A List of Frequently Asked Questions (and my answers to them):
Q: How long will it take to increase my score?
A: That depends on a number of factors, including your target score, your academic level, and – perhaps most importantly – how consistently you practice between tutoring sessions. That said, as a general rule, I recommend a minimum of 6 tutoring sessions per section, assuming you’re practicing every day in between for a minimum of 30 minutes.
Q: How long are the tutoring sessions?
A: I always aim for one hour. I don’t like to cut things off in the middle of a question or explanation, so lessons sometimes go over by 5 or 10 minutes. In such cases, I just charge for the hour.
Q: How often will we meet?
A: I’m currently only accepting students who can commit to twice weekly tutoring. I’ve found that students do not practice consistently enough otherwise. My students are generally high achievers, so the problem isn’t laziness. To the contrary, many students are over-scheduled. It’s only natural to set aside prep for the sake of other priorities. However, as much as possible, this temptation must be avoided. In my experience, lack of consistency is the number one reason for sub-optimal gains. The students who achieve the greatest gains are invariably those who make prep a daily priority for 6 to 12 continuous weeks leading up to the exam.
Q: Do you focus on test-taking strategies or the tests’ academic content?
A: My tutoring covers strategy, tactics, and content. The focus varies depending on the section we’re working on and the needs of the particular student. For example, on the ACT English section, the primary “strategy” is to learn to identify question types and to memorize the grammar and rhetoric rules those questions test. In other words, the strat is to learn the content. Other sections, such as science, are more amenable to what we normally think of when we talk about strategy and tactics.
Q: Do you teach time management?
A: Certainly. There are tactics for each section that can help students make best use of their time. However, many tend to focus on speed too much, and too soon. On the ACT and SAT, speed is largely a function of mastery. That is one reason the exams are timed – how fast you can complete the items is a reliable proxy for how fully you’ve mastered the concepts. My approach to test prep reflects that fact. At first, the sole focus is on mastery. Pacing pressure and time tactics are gradually added to the equation as mastery increases.
Q: How do you assess students’ progress?
A: My approach to test prep means the student and I are working together through official test questions for much of each session. When the student misses a question, we stop and analyze the reasons. I document every miss, and the reasons for it, in lesson summaries sent to the student or parent after each lesson. I review past lesson summaries prior to each new lesson, to help me stay on point with the areas that need special attention. If students persistently miss certain question types, I assign supplemental material that addresses that particular area. Additionally – once the student is ready – he or she will begin doing full, timed practice tests (always official). The feedback from those tests are both a measure of progress and a road map for continued improvement.
Q: What materials are required?
1) Official Guide
First and foremost, you’ll need the official guide for the test you’re taking. The official guides are critical resources because they are the only books with official exams – actual SATs or ACTs, published by the College Board or ACT organization. I never work with unofficial tests.
Click here to order the Official SAT Study Guide (Amazon link).
Click here to order the Official ACT Prep Guide (Amazon link).
1) One Three-Hole Punch and two Three-Ring Binders
Binder #1 is for practice tests. Once we move beyond the exams in the official guide, the student will be printing “free standing” exams. It is imperative that these tests be printed. Many students try to cut corners by working from a PDF copy of the exam on a computer monitor or phone screen. This is not acceptable because it does not simulate actual test conditions and because many important tactics require writing on the test paper. Since the tests are 40+ pages, it’s next to impossible to keep them straight unless they’re kept in a three-ring binder.
Binder #2 is for supplemental materials. I give most students supplemental materials, ranging from “cheat sheets”, to grammar worksheets, to reading material. All of this should be printed and kept organized in one place. I suggest that students have everything in a binder, and that the binder be divided according to the sections of their test (ACT: reading, English, science. SAT: reading, writing & language).
To find out more, get in touch! I look forward to helping you achieve your goals!