Archive for the ‘test taking strategies’ Category

Michigan Chooses the SAT Over the ACT

February 9, 2015

The State of Michigan recently announced that the SAT will be replacing the ACT as the State’s high school assessment test beginning in Spring 2016.

While the ACT has been the more popular of the two exams, most colleges and universities accept scores from both exams. The SAT is administered by The College Board and is respected and used around the country.

SATstudent1The SAT is being redesigned to align with the Common Core State Standards newly adopted by the State. Common Core is a set of expectations of what students should know to be college ready. This is one of the reasons for the State’s decision. In addition, the bid from the SAT was $15.4 million less than the ACT’s bid.

Students can get a taste of the new SAT by taking the PSAT beginning in October 2015. Students must take the PSAT if they want to be considered for a National Merit Scholarship. Because the PSAT has been redesigned to align with the new SAT, it will provide a crucial practice for the actual SAT.

Students will be able to take the redesigned SAT for free as part of the state high school exam. The cost to take the PSAT is $14.

A Joint Evaluation Committee consisting of a high school principal, a local school superintendent, a testing and assessment consultant and a vice president at a community college made the recommendation to choose the SAT. The final decision was made by the State Administrative Board made up of the governor, lieutenant governor, secretary of state, attorney general, state treasurer and state superintendent, or their representatives.

If you are looking for help in preparing for the SAT, be sure to give Optiminds a call at at (248) 496-0150. Our proven test prep instruction and skills can help you get the grades you deserve in both the SAT and ACT, as well as other placement tests. Learn more by visiting our website at:

Educated Guessing and the ACT and SAT

November 9, 2014

takingACT1If your child will be taking the ACT or SAT, they will of course want to be as well-prepared as possible to answers as many questions correctly as they can.

But there are always those instances where you don’t know the correct answer for certain. Rather than wasting time trying to figure out an answer, your student needs to know that on both the ACT and the SAT it is more advantageous to make an “educated guess” than to leave a question unanswered.

On the ACT, there is no penalty for wrong answers on the ACT. If you answer a question wrong, it does not subtract from your overall score; you simply don’t get credit for the question.

On the SAT, you lose ¼ of a point of raw score for wrong answers, and earn one full point for each right answer.

Educated, or strategic, guessing means choosing the best possible answer based on all the information available. It’s the best way to find the right answer when you’re really not sure which choice is right.

Here are some tips for educated, or strategic, guessing:

  • To formulate an educated guess, you must have good information. So read test questions carefully.
  • Rule out the obvious bad choices.
  • Pay attention to details. Look for a tip-off within a test question.
  • Look for patterns. Use your experience in similar situations to predict the outcome of another.
  • Consider the simplest, most obvious solution as the best. Don’t overanalyze or consider information that isn’t relevant to the matter.
  • Use common knowledge and what you know. Practical wisdom goes a long way in making an educated guess.

Optiminds offers customized tutoring programs for students, including students who are home schooled. We have earned a reputation for helping to improve the study, reading, math and cognitive skills of students of all ages. Learn more about us by calling us today at (248) 496-0150 or by visiting us at:

Study Tips for Teens

May 23, 2014

teenstudy1It won’t be long before the school year wraps up for the year—but only after those final exams. Adopting some good study habits can help you perform better on tests and relieve some of the anxiety of taking exams as well.

Don’t wait for a looming exam to get into the studying groove. Get a head start by learning to take good notes all during the school year. Note-taking is a way of remembering what you were taught or what you’ve read about.

Write down key facts that your teacher mentions in class or writes on the board during class. Organize notes by subject and make sure they are easy to read and review. You may want to recopy some of your notes while they are still fresh in your mind. Research has shown that the act of holding a pen and creating shapes on paper (writing down your notes) sends feedback signals to the brain, leaving a “motor memory” which makes it easier to later recall the information. Typing or digitally recording does not have the same cognitive effect.

Not all exams are created equal, so don’t feel the need to divide your studying equally between different subjects. Assess each exam in terms of difficulty and your own level of knowledge, and spend more time on the sections that you know will be more challenging for you.

