Victoria X (Takoma Park → Blair)

Name: Victoria Xin

Accepted: Montgomery Blair HS and Richard Montgomery HS

 A Review of Dr. Li’s 8th Grade Magnet Prep Course

There are a sizable amount of preparation courses for the Magnet program, all with the aim of getting the student into their chosen Magnet school. There are so many of these courses that it is hard to distinguish the good from the bad. Getting into the Magnet high school programs at both RM and Blair were important goals to me. The Magnet Prep Course for eighth graders at Dr. Li and the Online Writing Course on Dr. Li’s website helped me bring out my potential and conquer the obstacles that hindered my success. The Prep Course aided me in the three categories of writing, english, and math on the Magnet test. The Online Writing Course reformed the way I was able to communicate through language and brought out the ability inside of me. It also made the process of writing my Magnet application essays much easier. The Dr. Li courses are different from others in the sense that they teach the student how to do the problem instead of just teaching the answers to the problem. Because of their teaching style, I was able to pull out the hibernating potential inside of me and find the answers to the questions with the tools I was given.

At the beginning of each class during the prep course, we had a short period of time to write an essay about a certain topic given to us by Dr. Li. This was to be completed in 25 to 30 minutes. When I first started the course, I rushed to gather my thoughts into something resembling an intelligent response. However, it was hard to sort through all the ideas floating around inside my head to pick out the ones I would use as evidence for my essay. In the end, I barely had enough time to write down my last sentence, and absolutely no time for proofreading. After all my hard work, I got a 0 out of 12 on that essay. I got a zero because I forgot to read the directions, and include a literary source.

After seeing that more than half the class had not included a literary source and were rushing to finish, Dr. Thomson, an amazingly hilarious and knowledgeable teacher, demonstrated to us how we should manage our time and organize our thoughts. He taught us how to write an outline at the beginning. He said, and I quote,The function of an outline is to tell oneself what one is going to say or write in which sequence.” This made me remember to include everything that the essay required, and enabled me to quickly sort out my thoughts into coherent and understandable language. After that, I was able to finish my next few essays in a timely manner, and the essays were complete, concise, and organized. By the end of the course, I was getting 11 out of 12s. During the magnet test, I found out that I only had a small space to convey my entire answer. Usually, I love to write long paragraphs explaining the process in detail. However, because of the outline I wrote, I was able to jot down all my ideas into that small amount of space and still retain all the information that I wanted to communicate. The prep course taught me how to write an efficient essay that contained all the necessary details the prompt asked, without the essay being annoyingly long.

Usually, after the writing session, we would move on to the reading and grammar part of the day. One particular type of question I did not excel at was the analogies. I was never able to get any of the more complex ones correct. However, a few classes later, we focused on analogies during the reading and grammar session. Ms. Emily, an insightful and well read teacher, and Dr. Thomson showed us to connect how the two words in the analogy related to each other with a sentence, and substitute the next set of words into that sentence. If the words fit, then they were correct. With this new tool, I was able to solve the more complex analogies. The prep program gave me ways to find the solution that applied for every problem of that type, not just a specific answer for a specific question. Each type of problem had its own way to be solved, and during each session, a new way to solve the problem would be revealed.

Mathematics is often every parents’ worry on the Magnet test. The Magnet test tries to trick the students that were not paying attention with clever questions. The questions given at Dr. Li’s prep were clever. Every class, we were given a sheet with 25 questions on it. They were unlike the straightforward problems a student usually encounters at school. I was not used to these challenging questions that forced me to think in new ways. At the beginning, I was easily fooled by the questions, forgetting to include all the possibilities, and just focusing on the linear pathways I was comfortable with. That resulted in 17 out of 25s on the sheets. However, every time right after we finished the sheet, Dr. Li would come up to the board and ask everybody which questions we needed explaining. I certainly needed a lot of explaining. Dr. Li taught us how to simplify those questions so we would be fast and efficient, as well as careful. A little cancellation there, a little distribution here, and the question would become an easy equation. Dr. Li also taught us how to think about problems. There is always a shortcut that does not involve raw arithmetic, and the prep course showed us how to peel away the layers of complex calculations to show the straightforward question hidden beneath. The prep course focused on teaching us how to simplify the problems and how to avoid making mistakes. These tools could be applied to any question to help the student figure it out. The student just had to know which tools to pick. By the end of the course, I was getting solid 24s out of 25 on the sheets. I knew how to solve the problems now, and how to twist my thoughts around the question to include every aspect of the non-linear process.

Although this is not a part of the Magnet prep course at Dr. Li’s, the online writing course at Dr. Li’s was a huge help to me in writing my Magnet application essays. I had been taking this course online for a few months before it was time to start applying to the Magnet. Over the course of a few months, my writing was drastically changed from the unstructured, overloaded, long piles of fluff they used to be into meaningful, elegantly built, eloquent works. School taught me how to write brief constructed responses and story continuations, but with so many students, the teacher was never able to directly focus on me. The writing and editing process I experienced during the online writing course was an involving and helpful procedure. I was able to get some one-on-one feedback on my writing that profoundly improved it. Dr. Li’s online writing course taught me how to write persuasive and engrossing essays that I am proud of, with the correct structure and techniques that I could have never learned on my own. Many of these skills that I acquired from this writing course were put into effect in my Magnet application, and this course helped me put my best self forward in those application essays.

 Dr. Li’s 8th Grade Online Writing Course

The Dr. Li Magnet 8th Grade Prep Course and the Dr. Li 8th Grade Online Writing Course were both extremely helpful in the two categories of testing and applications, both of which the Magnet really pays attention to. The Prep Course showed me ways of solving different problems in all three testing sections. In the Prep Course, the writing session taught me to create an outline to guide me through the essay. The reading and grammar session taught me strategies for answering analogies, the questions I had been having a hard time with. The math session taught me how to think about and solve problems in a fast and efficient way. The Online Writing Course brought out my true potential in composition that I never knew I had. These tools helped me accomplish my goal of getting into the Blair and RM Magnet by bringing out the dormant skills my school was never able to. I am so thankful to my mom for forcing me to take these classes. They have led me to success, and were one of the major forces that boosted  me towards my goals of the RM and Blair Magnet.