about being behind my peers because I knew that I had developed a thorough plan that would ensure my academic success in the coming years if I just stuck to it.

I started to see results almost immediately, within weeks of implementing the new approach. As I pursued this new goals plan, all the hard work I was putting started to bear fruit. Firstly, my mind just felt a lot more clear and I was able to concentrate much more both in class and when completing homework at homework. Schoolwork that previously took me hours to complete, I was now completing within 30 minutes. By the end of my second semester of Grade 9, I was getting high 60s / low 70s. By Fall of Grade 10, I was into the mid 70s, and I ended the school year with an average of low 80s, which I was very proud of. I started my Grade 11 on a very strong foot, as I was doing summer prep classes, and I was already achieving high 80s in all my classes. I was even obtaining 90s in some classes. As a matter of fact, I was ahead of schedule and had hit all my goals by the second semester of Grade 11. By trusting the process, I really positioned myself for success. I can’t explain how this goals planning approach changed my life and I recommend it to everyone out there who thinks they may not be achieving their full academic potential.

At Prepsmart Tutoring, we help make a difference in the lives of all our students by helping them reach their academic goals. We really believe in the goals-based approach described by the student above and develop a goals-based study plan for all of our students. With the right study plan, hard work, dedication and the right tutors nothing is impossible.

Yours sincerely,

Prepsmart Team

Why Many Students Fail to Identify the Right Career Path in High School

When students enter High School, they often take the usual Math, English and Science courses. Very few students get the opportunity to explore courses that give them a taste of the career paths they later pursue after their post secondary education. We are finding that the vast majority of students end up applying to university programs that have little correlation to most of the courses that they take in high school. You are probably wondering how students decide which programs to apply to. Students often have a certain perception of a program or the career opportunities it offers but in reality the career opportunities are likely very different from what the students perceive. The reality is that programs and jobs are very good at marketing themselves in order to attract both the highest volume and highest quality of applicants. However, by presenting themselves in such manner, they appeal to many people who may otherwise not be a good fit for those programs. As such, doing in-depth research is really critical in high school to ensure that the next 4 years of your student life are spent in a university and program that is a good fit for you and provides the right career opportunities for you afterwards.

The university dropout rates after for first year students in Canada is 15%. We are noticing that a lot of students are making uninformed decisions of the programs they wish to attend in university while they are still in high school and are therefore struggling to find the motivation to study. Parents are sometimes naïve and do not spend adequate time helping their children identify career paths that will align with their interests.

Students are choosing to pursue career paths where the job opportunities are slim. In fact only 27% of university graduates are able to find a job related to their major. This means that 73% of people end up pursuing jobs / careers that have nothing to do with their fields of study. This is becoming a bigger problem as more students are entering university and the number of jobs is not keeping pace with the number of students entering university. One of the unique ways Prepsmart is able to differentiate our service offerings from competitors is our mentorship platform that helps students learn about the various university programs available and the career paths open to graduates by pairing our students with graduates of those programs. There is no better way to learn about something than to learn from someone who experienced it first hand.

At Prepsmart Tutoring, we have a mentorship program for those interested in which we pair our students with current university students and graduates from the programs that interest them so that they can gain insights into those programs applying to them. We believe that through such firsthand discussions and shadowing opportunities, students will really gain insightful insights that will help them make very informed decisions.

At Prepsmart Tutoring, we really believe in the value of mentorship. Beyond being great tutors and subject matter experts, we believe in serving as role models and advisors. To that end, we take steps both during our tutoring sessions and outside of the lessons to provide our students with the best possible advice and insights that will help them put their classroom teaching into practical use that will serve them for life. We have helped our students with improving their study habits, learning to become more independent and organized, course selection, university and program selection, crafting strong applications, amongst other tasks.

Yours truly,

Prepsmart Team

New semester, new me

If you are in high school and have recently finished your exams, congratulations! It’s a big milestone and you should take some time to rest. As you start the next semester, you should be thinking about how you can start it on a strong note. It doesn’t matter where you are now or how ambitious your goals are because everyone has the opportunity to improve his or her game. First, you should take time to reflect on your past semester. What study habits worked well for you and which ones did not? Are there some things you would do differently?

We strongly believe here at Prepsmart Tutoring that results come from core principle of good study habits. A recent Canada-wide study showed that 90% of students have the intelligence needed to succeed in high school and go on to attend university, but only 65% of Canadian high school students end up enrolling in university. Why is that? We believe that this discrepancy is not to do with smarts, but rather study habits. Those who manage to develop good study habits and study effectively for their classes are able to achieve academic success, while those who do not tend to fall behind.

Just as with everything else, developing good study habits is something that takes time and practice. What you should know is that the core principles of good study habits apply across subjects and disciplines. Whether it is Math, Chemistry, Physics or French, the process involved in doing homework, projects, and preparing for tests is the same at its root. If you can master that, you can translate the skill across all your classes and benefit all together.

New Semester Tips:

Below, we have outlined some of the key tips which we believe play an important role in developing better study habits. While the list is not conclusive, it does include the key areas of focus for developing good study habits.