If you start to lose your motivation while studying, try moving to the kitchen table or going to the library. This can help you get your focus back and potentially improve your memory of the material. Meditation has also been shown to boost focus and improve test scores. Try sitting quietly and focusing on breathing for five minutes twice a day to improve mental clarity.

Most of us can concentrate well for about 45 minutes. So break your study time into 45-minute chunks and take a 15-minute break. Studies have found that taking a 10-minute walking break can help improve your focus for up to two hours afterwards.

Snack on studying-friendly foods like dark leafy greens, whole grains, peanut butter, milk and seafood. Get your energy boost by eating a banana or an apple rather than consuming caffeine or energy drinks. And drink plenty of water because even mild dehydration can impair cognitive functioning and mental performance.

Dr. Jane Stewart at Optiminds has earned a reputation for helping to improve the study, reading, math and cognitive skills of students of all ages. Learn more about Optiminds’ by calling Dr. Stewart today at (248) 496-0150 or email her at: Be sure to visit the Optiminds website at:

Get ACT Test Preparation at Optiminds

January 16, 2014

ACTtest1The ACT is a national college admissions examination that is used as a college admissions and placement test and measures the skills and knowledge needed for first-year college success. Additionally, the ACT includes a career exploration component that stimulates students’ thinking about future plans and relates personal characteristics to career options.

What is the difference between the ACT and SAT?

The ACT is an achievement test, measuring what a student has learned in school. The SAT is more of an aptitude test, testing reasoning and verbal abilities. (See our January 9, 2014 post.) The ACT has up to 5 components—English, Mathematics, Reading, Science and an optional Writing Test. (You take the ACT Writing Test only if required by the college(s) you’re applying to.) The SAT has 3 components—Critical Reasoning, Mathematics, and a required Writing Test.

The SAT has a correction for guessing. That is, they take off for wrong answers. The ACT is scored based on the number of correct answers with no penalty for guessing.

The ACT has an Interest Inventory that allows students to evaluate their interests in various career options.

Upcoming ACT testing dates for 2014 are: February 8, April 12 and June 14. Optiminds’ ACT Testing Help and ACT Prep Classes are forming now.  Call our office at (248) 496-0150 for more information.

Dr. Jane Stewart at Optiminds has earned a reputation for helping to improve the study, reading, math and cognitive skills of students of all ages. Learn more about Optiminds by visiting our website at:

Optiminds Can Prepare You for SAT Testing

January 9, 2014

If you are a high school student, you will inevitably hear about SAT tests at some point. Most students take the SAT during their junior or senior year of high school, and almost all colleges and universities use the SAT to make admission decisions.

The SAT is the nation’s most widely used college admission test, and the first step toward higher education for students of all backgrounds. It gives both you and colleges a sense of how you’ll be able to apply the thinking, writing and study skills required for college course work. More than just a test, the SAT also provides the opportunity for you to connect to scholarship opportunities, place out of certain college courses and learn more about your academic strengths.

The SAT doesn’t test logic or abstract reasoning but rather tests what you already know—the reading, writing and math skills that you learn in school and that are critical for success in college and beyond.

More specifically:

  • The critical reading section includes reading passages and sentence completions
  • The writing section includes a short essay and multiple-choice questions on identifying errors and improving grammar and usage
  • The mathematics section includes questions on arithmetic operations, algebra, geometry, statistics and probability

The SAT is taken by more than two million students every year and is accepted by virtually all colleges and universities. It is offered seven times each year in the U.S.—in January, March, May, June, October, November and December. Upcoming dates are: Jan 25, March 8, May 3 and June 7.

At least half of all students take the SAT twice — in the spring as a junior and in the fall as a senior. Most students improve their score the second time they take the SAT.

Optiminds can help you prepare for the SAT. Call our office at (248) 496-0150 to find out more about our SAT Preparation sessions. Dr. Jane Stewart at Optiminds has earned a reputation for helping to improve the study, reading, math and cognitive skills of students of all ages. Learn more about Optiminds by visiting our website at:

Give the Gift of an Optiminds Program

December 9, 2013

Optimindsnotag3With the holidays just around the corner, most of us are wracking our brains to come up with gift ideas for our loved ones. Speaking of brains, you might want to consider gifting your child, spouse or parent with some brain training sessions at Optiminds.

