Improving Academic PerfORMANCE

Learn how to improve yourself through targeted learning and improved study skills.

10 Ways To Become a More Successful Online Student

The rapid technological development of the 21st century has transformed nearly every aspect of society, including our educational infrastructure. No longer beholden to the limits of in-person instruction, modern academia has expanded its classrooms into the virtual domain. While the introduction of remote learning accounts for an unprecedented level of accessibility, this benefit is not free of obstacles. Without the physical and temporal boundaries enforced by the traditional class environment, students face a myriad of challenges in the realms of time management, online communication, and the digital attention economy—to name a few. Becoming a successful online student therefore requires an unprecedented level of motivation and accountability, and the following ten tips will enable you to maximize your potential.


Five Ways Learning a New Language Can Enhance Your Intelligence

Pandemic life allotted many of us unexpected free time, compelled us to pick up new or old hobbies, and all around made us question and redirect our interests and goals. Some of us learned to paint, some of us baked, and some of us decided to learn a new language. Speaking in a different language can be not just gratifying, but glamorous. Who doesn’t want to imagine themselves in Paris ordering dinner in fluent French, or shopping in Hong Kong and communicating with ease, in Cantonese, to the salesclerk? 


How to Improve Math Grades through Mindset

math helpMany people continue to believe that you are either a math person, destined to be able to do math easily, or you’re not. If you’re not, math classes will always be hard, and you’ll never be comfortable with numbers and calculations. This type of thinking is seriously misguided, and really sends the wrong message to any student that is exposed to this idea.

Creative Ways to Increase Student Motivation and Improve Grades

There are a few things we know for sure about individuals who perform really well in school, get really good at a sport, or become highly skilled musicians or artists. And if you think one of those things involves having a special gift, an innate talent, or an especially high IQ, you’d be wrong. The latest science suggests that the following concepts and questions factor heavily into whether a student builds skill and ultimately performs well in any given academic, athletic, or artistic domain:

How to Stay Focused When You’re Studying: Four Crucial Tips for Students Using Virtual Computer Labs

studying in collegeDo you struggle to stay focused when you’re studying for an exam or working on an essay? Staying focused on demanding material can be a real challenge when you’re a student, especially if you were used to more structure and support during high school.

Profiling the School Counselor in a New World

This article, from one of our partners, explores the career path of a school counselor as compared to pursuit of a general career in business. It is intended to help individuals considering a career in education, and counseling specifically, generate a better understanding of the profession. 

How to Create an Impressive High School Resume: 5 Pro Tips

collegestudentAs a high schooler, you may feel as if you do not have enough experience to have a resume. You probably imagine a resume as a document for professionals with great working experience and a fancy job title. Do not get discouraged by your lack of experience. When you are writing a high school resume for your college application, you are in the same boat as everyone else. 

Present Your Best Self: How to Prepare for College Admissions Interviews

college admissions interviewFor students preparing for college admission interviews, it’s key to begin in the proper mindset. Yes, you want to promote yourself and articulate clearly why you deserve a spot. But if that’s what you focus on, the interview may feel like a series of landmines with endless opportunities to fail. Instead, you need to frame the experience as an opportunity to learn what the school can offer you in terms of your goals and needs for your future growth.

Is Online College Now the Right Option?

Choosing a college isn't easy, especially if you don't want your college experience to lock you into one place. And, now we have the Coronavirus to consider. If you are already in a traditional on campus college, but aren't necessarily loving the experience, it could be the right time to consider studying online. If you are thinking about returning to school and were already pondering an online university as an option, the pandemic makes online college an even more appropriate choice. 

A Guide to Distance Learning (and How Online Tutoring Helps)

2028986 copyAs a result of Covid-19, we're all living in a strange and unsettling new reality, and none of us knows exactly how long things are going to continue like this. While all of us are experiencing and dealing with the situation in our own ways, students across the country and around the globe have a particularly new set of circumstances with which to contend, and they, as well as schools, teachers, parents, administrators, tutors—every single one of us involved in education—need to learn ways to adapt. 

How Online Tutoring and E-Learning Can Help Beat the Coronavirus

high school student online tutoringThe world today is not the same as the world we lived in two months or even two weeks ago. The global pandemic caused by the novel coronavirus (aka COVID-19) has completely disrupted all economic and social life, and its true effects are only just beginning to be felt. We are all entering a time of uncertainty such as none of us have faced before, as individuals or as a collective. As the virus infects more and more of the global population, greater numbers of people are going to be forced into isolation within their homes, having their work-lives transformed or completely shut down. What are we going to do? How should we be spending all the extra energy and time many of us will now have, but which none of us asked for?

Five Private High School Application Mistakes

private-high-school-admissionsIf you’re applying to private high schools soon, you need to plan the months you’ve got ahead of you. The admissions process is very competitive, and you have to make sure you’re on top of your game every step of the way. While there are definite protocols to follow such as reading the application instructions carefully and going through multiple drafts of your essays, there are also some don’ts to keep in mind. Take a look at 5 mistakes to stray away from throughout your private high school application journey.

Physical Wellness: An Underappreciated Key to Improving Performance on Tests

No matter how confident you may feel, final exams can still cause a great deal of anxiety. For many students, the pressure builds even if the understanding of the material is thorough. In more extreme cases, you might begin to doubt yourself, lose sleep and fail to remember the information you studied so hard to learn.

How to Improve Performance in High School & College: 5 Basic Strategies

430_3143166_350x219We are a tutoring company, and as such parents and students tend to seek us out when they realize some extra 1-1 help is needed to perform well in an academic class or on a standardized test. However, using a private tutor is just one way to improve your academic performance. In this article, we’ll explore other, perhaps sometimes obvious yet too often ignored or neglected, strategies to try before investing in private tutoring.

Podcasts for Students Series: Introduction

podcastsIn this series of blog posts, we’ll explore how podcasts can help students improve their academic performance and prepare for successful careers. We all know effectively managing your time is a key component of performing well at work and in school, and podcasts are an excellent way to learn new things while you are exercising, walking to class, or on the bus. Podcasts obviously cover a wide range of topics. Apple’s “categories” of podcasts include: arts, business, comedy, education, games, government, health, kids and family, music, news and politics, religion, science and medicine, society and culture, sports, technology, and TV/film.

How to Extract Maximum Value from Your College Major

degree1Despite the sneers of those around you, you went to college to study film history. Or, maybe you got a degree in literature or Urdu. While it’s good that you followed your passion, after graduation, it might seem that your parents and friends had a point. You’re having a tough time getting a job (or perhaps you are still choosing a college major, and this is a fear you have). In fact, there is too much worry and generalizing when it comes to choosing a major.  If you think strategically, you can follow your passions and launch a successful career.

Teaching Compassion to Students and Why It's Important

compassion.jpgWhen it comes to education, reading, writing, and ‘rithmetic, used to take center stage and were the standard menu of what was taught to students starting in elementary school. Over time subjects like social studies and history, the applied sciences, and arts and culture were added to the list. In today’s world of education, where students are exposed to seemingly endless cascades of information and are coming to terms with growing up in a world highly affected by globalization, such subjects as community outreach, service learning, and multicultural units are sought after, even in the lower grades.

Bottom line? Students are learning a lot.

All subject areas have their place and offer significant development and exploration for students of all ages; as education continues to develop and change and schools attempt to foster more community-focused and united environments, subjects like mindfulness and compassion have gained popularity. So what happens when we explore teaching students concepts like kindness, mindfulness, and compassion, as courses themselves? Let’s dive in.

Note Taking and Memory: Put Down the Pen!

notetaking.jpgNote-taking, once the activity de rigueur of learning and memorizing facts and new information, and an activity that certainly appears, well, active, is fast becoming replaced with newer forms of active engagement. Taking notes has long been lauded as a tried and true approach to memory and retention, as well as the best option for having recorded documents with which to refer after an initial discussion, but note-taking in and of itself might not be the best strategy available and can often become its own mindless, passive, or even distracting activity. Instead, active listening with a more strategic approach to obtaining information allows the brain to stay focused on the lecture while still capturing highlights and overarching ideas.

