5 Tips to Help Ace Your Next Exam

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For many college and high school students, final end-of-course-exams aren’t too far away. These potentially grade changing exams can cause quite a lot of stress on students!

In fact, a recent study from Harvard discovered that “83 percent of teens surveyed cited school as a source of stress.” Well, stress no more (at least worry a little less)! For all kinds of learners, there are several tried and true techniques proven to help retain knowledge. From self-recorded audio notes to textbook reading techniques, here are a few helpful tips to make sure you’re prepared to ace any test that stands in your way!

Tip #1 Find Out What Type of Learner You Are

It’s no secret that we all learn differently. Some people prefer to see things visually, while others claim to be more hands-on. To best retain knowledge, it is important to find out which method of learning works the best for you.

Here are a few of the most common learning methods:

  • Visual – Visual learners prefer seeing the information they are trying to retain. For example, they seek out resources such as infographics, charts or diagrams.

If this sounds like you, don’t be surprised. According to the Social Science Research Network, “65 percent of the population” are visual learners—so, the majority of people prefer to receive information this way!

  • Audible – Some people prefer hearing the information to grasp it. These learners excel when exposed to lectures, audio lessons and conversations about the topic in discussion. It’s no secret that the classic “lecture and take notes” is a very common method of teaching. Audible learners have a strong advantage in the classroom.
  • Verbal – These learners like to “talk it out” so that they can confirm that they understand the knowledge and can put it into terms that work best for them for retention. For example, verbal learners may absorb knowledge best when they can teach it to others.
  • Kinesthetic – Kinesthetic learners retain information best when they are in action. They prefer to be hands-on, engaged and in-motion. Kinesthetic learners are also easy to spot. They are often the people fidgeting in class–anxious to get up and do something!

According to Inc., “Kinesthetic learners are a complex bunch and make up just 5 percent of the population.”

  • Repetition – Lastly, some prefer to study the good, old-fashioned way. They repeat the information over and over multiple times to “make it stick” in their memory. Repetition can be helpful for multiple types of learners, especially if the repetition occurs in a method that is conducive to their preferred learning style!

To find out which kind of learner you are, here is a helpful guide from

Tip #2 Read the Textbook

Have you ever taken a test and seen a question that the teacher never covered in class? Chances are, the question came directly from the textbook! We know it’s painful, but it’s true. Reading your course-provided textbook from start to finish is a great way to ensure you are prepared for any examination.

Not only is reading the textbook an additional form of repetition, but many courses will draw questions directly out of the provided textbook! According to the Journal of Accountancy, “Many textbook publishers now make exam questions and answers available to faculty who use their books. These ‘publisher test banks’ (PTBs) can be a boon to faculty members who are pressed for time.” Not only does this save time, but it’s a great way for teachers to make sure that students are reading the material required in class.

Reading Course Textbooks Provides Additional Insight & Repetition for Learning

Tip #3 – Taking Notes from the Textbook

Unless you have a photographic memory, it’s probably unlikely that reading the textbook from start to finish will help you retain the information you’re reading. This is where strong note-taking techniques can save you a ton of time and energy!

While reading the text, have a pen and journal handy (or your preferred digital device). Whenever you come across a key phrase written in bold typeface, chances are that the definition that follows is of importance.

Be sure to write down all of the phrases that are highlighted or bolded in the reading chapter with their definition. Once complete, you can go back and re-read your notes to study all of the major points within the chapter. This will save you time from re-reading the whole chapter multiple times and ensure that you have memorized the most important topics.

Taking Notes from the Textbook Provides a Helpful Study Guide

Tip #4 Take Notes While in Class

We get it. It can be hard to pay attention during a lecture. No matter how enthusiastic your teacher may be, certain subjects can put the most eager student straight to sleep.

No Matter How Tough It Is, Stay Awake During Lecture! (Source:

However, note-taking during a lecture is vital for those looking to succeed on their exams. The University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill finds that, “Good note-taking will improve your active listening, comprehension of material and retention. It will help you better remember what you hear and see.” So, don’t just show up to class and try to pay attention. The act of physically writing down information, while listening to it, will naturally help you retain the information!