Optiminds is a professional brain training and tutoring service headed by Jane Stewart, PhD. A brain development expert, Dr. Stewart has spent over 40 years helping people of all ages improve their cognitive and learning skills as a means to achieving their goals and success in life.

Optiminds offers something for everyone on your list—adolescents and teens, college students, adults and senior citizens. We will customize a course for sharpening specific cognitive skills, from memory and math and reading improvement to ACT and SAT test preparation. You’ll find brain fitness classes for baby boomers, programs geared to helping students qualify for college scholarships, and even a Cognitive Summer Camp. We also offer  life strategy programs, programs to facilitate home schooling and parent coaching, not to mention ADHD assessment and tutoring and working with Alzheimer’s patients.

Optiminds classes are held at our facility at 29688 Telegraph Rd. in Southfield. For more information on how we can customize a program for that special someone on your gift list, call us at (248) 496-0150 or email Dr. Stewart at: And be sure to visit the Optiminds website at:

Prepare for SAT and ACT Testing in 2013

January 15, 2013

If you are a high school student, there are six letters that are probably on your mind at any given time—SAT and ACT. These standardized tests are an important piece of the puzzle, along with high school grades and other factors, in helping colleges decide which applicants will do well if they are admitted. Many colleges use test scores to award “merit aid” scholarships, which is financial aid not based on need.

The ACT and SAT are different tests that measure similar but distinct constructs. The ACT Test is a curriculum- and standards-based educational and career planning tool that assesses students’ academic readiness for college. Test scores reflect what students have learned throughout high school and provide colleges and universities with excellent information for recruiting, advising, placement, and retention.

The SAT and accompanying SAT Subject Tests are a suite of tools designed to assess your academic readiness for college. The SAT was designed as an aptitude test—it tests your reasoning and verbal abilities, not what you’ve learned in school. It lets you show colleges what you know and how well you can apply that knowledge. Many colleges use the SAT Subject Tests for admission, for course placement, and to advise students about course selection.

With competition to get into a good college so great today, many families turn to tutors to help boost grades and SAT and ACT scores. If your teen is preparing to take the SAT or ACT this year, Optiminds can help them prepare, identify types of problems they will encounter, and equip them with essential test-taking skills.

When it comes to tutoring services in metro Detroit, Dr. Jane Stewart at Optiminds has earned a reputation for helping to improve the study, reading, math and cognitive skills of students of all ages. Learn more about Optiminds’ customized tutoring programs by calling Dr. Stewart today at (248) 496-0150 or email her at: And be sure to visit the Optiminds website at

When to Consider Tutoring for Your Child

November 25, 2012

With the school year getting underway, many parents are looking for ways to help their children gain an academic edge whenever possible. Not long ago, needing a tutor was viewed as a sign that a child couldn’t keep up with his peers. Today, tutoring is an accepted—even expected—part of middle and high school education. Parents are often surprised to learn how common tutoring is, not only for children who are behind academically or have a learning disability but also for those who are bringing home good report cards.

Some points to consider if you are trying to determine if tutoring is right for your child:

Kids who are gifted are prime candidates for tutors because they are often not challenged enough in the classroom. A tutor can create a customized program that is both challenging and stimulating to help renew your child’s enthusiasm for learning if it has fallen by the wayside.

With states requiring testing of students every year in reading and math from grades three to eight, many parents are using tutors to improve their child’s performance. Often the scores from these exams are used to determine whether a child gains admission to a selective public middle or high school or whether a child is put on a vocational or academic track at school.

There is a higher expectation today to know more at earlier ages. Because standardized tests are so important, schools start prepping kids for them sooner. As a result, many middle school children are doing what once was considered high school work, while many high schoolers are taking college-level courses. Tutoring can help students keep up with things and meet the challenge of these higher expectations.