Five Tips to Prepare for Exams

prepare-exams.jpgAs you move into the end of a semester, the pressure of exams can daunt even the most successful students. It’s a busy time of year in general, and the mounting strain of a large looming test can feel outright agonizing! Fear not. Here is a list of go-to tips to help you be your most prepared and confident self going into those final exams (or any tests, at any time!)

Using the Science of Habits to Improve Performance in School: Part II

habits-1.jpgIn a previous article on the power of habits,  we discussed how habits are a tool our brains use to be more efficient. Instead of consciously analyzing every situation, thinking about various courses of action, and then deciding what to do, we use habits to automatically do this or that to save time. In theory, this allows us to decide to use our brain power to focus on things that really matter and really do require conscious deliberation. This is sometimes a good and sometimes a bad thing. It’s good when the habit is brushing our teeth each morning and night, or looking both ways before we cross the street. It’s bad when we grab a few cookies without even thinking about it when we are bored, or react negatively to constructive feedback.

Getting 'Gritty' With It

grit-1.jpgFailure ain’t what it used to be. Or, at least, failure is understood differently today, as we examine more closely how much it actually helps us in the long run. When we allow failure and setbacks to be learning experiences and jumping off points for the development of resilience and grit, our lives transform. We refine our character all the more, but like a fine work of art that benefits from revision and reframing. Nowhere is such an experience in growth more valuable and applicable than education.

Using the Science of Habits to Improve Performance in School: Part I

habits.jpgWe write a lot on this blog about how academic success (and other types of success) is much more a function of the choices you make and the effort you put in than a function of your intrinsic or genetic talents. In other words, most recent research suggests, and we firmly believe, that academic skills are built through practice and success comes through developing better strategies and making better choices. 

Books Every Student Should Read – Mindset: The New Psychology of Success

Screen Shot 2017-11-28 at 12.04.49 PM.pngAs many readers of this blog know, MyGuru tries to be much more than a place where parents and students can look for a private tutor. We are trying to build a community of parents, students, tutors, and other experts where ideas about how to be healthier, more productive, and academically successful are exchanged.

The Writing Process: It's Actually a Process!

how-to-write-an-essay-2.jpgWhen a paper is looming, it can be easy to get into absolutes and assume that, unless you can get something really fantastic down in the next couple of hours, you’re doomed. But let’s remember the old adage Rome wasn’t built in a day - and neither was your essay, short story, or research project. All good writing comes from rewriting. Even the greatest writers on earth will admit that their first drafts and ideas were often lackluster. Sometimes downright terrible. So don’t be discouraged. Be willing to write poorly, and then be willing to improve! (Remember that growth mindset!)

The Motivation to Learn: What Inspires It?

motivated students-1.jpgHave you ever wondered what motivates students to learn something new, especially when the subject or material might be rather complex or difficult? What helps students stay focused, engaged, excited, and diligent? According to data gathered from various schools and grade levels, there are three major areas that impact a student’s likelihood to stay motivated and tackle complicated subject matter.

Breaks, Mini-Tests, and Multi-Task Avoidance: Three Ways to Study Better

studying-2.jpgFew people like to do homework or study for a test. But it’s obviously important to do these things to perform well in school. And if you must engage in these activities, you might as well be as efficient and productive as possible. You want to get as much benefit from each hour you invest in studying as possible.

Distracted? How to Develop a Focused Study Plan

So you want to learn how to study better and use your time wisely and effectively? You’ve got your books, pen, paper, computer, and mind to dig in for a solid chunk of time and maximize your study period? Well, think of it like exercise. Have you ever gone for a run? The first ten to fifteen minutes can be a real pain, can’t they? But once you get into the rhythm of it and your lungs and muscles are warmed up, it starts to flow. It starts to feel great. It even starts to be fun! And the payoffs are numerous.

How to Boost Your Reading Comprehension

readingcomprehension.jpgReading comprehension is one of those critical skills that you use on a daily basis. Many may think that simply reading will help strengthen their reading comprehension skills, but that isn’t necessarily true. Reading comprehension goes beyond reading and understanding the words that make up a sentence. Reading comprehension involves deciphering the topic and purpose of the sentence, paragraph, or article at hand. Without reading actively -- that is reading, remembering, and analyzing what you’ve read -- your reading comprehension skills won’t improve very much. So, how can you learn to read actively? Take a look at the tips and strategies listed below to learn how to read actively.

The Classes That Scare You: Developing growth mindset around challenging subjects

mindset.jpgWe all have those pesky negative beliefs around certain subjects or classes at school: I’m a bad writer! I’ll never understand math! Learning a foreign language is impossible! Though certain classes may be more challenging than others, clinging to negative generalities about anything, especially education, doesn’t serve us.

Focused Training: The Key to Building Academic Skills and Improving your IQ

Working Hard-2.jpgOver the past few years I’ve been doing a lot of reading, and a fair amount of writing on this blog, around what truly drives academic performance. One of my favorite (and most important) insights has been that IQ, or natural intelligence, is far less important than people assume it to be. This article considers that insight from a different angle, and introduces an interesting new book about how it may be possible to improve your IQ through targeted training.

Four Things Students and Tutors Should do AFTER an Initial Tutoring Session

As we’ve mentioned, there are many things you can do before the initial tutoring session to get the most out of tutoring. After you have attended your initial tutoring session, there are a few things you should do to ensure that you retain all the information you reviewed. In this blog article, we will discuss four things you should do after the initial tutoring session.

Write Summary Notes

It can be hard to absorb the lesson content or test-taking strategies your tutor is reviewing while also taking copious notes on the session material during a tutoring session. Because multi-tasking during a tutoring session may take away from you absorbing important material or test-taking strategies, I would recommend focusing on the lesson content during the tutoring session. After you’ve completed your initial tutoring session, be sure to take time to write down notes about test-taking strategies, content knowledge, and tips that your tutor reviewed during the session when everything is still fresh in your head. In fact, as Dr. Barbara Oakley teaches in her popular MOOC “Learning How to Learn: Powerful Mental Tools to Help You Master Tough Subjects,” summarizing in your own words is a powerful strategy for learning new things in general. You are more likely to retain information by summarizing lesson content or test-taking strategies in your own words, than if you copy things down word for word.

Practice, Practice, Practice!

The age-old adage that there is no better way to absorb, retain, and excel at something than to practice at it as much as possible still holds true today. It may be the case that you quickly understood new content that your tutor reviewed with you. Or perhaps, you were able to quickly absorb and apply a new concept or strategy in your session. Even so, you should still take time to continue practicing using the new strategies or content that you just gained in order to commit it to your memory. Some ways that you can practice using a new test-taking strategy is to complete practice problems on a practice exam. To commit new content knowledge to your memory, try writing out or summarizing the content knowledge, drawing diagrams, or teaching it to someone else. Make sure that you are engaging in “deliberate practice” when completing practice problems. Taking time to focus deeply on what you are doing, why each step matters, and when and how you are making mistakes, is far more powerful than rote repetition, as noted by the American Psychological Association. Practice new strategies/content knowledge regularly, preferably on a weekly basis until you are completely comfortable with it.


In order to retain new and old test-taking strategies and content, it is important to review them regularly. Set aside a few minutes a day, or 30 minutes each week to review test-taking strategies and content. Additionally, prior to each tutoring session, take time to review strategies and content so that it’s fresh in your mind during each tutoring session. This will make tutoring sessions flow smoothly, as you can dedicate more time to building on concepts and strategies, rather than spending a chunk of time reviewing strategies and content that you covered in previous tutoring sessions.

Complete Homework for the Week

It is important to come prepared to each tutoring session, ready to learn new content and strategies. In order to do so, make time to complete any homework assignments or practice problems that your tutor assigned you. If you are having difficulty with the assignment, make sure to jot down your questions and ask your tutor about them during your next tutoring session.

Taking the time to complete these four simple tasks after each tutoring session will help to improve your retention of new strategies and content, as well as improve your test scores and academic performance.