This doesn’t mean that you have to write down everything mentioned during a lecture. Just jot down the key points throughout the lecture. Combine this information with your notes from the textbook, and you’ve created the perfect study guide.

Tip #5 Attend Tutor Sessions

You’ve read the book, paid attention in class and reviewed your notes, but the information still isn’t sinking in. Don’t worry! For our visual, kinesthetic and verbal learners (most of us), this should be normal.

Verbal Learners

Visiting with a tutor will help a verbal learner “talk out” the information they are learning. Asking questions and conversing back and forth with a tutor is a wonderful way for these types of learners to solidify their knowledge.

Visual Learners

For a visual learner, tutors can help further explain concepts with resources not readily available in the textbook or in lecture notes. They can draw up a diagram on a whiteboard to help the student grasp the concepts presented.

Kinesthetic Learners

For a kinesthetic learner, a group environment is a perfect way to help stimulate their memory and learning ability. Group discussions and activities in smaller settings such as “study hours” can be invaluable.

Visiting with a tutor, even once or twice during a month, can make a huge improvement on a student’s final grade. Not to mention, teachers notice which students are putting in the extra effort to earn their grade!

iSchool Virtual Academy provides free, face-to-face tutoring at our Success Centers from 2 p.m. to 7 p.m. Students can make an appointment and go to tutoring in-person at our Arlington or San Antonio system. For students who do not live within driving distance to one of our tutoring centers, we also have an online tutoring company we partner with to help students with support after hours.

Tip #6 – Repeat, Repeat, Repeat – In a Method That Fits Your Learning Style

As the old saying goes, “you can’t fit a square peg in a round hole.” Okay, weird analogy, we know, but at the end of the day, it’s important that you spend most of your time studying in a manner that is conducive to your natural learning abilities.

For example, if you’re an audible learner, take your notes by speaking in a voice recorder instead of writing them down. This will allow you to hear the information versus reading it, thus helping you remember the information more easily.

Example of iPhone Voice Recorder (Source:

Students who try to force memorization in a method that doesn’t work for them can experience frustration and even “burn out.” Don’t let this be you! Focusing on your preferred learning style will not only make studying more enjoyable but will help boost your grades while reducing stress. Now that sounds like a winning plan!

In Conclusion…

All the tips listed above have one thing in common: they take hard work. It’s not the will to succeed that separates people, it’s the will to do what it takes to succeed. There are no shortcuts in life, especially when it comes to education. However, you can “work smarter, not harder,” by reading your textbook, taking notes in class, visiting with a tutor and repeating the information in the method that works best for you.

Good luck this year on your finals. We have a feeling you’re going to ace them!

The Top Challenges Facing Texas Students Today

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Students in Texas are standing at an educational crossroad that is unlike many others in our state’s history. On one hand, educational opportunities are greater than ever with the rise of technology, school choice and funding from the 2019 legislative session.

On the other hand, there are looming problems that show no sign of slowing down.

Classroom sizes continue to swell in Texas, making it difficult for students to receive personal attention. Bullying continues to be a concern with the rise in cyberbullying.

Despite increases in state funding, financial challenges for less affluent districts are still prevalent in many regions throughout the state.

While progress is being made, there is still a lot of work to be done to solve a few of the key challenges facing students in Texas today.

Class Size Issues

It’s no mystery that the larger a classroom size, the less personal attention each student may receive from their teacher. In Texas, it is mandated that each district maintain an average ratio of 20 students to one teacher.

However, this number is often exceeded in many districts with high growth populations.

Texas adds more people to its population than any other state. This has led to classrooms in Dallas-Fort Worth, Houston and Austin to exceed to the student-to-teacher ratio.

The result of this classroom overcrowding has led many teachers to leave the industry.

According to the Houston Chronicle, “Nearly one in three public school teachers in Texas call it quits before reaching their sixth school year…and education advocates are split on whether billions of state dollars recently approved for raises will persuade teachers to stay longer.”