Time Management:

Time management is a really critical part of taking your study skills to the next level. Create a schedule and a calendar for yourself. If you create a schedule and keep a calendar, you are much more likely to stay on top of things and never to miss a deadline. Also, this helps you bring some organization into your life.

Focus:

Efficiency is key and focus plays an important role in becoming more efficient. If you spend 10 hours on something that should only take you 1 hour to do, you are taking away time from all your other commitments. So, time that you should be spending on other subjects or committing to other activities, such as extracurriculars, is being taken up. A big part of becoming more efficient is being able to focus. When you are doing something, try to focus on the task at hand. Turn your phone to silent and exit social media apps, because they just add to the distraction. If you can really bring your attention to the subject at hand, you’ll see that you are able to grasp and process material much more quickly.

Classes:

Pay attention in class. Daydreaming is common, but if you pay attention in class, you are 50% of the way there. Teachers usually take content directly from classes for tests and exams. If you don’t pay attention in class, you have to come back home and review everything again, which just reduces your efficiency.

Practice Questions:

It is not enough just to understand the material. You have to do practice questions and practice tests. This is the only way you know you can apply the material you have learned when it comes to actually solving problems that show up on tests. Doing practice questions exposes you to different ways that material can be asked and makes you think about the real-world application of the material you are learning. So, doing practice questions is a great way to up your study skills because you are spending time on content that really counts.

Engagement:

Be engaged in your classes. There is a psychological component that goes into learning. If you are interested in the subject, you will process information more quickly. Additionally, ff you show your teacher that you are engaged, they will notice it and rewards you for it. Even if you mess up on a test or two, your teacher may take into account your efforts and reward you at the end for being engaged.

Seek Help:

Don’t procrastinate and leave things to the last minute. Seek the help of a parent, teacher, or private tutor as soon as you encounter a problem and have difficulty. Pushing things off will only pile things up and leave you feeling nervous days before your upcoming test.

The above are some of the strategies you can use to start your new semester on a strong note and develop better study skills. Follow these tips and see the kind of impact it can have on your academic performance and overall well-being.

Yours truly,

Prepsmart Team

What kind of summer camp should your child attend?

Why summer camp:

Summer camps are an important time for children. The type of summer camp one attends can be an even more important matter. Studies have shown that the type of activities that children take part in over the summer months make a big difference in their brain’s development. Summer camps are a great opportunity for children to be engaged, but also develop other skills such as socializing, teamwork, and problem solving.

There are many summer camps out there, such as sports, theatre, and art camps, to name a few. These camps offer great opportunities for children to be active. Many of these camps allocate some time to activities that get children also intellectually stimulated, such as through games and group activities. However, not every camp offers such activities and some may not give much attention to them all together. As a result, children may not be as intellectually engaged as they need to be during summer months. That is why we believe that another kind of summer camp, a learning camp, is most beneficial to elementary and middle school students.

Why Learning camp:

Over the summer months, children need to nourish their brains. If they do not, they will not only not learn anything new, but actually find themselves falling behind when the new academic year starts. The reality is that with most other things, if there is not enough practice or continuity we are likely to forget the material and concepts. As parents, we definitely want to avoid this kind of disruption to our children’s learning. The start of the academic year would otherwise be much more stressful for the students who may have forgotten the material and as a result this can even impact their confidence, self-esteem, and happiness.

Learning camps, which offer learning complemented by other kinds of activities (such as speech, debate and sports), offer a unique kind of balance for children. Children have the opportunity to learn in a fun, low stress environment and keep their minds active. In such a manner, while they are enjoying themselves, many of the concepts they have been taught in school is being reinforced in their brains. So, when they go back to school, their brains are not starting from the first gear because they have already kept the brain’s engines on the entire time. There are many learning camps out there and we encourage you to look at these programs in your region.

This is exactly why here at Prepsmart Tutoring we have developed summer prep classes. After many parents came to us and told us how stressed they and their children felt in starting the new academic year, we knew we had to do something to address the issue. That is why we created summer prep classes. Our objective through these classes is twofold: to first ensure that the child is up-to-speed in terms of his or her grade level at school, and secondly to help students prepare for their following year’s classes. We follow a custom-built curriculum that follows the Ontario Curriculum across all subjects, including English, French, Math, and French. We perform an assessment to assess the child’s current standing to see if he or she is at the level she needs to be. Based on that assessment, we come up with a personalized summer study plan for the child that will cover any knowledge gaps they may have while preparing them for the following year classes. We give weekly homework that we track to ensure the completion of. At the end of each course, we have a final test that will measure the children’s understanding. At the same time, we usually have the classes once or twice a week to ensure that children have plenty of time to enjoy other activities and be active.

Start the school year feeling good:

After launching our summer prep program, we had a ton of feedback from parents and children. The most common feedback was that parents and children felt much better heading into the school year. In particular, they felt less stressed, very confident, and happy about starting the academic year because they felt more prepared. We feel truly blessed to hear such comments and are dedicated to continuing on building on our summer prep program to ensure that every child feels ready for the new school year.

We hope you are all enjoying the remaining weeks of summer break!

Yours sincerely,

Prepsmart Team