Four Things Students and Tutors Should do DURING an Initial Tutoring Session

As a follow up to the previous article, "Six Things Students and Tutors Should Do BEFORE an Initial Tutoring Session", we share some tips on how to make the first tutoring session as productive and successful as posssible as it's happening. 

Six Things Students and Tutors Should do BEFORE an Initial Tutoring session

Six Things Students and Tutors Should do BEFORE an Initial Tutoring Session

The initial tutoring session is perhaps the most important tutoring session. It’s a critical opportunity to establish good rapport, set expectations, develop a study plan, and set a precedent for constructive sessions. Waiting until the second or third session to truly establish expectations or a study plan can lead to students feeling as though the tutoring isn’t proving productive. In fact, in many cases, the primary reason a tutoring session “fails” is because objectives weren’t set in advance and thus expectations weren’t aligned.

Here are six things that you can do to ensure that an initial tutoring session is highly effective and productive.

Improving Performance in School through Social-Emotional Learning: An Introduction


In the world of education, new fads can sometimes garner swift support but fall fast. As parents, we sometimes look for quick fixes to our children’s learning struggles; but that approach can lead to wasted time spent on strategies that aren’t effective in the long term. Thankfully, some trends do seem to make a lasting, positive impact. SEL (Social-Emotional Learning) is steadily proving itself to be an effective force in a growing number of school districts.

Tips for Staying Organized: Part 1

Keeping abreast of school assignments, tests, and projects can be quite a hassle if you are not organized. Not only can good organizational skills help you complete tasks in an orderly and timely manner, good organizational skills can also help you stay focused and earn higher grades and better test scores.

In this two-part article, we’ll talk about organizing your: a) things b) work space c) schoolwork and d) time.

An Introduction to Grit: A Key to Academic Performance

grit.jpgOver the past five years, I’ve done a fair amount of secondary research (reading articles, books, etc.) on academic performance. Two of the most interesting and actionable discoveries I’ve made are that A) a student’s mindset is far more important in explaining academic success than I would have imagined and B) a concept called Grit is what seems to power the performance of a student with the right mindset.


The “Growth Mindset” is a concept invented by Dr. Carol Dweck, a Standford Psychologist. Her research shows that individuals can generally be placed into one of two buckets: a) those that have a growth mindset and b) those that have a fixed mindset.

Best Practices: Study Planning

Whether the topic is ACT prep or improving performance in a math or history class, developing a customized study plan is without a doubt a critical success factor. It’s something I talk a lot about with parents, and something we constantly reinforce with our tutors.

But, what are the key components of an effective study plan?

In this blog article, we reproduce and share a “follow up email” sent by one of our most experienced ACT tutors to a new student as a means of illustrating the key issues any good study plan should address. We have changed the names of the tutor and student to protect their identities. Emails like this should be a core element of any effect tutoring relationship.

3 Concepts Students with Learning Disabilities in Math Need to Know

At MyGuru, our tutors have generally attended highly selective academic institutions for their undergraduate and graduate studies and amassed hundreds of hours of tutoring experience. We have experts in a variety of subject areas.

However, we don’t tend to be specialists in helping students with learning disabilities.

I do know that, with the right customized instruction, learning disabilities can certainly be overcome. When one of our students has a “mild” disability, we’ll often seek advice from one of our partner firms, the Chicago Home Tutor (CHT) which does specialize in learning disabilities. If the disability is moderate to severe, we’ll often refer the student to CHT.

In this blog article, I’ll relay a situation we recently came across related to helping a student with a learning disability in math, and reproduce the three-part advice provided by the Chicago Home Tutor. The advice below was provided by an individual named Brendan Deztner a CHT tutor who is licensed as a learning behavior specialist and also received the highly qualified designation in math from the Illinois State Board of Education.

Brain Rules: 6 Ways to Improve Brain Function

In Brain Rules, John Medina, a molecular biologist and student of the brain, dissects the way our brains work, providing practical tips and advice for how to harness your brain’s ability to learn and grow to be more successful in every avenue of life from school to work and more.  

Oftentimes, students feel that the only way they can improve academically or enhance their performance on exams is by taking an expensive course or hiring a tutor, someone else to teach them. While seeking-out academic help is certainly important and can help you make great strides, there are many things you can do on your own to improve your brain function and ability to better comprehend and recall information.

How to Improve Reading and Writing Skills with these Easy Steps


Reading and writing are two skillsets that are imperative in school. Any successful student will tell you that both reading and writing are keys to improving grades and learning. You cannot be successful in school without reading and writing. Fortunately, these are two highly valuable skills that can also be easily improved. However, keep in mind that to get better at anything you must be dedicated to practicing regularly, the same goes for reading and writing.  Here are some easy ways to improve your reading and writing skills to help you become a successful student. 

When, and When Not, to Hire a Private Tutor

Much as an athlete benefits from a good coach, a student can reap incredible benefits from a supportive tutor. Tutoring, in many ways, is similar to coaching: it requires relationship building, positive reinforcement, support, and a true, unwavering interest in a student’s success. The right tutor can be the difference between struggle and success. With a willing and coachable student, a tutor can identify weaknesses, build confidence, and act as a constant support. There are many instances when hiring a tutor can be beneficial, including:

Learning Specialist - Isn’t that just a tutor?

Tutors have existed for as long as man. Elders helping the younger generation learn the skill sets necessary to survive in their environment.  Of course, early tutoring focused more on gathering food and creating shelter than on memorizing math tables. Fast forward to our test driven and memorization based school curriculum. Students have to absorb and repeat mountains of information on a regular basis.  They have to work quickly, efficiently, and a strong competitive sense emerges in most classrooms from an early age.  Most parents feel their children need to keep up, and some are concerned with even “Average” performance. As a result, Americans spend billions of dollars each year for tutoring support for their children.

Key Reasons to Consider Online Tutoring

I’ve come to firmly believe the benefits of online tutoring far outweigh the downsides. From online GMAT tutoring to online statistics tutoring to online chemistry tutoring and many other subjects (some of which require a virtual whiteboard, some of which don’t), we have a long list of success stories around delivering private, customized tutoring online.


I recognize that for some students, the stress associated with not understanding key concepts and being generally behind in a class can be exacerbated by trying to become familiar with new technology. But I believe many students who have just a slight bias toward in-person and away from virtual tutoring would be well served by re-considering an online approach.

Five Powerful, Free Resources for Improving Performance in School

3-reasons-private-tutor.pngIn the past few years, I’ve read a lot of articles and visited many web-sites to learn more about what drives academic performance and to identify mutually beneficial partnerships. I have chosen one web-site, one “app,” one blog, one online course, and one podcast. I believe any given student should at least be familiar with many of the ideas covered by each of these resources. As such, parents, high school, college, and graduate students, as professionals of any age, could benefit from spending time exploring each resource below.

A Strategic Approach to Earning Higher Grades

In a recent Linkedin article, I wrote about how we tend to underappreciate the importance of strategy relative to hard work or intelligence in understanding why some people succeed and others fail in any given professional, academic, or personal endeavor. I also suggested that my experience as a business strategy consultant has helped me realize that there are powerful principles of strategy development used by businesses that students could borrow to improve their academic performance. The idea that you can perform well in school by

In that article, I introduced three particularly important elements of business strategy development.

  1. The strategy development process – or, the process companies use to come up with ideas for what to do or not to do to beat the competition.
  2. The concept of market attractiveness vs. competitive position, which explains whether a company is likely to succeed (or fail) because it operates in a good market (or a bad one), is doing something better than its direct competitors, or some combination
  3. The notion of key success factors vs. core competencies, which helps explains why a company is positioned well in any given market (or not)

In this article, I’ll explore point 1 above, how an understanding of the strategy development process could help students improve their performance in any given class.

Customizing the Tutoring Experience: An Example Approach

Guiding students to a deeper mastery of mathematics, science, or language arts skills is a daunting challenge, since no two students are completely alike and instruction must, therefore, be individualized. However, “the wheel need not be entirely reinvented” for each student: after a diagnostic assessment has been administered, it is possible to view the individual student as aligning with one or another of several basic groups (or demonstrating a need for targeted instruction in multiple areas at once)

I work primarily with language arts students, so this article is geared towards that subject. But a similar approach can likely be applied to most other subjects.

