3 Puzzles To Wake Your Mind Up

After the long holiday we’ve just had, most students’ brains are still probably fast asleep. Sometimes it’s hard to get our brains back into gear and working productively. In that spirit, today I would like to set you 3 brain teasers to wake up your mind. Have a go at them, share them with your friends and when you think you have the answer, check out our Facebook page for the full solutions.


1. A Startling Puzzle

STARTLING is an interesting 9 letter word. You can remove one letter from the word to leave STARTING, a proper 8 letter word. You can remove one letter from this word to give a proper 7 letter word, and so on until you only have a 1 letter word left. See if you can remove 1 letter each time to find the 7, 6, 5, 4, 3, 2 and 1 letter words. You can remove any letter, but the remaining letters must be left in the same order.



_ _ _ _ _ _ _

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_ _ _ _ _

_ _ _ _

_ _ _

_ _



2. Two Doors

There are two doors in front of you. Behind one, is a man-eating tiger. Behind the other is a pot of gold. In front of each door stands a guard who knows which door leads to tiger and which to the gold, but one of the guards always lies and the other one always tells the truth. You are allowed to ask one guard only one question that can be answered “yes” or “no”, but unfortunately, you do not know which guard is the liar. How do you make sure you open the door with the gold behind it and not the tiger?


3. The Liars’ Club

A valuable painting was stolen from the Liars’ Club, but the police are having a hard time identifying the culprit because every statement made by a member of the Liars’ Club is false. Only four members visited the club on the day that the painting was stolen. This is what they told the police:

  • Chris: None of us took the painting. The painting was here when I left.
  • Shaun: I arrived second. The painting was already gone.
  • Jenny: I was the third to arrive. The painting was here when I arrived.
  • Tom: Whoever stole the painting arrived before me. The painting was already gone.

Who of these four liars stole the painting?

SEALP Exam Packs In Our New Book Store!

Our new online bookstore, Spectrum Learning is now officially open for business! This digital bookstore is a place where you can purchase materials geared towards helping your child prepare for the selective entry accelerated learning program (SEALP or ALP) exam in May and the selective schools exam (for entry into Melbourne High, The Mac.Robertson Girls’ High, Nossal High School and Suzanne Cory High School) in June. We also have many more titles planned for release over the next few months.

All materials available on the site are provided as digital books. This means that as soon as your payment is confirmed (which only takes a few minutes) you’ll be able to download your book and start studying.


To coincide with the launch of our new store, we are also launching our SEALP exam packs. This is one exam pack that many parents have been asking about and we’re happy to have it available for purchase. These exam packs have been specifically designed for the upcoming SEALP and ALP exams. We’re offering two exam packs (a Basic and an Advanced package) at launch. Both provide great value for money. Here is what you receive with each package.

Basic Package – $49 (Can be purchased HERE)

Our basic pack includes:

  • 1 x Numerical Reasoning Exam Sections;
  • 1 x Verbal Reasoning Exam Sections;
  • 1 x Mathematical Reasoning Exam Sections; and
  • 1 x Reading Comprehension Exam Sections.
  • 1 x Writing Prompts
  • Basic Answers

Advanced Package – $149 (Can be purchased HERE)

Our advanced package includes:

  • 3 x Numerical Reasoning Exam Sections;
  • 3 x Verbal Reasoning Exam Sections;
  • 3 x Mathematical Reasoning Exam Sections; and
  • 3 x Reading Comprehension Exam Sections.
  • 3 x Writing Prompts
  • FULLY WORKED answers to all sections (not including the writing prompts).

In total, you receive 3 FULL exams with FULLY WORKED answers.

All packages are delivered as digital books (PDFs) and can be downloaded for immediate use. So what are you waiting for? Come check us out!


5 Items In Every Successful Student’s Arsenal

Here’s a silly question: what makes Batman such a good superhero? He can’t fly, he doesn’t have super strength, he can’t breathe fire, teleport or shoot lasers from his eyes. So, what allows him to fight crime so successfully? The answer is simple: his equipment. Batman always ensures that, whatever challenge he faces, he always has the right tools for the job. Batman knows that you can’t just rely on your own personal skills to complete a difficult task, you need to have the right equipment.


So, what does this have to do with your child’s education? Well, just like Batman, your child can’t possibly face the challenges in front of them without the right tools. Without the necessary equipment, even the brightest student will find school challenging. So check out my list of 5 vital items that every successful student should have in their arsenal…

1. A Diary

How much does it cost?