Actions are being taken to help improve overcrowding in the classroom.

For example, online education is helping to remove students from noisy, populated classrooms and provide them with greater control over their personal education.

Hopefully, the recent $11.6 billion decision made in May will be used to help increase teacher pay and lead to improved retention through an increase in teacher pay.

Texas senate chambers

Interior of the Texas State Capitol

Bullying in Texas Public Schools

Bullying is an unfortunate challenge that students have had to face throughout decades in public school. While lawmakers have passed legislation and increased awareness to combat bullying, students are still as susceptible as ever.

In fact, technology has caused an increase in cyberbullying. Cyberbullying is difficult to spot, so it’s vitally important for parents and caretakers to stay in close communication with their students. Here are some helpful signs to spot cyberbullying.

“There’s a rise in cyberbullying nationwide, with three times as many girls reporting being harassed online or by text message than boys,” according to the National Center for Education Statistics .

Thankfully, parents have several options to help their children in the event they are being bullied. Texas allows parents to transfer their students to new classrooms or campuses or enroll them in online education.

Studying in front of computer experiencing bullying

Transportation & After School Care Costs

“ Poverty affects students’ learning opportunities in many ways but primarily through after school care and transportation issues.

Families experiencing poverty often have greater difficulties getting after school care, as many parents work long hours or multiple jobs to support their families.

In addition, certain after school programs can be costly. This barrier prevents an opportunity for those unable to afford these helpful programs.

According to The Motley Fool, “The average cost of an after school babysitter is $214 per week. The average family that uses an after school sitter, therefore, spends roughly $7,700 per year, assuming a 36-week school year.”

Transportation costs can also hinder students’ ability to even regularly attend school. Those in rural areas may struggle with transportation costs as students may live too far away from school to walk or receive bus transportation.

For example, students may have to spend several hours a week commuting back and forth between home and school. This is valuable time that could be spent sleeping, studying or participating in recreational activities proven to be vital for childhood development.

Varying Resources by District

School districts get money from two main sources: their local property taxes and the state. This can create a clear divide in funding between districts with high property values and those without.

To help offset this, Texas passed the controversial “Robin Hood” bill in 1993. This bill mandates funds from more affluent districts to be distributed to districts that can’t raise as much money.

However, the distribution of this wealth has never achieved the desired goal of quality education throughout the state. In fact, many lawmakers are looking to remove it entirely and move to a system that doesn’t rely as heavily on property taxes to fund education.

Regardless of the method of funding, the fact remains today that the quality of education available for students in Texas depends highly on the zip code in which the students live.

To provide alternatives for parents and students, Texas has seen an increase in both public online education and charter schools. However, much work is left to be done to help increase Texas’ educational standards across the board.

Despite these challenges, educational opportunities for Texans are increasing thanks to a push from students, parents, educators and lawmakers. The impact of passing House Bill 3 in the 2019 legislative session is still up for debate, but it is a sign that Texas has focused on making positive strides for education.

Teachers are continuing to fight for additional resources in the classroom to meet the needs of their students. Improvements in technology, teacher compensation and awareness of bullying are a few highlights in the long road ahead.

How Online Public School is Preparing Students for College

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It’s November, so you know what that means—students are gearing up to take their SATs and ACTs with the hopes of getting into college. This is true for both students enrolled in online charter schools and for students taking the traditional public school route. 

However, anyone that has been through college can tell you that SAT and ACT results are inadequate forebears for success at an institution for higher education. More so, success at college requires discipline, productive study habits, and grit. 

Interestingly, online education is helping students to prepare for college more than ever, thanks to advances in technology, individualized learning experiences, and strengthened writing skills. 

Familiarity with Technology

The college classrooms of today are more technologically advanced than ever. In fact, many current college students will never even step foot on a physical campus

Even in-person college classes make use of virtual learning environments for additional lessons, homework assignments, discussion forums, audio-visual supplements, or research.

Knowing the tech goes beyond the actual classes—social aspects are just as important. Students use technology to schedule study meet-ups with online calendars. They also use social media groups to keep track of the material and collaborate on projects. 