How Children Succeed: Part three

In part two of our introduction to How Children Succeed: Grit, Curiosity, and the Hidden Power of Character we explored the cognitive hypothesis, which suggests that success today depends primarily on cognitive skills (e.g., reading, writing, recognizing patterns, calculating, etc.) the type of intelligence that gets tested on IQ or standardized tests, and that the best way to build these skills is to practice them as early and often as possible.

In part three, we’ll explore one of the major themes of the book, which is that “character,” and more specifically “performance character” is the more fundamental driver of success, and it too can be nurtured and developed. Tough believes society has gotten significantly off track, focusing too much on building a narrow set of cognitive skills and abilities, and taking a misguided approach to teaching children how to build all-important “character” skills.

How Children Succeed: Part Two

In part one of this three-part introduction to How Children Succeed: Grit, Curiosity, and the Hidden Power of Character we are introduced the main theme of the book, that grit and character, not intelligence, is what drives academic performance and helps children succeed. We left off with the introduction of the cognitive hypothesis.

How Children Succeed: Part one

This is the first of a three-part introduction to Paul Toughs insightful book, How Children Succeed: Grit, Curiosity, and the Hidden Power of Character.
The ultra-concise executive summary and key takeaway is that children do not succeed academically because of their innate intelligence, as is commonly assumed. Instead, Tough shares reams of research which suggests character traits like curiosity, grit, and the ability to persevere may be more important to long term academic success, and particularly success in college and life beyond college, than cognitive skills like mathematics, logic, and reading comprehension. The rest of this three-part article will introduce the author, explain the structure of the book, provide an overview of the book's introductory chapter, and offer a brief analysis/review of the book.
Let’s start by providing some details on the author. 
Tough is a journalist with a specific interest in education, child
development, and poverty in America. He's written cover stories for the New York Times Magazine, and his writing has also
appeared in Slate, GQ, and Esquire. It's interesting to note that you don't find out until the final chapter that Tough himself
was admitted to Columbia University, but ultimately dropped out before earning a college degree. In that final chapter, Tough ponders whether he lacks some of the critical character traits he describes in the book.

How 1% improvement can turn an F into an A

Working Hard-1.jpgMost students don’t realize how small, incremental improvements can accumulate over time to create significant jumps in skill level or academic performance.

Let’s begin by exploring some theories about performance and success that have a lot to do with becoming comfortable struggling and striving to make small improvements. Later, we’ll show how a seemingly small improvement of just 1% a week can turn an F into an A.

Mindfulness as a Vehicle for Improving Cognition & Reducing Stress

photo-1464746133101-a2c3f88e0dd9.jpegThere’s been a lot of talk recently (in certain psychology or educational circles, at least) on the topic of mindfulness practice and its various benefits. What was once a feature of eastern philosophy/religion has grown into an increasingly Western and somewhat mainstream activity. Two of the most potentially powerful benefits of mindfulness practice include cognitive enhancement and stress-reduction. As a result, mindfulness has started to be implemented in school systems and curricula worldwide. But what is the practice of mindfulness, just how effective is it, and how can we reap the benefits by incorporating mindfulness into our lives? .

“Mindfulness can be defined as the psychological capacity to stay willfully present with one's experiences, with a non-judgmental or accepting attitude, engendering a warm and friendly openness and curiosity” (Kabat-Zinn, 2005). This article explores the science behind mindfulness practice and its effects on academic performance and stress reduction along with a few helpful tips to incorporate mindfulness practice into your daily living.

Does Better Sleep Equal Better Grades?

Just as the energizer bunny must recharge his batteries every now and then, humans must also take time to power down, rest mental-math.jpgand recharge for the following day. But just how important is it to get a full nights rest?


Could getting the right amount of sleep (which for many people nowadays means more sleep) beneficially affect academic performance? Indeed, this is exactly what much of the data shows. 

Are you studying effectively? (For your learning style?)

academic-strategies.jpgWe’ve all heard someone say: “I’m not doing well in this class because I am a visual learner and all the professor does is give boring lectures.”

What does this really mean?

There are four Learning Styles; visual, auditory, reading/writing and kinesthetic. Understanding which one/s you fall into can prove beneficial in the development of study and retention skills. Though we may feel we identify with one type of learning over another, the following are undoubtedly study tips that can help us all- not just in studying for exams but in actually retaining the material we’ve learned beyond them.

Improved Academic Performance through Better Nutrition

mental-math.jpgNumerous new studies show a promising link between good nutrition and optimal academic performance.

So, let’s explore whether you should start drinking green smoothies and munching on kale chips to increase your likelihood of getting that ACT score or grade you want (to use a few examples of strategies we've encountered...).

Mental Contrasting: A Better Way to Think Positively


Many self-help gurus tout the clear need to think positively to reach your goals.

The general line of thought is that whether you think you can or think you can’t, you’re right. Why? Because if you think you can’t, you won’t put in the planning and effort to actually accomplish the goal. On some level, this is in fact true.

However, there is a growing body of evidence that "pure" positive thinking can actually reduce the chances you reach a goal you’ve set for yourself. In this article, we’ll explore how this could be.

Effort vs. Talent? Which has a greater impact on academic success? Part One

3-steps-to-performing-well-on-standardized-tests.pngAnybody that reads this blog knows that we like to write about how mindset, effort, deliberate practice, proper study habits, organization and time management skills, strategic planning (and many other concepts that have more to do with “what you do” than “what you are born with”) are critical drivers of academic success. And, importantly, they are firmly under the control of any student. In our view, these concepts as a group easily trump IQ or talent when it comes to explaining success in and outside of school.

At the same time, we know that genes do matter. IQ is a metric that does help explain academic and other types of performance, and it is, for example, correlated with performance on standardized tests (even though I must stress again, hard work and structured practice will help you improve dramatically on standardized tests whatever your starting point).

So, is there a framework that can be used to think about the relationship between effort and talent in explaining academic and other types success? Which is more important?

It's a tough question, but while listening to a recent episode of the Psychology Podcast hosted by Dr. Scott Barry Kaufman, I think I may have found an answer.

Early Bird Gets the Worm: Taking Advantage of Brain Plasticity

act-tutors-chicago.pngHave you ever met a child that knows a surprising amount of foreign languages. Has it ever amazed you how quickly a child can pick up new skills and learn new techniques? Turns out new evidence shows that children learn more and earlier than previously thought (Kuhl, 2011). However, at the same time, the rates of inattentive children in classrooms as well as the prevalence of learning disabilities have been on the rise. In my many years of tutoring, I’ve been able to witness firsthand how young children have the capacity to quickly pick up new information. This article will focus on the importance of introducing students to the concepts of learning and education earlier on in their development to leverage the phenomenon of neuroplasticity.

The Dynamic Brain: A Fresh Outlook on Learning Potential

gmat-reding-comprehension.jpgThe old adage “you can’t teach an old dog new tricks” has some interesting implications when applied to humans through the lens of something called neuroplasticity, which is essentially how malleable, dynamic and flexible the neurons (brain cells) in our brain are. This is directly related to the phenomenon of learning. Although, one must wonder when it comes to canines if sometimes the older dog truly can’t learn new tricks, or is simply just too old to care or try!


For me, this raises a few questions:

  • What is it about getting older that makes it harder for us to learn new things?
  • Or is this just a thought put into our heads and are we perhaps not giving our magnificent brains enough credit?
  • And what does this say about the period of time while we are young and supposedly able to “learn new tricks”?
  • Why is it easier to learn when we are younger?

Keys to Success: Beyond Hard Work and Intelligence

3-steps-to-performing-well-on-standardized-tests.pngIf you ask a random collection of people what is needed to be successful in school, you’ll probably receive quite a few responses along the lines of “hard work” or “a high IQ.”