Tutoring can help fill in the gaps in classroom curriculum. Some states no longer emphasize spelling or grammar since that knowledge is not required for state tests. As a result, middle school children may know the definition of SAT vocabulary words such as “perambulate” and “quiescent,” but they don’t know how to spell such basic words as “independence” or when to use commas or semicolons. Parents turn to tutors to help their kids bone up on these fundamentals.

With competition to get into a good college so great today,  many families turn to tutors to help boost grades and SAT scores. If your teen is preparing to take the SAT this year, a tutor can help them prepare for the exam, identify types of problems they will encounter, and equip them with essential test-taking skills. Often, scholarships are directly linked to a student’s SAT scores. So it makes sense to invest ahead of time in tutoring so your child does better on the SAT and has a better chance at qualifying for a scholarship.

When it comes to tutoring services in metro Detroit, Dr. Jane Stewart at Optiminds has earned a reputation for helping to improve the study, reading, math and cognitive skills of students of all ages. Learn more about Optiminds’ customized tutoring programs by calling Dr. Stewart today at (248) 496-0150 or email her at: And be sure to visit the Optiminds website at

Early Tutoring Can Be a Real Asset

September 22, 2012

An important resource in ensuring your child’s academic success is getting the help of a tutor. Dr. Jane Stewart offers tutoring services for students of all ages at her two locations—Optiminds in Southfield and The Brain Development Center in Novi.

Tutoring used to be thought of primarily as a remedial tool. If a student was struggling or made some mistakes  along the way, working with a tutor was a way to get help and make a fresh start. But nowadays, working with a tutor is often treated like having an academic personal trainer and, as such, is enlisted by even the best of students. Good students know how to take advantage of the possibilities of good tutoring and to get started early in the semester before trouble starts.

With the new school year just getting underway, here are some reasons why starting tutoring early can help:

  • Real learning takes time and starting early gives your student a chance to learn concepts slowly and solidly.
  • By being proactive, your child has a chance to grasp foundational concepts on which more difficult work is built.
  • Student and tutor have time to get to know one another and establish the rapport that can make a difference in how they work together.  The more a tutor works with your child, the more they get to know strengths, weaknesses, and learning styles.
  • Early work means that early homework assignments will be done correctly. This translates to a higher grade average and less jeopardy occurring later in the semester.
  • A tutor will hold your student accountable for completing work.
  • A tutor provides constant feedback on the work, which helps a student stay on track with subjects.
  • Tutoring builds confidence in a person’s learning abilities, increasing motivation to continue to do well.

Dr. Jane Stewart specializes in helping people of all ages improve their study, reading and cognitive skills at two locations: The Brain Development Center in Novi and Optiminds in Southfield. Contact Dr. Jane Stewart at (248) 496-0150 or email her at:

You can learn more about The Brain Development Center at: and Optiminds at:

Optiminds—The College Student’s Best Friend

May 20, 2012

If you’re a college student, it’s a good guess that you find yourself with too much to do and too little time to do it in. Maybe it’s time to treat yourself to some help from Optiminds.

In a short time, we can teach you how to reduce stress and increase your mental capacity, which will allow you to process information better and faster. You will be able to retain critical information that you’ve learned in class, so you can apply it quickly when doing homework or taking exams.

We utilize skills-based programs, computerized drills, visualization techniques and mental exercises individually tailored to your unique needs to achieve proven results. We’ll help you set your goals and achieve them.

Here are just a few comments from satisfied college students about their Optiminds experience:

“My college grades improved, and I actually remember what I studied.”

“This visualizing really works! I see my organic chemistry in 3D in my head and am getting an A. Thanks, Dr. Jane!”

“I’ve learned how to overcome stress and being overwhelmed. Now I have time to have fun with my friends!”

“I got a full ride to medical school after Optiminds helped me raise my MCAT score.”

Dr. Jane Stewart at Optiminds has been helping to improve the study, reading and cognitive skills of clients of all ages. Find out more about Optiminds tutoring programs for students of all ages by calling us today at (248) 496-0150 or email us at: And be sure to visit our website at

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