AP US History: Practicing Information Synthesis

AP US History: Practicing Information Synthesis

If you’re in an AP US History class, you’re probably discussing the Vietnam War right now. Understanding the differences between the Vietnam War and previous conflicts will help you to synthesize the history of war and its impacts on American society. At Air Tutors, we’re sharing a series of interactive articles designed to help you prepare for the AP US History exam, and today, the topic is war.

Historical events are always multidimensional. Synthesis of historical information begins by thinking about the different dimensions involved in an event. Here’s a challenge: pull out a piece of paper or open a new document and write this question at the top: “What sorts of things should I know if I want to understand the causes and impacts of a war?”  Now, try to think of at least three things, write them in a bulleted list, and come back and keep reading once you’re done.

Okay, what did you write? I wrote these four questions:

  1. Who was it fought against, why, and how did it start?
  2. How did it impact Americans at home? (economically, politically, socially, etc.)
  3. How was it fought? (What were the main technologies used? What sorts of tactics were used?)
  4. Was there a clear winner? (Hint: most wars end with a treaty. When you study a war, make sure to learn about the treaty that ended it.)

These questions can now help us to synthesize the role war has played in American history. Here’s your study challenge for the day: answer my question #2 for the American Revolution, the Civil War, the First World War, the Second World War, and the Vietnam War. After you’re done, write a few short paragraphs that answer this question: How did the influences of 20th-century wars on American society differ from the influences of previous wars? Once you’ve identified a pattern, individual facts become easier to remember.

As you prepare for AP US History exam, use these questions as a “suitcase” for the war-related facts you want to bring with you on the exam. If you have any questions, set up an appointment with one of our AP US History tutors to learn more!

Must Have Apps for Math and the Sciences

Math and the sciences can be quite difficult courses to take on.  This is particularly true for those who are handling multiple AP courses simultaneously.  The rigor of the courses, the amount of homework, and the breadth of the material all make staying on top of tests and homework assignments quite an undertaking, and all of this doesn’t even take into account studying for the AP’s.  While tutoring is a great option to connect all the dots, self-help practices are always a great option to utilize.  Here is a list of amazing apps for those taking math or science courses, or merely studying for standardized tests:

  1. Knowvio LLC puts out an incredible line of apps that follow the naming structure of [Course Name] X (e.g. Physics X).  These apps are absolutely fantastic.  They include a table-of-contents-style interface that allows you to hone in on exactly the material you want to study.  Each section includes video tutorials on the concepts for you to watch, a formula sheet with that outlines each formula discussed in those sections, and a scratch pad tab that allows you to write over any page you are currently looking at.  Check them out with the links below!
  2. Photomath, Inc. offers an app by the same name, Photomath, which does what it would sound like.  It solves math problems by taking a photo of the problem.  In real-time, the app detects the text you’re looking at and does a fairly decent job of converting it to a math problem in the app.  It will then solve the problem step-by-step, giving you the ability to learn how to solve problems on-the-fly.  This is also great for the students who just don’t have the time for a tutoring session.  It will not replace the amount of help you can get from a tutor, but it will be a lifesaver for those few times where you just need to know how to do a problem immediately!  Check it out from the link below!
  3. Desmos has a graphing calculator by the same name, Desmos, that is really amazing if you’ve left your TI-83/84 or nSpire at home or have somehow lost it in the moment.  This will allow your phone to take on the roll of your graphing calculator.  You can plot multiple functions, and even find intersections.  You can graph in multiple modes, and even set up constant in front of variables that include an associated slider.  This means the equation y=Asin(Bx+C)+D can be quickly changed to y=-3sin(2x)+1 or y=2sin(-3x)-4 without having to type in a new formula.  Simply drag the slider for the constants A, B, C, and D to various values and watch how the graph changes in real-time!  This really helps give an intuitive understanding of how various functions work.  Check it out with the link below!
  4. Quick Learning LLC offers a great app for those who want a periodic table with them wherever they are without having to google search or open their books each time.  Lewis dot structures are provided, as well as other information about the element.  Color coding is done by valence orbital type (e.g. s, p, d, and f) and the wiki page for each element is available within the app too.  This a great free app for any chemistry student.  There are other paid apps that have astounding capabilities, like writing chemical equations and finding molar masses, but they aren’t free.  If you’re in chemistry, grab this one with the link below!

AP US History Exam: Don’t Just Memorize, Synthesize!