I would never suggest that one shouldn’t work hard, or shouldn’t always try to continually build their intelligence. But I think there’s mounting research and evidence that hard work and intelligence really aren’t the fundamental drivers of academic, professional, interpersonal/social, athletic, or artistic success.

Before introducing four more fundamental keys to success, let’s briefly discuss why hard work and intelligence don’t really lead to success, and might even lead to failure.

A New Perspective on Academic Success


The average person probably believes that a critical key to success in life, particularly one’s academic life, is intrinsic intelligence as measured by IQ.

Yes, most of would say, hard work matters a lot too, but at least in many academic situations, no amount of hard work can really make up for a lower level of raw intelligence or aptitude for certain types of academic or cognitive skills.

Some of us are “math people” and some of us just aren’t, right? Not really.

The Under-appreciated Power of Paying Attention: Part 1


When a student is really struggling in school or on standardized tests, reversing the trend can seem like a truly daunting task. One of the first things a parent might say to student who comes home with a “C” or “D” on a report card might be, “are you paying attention in class?” This is indeed a very important question, because paying attention in class is critical to performing well in school. Paying attention while taking a standardized test is also critical, yet oddly it probably seems so obvious that you may have never actually thought about the fact that it’s important. In this article, we’ll discuss a seemingly obvious concept in a new light: paying attention.

The idea that “paying attention” is important seems simple, but it actually operates on a variety of different levels. In this article, we’ll address the following three questions:

  1. What does it really mean to focus on paying attention? What are the different dimensions of “paying attention” that a student or parent should be thinking about?
  2. Why is paying attention so important?
  3. What are some strategies for improving your ability to pay attention (follow up post)

1. What does it mean to pay attention?

Let’s start by thinking about your typical high school or college student sitting in class. I’d submit that there are three level of paying attention to consider:

  1. Just listening to the teacher vs. staring out the window or day dreaming about something else
  2. Actively listening to the teacher, and focusing on when she explicitly calls things important, not important, assigns things, asks questions, and perhaps most important, when you do vs. don’t understand what is being said
  3. Fully engaged listening to the teacher, in which you are really trying to understand and digest what she’s saying (which I recognize is not easy if you aren’t also very interested in what is being discussed) to challenge and enhance your understanding of it

You might call (A) the bare minimum and (C) the gold standard of paying attention. (A) is fundamentally about being committed to being a part of the situation at a high level. The first step in this direction is, of course, attending vs. skipping class altogether. But, once you’re there, you really have to focus on listening to what’s going on. If you are day dreaming, it’s almost as if you aren’t there at all. The next step is actively listening, where you focus on identifying when something important has been said. Finally, in C), when you are fully engaged in the lecture, you will naturally ask a question when you don’t understand or want to make a point.

As you move from A through B and toward C, you are essentially realizing that listening to words being said out loud is only the first step in understanding an idea. When you are really paying attention, you are constantly breaking down explanations and ideas, re-phrasing them, creating linkages to other ideas you understand to be true, and making sure you understand.

2. Why is paying attention so important?

Many students think that reading and homework assignments are substitutes for attending or really paying attention in class. But, they are wrong.

When it comes to a typical academic subject, the more obvious reason that paying attention is so important is that classes are typically structured such that you learn things in class, they are reinforced in assigned readings, applied through homework and projects, and your knowledge is then evaluated through quizzes and tests.

However, it’s a little messier than that. Many of us have probably found that, when explained in layman’s terms by a teacher, a given concept or idea is much more digestible than when described in a text book. In other cases, something might be covered in class that actually isn’t covered in a text book at all. So, you can’t skip class, or sleep through it, and think that you’re going to be well positioned to do well in the class. You will literally be missing information that you need to have.

The more subtle reason that paying attention is so important is that our brains and minds don’t just learn things upon hearing or reading them. They learn through the struggle of trying to understand what is being said. The process of trying to digest what is being said in real time, ask questions if necessary, and synthesize information together to form our own opinions and perspective. If you aren’t really paying attention, you won’t be able to identify what it is about a concept or idea that you don’t understand, and therefore won’t be able to struggle to understand it. You might, in fact, not realize that you don’t understand something.

Finally, many people don’t realize that standardized tests explicitly measure your ability to pay attention. When you read a question that says “which of the below answers is not correct?” You may need to know algebra to correctly answer the question, but if you aren’t paying close attention, you might pick A), because it is the answer to the equation. Unfortunately, you would be answering incorrectly, because the question is asking for what is NOT correct.

At the end of the day, if you compare the straight A student with a 4.0 GPA to the straight B student with a 3.0 GPA, or the high school student that scored a 31 on the ACT to his friend that scored a 27, you might just find that the ability and commitment to pay attention is the only real differentiator.

In our next post, we'll explore some strategies for improving your ability to pay attention.

Boost Your Academic Success With These Three Study Habits

Back to school students studying in libraryA 1961 study entitled "Project Talent" found that college students in those times spent an average of 24 hours per week studying. Fast-forward 50 years to 2011, and students were studying only 14 hours per week on average, according to the National Survey of Student Engagement.

Some have attributed this drop to the adoption of more pass-fail courses, so students need only do the bare minimum. Others have posited that foreign language requirements (and the long study hours associated with them) are being phased-out, while grades are becoming less important to job recruiters in lieu of extracurricular activities.

But grades don't necessarily have to suffer because you're studying less. Efficiency is more important than quantity when it comes to preparation. Here are a few ways to maximize the effectiveness of shorter study sessions.

Divide and Conquer

This phrase is a negative when referring to government strategies but is golden for college students trying to get the best grades possible. In courses that require a lot of reading, find a couple classmates who are dedicated and committed to getting good grades. The three of you can divide the reading assignments equally by three, take solid (yet brief) notes, then have a study session during which you all exchange the information. Each student can make copies of the other's notes after discussions about the main ideas. This method can literally cut your time spent reading by more than a third.

Variety Is King

A 2010 study by University of South Florida researchers examined a group of fourth-graders trying to learn new mathematical equations. Half of the group studied one type of equation at a time, calculating the solutions for several in a row, then moving on to the next type of equation. The other half studied a mixture of all four different types of equations simultaneously. When the students took a test the next day, the ones who studied the mixture of equations fared twice as well on the test than their counterparts.

An August 2011 study published in Psychology and Aging similarly tested adults using the same method. The first group viewed mixed collections of paintings by various artists, while the other group viewed a dozen paintings from each individual artist, then a dozen from another artist, etc. The previous group was better able to distinguish the styles of each artist upon testing.

What this means is that students should vary their studies as opposed to spending five hours on one subject on a given night. Do an hour of calculus, then read your literature assignment for an hour, then log onto your Lenovo and post your required discussion group response for your online history course.

Eat Blueberries

There is absolutely no better brain food than blueberries. Researchers at Reading University in the U.K. gave lab rats a steady diet of blueberries for three weeks. The blueberry-fed rats were not only able to improve memory by 83 percent when navigating through a maze vs. the control group, but also experienced a reversal in age-related declines in memory. College students and adults over 50 should eat a half-cup of blueberries per day to get the benefit of the flavonoids that regenerate nerve endings. Some doctors have even considered blueberries as a treatment for Alzheimer's disease. Blueberries are also tasty and rich in anti-oxidants.

About the Author

Neal Ortega - Neal is the co-founder of a student charity group at his university.

Personalized Learning and its Benefits


You can walk into any classroom today and see that different students struggle with different things.

Some students at the elementary school down the road might have a hard time doing fractions during math class while others might struggle with remembering the capitals of all 50 states.

Maybe a college student is in an Intermediate Accounting class, but her previous professor from Intro to Accounting only went over straight-line depreciation and never mentioned double-declining depreciation. She lacks that foundation she needs to succeed in her class. It is not her fault. Her previous professor just decided to emphasize a different topic of accounting instead.

Common Collegiate Confusion – Mistakes Every Freshman Makes

mistakes-college-freshman-makeThey say that hindsight is 20/20.  Hundreds of thousands of people have gone through their freshman year of college with regrets and wishes and dreams of what could have been, what they should have done.  But that only means that there is greater hope for current college freshmen if they are only willing to listen and trust the people who have been there.  Compiled from the thoughts and opinions of dozens of undergraduate sophomores, juniors, and seniors, this list is comprised of the most common mistakes that freshmen make their first year of school.

