The Ides of March (Madness): Shakespeare’s Sweet Sixteen

March Madness is in the air, and you know what that means: it’s time to get your brackets in order. Last year, you voted, and To Kill a Mockingbird won the literary bracket. This year, Shmoop’s bracket is all Shakespeare all the time.

Vote for your favorite Shakespeare plays below, and alloweth the best sir to winneth! Or something.

Check back in next week to see who advanced to the next round.

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The Top 10 Most Popular College Majors

Happy Daylight Saving Time!

We waited all winter for the clocks to jump ahead, and now that we’re finally there, we find ourselves waiting for a bunch of other things: namely, springtime, test scores (anyone SATing on Saturday?), and college decisions.

But you know what? It’s all out of our hands now. We’ve prayed to Punxsutawney (that clearly backfired), studied our hearts out for those standardized tests, and had more stressed-out, binge-eating-ice-cream nights than we care to admit.

If, while you wait around, you get the creeping feeling that you’ve lost all semblance of control in your life, we’ve got just the solution: pick a major. Sure, you probably don’t have to declare till sophomore year—and we’re all for going into college with an open mind—but an early start can’t hurt.

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If you haven’t had your dream job picked out since you were seven (yeah, we’re still working on that astronaut career), we’re here to help. Below is our list of most popular majors, each with a Shmoop Online Course to get you on track before the first day of class.

Top 10 Most Popular College Majors*


1. Psychology

The only major that grows when people are shrinking. See: Psychology of Influence for a slice or Psychology, Semester A for the bigger picture.


2. Biology

Perfect for cell-centered people. See: Biology, Semester A.


3. Business

The major where your business is everyone’s business. See: Financial Literacy.


4. Computer Science

We’re not scary computer hacker nerds, we promise. (And there’s no prior experience necessary thanks to our Digital Literacy course.)


5. Health Sciences

For those who have a healthy obsession with health. See: Body Image and Eating Disorders.


6. English

Book-lovers and grammar queens unite. See: Contemporary Literature…or the zillion other English courses we have.


7. Political Science

The major where students play president. See: Social Contract Theory or Politics and the Media, depending on how old-school or new-school you want to get.


8. Engineering

We hate to break it to you, but if you’re going to be an engineer, you’ll need math. See:Algebra I, Semester A. (Before you get to studying, narrow it down to which type of engineering you’re interested in: Aerospace, Biomedical, Chemical, Civil, Electrical,Environmental, Mechanical…whatever floats your boat.)


9. Criminology

You have the right to remain silent…but that’s no fun. See: Cyberbullying.


10. Economics

Our econ resources put the “cent” in “incentive.” See: Poverty in America.

Nothing jumping out at you? Don’t sweat it. We’ve got loads more majors for you to consider, each with stats on college life, jobs for the major, and long-term prospects.

Hope the wait is worth it,

Team Shmoop

Quote of the Week

“Now I sometimes fear
coming to the edge of the Forest
and looking past the fence.”

~ The Forest of Hands and Teeth

The least popular major on Shmoop? Forestry. Yeah, puppetry knocked it out of the water. Honestly, we’re not sure what’s scarier: forests or puppets.

*List generated based on most the visited pages on Shmoop.com.

Shmoop Releases Smarter Balanced California Product Aligned to the California State University Early Assessment Program (EAP)

Shmoop offers Smarter Balanced preparation for Grades 8 and 11 and has recently expanded to provide specific material for SBAC California, including alignment to the CSU EAP.

Mountain View, California (PRWEB) March 05, 2015SBAC

“Common Core” and “Smarter Balanced” may sound like an ab workout and a low-fat butter substitute, but in reality, they’re more about working out your brain than your body. (Although deciphering the Common Core Standards might actually burn some calories, too.)

Shmoop’s guides to the Smarter Balanced Assessment Consortium (SBAC)—for both 8th grade and 11th grade—will help students decipher fuzzy assessment-ese and ace those newfangled technology-enhanced items, including drag and drop, hot spot, graphic response, and equation response…not to mention more types of multiple-choice than you can shake a stick at. The guides also include CCSS- and SBAC-aligned diagnostic assessments, practice items, and performance tasks for ELA/literacy and Mathematics to help test-takers get into fighting shape for this year’s exam.

Recently, Shmoop expanded their offerings to provide California with state-specific SBAC goodies. Smarter Balanced California is aligned to the California State University Early Assessment Program (EAP) and explains the stakes of the Grade 11 SBAC assessment in terms of readiness and remediation strategies for senior year. Every assessment in Shmoop’s SBAC CA prep also features a “What Your Score Means” breakdown based on SBAC achievement levels and provides recommended Shmoop products for each level. For instance, a student who is designated “conditionally ready” in ELA will be recommended the Shmoop test prep guide and crash course for the SAT® exam with a blurb that specifies the cut score for readiness. A student who does not demonstrate readiness in math, on the other hand, will be recommended Shmoop’s Algebra II, Geometry, and Algebra I courses and learning guides. And maybe a calculator.