The AP US History exam can be daunting. If you’re preparing for it now, you’ve probably been reading, memorizing, and writing about American history all year. At Air Tutors, we’re dedicated to doing all we can to help you succeed in your classes. For the next few weeks, we’ll be sharing articles designed to help you prepare for your upcoming AP US History exam. As the test date comes closer and closer, it’s important to start synthesizing the information you’ve learned so far this year.

Information synthesis is a vital skill for studying, understanding, and writing about history. Synthesizing means joining or merging different ideas together. In terms of AP US History, it means observing patterns and trends in historical facts to build general stories about different themes in the American past. Without synthesizing historical information, each fact can seem random, unimportant, and easy to forget. Good synthesis helps on both the multiple choice and essay portions of the test because it aids in remembering individual facts and in writing good introductions and conclusions in your essays.

Think of synthesis like a suitcase. If you were going on a long trip, it would be ridiculous to try to carry all the clothes you want to bring in your arms. You wouldn’t be able to fit very much, and you’d probably lose lots of important items of clothing. If you prepare for the AP US History exam by trying to jam all the important facts into your mind, you won’t fit very many, and you’ll probably lose a lot of important information. Synthesizing information is like neatly folding your clothes into a suitcase: you can fit a lot more clothing, you won’t lose any, and it’s much easier to carry.

For history, we synthesize by telling general, thematic stories about the past. As you study for the AP History exam, don’t just memorize facts. For each fact you review, ask yourself: what other facts does it relate to? What story does it fit into? What role does it play in that story?

For the next few weeks, we’ll be sharing short study guides that will help you synthesize information to prepare for the AP US History exam. If you want to get a head start, contact one of our AP US History tutors today and set up a time to meet!

Strategy – The Importance of Starting Off Strong

If you don’t want to end up looking like the student in this posting’s picture, then starting off the semester with laser-focus and drive will allow you to score the easier points coming from the introductory material before the course kicks into high gear.  As the course progresses, newer and more intricate material will be introduced that won’t be quite as easy to digest.  Midway through the course, you will be challenged to think and integrate more and more concepts into your assignments and exams.  Ultimately, you don’t want to be on the fence about your grade in the later parts of the course and wishing you had done a little better early on.  Follow these tips to lock in those early points:


Just Getting Your Feet Wet – Dive Right In:

Even though the course may have just begun, and the material hasn’t picked up yet, it doesn’t mean that you can rest easy until the difficulty picks up.  Make sure you dive head first into the material and engage in class discussion as much as possible from the start.  Often times the lack of difficulty will make students think, “I’ve got this.”  This is where they will most likely be caught off guard by some of the curveballs that, while not extremely difficult detect, could end up dragging their scores down initially.  Don’t let this happen to you otherwise, you’ll be sacrificing some of the easier points in the course.

Studying Habits – Structure and Discipline:

Don’t think of studying as something you have to do in large chunks.  Studying little bits throughout your day, but more consistently, is better than having huge chunks of studying that occur more infrequently.  Most people begin to lose their attention after about 30-45 minutes, which is startling considering how long the average class is.  This is probably why we need to go home and study in the first place…we just couldn’t absorb it the first time.  Instead of spending hours and hours at the end of your day after school, try spending some of your break time on campus to study bits and pieces of the material, then finish what’s left at home.  Don’t forget to keep doing this daily.  You will find that your overall stress will be reduced and you won’t feel burnt out at the end of the day.

Communication – It’s Still Key:

If you aren’t understanding a concept, or just can’t seem to find a way to put it all together in terms of the bigger picture, don’t stay silent.  You’d be surprised how many students say that they understand concepts when they actually don’t out of fear or embarrassment.  It’s okay to struggle, and part of growing up and learning is how to communicate that you need help.  Teachers generally enjoy helping students, but if you’re worried about disrupting the flow, or are too shy, then meet with them after class.  At the very least you can collaborate with your classmates, as this is another form of learning.  You’ll gain friends along the way!  Find a way to introduce yourself to your fellow classmates early on instead of waiting until you need the help.  This can come off looking like you are not genuine in your desire to get to know them.

Outside Assistance – The Power of Tutoring:

Hiring a tutor can make all the difference when it comes easing the burden of taking on new information in high volume.  It’s just not possible for teachers to truly give what tutors can achieve one-on-one.  Make sure to meet with a tutor regularly for challenging courses, not only when you are already struggling.  The same reasoning applies here as with earning those easy points early on in the semester.  Consistently meeting with your tutor helps ensure that you really are grasping the concepts by having a “second line of defense.”  The tutor basically tests you before each and every exam, allowing you to see your strengths and weaknesses to formulate proper study regimens.