As most of you will have noticed I’ve been away from blogging for a while. My wife and I welcomed our second child, a baby boy recently and while it’s been wonderful it’s also tossed my routine into upheaval.
In my career as a tutor I find it much more challenging to concentrate and give my students guidance when I’m working on just a couple hours of sleep. In short, it’s a good thing that I’m not taking the test myself anytime soon!
What relevance does this have to you who are childless and blissfully sleep through the night? It’s all about planning. Our little guy’s arrival was fairly predictable. Plus or minus two weeks we were pretty confident about when he was going to arrive. When I went to schedule my test date, I would have known when my life was and wasn’t likely to be amenable to doing my best work. I’ve worked with high school students who have signed up to take the SAT the morning after homecoming, the morning after the end of a play they’ve been working on and the morning after they return from a trip. I’ve worked with grad students who have scheduled tests immediately after intense business trips or family vacations.
There are some things in life that come up unexpectedly and can’t be planned for. Occasionally those things will seek to derail your otherwise solid study plan. But don’t sabotage yourself. Make sure that you’re scheduling your test at a time when you can give it the attention it deserves. Take a good long look at your life and what distractions you can reasonably expect before you make a commitment.
Now that we’re getting used to having two kids around here, I’m planning on seeing you more often.
If you haven’t seen it yet, take a moment to watch this video which shows one of the more feel-good stories to come out of the horrific damage caused by the tornadoes in Oklahoma.
This woman goes into the storm with a plan. Granted, it’s not the best plan, but it’s a plan nonetheless. Then the storm comes and throws everything around and all that’s left is a pile of rubble. And somehow, under a pile of debris, appears the dog that was feared to be lost. It’s a tremendous story, but it’s not a model for you to take in your test prep.
Some students have what I call “Mad Scientist Disease”. They imagine that upon seeing numbers and equations they should immediately start performing calculations, scribbling notes so quickly that smoke rises from the paper as the sweat pours down the intensely furrowed brow. After several moments of this process they imagine that an answer will reveal itself as correct. They create rubble and hope that the thing they hope for will crawl out from under it.
Math problems are not best solved by hoping for the miraculous. Unlike the tornadoes in Oklahoma, students who go down this road are creating the disaster rather than dealing with a force beyond their control. Rather than jumping directly into calculations you should begin at the end. Figure out what it is that you need to solve for in order to find your answer and then figure out what information you need in order to get that intermediate information. Once you’ve plotted out your steps, THEN it’s safe to begin the process of doing calculations.
Planning your approach before the danger comes is the best way to minimize the danger of a natural disaster, and the best way to survive your test unscathed.