Logistics - Is it possible to reserve a spot with you a year or two in advance?
Absolutely. I book my schedule in advance, and it is advisable to schedule with me in advance to ensure a place for your student. Simply send me an email and I'll put your student on my list.
Preparation - Should a middle schooler be preparing for the SAT or ACT?
As the old saying goes, "the early bird gets the worm”. And while I understand parents’ desire to get ahead, this unfortunately does not apply to SAT prep. The SAT tests for knowledge that is taught up to and during the 10th and 11th grades. This means that any SAT training done by a middle schooler (and 9th/10th grader, for that matter) would likely be demotivating and be a bad experience. Like learning to drive a car, SAT prep is best done at the appropriate age and maturity level.
Preparation - Should my 9th or 10th grader prepare for the PSAT?
The PSAT is inconsequential for 10th graders - please treat it purely as a practice test (hence the name "PSAT"). For all students, the 10th grade PSAT is a great way to get a first exposure to standardized testing, hence no prep is needed or advised. The only students for whom the PSAT does matter are 11th graders.
If a 10th grade student achieves a 200 or above on the "NMSC Selection Index", they have a good chance at qualifying for the National Merit Scholarships once they take the PSAT in 11th grade. The reward may be substantial, including scholarship money through the National Merit scholarships. I will accept rising juniors who scored sufficiently high on their 10th grade PSAT (without prep) as students during the summer months to prepare them for the PSAT in 11th grade.
Preparation - What teaching & practise material do you use? Do I need to buy any books?
For SAT & ACT test prep, we only use official past test sections. We will provide photocopies of these practise sets - students are only expected to bring a notebook, calculator, and pen/pencil.
Third-party publishers (which we won't name) can only hope to approximate the style of the test, while official past tests are the real thing. Why spend valuable study time on a mock-up when students could be practising with the real deal?
For math / chem / physics tutoring, the student is expected to bring classroom materials, as well as their textbook to sessions.
Scores - What is superscoring, and how does it work?
When a college “superscores” test scores, they take the best section score from all the submitted test scores. This means that students will be judged on their peak performance on each section, which is in the best interest of your student.
Using the SAT just as an example, suppose that on the first SAT, a student gets 630/580 on verbal/math. Then on the second attempt, they score 610/670 on verbal/math. After the superscore, the student would be judged on a combined score of 630/670 on verbal/math for admission purposes.
Scores - Which is more important, a high GPA or good test scores?
As a rule of thumb, admissions decisions are 50% GPA, 25% test scores, and 25% college essay & extracurriculars. Using this rule of thumb, GPA has twice the weight that test scores have. This means that maintaining a high GPA through keeping grades up consistently is a higher priority than grinding for test scores. If a student encounters a hiccup with their grades, they should seek guidance immediately to get back on the right track.
Provided that SAT/ACT test prep began relatively early on, there will be second and third chances on the SAT or ACT. But this is not the case with classroom grades; often, a bad school test grade is a done deal and permanently detracts from the student's GPA. Hence, if time is on a student's side, standardized test prep should be a lower priority than maintaining grades at school.
Scores - Can students get detailed feedback on their SAT or ACT tests?
Yes they can, but only on certain test dates. The SAT calls this feedback the "Question & Answer Service", or QAS, and the ACT calls this feedback the "Test Information Release", or TIR. The feedback costs $18-20, and is very valuable for the detail they convey: students can see the test questions, the answer key, and most importantly, their responses.
The SAT's QAS is available for the October, March, and May tests. The ACT's TIR is available for the December, April, and June tests. I generally plan a student's test-taking schedule in a way that leverages one of these test dates, so that the feedback can guide the final round of test prep for the final planned test date.
Subject Tests - What are they? Which students take them?
Subject tests allow students to show particular strength in a single subject. As a rule of thumb, colleges whose average SAT score is 1350 or above, or whose average ACT score is 29 or above begin to recommend or require subject tests.
Subject tests are score-choice, meaning that applicants can decide which scores to send - poor subject test scores need not be reported. This means that they are bets with no down-side: a good score (above 700) is good for an applicant, while lower scores do not need to factor in the decision.
Subject Tests - How should my student pick which one to take?
The more of these following questions that can be answered with a "yes", the more suitable the subject test will be.
1. Does the student enjoy the subject? The more the student enjoys the subject, the more likely they will be to absorb information and knowledge beyond that which is needed to pass or do well in the class. These tidbits are often the key to picking up extra points on a subject test.
2. Is the student taking a class that provides adequate preparation for the test? In general, the AP level class provides the best preparation. As a rule of thumb, students who earn at least a B- in an AP level class have a fighting chance of earning a 700+ score on the subject test. The main exception to this rule is Math Level 2, for which an A in Honors Precalculus is sufficient.
3. Is the subject test relevant to the student's prospective major? A STEM applicant should prefer STEM subject tests, while a humanities applicant should prefer humanities & languages subject tests. Business school applicants have more flexibility regarding subject choices.
Subject Tests - Which ones are the most popular?
The most commonly taken subject tests are Math Level 2, Biology, Chemistry, US History, and World History. (Math Level 1 is not recommended as its scores are less-well regarded than those of Math Level 2)
This is because the corresponding courses are usually taken in 11th grade. Honors/Accelerated Precalculus is a good preparation for Math Level 2. AP Biology, Chemistry, World History, and US History are excellent preparation for their respective tests.
The least accessible subject tests are the Physics, foreign language, and Literature. This is because the corresponding AP classes that would prepare students for them are generally taken during 12th grade.
Logistics - How do scheduling & payments work? Do you sell session packages?
The vast majority of my clients are scheduled on a weekly basis - one session a week, 1 hr each. This has proven to be about the right amount of time for 95% of my students in the past - the right amount of new material & homework is kept manageable.
Logistics - Do you travel to students' homes to conduct sessions there?
No, I do not any longer. Travelling reduces the amount of daily working time I have. Additionally, all my teaching supplies and equipment are not portable!