What does it help you with?

Time Management

How does it do that?

No matter how old your child is, it is never too early for them to learn time management and organisation skills. The ability to keep track of assignments, homework and other responsibilities using a diary or study planner is one of the most valuable skills that they can learn. The human brain is an amazing thing, but it can’t be expected to keep track of every important piece of information!


2. Coloured Pens and Pencils

How much does it cost?


What does it help you with?

Memory, Organising Ideas

How does it do that?

Colour is a truly under-appreciated tool when it comes to memorising and organising information. Students who use a variety of colours when taking notes or revising for a test are far more likely to retain the information they record. This is because our brains are very visual; the more visually unique a passage of writing is, the more likely it is that it will stick in our minds. Colour is also a great tool when it comes to mind mapping and organising ideas, as it allows students to show connections between different pieces of information.


3. A Highlighter 0940826063

How much does it cost?


What does it help you with?

Reading comprehension

How does it do that?

When given a piece of writing, good students read it, but great students engage with it. The more that a student engages with a text, examining the ideas, picking out key words and considering the argument, the deeper their understanding of what they are reading will be. A highlighter is a great tool to improve a student’s reading comprehension skills. Highlighting important passages in a piece of writing is an extremely effective way of immediately increasing a student’s comprehension.


4. A Drink Bottle

How much does it cost?


What does it help you with?

Focus and concentration

How does it do that?

A majority of students don’t drink enough water. This may sound like an insignificant problem, but dehydration is one of the main causes of students feeling unmotivated, unfocused and unsettled at school. A healthy body means a healthy mind, and a healthy mind is an efficient and productive mind. Drink up!


5. A Book

How much does it cost?


What does it help you with?

Almost everything

How does it do that?

There is no underestimating the magical power of reading. Reading increases our vocabulary, understanding of spelling and grammar, general knowledge, comprehension skills, creativity, attention span, ability to empathise with other points of view and our ability to express ourselves effectively. A good student will always, always, always have a book close at hand.


So, how many of these vital items does your child have in their school bag? If not, then now’s the time to get packing. Don’t forget the collapsible jet-skates!

Making The Most Of Your Time

There are 24 hours in a day. 8 of those should be reserved for sleeping. For students, 8 more hours are usually taken up by school, including travelling time. This leaves 8 hours in which students must eat, shower, relax, socialise, exercise, complete their homework and study. Doesn’t sound like a lot of time, does it? A lot of students I speak to feel overwhelmed by the large amount of tasks they have to complete in this time. If they are studying for a test or exam, working on a difficult assignment or simply trying to stay ahead, students can often feel as if time is ticking away too quickly. In worst case scenarios, students sacrifice sleep and leisure time to keep up with their responsibilities. Does this sound like a familiar story? If so, then my 4 tips on how to make the most of your time are sure to get you back on track!


1. Do Small Tasks Everyday

Imagine if, every month, you had to brush your teeth for an entire hour without stopping. Or, imagine if, once a year, you had to take your dog for a 112 kilometre walk. Sounds tough, doesn’t it? It’s much easier to break these tasks down: brush your teeth for 2 minutes every day and take your dog for 2 kilometre walk every week. Often, students forget that they can treat their studies in exactly the same way. Students feel pressured for time when they try to complete a large task, such as writing an essay, all at once. The trick is to break this task down into a number of smaller tasks and, most importantly, do at least one of these tasks every day. Instead of waiting until you have 3 hours free to sit down, plan and write a full essay, take half an hour each day to do a little bit of the job. You will find that the seemingly immense task suddenly becomes much more easy to handle.


2. Have A To Do List

When I am feeling under pressure, I find that it is always a good idea to write a list of things I have to do. Writing a to do list can be intimidating, especially if it is a long list, but it is not meant to overwhelm you. You should use it as a chance to prioritise your tasks, figure out how each task can be broken down into smaller jobs, and how much time you need to spend on each job. The more you can actively take control and plan what it is you need to do, the more chance you have of working efficiently and effectively under a time limit. As the saying goes “measure twice, cut once.”


3. Work In Efficient Blocks

Have you noticed that, after an hour or more of hard study, your brain starts to become a bit useless? This is because the brain, like any other part of your body, gets tired after being used for an extended period of time. Students who continue studying for hours on end, long past the point where their minds are losing focus, are not making the most of their time. While an hour’s worth of work at night is good, an hour’s worth of work at 2 in the morning, when your mind is wandering and you are working inefficiently, is not nearly as valuable as a good night’s sleep. In order to study and work as efficiently as possible, you need to make sure you work in efficient blocks. Study for an hour and then take a break before returning to study. The extra time spent resting and recovering will definitely pay off.