Educators can use the tool to help students prepare for the Grade 11 SBAC assessment, identify Shmoop resources that provide appropriate intervention and remediation in the senior year of high school, demonstrate CSU and California community college readiness, and avoid costly and time-consuming remediation options at the college level. All that plus another acronym to add to the academic mix—not too shabby.

This spring, Shmoop will also be releasing test prep for the Partnership for Assessment of Readiness for College and Careers (PARCC). Discounts are available for schools and districts; contact sales(at)shmoop(dot)com for more information.

About Shmoop

Shmoop is a digital curriculum and test prep company that makes fun, rigorous learning and teaching resources. Shmoop content is written by experts and teachers, who collaborate to create high-quality and engaging materials for teachers and students. Shmoop Courses, Test Prep, Teaching Guides, and Learning Guides balance a teen-friendly, approachable style with academically rigorous concepts. Shmoop sees 10 million unique visitors a month on its site and offers more than 7,000 titles across the Web, iPhone, Android devices, iPad, Kindle, Nook, and Sony Reader. The company has been honored twice by the Webby Awards, named “Best in Tech” twice by Scholastic Administrator, and awarded Annual Education Software Review Awards (EDDIES) three years in a row. Launched in 2008, Shmoop is headquartered in a labradoodle-patrolled office in Mountain View, California.

SAT is a registered trademark of the College Board, which was not involved in the production of, and does not endorse, this product.

A Fun Way to Give Your College Apps a Boost

Hi, Shmoopers!

If you’re getting a little antsy after being stuck at home for all these snow days (seriously, is it springtime yet?), we’ve got two words for you: book club. When else will you get to sit around with your friends judging something indiscriminately…and have it look good on your college apps?

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Not sure how to get a book club going? Here are four easy steps:

1. Tell your friends.

Who wouldn’t want another excuse to hang out? Bonus: you can book club digitally or in person. Oh, and if you don’t have any friends (or at least none who like to read), take the opportunity to do a solo book club with Shmoop’s free Bestsellers course.

2. Pick a meeting time and place.

Yes, the Internet counts as a place. If you want to make it an in-person happening, just be sure you pick a place with a heater. We don’t want any The Giver-style endings here.

3. Choose your first book.

This part is the best. Come up with a list of possibilities, and have everyone vote on which book to start with. Here are a few of our favorite books to chat about:
Yeah, we have eclectic tastes.

4. Make it your own.

As a group, decide how you want it to go down. Who will lead the discussion each week? Should you pre-circulate questions or just go with the flow? Will there be snacks? (Hint: Yes.There will always be snacks.)

Have a favorite book club book? Tell us about it on Facebook or Twitter with the hashtag #ShmoopBookClub!

Happy reading!

Team Shmoop

Quote of the Week

“Be the prettiest book I ever seen.
The cover is pale blue, color a the sky.
And a big white bird—a peace dove—
spreads its wings from end to end.”

~ The Help

We bet Aibileen would join our book club. Just saying.

Shmoop Offers Thousands of Educational Videos that Pack an Emotional Punch

Shmoop adds hundreds of new videos, illustrating educational concepts and helping students relate school material to their own lives.

Little known fact: while video was killing the radio star, it was also busy reinvigorating the classroom.

Videos used to be the crutch of substitute teachers everywhere, but now they’re a crucial part of any curriculum. And while most educational videos fall under the genre of “Deathly Boring,” the videos from Shmoop University (http://www.shmoop.com), a digital publisher that aims to take the friction out of learning, are found in the heart of the “Comedy” section.

Shmoop’s catalog of thousands of videos can be accessed via their video library, ShmoopTube, and are also embedded throughout their site—in Learning Guides, Test Prep, Online Courses, and Teacher Resources—to help visual and auditory learners stay apace in the text-heavy Internet world. The videos cover topics from literature and history to science, math, grammar, and computer science; and even the video titles, like “How to Use a Freakin’ Comma,” scream Shmoop.

“Think Monthy Python meets your wacky 9th-grade English teacher,” says David Siminoff, founder and Chief Creative Officer of Shmoop. “Shmoop videos give students the information they need in a way that helps them retain it, by grabbing them on an emotional level. Shmoop videos are more Cohen Academy than Khan Academy.”

Other educational videos on the market are majorly snooze-inducing. But after watching Shmoop videos, students will still be able to operate heavy machinery…not that they should.