Embrace Mental Math Throughout Everyday Life

mental-math“I would like to make a case for raising the importance of mental math as a major component in students’ tool kits of mathematical knowledge. Mental math is often associated with the ability to do computations quickly, but in its broadest sense, mental math also involves conceptual understanding and problem solving.” - Cathy Seeley, National Council of Teachers of Mathematics President 2004-2006

The Indirect Effects of Independent Reading

“The amount of free reading done outside of school has consistently been found to relate to growth in vocabulary, reading comprehension, verbal fluency, and general information.  Students who read independently become better readers, score higher on achievement tests in all subject areas, and have greater content knowledge than those who do not. - Research Journal of the American Association of School Librarians

Calm Your Mind: Understanding & Managing Stress

managing-stress-test-taking“A bit of stress in short doses is useful in improving our memory and enhancing performance. However, too much, too regularly, is extremely damaging to our mental and physical well-being.”

From, a web-site founded by globally recognized mindfulness and meditation expert Andy Puddicomb

Just because you have no major or minor diagnosed mental health disorder, doesn’t mean you have a completely healthy mind. If school, work, sports, orsocial situations tend to make you nervous and stressed, your performance suffers.

Fuel Your Mind Through Exercise, Nutrition and Sleep

fuel your mind

It turns out that there’s lots of documented scientific evidence that the more you exercise, the better you eat, and the more you sleep (within reason), the better your brain works (i.e., you can reason more clearly, recall information faster, solve problems faster, etc.). It naturally follows that exercise, nutrition,  and sleep are critically important, though perhaps indirect, elements of improving children's academic performance.

On the one hand, this may seem a little obvious. But one of the more interesting pieces of advice about critical thinking and problem solving ever given to me was that the best insights are those that seem really, really obvious once they are realized.  If you really didn’t know it before for sure, but now you do with certainty, you’ve realized something important.  Still, I find that sometimes an idea seems so intuitively obvious that it isn’t interesting enough to grab most people’s attention, or perhaps because it’s obvious, it just doesn’t seem like it can be that important.

How to Adopt a Growth Oriented, Ownership Mindset

growth oriented mindset

Most people tend to have one of two mindsets: fixed or growth.  Those with a growth mindset believe they can always improve and change their personality or level of intelligence through feedback and hard work.  They believe, accurately, that the brain is a muscle that can be built up over time.  Those with a fixed mindset believe your personality and intelligence is more or less given to you at birth, and you can only tinker around the edges.  You want to adopt a growth mindset.

Developing a Growth Mindset

Why is the growth mindset important?  First, because the research suggests it’s true, and second, because adopting this mindset leaves to whole host of behaviors that have been shown to lead to academic and other types of success, most notably “grit” and the willingness to stick with things when the going gets tough.  People with a fixed mindset tend to think their abilities, personalities, and intelligence is given at birth, and can’t be changed.  They may tend to avoid activities at which they fear they’ll fail, since this will expose a lack of ability which of course, can’t be changed. This creates a truly unfortunate cycle. 

Because the student believes they simply, for example, aren’t good at math, but recognizes that it would be nice if they were good at math, they avoid situations in which their poor math ability will be exposed.  They make the choice to avoid raising their hand, for fear of looking dumb.  So, they don’t ask questions to clarify their understanding in class.  They may even avoid doing their homework, since it’s somehow easier mentally to do poorly because you didn’t study than to try your best and fail, thus confirming your belief that you may just not  smart.  Ultimately, and over time, a student with a fixed mindset starts to try far less hard, do much less homework, falling farther and farther behind, until the evidence seems to confirm that yes, other people “have it” and they don’t when it comes to math (or, insert any other common skill).

People with a growth mindset believe that abilities and talents are built up over time through hard work, persistence, feedback, and ultimately learning.  They’ll ask a question in class in the honest pursuit of feedback and learning, without being too worried about sounding dumb.  They have no fear of being exposed as lacking math skills, because they believe they can and will just build up their math skills if they lack them today.

Simple Academic Strategies: Part Two

Simple Academic Strategies  Part TwoIn our last article, we talked about how thinking strategically is as important to students as it is to businesses. We described how, by thinking strategically about what classes to take, any given student can position him or herself well to graduate on time even if they switch majors, be more attractive to employers, and enjoy their academic experience, at the margin, more than they otherwise would. In this post, we’ll explore some simple, obvious, but powerful strategies for performing well in any given class.

Improved Performance through Better To-Do Lists

GTD book cover resized 600

In this article I want to discuss two key elements of achieving improved academic performance (or performance at work or in any given area of your personal life, for that matter), and how a simple but powerful system for managing your to-do list can address each element:

Learning How to Learn: 3 Techniques to Improve Test Scores

Learning about learning

MyGuru is slowly undergoing a bit of a transition. We certainly want to continue to be known as the premier source for extremely accomplished tutors who deliver highly customized 1-1 in-person and online tutoring and test prep in Chicago and a steadily growing number of cities.

However, if you want to improve your performance in school, expert feedback and customized instruction from a private tutor doesn’t necessarily need to be a part of your plan. It is almost certainly a good idea, if you have the financial resources to pursue private tutoring. But, there are other tools, approaches, and strategies you can use to do better in school, and we want the MyGuru brand to be known for its ability to empower students to take control of their education, study more effectively, and develop strategies to meet their academic, professional, and personal goals. We want to deliver much more than the ability to connect with a private tutor.

4 Rules for Improving Academic Performance

Improving academic performance

Based on our work with students every day and in our review of the research on academic performance (and really, any type of performance), we’d encourage anyone wrestling with doing better in school, preparing for a standardized test, obtaining admission to college, graduate school, or business school, to follow four simple rules.

This article will describe these four rules, and also provide links to easy-to-read books that explore each in much more detail.  At the end of the article, we’ll offer a brief summary of how these rules work together to improve academic performance.

Rule #1: Adopt a growth oriented, ownership mindset

Study More Effectively Using Deliberate Practice - PART 2

In a previous blog post on deliberate practice, we learned that it takes focus, motivation, feedback, and a desire to uncover the underlying elements of the big concepts.  More importantly, we learned that it is the way to build new skills, be they academic, athletic, musical, or anything else.   Let's now look at a few different examples of the concept in action, as well as explore what deliberate practice, in an academic context, involves in a bit more detail.describe the image

Improve Your GPA by Training Your Brain

Train your brain.Have you ever caught yourself being too critical of your abilities in a given area?  Students in particular can be their own worst enemies.  They don’t realize how powerful an influence mindset can be on day-to-day actions.  In reality, what we think about ourselves and our abilities will determine what we can achieve, especially academically.

Finding Your Inspiration

describe the image

In a previous article The Underestimated Power of Practice, we talked about the power of practice when considering what makes someone an expert in any given subject.  We explored the idea that genes aren’t as essential as we tend to believe, that an incredible amount of concentrated practice is a much better determinant of future success.  We argued that talent is overrated, and practice is underrated.  We talked about a rule that researchers on performance have developed – you may need to spend 10,000 hours practicing intensely and deliberately to become a world-class athlete, musician, or mathematician.

10,000 hours.  10,000 hours of ‘deep practice’ seems to be the rule to live by when desiring to become a world-class expert at something.  When you begin to really consider that, it’s overwhelming.  Now, you of course don’t need to spend 10,000 hours to build certain types of skills for specific events.  It either isn’t necessary, or isn’t practical.  But, the point is that you need to spend a lot of really intense, focused time practicing and pushing yourself to improve.  

The Underestimated Power of Practice

shutterstock 63546325 resized 600We have all come across genius, people who are exceptional, admirable, and undeniably perfect.  Some have graced our history books and televisions many times over (Einstein, Mozart, Jordan), while others are our neighbors or friends who are just awesome at something - imagine that girl or boy wonder in your AP Physics or English class that seems to immediately understand absolutely everything the teacher says and ace every test. 