4. Make The Most Of Wasted Time

Spare time can be found in the most unexpected places. Think about your day. Are there any periods of time that you could be using more efficiently? Could you look over your spelling words while you brush your teeth each day? Could you read a chapter of your English book on the way to school? Could you mute the television and do a maths problem during each commercial break? These moments of time, while small, can add up. I’m not suggesting that you need to study every moment of every day; good relaxation time is not wasted time. But if you took all the minutes that you spend staring blankly out the window, playing on your phone and watching ads for vacuum cleaners on TV, you might just find that you get a LOT done.


How do you make the most of your time? Let me know in the comments!

What to do if your child is falling behind?

If your child is falling behind at school, it can often feel as if they are stuck in an impossible situation. While they are struggling to keep up with the rest of the class, the course work keeps getting harder and harder. Fortunately, there are ways of breaking this cycle. Check out our top 5 things to do if your child is falling behind at school.

1. Help Them Master Mathematical Operations

You have to learn to walk before you can run. A lot of students who fall behind at mathematics do so because they have not yet mastered their basic mathematical operations. Skills such as times tables, long division, multi-digit addition, subtraction and multiplication, decimals and fractions provide the foundation of even the most complex mathematical questions. Without a firm grasp of these basic operations, it is unlikely that your child will be able to keep up with the rest of the class. So, if your child is struggling in mathematics, a simple 10 minute revision of basic mathematical operations each night can dramatically increase their chances of keeping up with their class at school.


2. Expand Their Vocabulary

One of the most common traits of students who fall behind in English is that they have a lot of great ideas, but lack the ability to express them. Expressing ourselves through language is one of the most difficult skills that human beings develop, and it is one that students must consistently strive to improve. You can help your child to expand their vocabulary by providing them the opportunity to read widely, and by encouraging them to seek out the meaning of words that they do not understand. If your child asks you what a word means, encourage them to look it up and report back to you. Then, see if they can use it in a sentence. You can also challenge your child to come up with as many synonyms as possible for a particular word. For example, how many words can you think of that mean “big”? Huge, colossal, gigantic, epic, mountainous, grand, significant, enlarged, overgrown, immense, massive, humungous, copious…


3. Improve Their Reading Comprehension

On top of writing, the ability to read and understand texts is another vital skill that every student requires to succeed. Students that lack the ability to engage with texts will often struggle and fall behind in their classes. The good news is, reading comprehension is one of the easiest skills you can practice. All it requires is for you to ask your child questions about what they are reading, watching or playing. While this may annoy your child if you do it formally, it can also be a good way of connecting if you sincerely show interest in what they are enjoying. You may have to do your own research so they you are able to ask relevant questions and understand their answers. Here are some questions that you might ask about your child’s favourite book/movie/TV show/video game…


Who is your favourite character?

Why do you relate to them so much?

What would you do differently if you were in their situation?

What do you think the moral of this story is?

How does this world differ from the real world?

Who is the author/director?

What do you think the author/director has done to make this so enjoyable?

What do you think will happen next?


The more your child thinks about the media that they are coming in contact with, the more natural it will feel when they are asked to answer similar questions about texts they read at school.


4. Help Them Get Organised

Albert Einstein once asked, “If a cluttered desk is a sign of a cluttered mind, of what, then, is an empty desk a sign?” While I’m not sure I agree with his point, I agree that there is an obvious relationship between the state of one’s desk and the state of one’s mind. No matter how intelligent a student might be, they will inevitably struggle with their school work if they cannot keep their diary, study space and school notes organised efficiently. If your child is falling behind at school, it may be worthwhile to dedicate some time to developing a system that they can use to take care of their notes. You can even encourage good habits in a more fun setting, by encouraging your child to develop a system to organise their music, photos or video game collection.


5. Get Help

Quite often, parents don’t get to find out that their child is falling behind at school until parent teacher interviews or, even worse, when the report arrives in the mail. The problem with this is that parents are often given a very limited indication of which areas their child is struggling with and what they can do to help. If you are concerned that your child might be falling behind at school, or you would just like to get a realistic assessment of your child’s strengths, weaknesses and capacity to grow and improve, then why not book in for a free assessment at one of our campuses. We can tell exactly what level your child is at, exactly which areas they find difficult, and exactly what you need to do to get them back on track!

