Academics

A comprehensive look at high school academics. We cover grades, AP and IB courses, and the post graduate year. Learn the secrets of A+ students. Explore summer abroad programs, read interviews with experts and get valuable tips on excelling academically.
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Updated May 25, 2017
7 Ways to Improve Your Math Scores
Add things up and you'll quickly find the answer- math is crucial both in academics and the real world. By following these strategies and following personal training programs, students can uncover their weaknesses and conquer math.
Add things up and you’ll quickly find the answer – math is crucial both in academics and the real world.                                                                                                                        
To progress through high school to college and beyond, you better make sure your math skills are strong enough to face the gauntlet of exams, SAT’s, and more. Mathematics not only opens up career opportunities, but helps students develop critical problem-solving skills that they can use the rest of their lives.
We spoke with some experts in mathematics and learning to get some quick tips on how to improve your math skills. “Math is used in almost all parts of our lives, from sciences and computers to music and art,” states Tanya Mitchell, the Vice President of Research and Development for brain training company LearningRx. Tanya says that math struggles often boil down to weak cognitive skills, and not genetics, gender, age or study habits. By following these strategies and following personal training programs, students can uncover their weaknesses and conquer math.  
 

1.  Write out your work. 

It may be basic, but writing out your work is an essential rule to doing great math. Alison Dillard, Owner, is a
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Updated May 26, 2016 |
SAT Prep
SAT test prep takes time to do properly. We explore some of your options here.
The two main college admissions tests are SAT (Scholastic Aptitude Test) and ACT (American College Testing). Each of these tests generates a high degree of angst for juniors and seniors. I suppose a certain amount of concern is justified especially if you have not been a good student during your middle and high schools.
 
What is the purpose of these tests?
 
Both SAT and ACT are deigned to assess a student's readiness for college level academic work.
 
"The SAT and SAT Subject Tests are designed to assess your academic readiness for college. These exams provide a path to opportunities, financial support, and scholarships, in a way that's fair to all students. The SAT and SAT Subject Tests keep pace with what colleges are looking for today, measuring the skills required for success in the 21st century."

This clip from the College Board explains what the SAT is.

Here is a brief description of what the ACT test comprises:

"The ACT is a national college admissions examination that consists of subject area tests in: English, Mathematics, Reading &Science
The ACT Plus Writing includes the four subject area tests plus a 30-minute Writing Test.
ACT results are accepted by all four-year colleges and universities in the US.
The ACT includes 215 multiple-choice questions and takes approximately 3 hours and 30 minutes to complete, including a short break (or just over four hours if you are taking the ACT Plus Writing). Actual testing time is 2 hours and 55 minutes
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Updated June 25, 2014 |
What's In A Grade?
The letter grade at one school may or may not be the same as the letter grade scheme at another school. Some answers to the inconsistencies here.
Most schools use letter grades these days. But not every school uses the same letter grade scheme. This can cause problems when it comes time to send transcripts off to college admissions offices. The A at one school may not be equivalent to the A at another school.
 
The most common grade scheme is the following:

A+  97-100
A    93-96
A-   90-92
B+  87-89
B    83-86
B-   80-82
C+  77-79
C    73-76
C-   70-72
D+  67-69
D    63-66
D-   60-62
F     Below 60

If your school uses a variation of this scheme, then be sure to send a key or explanation sheet attached to each transcript. Failure to do so could cause mis-interpretation of students' results.
 
How does this tie in with GPA?
GPA or Grade Point Average is numerical equivalent of all your letter grades totalled and averaged. The numerical equivalents for letter grades are as follows:
A = 4.0
B = 3.0
C = 2.0
D = 1.0
F = 0.0
 
So, in theory if an A is 4.0, an A+ is higher. At some institutions that is the case. To put grades into perspective most graduate schools will require a 3.0 GPA for admission. American public schools set the benchmark at 1.0 for graduation.
Updated June 25, 2014 |
Interactive Learning the Harkness Way
Students sitting in rows of desks listening to a teacher lecture? You are not likely to find this scenario in a school which uses Harkness Tables.
Students sitting in rows of desks listening to a teacher lecture? You are not likely to find this scenario in a school which uses Harkness Tables. The brainchild of wealthy industrialist Edward Harkness, an Exeter alumnus, Harkness Tables are oval tables which seat 12-18 students together with their teacher. You cannot hide in the back of the classroom which uses Harkness Tables. That's the point. Engaged students learn.
 
In ancient times teaching was collaborative - think Socrates and Quintillian - but somewhere in our Victorian-Edwardian past we got off the rails and began lining children up in regimented rows of chairs and desks. Maria Montessori and Rudolph Steiner rebelled against this sort of regimentation. Their classrooms became what we would now call activity centers.
 
High school lab courses such as chemistry and physics have always been interactive and hands on. Discussion of findings and research are encouraged in that collaborative environment. Every member of the class has an opinion and a finding. That is the idea behind the Harkness Table. Every member of the class is encouraged to be an active participant. Because eye contact is a critical element of this style of learning, the Harkness Table's oval shape is ideal. It allows everybody around the table to see and be seen. Students and teacher interact. The teacher facilitates without dominating the lesson. He guides and steers the learning process. Maria Montessori would be thrilled.
 
Harkness Tables are widely used in prep
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Updated May 25, 2016 |
School Year Abroad
Several private schools offer a whole academic year abroad. Still others offer a summer abroad.
Several private schools offer a whole academic year abroad. Still others offer a summer abroad. These are enrichment programs designed to expose students who participate in them to the culture and customs of the host country. Promoting global understanding is an underlying aim of all these 'abroad' programs.

School Year Abroad
The School Year Abroad program was started by Phillips Academy in 1964. It is now operated by a consortium of about 30 schools located across the nation. Basically SYA offers approximately 60 students in their junior or senior year the opportunity to spend an academic year abroad in China, France, Italy, Spain or India. Students stay with host families. They are able to maintain their academic standing with their home school while at the same time experiencing all that a year living abroad offers.

Summer Abroad
Several schools offer summer programs which take place in foreign countries. Here are two examples of the sort of thing being offered:

"Woodberry in Mexico brings students to Morelia, where they take a variety of classes in nontraditional subjects such as guitar, drums, pre-Hispanic Michoacan, human zoology, and Mexican cuisine. They also have opportunities to experience parts of Mexico few Americans see. Possibilities include tours of artisans’ workshops, a professional soccer match, an excursion to colonial towns, and an orphanage visit. In Ixtapa, students experience an “all-inclusive” resort along the beautiful Mexican coastline. Puebla and Oaxaca offer important archeological sites that teach much about indigenous cultures." ...
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