Understanding the Growth Mindset

At MyGuru, we track feedback on our tutors’ performance to identify top performing tutors and provide constructive feedback about what made things go well or poorly.  Over time, in discussing tutoring relationships with students and tutors and reviewing this feedback, we’ve noticed that the major obstacle standing in the way of a student understanding material and earning a better grade in a class (or a better score on a standardized test) is often a belief they have about their ability.  It’s not a lack of understanding per se, and certainly not a lack of “intelligence” that’s the problem. 

How Technology Is Improving Tutoring

Technology is helping tutors, teachers, and other education professionals go beyond the classroom and textbooks to help students learn.

Virtual lectures, 3-D modeling, videos, infographics, and other online courses encourage students to go further than just memorization and notetaking. Technological developments allow students to fully immerse themselves in the material, revisit lectures, and gain a better understanding of the material through various pathways of learning.

Three Tips to Performing Well on Standardized Tests

3 Steps to Performing Well on Standardized Tests

What priorities should students set, and how should parents help them get there with their integrity intact?  MyGuru has three simple rules for navigating the college admissions process and the SAT/ACT – and this applies to the GMAT, LSAT, MCAT and GRE as well.  Our rules are designed to take the stress out of the college admissions process, and make it possible for anyone to achieve a higher score on the SAT/ACT.

Think Long Term 

Begin your formal test prep activities one year before the exam date.  Every good test prep process begins with learning the ins and outs of the SAT or ACT.  This requires a thorough review of each of the question types, the scoring method, and the format of the exam BEFORE ever doing a practice question.  This is a relatively low pressure, low stakes way to prep and feel comfortable with the exam.

4 Smart Reasons to Take AP Classes

advanced placement coursesTaking AP classes is almost never a bad idea. While, some AP classes require you to have a particular aptitude in a subject (for example, you can’t just decide to take AP BC Calculus without taking all the pre-requisites), other AP classes, like AP US History, don’t really have pre-requisites at most high schools – you simply can elect to take AP US History.

Ten Awesome Memory Techniques for Standardized Test Taking

test taking memory techniques

Sometimes test preparation requires memorization. For example, the SAT and GRE require building your vocabulary. Here are some tried and true memory techniques.

The Roman Technique

This technique involves setting what you want to remember to the layout of something you’re very familiar with, like your childhood home or route to school. So imagine, for example, that you want to remember your to-do list. Say your first item was to telephone the GRE board to set your test appointment. You might visualize your front door opening but having tons of phones blocking the passage way. Say your second thing on your to-do list is to buy paper. You could imagine your hallway with paper in the picture frames instead of the portraits that normally went there. The idea is to walk through your home putting what you want to remember along the route. Because our spatial memory is more long term memory versus short term memory, this helps us organize and remember the data.

How to Evaluate an Online Statistics Tutor

how to evaluate an online statistics tutor

One of the results of being able to look for tutors online is that there tends to be a selection available, which means that you have to evaluate different tutors in order to be able to choose among them.  If you are looking for an online statistics tutor, here are a couple of factors to base your evaluation on.

Choose A Specialist

Statistics is a specialized subject that not all tutors, or even all math tutors, will be proficient in.  Generally, the more subjects a tutor claims to be able to teach, the less specialized he or she is.  A tutor who claims proficiency in statistics and twenty other subjects is probably not as proficient as a tutor who claims to be proficient in just one or only a few subjects.

5 Keys to Effective Online Calculus Tutoring

online calculus tutoringSam Ribnick is an online MyGuru tutor for calculus and physics. He attended MIT where he received a Bachelor of Science in Physics, and is a high school physics teacher in Boston Public Schools. He has tutored students online and in person on subjects including AP calculus, AP and IB physics, multi-variable calculus and introductory college physics.

5 Tips To Finding The Right College Tutors Online

online tutors

As the web continues to become more and more of a fixture of everyday life, more and more students are looking for the convenience and accessibility of online tutoring.  A wide range of college tutors for all subjects can be found online, but finding them can be overwhelming if you don’t know where to start.  That’s what this post is for.  If you are looking for a college tutor online, here are five places you can start your search.

Join Discussion Boards 

There are discussion boards you can join that are related to tutoring in general as well as to specific subjects.  Some of these are just online, attached to websites, and others are groups on social networking sites like Facebook and Linkedin.  Similarly, discussions happen via mailing list groups as well.  These can be good places to ask for leads or advice or to actually meet tutors who hang out there.

How to Work With an AP Physics Tutor

How to Work With an AP Physics Tutor

One way to ensure that you get the most value from your education is to hire a guide, someone who can provide personal attention to facilitate your learning process.  Given that AP Physics is one of the most challenging courses you can take in high school, and given that it is usually preparation for even more specialized studies, hiring a dedicated AP Physics tutor makes a lot of sense.  The responsibility for getting the most out of your education, however, still belongs to you, the student.  Here are some steps you should take to ensure that you are using your AP Physics tutor’s services wisely.

Do Your Best On Your Own

The most successful physicists and engineers have been the ones who are independent thinkers.  Before dumping all the responsibility in your tutor’s lap, try your best to read and understand the material and work through the problems on your own.  If you get stuck in one place, don’t stop there and throw up your hands in frustration; instead note the difficulty you are having and move on as best you can.  Not only will this build the study skills that you will need to progress along your educational path, it is also cost effective.  The time you spend with your AP Physics tutor should be spent on filling in the gaps in your understanding, not starting from scratch.

3 Reasons to Consider Private Tutoring

3 reasons private tutor

On the surface, there are many reasons why students and parents consider private tutoring, but in essence they boil down to three fundamental reasons.  The general reasons for hiring a private tutor are listed here in order of reactiveness to proactiveness.

1.  When There’s A Problem

The majority of people looking for a tutor are hoping to solve a problem.  These are parents seeking out tutors because their kids’ report cards are unsatisfactory, or college students looking for help after they bomb the midterm.  The motivation for these sorts of people is primarily damage control, and once the problem is solved they intend to go back to business as usual.  They see private tutoring as a last resort tactic, sort of like stopping at a gas station and asking for directions. 

6 Advantages of Online Tutoring for Students

6 advantages of online tutoring

Although online tutoring has been around for a while, many students (and their parents) haven’t yet caught on to the possibility of meeting with a tutor virtually, let alone come to recognize its benefits.  Once the idea moves from the realm of theory to the realm of actuality, however, attitudes generally change from skepticism and incredulity to enthusiasm and appreciation.

Much like telecommuting and virtual commerce for other businesses, online tutoring provides a number of distinct advantages that not only make it competitive with in-person tutoring, but actually superior in many cases.  Here are a few of them.

1.  Availability 

Using a Private Tutor: A Short Rationale

MyGuru students seek private tutoring for a variety of reasons. Some are “A” students today, but striving for the best grade in the class through focused tutoring sessions in “problem” areas.  Others are “D” students, looking for long term help to improve their general conceptual understanding.  Some are already scoring above the 90th percentile on a standardized test, but realize that getting into an Ivy League university or one of the top graduate, MBA, Law, or Medical schools is only getting more intense, and thus seek private tutoring to squeeze out a few extra points on the test.  But, others are truly struggling, scoring well below average, and in desperate need of the confidence to perform at or above average.

3 Reasons to Consider Obtaining College Admissions Advice

college admissions

You (or your child) studied hard for three years in high school.  You’ve now got a solid GPA, and along the way you took difficult classes: AP Calculus, AP Biology, AP US History, and AP Physics.  You earned a 4 or a 5 on each of these difficult AP tests.  You played several sports at the Varisity level, and even wrote for the school newspaper.

You’ve taken the ACT several times, as well.  The first time you scored a 25.  Then, you took an ACT prep course, and scored a 27.  Finally, you hired a private ACT tutor, received customized help, and scored a 30.  Now, your applications are looking good.

Five Reasons to Try Online Tutoring

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Over the past year, we’ve begun offering online tutoring, in addition to our core in-person tutoring.  We’ve noticed something interesting – online tutoring seems much less popular among students than it should be (in our opinion).

