Tutor profile: Caleb V.
How can I improve my reading speed on the SAT?
I have three main tips to master the reading section. First, be persistent with your practice. Reading is a skill that has to be actively maintained, so the best way to do that is read quickly and read often. This might not just be practice passages (though those can be helpful too), but I recommend you introduce speed reading into your daily life. Turn on the close captioning on your favorite Netflix shows, or sing along the lyrics to your favorite hip hop and rap songs. Getting used to reading quick dialogue will prove beneficial in cracking the time constraints of the reading section. Second, tackle each passage head-on with what works for you. When I start a new passage, I like to skim over the title, author, first and last sentence of each paragraph and proceeding questions to get an idea of what I should be looking for when I actually read it. This is what works best for me, but you have to find a system that works for you (here's where those practice passages come in). Together, we can solidify that system for you and improve on it as we study. My third tip is to annotate your passages. That's a big word for a simple concept: take notes. As you read, highlight what strikes you as important. Which words stick out? Is there anything you find fascinating or concerning? Working together, you'll be surprised at how comfortable you become at identifying the SAT reading concepts and anticipating the right questions before the test even asks them.
Subject: International Relations
Why do we study theories of international relations?
When we approach a social science like international relations (IR), it is difficult to assign with certainty the variables at play. Just like in hard sciences, scholars would love to be able to say such and such independent variable (like widespread protests or a desire for more arable land) interacted with a consistent dependent variable (like democratically elected representatives or a disputed border) to cause a specific event (like a new bill to be passed or a war to break out). Since international relations often has many variables at play that are constantly interacting with one another, it isn't very easy to isolate which variables cause known outcomes in situations. And because states are dynamic and vast, running experiments to prove scholars' ideas isn't always possible in this field. Instead, theories of international relations offer frameworks, or what we often call paradigms, to learn from historical events and try to apply the relevant lessons learned to new or upcoming events. Most scholars today wouldn't contend a singular theory of international relations exists as true; however, it is important to historically situate the interests, motivations, goals, and outcomes of various actors at different levels of decision-making to examine the consequences of action or inaction. Theories of IR help us uncover these factors and explain a broad array of human and state behavior as they influence a specific event or series of events. The differences between realism, liberalism, rationalism, constructivism and other theories of international relations highlight the many factors at play in the field. The strongest scholars, though, master these theories so that they can create arguments grounded in evidence that appreciates the context and complexity of these factors. Book a session with me to hear my advice on forming IR arguments or unravelling the intricacies of IR theory.
Subject: Comparative Government and Politics
What is civil society, and how do political systems influence, interact with, or respond to it?
Civil society can be described by the network of formal and informal organizations or institutions that exist publicly in a state but are not part of the state apparatus or government itself. These could range from community based organizations (CBOs) to international non-governmental organizations (NGOs) to even tech-enabled applications like Twitter protest groups or hashtags. The form of government that a state possesses can severely restrict or promote civil society's freedom to operate in the country, and there are many reasons, interests and motivations at play to explain how and why. Civil society is often celebrated in free, liberal democratic societies because they can help provide citizens the opportunity to express contentious or diverse viewpoints, participate in government decision-making by directly appealing to legislators, or hold a state accountable by monitoring official actions. But trade-offs exist as well. Even liberally elected, democratic states may choose to restrict civil liberties at times in order to promote different agenda. For example, in an socially (ethnically, religiously, racially) or culturally diverse state, the country may have an interest in restricting civil liberties to limit violence, protect minority participation, maintain public safety, prevent discrimination or hate speech, and ensure civil rights are respected. Authoritarian states may have more malicious reasons to crackdown on civil society though, such as limiting free speech, restricting access to free press, forbidding protest or large gathering or banning opposition movements. This move may help concentrate power in the elite or perpetuate the status quo authoritarian state system in order to maintain control. To hear specific examples of how various states have at times cooperated and crackdown on civil society organizations and why, book a session with me soon!
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