Students never have enough time. With classes, sports practice, rehearsals, internships, and after school jobs, no high school student wants to take on one more boring and time-consuming obligation by adding test prep to his or her already crazy schedule. And the same goes for parents. With the unending succession of deadlines and hoops to jump through, no parent wants one more occasion for argument or one more extracurricular program to monitor.
But the truth is… preparation is king. Few students can compete in today’s college application arms race without doing some kind of test prep. So the question is this: What’s the most effective but least painful way to prepare for the SAT/ACT? After working with students for the last 18 years, I’ve developed a test prep approach with four main functions:
Build students’ confidence:
To build a student’s confidence, you have to minimize the stress and discouragement that accompanies standardized testing. Often students have some subject they just can’t wrap their minds around. At some point in their academic lives, they told themselves that they couldn’t do math or they were bad at writing. Those limitations become identities they carry into every classroom. “Who am I? Oh, I’m a bad test-taker.” This kind of thinking becomes a self-fulfilling prophecy, causing a problem instead of identifying one. To address this, I expose their doubts and fears and demonstrate that they are much more capable than they think they are. On the surface, I may be helping them prepare for a “pointless” standardized test, but ultimately, my goal is to revise their understanding of their own limitations and multiply their confidence.
Take the pressure off parents:
The high-stakes college application process can be incredibly stressful for the whole family. The best thing I can do to help is take the burden of motivation and planning off parents. To make this possible, I’ve done something pretty radical: I’ve eliminated homework from my test prep program. This means that there’s no need for parents to step in and ensure the homework’s getting done because I assign none [see: No Homework]. Zero. Nada. Zilch. All work is done in session, so as long as the student arrives with a pencil and a calculator, there is nothing to worry about or budget time for.
Teach the material efficiently:
Both energy and time are finite resources in a student’s life, so it’s crucial that test prep be as efficient as possible. Most conventional tutoring programs use a one-size-fits-all curriculum to teach to the test; this requires hours of homework, and long, intense sessions. While this may seem useful—work as hard as you possibly can and you’ll get big results, right?—it can actually be totally counterproductive. Imagine sitting across from someone for hours at a time, as he or she points out everything you’re doing wrong, question after question. Even an adult would be exhausted and discouraged by that routine. Instead, I draw on my nearly two decade’s worth of experience to provide immediate feedback and targeted instruction that addresses the core issues each student is having. Not only does this surgical approach minimize damage to the student’s morale, but I also deliver that feedback in the most efficient way possible: while the questions are still fresh in the student’s mind. After a student finishes a section of a practice test, he or she meets with me to go over the problems they just struggled with. This increases both comprehension and retention, resulting in bigger score gains with less study time.
Help families navigate the standardized testing season:
“Will my son perform better on the SAT or the ACT?” “Is my daughter ready to take the test yet?” “Which Subject Test is best?” Having worked with over 1500 students, I can guide you through the SAT/ACT testing season, advising on when to take which test in order to maximize performance and avoid the disappointing results common with students who take the test before they’re ready. No more missed deadlines. No more guesswork or partially informed advice. Just experienced strategy from someone whose life has revolved around the standardized testing season for the last 18 years.
Over the course of my career, I’ve worked with just about every kind of student: from the overachiever with test anxiety to the smart kid who never tries; from the math wiz who programs in her spare time to the poet with a 504 plan; from the theater techie to the cross-country anchor; from the diligent scholar to the kid who just can’t be bothered. I’ve refined my approach to test prep, in order to address the underlying issues that affect the full range ability levels and personalities. While this learning process has informed how I teach, the most fundamental lesson I’ve learned over the last 18 years is that I genuinely enjoy working with this age range. I’m not their adversary; I’m their ally. And I think that comes through. [See: Testimonials]