Higher Education: The Next Bubble?

Higher Education has long been seen as one of the crown jewels in the American Dream. Go to school, earn more money, have a better life. For several decades this paradigm has held true. These days the picture is a little more like watching Standard Definition TV in our HD/3-D world: it’s just not good enough.

Recently, renewed inspection — and criticism — of the higher education landscape has taken a number of forms. We’ll look at some of the criticism being leveled, but, more importantly, take a look at a couple key things you should know to help you avoid some of the downsides currently plaguing higher education.

Study Tips: Don’t interfere!

We (we, the world, not we Bell Curves – which is singular anyway but that’s another story) know more now than ever before about the workings of the human mind and memory, thanks to the field of cognitive neuroscience. What does this mean for you, you ask? These advances have very practical applications, especially for students who wish to improve the efficiency of their studying.

Vocabulary for Internet Procrastinators

Vocabulary is one of the most essential tools for college students, prospective college students, and graduates. You’ll need vocabulary words for the SAT or GRE, for your reading assignments, and to make a good impression upon those you speak to. And, while you do need to increase your vocabulary, sometimes it’s just too much of a bother to walk away from the computer or couch and grab a dictionary. Well, if you want an easy way to increase your lexicon while you’re surfing the web, try this add-on:

Getting Ready for College: Helping your college counselor help you!

Students often complain that their college counselors didn’t help them- or at least not as much as they would have liked! However, students and parents must acknowledge how involved their counselors’ jobs are. Before cursing their counselor, families should read on and be reminded of these facts about counselors:

The SAT & the Tranquil Test-taker

The SAT is, to many students, the most stressful part of the college admissions process. An enigmatic behemoth of a test, spanning almost two hundred questions and nearly four hours, it’s no wonder that students are intimidated. And, while preparing for the test is essential, it’s just as important that students enter the test feeling relaxed and confident. Check out our tips and reminders for keeping your cool on the SAT:

The Best SAT Prep Tip Ever: RTFQ!!

Today’s tip comes to you from a survey of the teaching staff here at Bell Curves. We asked our teachers one question:”What is the single most important tip you would give to a student taking the SAT?” Although the responses took a bunch of forms and was demonstrated in different ways, the across-the-board answer remained consistent: RTFQ(Read the Full Question). Just that one thing.  Just that.

RTFQ stands for “Read the Full Question” or, depending on whom you ask, the ‘F’ may stand for something more profane.

March 2011 SAT: You Be the Reality (Essay) Judge

Editor’s note: After hearing of the topic for the March 2011 SAT essay we at Bell Curves decided to have our intern, a recent SAT test taker, write his thoughts about it. We love you to share your thoughts in the comments!

The essay was introduced as part of the writing section of the SAT in March 2005. It was in response to the increasing demand of college admissions personnel for more proof of a student’s writing and critical thinking abilities. These essays usually ask about general themes (e.g. responsibility, dreams, heroism, or rationality), so that the average student could produce a relatively well-thought out response in 30 minutes.

Typical essay questions (and most of the ones in the preparation material released by the College Board) include:

  • “Is it better for people to learn from others than to learn on their own?”
  • “Is an idealistic approach less valuable than a practical approach?”
  • “Do people put too much importance on getting every detail right on a project or task?”
  • “Do we benefit from learning about the flaws of people we admire and respect?”

These questions are pretty predictable and require some intellectual contemplation on the part of the student. When I was preparing for the kinds of essay questions posed in the Writing section, I decided to always write 5 paragraphs (filling up both pages if possible) and to use three supporting examples that demonstrated that I paid attention in high school. I employed my knowledge of historical events; novels (The Great Gatsby, for example); memorable articles from The New York Times, The Economist, etc; personal anecdotes, which I made up to fit the prompt; and statistics from recognizable sources. Following this method requires the common knowledge, more or less, of a high school junior. Therefore, I would say that most test-takers approach the essay question in roughly this manner.

However students were definitely caught off guard by the essay questions from the exam this past weekend:

  • “Do people benefit from forms of entertainment that show so-called reality, or are such forms of entertainment harmful?”
  • “Is photography a representation of real life or a depiction of a photographer’s point of view?”

January 2011 SAT Vocabulary: Virtuosos Subvert the Miniscule Prodigy

At Bell Curves, we love going through old SATs to beef up our vocabulary and assuage potential polemical debates on deleterious topics.  What can we say, we’re mercurial that way.

SAT Q&A: Scores and Score Choice

We’ve had many questions over the years about SAT score reporting policies and more recently the Score Choice policies. Hopefully this will shed some light on these policies and help make the testing and application process a little less of a mystery.

Don’t Believe the Hype: Tests aren’t designed to trick you

Public Enemy - Dont Believe The HypeOver and over I read blogs and hear comments about how evil standardized tests are and how they are designed to “trick,” “fool,” and “trap” test-takers. I say that’s hogwash and poppycock!

It’s the invention of the test prep industry so they can sell you their “miracle cures.” This isn’t to say that all test preparation companies take this line. A few companies, Bell Curves among them, pride themselves on providing test prep that speaks to the knowledge, insights, and strategies needed to conquer the test, rather than play into the notion that these tests are designed to trick test-takers. My gripe with the other, more popular position is that it seems designed to make the test out to be a big scary mysterious unknowable boogie man designed to jump out of the dark and bop the unwary, and thus force test-takers to get help from someone else to defeat the unknown and unknowable. However, if the test is just a test, a test of content, a test of information, a test of factoids presented in a very particular way, then you might be able to prepare on your own. It’s got to be easier to sell a course or tutor if “only SAT experts” have the key to this very special lock.

Don’t believe the hype!

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