How to Keep Your Brain Active

The brain is like the rest of the body; it needs to be regularly exercised if you want it to be in good shape. Bad memory, mental blanks, inability to concentrate, confusion, stress and lack of focus are some of the inevitable consequences students face when they don’t treat their brain right. If your child is having any of these problems, then check out my top 4 tips on how to keep your brain active!

1. Watch Less TV
Television is not necessarily a bad thing, but it is a very passive form of entertainment. Have you noticed how easy it is to drift off into a mindless stupor while watching the TV? This is because the television is notoriously bad at activating your mind; it does not challenge or engage your brain. Watching more that 1 or 2 hours of television each day has the same effect on your brain as sitting on the couch all day has on your physical fitness; you get lazy and unable to focus on tasks for an extended period of time.

2. Stay Healthy
It’s amazing how often people forget that the brain is part of the body. This means that it needs what every other part of our body needs: good food, water, exercise, rest and fresh air. Students, especially VCE students, often develop unhealthy habits: staying up late, eating badly, not exercising and getting fresh air and drinking too many energy drinks. Not only are these things bad for their bodies, they also affect students’ ability to concentrate and focus. Remember, a healthy brain is a powerful brain.

3. Challenge Your Mind
A runner training for a race will constantly focus on improving their time. Every time they train, they will try to push themselves a little bit further than last time. This is because we can only improve at something if we challenge ourselves. If you want to get the most out of your brain, you need to keep it constantly challenged. There are many ways you can keep your mind challenged: do crossword puzzles, take times tables challenges, write a story, try to memorise shopping lists, try to solve complicated maths problems in your head, learn a new language, learn how to play an instrument, learn all of your friends’ birthdays off by heart. If keep your brain challenged on a regular basis, it will stay sharp for when you need it most.

4. Read Widely
The ability to read well is one of the most valuable skills your brain can develop. Reading improves our language skills, our spelling, our expression, our general knowledge, our comprehension skills and our imagination. Students should try to read as often and as widely as possible. They can read comic books, websites, recipes, novels, poems, plays, blogs, letters, emails, instruction manuals, magazines, brochures, maps and even the fine print on the back of the cereal box. The important thing is that your mind gets used to reading and understanding everything it can.


Why Test Preparation Is Vital

I often get asked by parents whether their child should be doing anything to prepare for an upcoming test. Whatever the test is, whether it is the NAPLAN, VCE exams, a Scholarship exam, a Selective Schools entrance test, or even the weekly spelling test, my answer is always the same:

“Yes, of course.”

In my experience, every test worth sitting is a test worth preparing for. Check out my top 4 reasons why test preparation is vital for every student and for every test. So, what are you waiting for? Go!

1. A Test is Never Pointless

There is no such thing as a pointless test. Even if the results are not directly important to your child’s future, preparing for and sitting a test is a great way to build experience, gain confidence and consolidate knowledge. Preparing for a difficult test, such as the NAPLAN tests or the Scholarship and Selective tests doesn’t just help you succeed on test day, it also teaches students a variety of skills that they can apply in their day-to-day education.

2. Test Taking is a Learned Skill

Every skill takes practice. A professional athlete will train for months or even years before an event, a musician will practice for hours each night before a big performance, so how can you expect your child to perform well on a test without preparation? What’s more, studying hard for a test doesn’t just make you better at taking a test, it also makes you better at studying. A student who conscientiously prepares for every test they take throughout their education is far more likely to have the test-preparation skills required to succeed in VCE.

3. Good Performance Has Many Rewards

This is an obvious one. Performing well on a test can bring amazing rewards. Obviously, high VCE scores can open a range of possibilities for your child’s future; a high score on a Scholarship or Selective Schools test will allow your child to have access to a high quality education at a fraction of the price. Isn’t that worth preparing for? Less dramatically, high scores on the NAPLAN and on regular school tests and exams may boost your child’s confidence, show their teachers their true potential, open access to advanced programs and even determine whether or not your child will get into the high school of their choice. These things are definitely worth studying for.

4. Lots of Other Student are Already Preparing!

If you are thinking about preparing your child for a test, that means that someone else has already started preparing. So, what are you waiting for? Check out our website for more information on preparing for Selective Schools entrance tests, Scholarship exams, VCE exams and the NAPLAN test. You can also check out some sample exams for the Scholarship and Selective test.