Every once in a while, someone requests an in-person tutor but we don’t have one available, and we thus suggest they try online tutoring.  However, in almost all cases, even when we offer free online tutoring for one hour to encourage them to give it a try, they decline to do so and search for a tutor from a different company that they’ll have to pay full price for.

MyGuru Expands Tutoring Network in New York

As we continue to grow MyGuru, we are now offering 1-1 Tutoring & Test Prep in New York.  As one of our first marketing activities, we created a profile on Thumbtack.  Our profile on Thumbtack for Chicago was generally successful, and we look forward to being introduced to new students in New York through the Thumbtack service as well.

5 Questions to Ask When Evaluating a College Major

I attended Indiana University in Bloomington, IN and majored in Finance in the business school.  IU has a very highly ranked business program, and many companies from throughout the Midwest and beyond recruit there.  A degree from the Kelley School of Business is a very direct way to position yourself for employment after graduation.  Each major, while certainly “academic,” also provides “job training” of sorts, which allows you to slot right in at a major corporation and start being productive in the accounting, finance, operations, or legal department.  Employers value that type of rigorous, career oriented training.

Relaunch of the MyGuru Blog

This is an introductory post for the re-launch ofMy Guru’s main blog.  This blog will try to offer information, resources, and advice related to education in a broad sense: tutoring, test prep, educational technology, and career advice.  We have separate blogs on our site related to the GMAT, LSAT, MCAT, ACT, SAT, etc. which will cover content specific to those tests.  Those blogs have explanations of specific concepts, do practice problems, and provide information about complementary resources related to applying to graduate schools.

Navigating the College Admissions Process

One of the things I learned when applying to both undergraduate and graduate programs is that it’s not enough to simply strive for good grades and a good test score.  Sure, the entire college application process is very competitive, so you should aim for the best possible grades and highest possible tests scores, not just something that’s above average.  But, that’s not what I mean exactly.

MyGuru Announces New Summer Small Group Tutoring Program for Grades 1-3

Driven by direct demand from Ogden Elementary school parents, MyGuru is proud to announce a summer tutoring program for grades 1-3 in the near north area of Chicago.   Although MyGuru typically begins working with students at the high school level (and then continues on through college and beyond, helping with all standardized tests along the way), we have a variety of highly qualified tutors who are educated, trained, and certified to work with much younger students as well.

MyGuru Earns "No Complaints" Award from the Better Business Bureau for its 1-1 tutoring and test prep

describe the imageMyGuru is excited to announce that during 2011, a year that saw us work with 4 to 5 times more students than we worked with in 2010, no customer complaints were filed with the Better Business Bureau.  Now, that's not to say everyone student/tutor relationship worked perfectly; that's not the case.  However, when there wasn't a great fit, we fulfilled our promise to find a different tutor option, provide a refund, or refund unused tutoring hours.

Thoughts on Online MBA Programs

Every once in a while, students who work with us on GMAT prep will ask for advice about business school options (especially if they don’t do well on the GMAT). From time to time, the topic of online MBA school options will come up. MyGuru’s founders attended the Kellogg School of Management at Northwestern University, which is a top 10 MBA school. However, we still wonder whether the extremely large investment in an MBA will ultimately be worth it. For that reason, we encourage potential online MBA school students to be extremely careful before investing large sums of money in going to an MBA school online. Our recommended options for online MBAs are those that come from well-respected schools that also offer traditional in-person programs. One such example would be Indiana University’s online MBA program.

10 Common Logical Fallacies Found on the LSAT

Understanding common logical fallacies is critical to LSAT success.

Logical reasoning involves the ability to construct and deconstruct an argument. Across the four scored sections of the LSAT, you can assume that approximately half of the questions you encounter will involve logical reasoning. It is directly tested in the LSAT's logical reasoning section, and since there are two logical reasoning sections, one reading comprehension section, and one analytical reasoning section, all of which have 35 questions, 50% of the LSAT questions you see will involved logical reasoning.

But, wait, there's more to it than even that. The ability to use logic when understanding an argument is also tested indirectly in the reading comprehension section and the writing sample. Because logical reasoning is such a commonly tested skill on the LSAT, quickly identifying and understanding flawed arguments is critical to achieving a high LSAT score.

One way to understand weaknesses of an argument is knowledge of common logical fallacies.

Although the makers of the LSAT are clear that you do not need to memorize the specific terminology related to flawed arguments below, such as "Ad Hominem" or " Ad Populum," it is important to have a deep understanding of concepts like: argument, premise, assumption, and conclusion.

If you are studying for the LSAT you may consider our private LSAT tutoring. However, we also offer a weekly online small group tutoring option for where you submit logical reasoning question and have them explained to you before or during a live online LSAT review session each week.

What follows are descriptions and examples of 10 common logical fallacies, most of which are likely to appear in the logical reasoning section of the LSAT at one point or another.

MyGuru Adds Six More Experienced Tutors to its Team

MyGuru announced today that six more tutors have been accepted as members of its independently contracted tutoring team.  Only 1 in 10 interested applicants is ultimately accepted as a tutor for MyGuru.  As a boutique tutoring company, we don't aim to constantly expand our list of available tutors - we bring tutors onto the team only when they are truly exceptional and able to increase our overall quality level.

Recent Testimonials

MyGuru strives to providesexcellent tutoring and test prep in a range of academic areas.  Below are recent testimonials from happy customers studying for: the GMAT, Actuarial Exams, Organic Chemistry, and Statistics.  We will be updating this post every few week as more testimonials come in.  Feel free to email us at with any questions or to connect with any of these former students.

MyGuru Strengthens its Leadership Team

MyGuru has added Joanna Stroncek to its Board of Advisors.  Joanna attended Northwestern University, where she majored in Economics. After Northwestern, she worked as a management consultant.  Joanna is currently an MBA student at Northwestern University’s Kellogg School of Management.

Finding a Tutor

Millions of students seek private tutoring each and every year.  Given overcrowded classrooms, overworked and underpaid teachers, and the increasing competitiveness of the college admissions process, this is not a surprise.

In New Partnership, MyGuru to help Elite Illinois Ice Hockey Players with Tutoring & Test Prep Services

As CYA’s Official Academic Partner, MyGuru has agreed to provide discounted tutoring and test prep services to CYA players, families, and friends. MyGuru’s tutors will also be able to travel directly to the rink to work with players before or after practice, if that’s most convenient for them. For high school sophomores and juniors, 1-1 or small group ACT & SAT prep sessions will be available. To learn more about MyGuru LLC, please visit, email, or call 312-278-0321.

Book a Tutor for a College Student

MyGuru's tutors are carefully recruited and screened to include only graduates of the nation's best universities, master's degree holders & PhD students, and certified teachers.  Each has a minimum of several years of tutoring or teaching experience, and MyGuru stands behind each tutor with a money back guarantee on every session.

Book a Tutor for a High School Student

MyGuru's tutors are carefully recruited and screened to include only graduates of the nation's best universities, master's degree holders & PhD students, and certified teachers.  Each has a minimum of several years of tutoring or teaching experience, and MyGuru stands behind each tutor with a money back guarantee on every session.

Benefits of Online Education

The founders of MyGuru all attended well known undergraduate institutions (Northwestern University, Indiana Univeristy, University of Missourri) and obtained their MBAs from very high priced, yet very respected graduate schools (i.e., Northwestern/Kellogg & University of Chicago/Booth).  So, we are very much proponents of the "traditional" eductional track and generally skeptical of the value of for-profit colleges and many "distance" education programs.

MyGuru's Launch

MyGuru launched in late January of 2010.  We are a local tutoring & test prep organization which focuses on providing 1-1, customized help to students in and around Chicago.  Our tutors are: certified teachers, PhD students at Northwestern University, holders of MBAs and JDs, and professionals currently working for premier organizations in Chicago.  Our test prep services combined expert tutors with "off the shelp" test prep books and offical practice tests to create efficient and highly customized 1-1 test prep solutions.

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