Tech-savviness is a big advantage for those wanting to get the most out of their education. Students already familiar with online learning will easily be able to jump into the college-level equivalent and have the skills to stay on top of their studies.

Student Studying for Courses Online

Independence and Self-Discipline

One of the hardest things about transitioning from high school to college is imposing self-given deadlines. 

While professors may outline due dates in their syllabi, students must also set their own goals and manage their own time to get things done. Many students struggle with keeping track of their assignments while they adjust to larger class sizes and less personal attention from professors.

Online learning builds self-reliance in students, a skill that will help them plan their time in college courses more effectively. Similarly, students with experience in online learning tend to take greater initiatives to learn on their own, seek help from tutors, and set objectives based on their own progress.

We see that many of the students enrolled in iSchool Virtual Academy of Texas are already experts at balancing a busy work, study, and personal schedule.

Student Using Tablet to Update College Course Schedule

Written Communication Skills

The ability to exceptionally communicate through writing is a vital skill for college and in the workplace. Few things are more frustrating than confusion simply due to a poorly-worded email.

In the classroom, the ability to communicate clearly is not only important in daily homework assignments but also applies to note-taking, speaking with professors, and collaborating with classmates for a team project. 

Effective written communication is honed through online learning and serves students well in college and beyond in our increasingly online world.

Higher education is a huge life adjustment. Having a background in online learning can ease the transition and set students up for success in ways that traditional education may not. 

As society moves more and more toward digital mediums, the skills gained through online learning will help students better navigate our rapidly evolving world and succeed in college and beyond.

iSchool Virtual Academy Students at Graduation

girl receiving virtual education

What Are the Benefits of Virtual Education?

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Online and virtual education programs are on the rise as many parents and students turn away from traditional school models—but many more still have questions or doubts about this growing form of education. What are the benefits of pursuing virtual education over traditional schooling?

More Flexibility

Perhaps the most obvious benefit is the flexibility that online education offers. Students can take classes and learn at their own pace around work or other obligations. For some, it’s merely a matter of an unusual or strenuous work schedule; for others, it’s a medical condition that makes operating within traditional schooling difficult.

By learning online from home, students are able to fit in schooling when they can and with the best learning environment for them.

In addition, online schooling allows access to more specialized classes that students may not otherwise student learning online at own pacehave access to. Courses covering specific interests that a traditional school may not have the resources to offer are available virtually.

Plus, students will never be turned away from a class they want to take because the class is full—virtually, there’s always room.

High-Quality Education

Students are not trading quality for convenience with virtual education. They still get direct access to a teacher fully certified by the TEA, so they can rest assured that the teacher knows what they’re doing and knows the material they’re teaching.

The opportunity for one-on-one connection to teachers means students are getting more personalized support, instead of being one of many students in an increasingly overcrowded classroom.

Studies show that smaller class sizes are the most beneficial environment, both for a teacher’s ability to teach and a student’s ability to learn. This can be an issue in many traditional brick-and-mortar schools, where a declining number of teachers is leading to larger and larger class sizes. 

A Safe Environment

As mentioned earlier, learning online from home allows for more control of variables that can negatively affect a student’s health. Special diets, allergies, and prescribed medicines are all significantly easier to keep track of when learning from home.

But physical safety isn’t the only benefit—mental health is also known to improve. Many students who have transferred to virtual education from public schooling have greatly improved in their studies, once they no longer have had to worry about bullying or other distractions from their peers.

iSchool Students Gathering Together for Graduation

Some parents worry that removing their child from traditional schooling will negatively impact their child’s socialization skills—but this doesn’t have to be the case. After all, socialization happens in plenty of other spaces other than in school. From extracurriculars and clubs, to trips to museums or other educational places, to any family observances or traditions, socialization can still happen and leave children able to connect with others in meaningful ways.


Virtual education may not be for everyone, but it’s certainly a great option to have when deciding what’s best for a student. Greater flexibility alongside great quality instruction means that students can have the best education that will prepare them for their future.