7 Things You Didn’t Know About Harper Lee

Hey, Scouts—er…Shmoopers,

By now you’ve heard that a sequel to To Kill a Mockingbird, called Go Set a Watchman, will be hitting shelves—and Shmoop—this summer. In honor of the news, we put together a list of little-known facts about our back-in-action author.

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1. She’s still alive.

You’d be surprised how many people didn’t realize that until yesterday. Lee will be publishing her second book in July at the age of 89.

2. She’s more popular than Moses.

In 2006, members of the British Museum, Libraries and Archives Council voted To Kill A Mockingbird the number one book that every adult should read before they die. The Bible was number two (source).

3. Harper is actually her middle name.

Her first name, Nelle, is her grandmother Ellen’s name spelled backward (source). Notice how similar her signature is to Shmoop’s…just saying.

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4. She rubbed elbows with the rich and famous…in kindergarten.

When Lee was in kindergarten, she befriended an eccentric young boy named Truman Streckfus Persons. You might know him as Truman Capote—or Dill.

5. Even she had writer’s block.

At one point, Lee grew so frustrated with the writing process she opened the window of her New York apartment and hurled the entire TKAM manuscript into the snow. Clearly, she got it back.

6. She studied law.

Lucky for us, she quit—but not too early to get some good deets for the courtroom scenein To Kill a Mockingbird.

7. She wrote more than one book.

The manuscript for the TKAM sequel was rediscovered last year, and after some hesitation, Lee agreed to publish it. We hear Peter Jackson is directing the movie adaptation, so get ready for Go Set a Watchman Parts 1-3.

If that’s not enough Lee for you, here’s a boatload of Shmoopy goodness on the author and her—till now—one-hit wonder.
Anxiously awaiting July,
Team Shmoop

Quote of the Week

“…when you and Jem are grown,
maybe you’ll look back on this
with some compassion
and some feeling that I didn’t let you down.”

~ To Kill a Mockingbird

We hope Atticus’s words of wisdom are still around in the sequel.

[No mockingbirds were harmed in the making of this newsletter.]

As GED Pass Rates Plummet, Shmoop Provides an Affordable Solution

The number of people who passed the new GED® test in 2014 was dramatically lower than it has been in the past, but Shmoop strives to help improve pass rates.

Shmoop GED

Americans have been taking the GED since 1942, and the test has undergone a whopping five makeovers since then. The most recent version was introduced in 2014 and said hello to the 21st century by making the test completely computer-based, but it also came with a nearly 90% drop in the number of people who passed the test. According to NPR, 540,535 test-takers passed the GED in 2013, while only 58,524 passed in 2014 (note: this number doesn’t account for incarcerated test-takers or people taking alternative tests).

Shmoop, an online test prep provider that aims to make learning fun, put its math elves to work and came up with the following conclusion about those numbers: not good.

Why the decline? First, although the exact cost depends on the state, the new test is more expensive to take. Second, the computer-based exam may be less accessible to some test-takers. (Sorry, No. 2 pencils. It was nice while it lasted.) Finally, the fact that the new test is aligned to the Common Core and includes technology-enhanced items means that it’s just flat-out harder.

Shmoop offers a comprehensive, engaging, and totally updated guide to the new GED that features in-depth topic review for Reasoning Through Language Arts, Mathematics, Social Studies, and Science. Shmoop’s product also includes diagnostic exams, two full-length practice exams, and practice questions galore that include video answer explanations for visual learners. To top it off, technology-enhanced items allow test-takers to become familiar with those newfangled drag-and-drop and drop-down questions. And, to be sure that the material is accessible to everyone, Shmoop offers review in Spanish as well.

It won’t be easy to bounce back from the dramatic drop in pass rates, but Shmoop is optimistic that its accessible and engaging materials can help lead the way.

About Shmoop

Shmoop is a digital curriculum and test prep company that makes fun, rigorous learning and teaching resources. Shmoop content is written by experts and teachers, who collaborate to create high-quality and engaging materials for teachers and students. Shmoop Courses, Test Prep, Teaching Guides, and Learning Guides balance a teen-friendly, approachable style with academically rigorous concepts. Shmoop sees 10 million unique visitors a month on its site and offers more than 7,000 titles across the Web, iPhone, Android devices, iPad, Kindle, Nook, and Sony Reader. The company has been honored twice by the Webby Awards, named “Best in Tech” twice by Scholastic Administrator, and awarded Annual Education Software Review Awards (EDDIES) three years in a row. Launched in 2008, Shmoop is headquartered in a labradoodle-patrolled office in Mountain View, California.

GED® is a registered trademark of the American Council on Education (ACE) and administered exclusively by GED Testing Service LLC under license. This material is not endorsed or approved by ACE or GED Testing Service.