Even good students need help when it comes to studying for standardized tests. In fact, it’s the good students who often run into the most trouble. Good students are used to reading passages thoroughly, multiple times if necessary. They’re used to thinking questions through thoroughly, making certain they understand all facets of a question before answering carefully. Good students check and double-check their work before moving on to the next question. These qualities are liabilities on standardized tests, which often require students to use test-taking tricks to skim passages, circumvent answer choices, and answer timed questions extremely fast.
I worked hard in a prep class for 4 months, so why am I still scoring so poorly?
Even the most hard-working students reach what I call a SCORE PLATEAU after a while. That’s when your score won’t budge, no matter how many extra hours you put in. A good tutor can get you over that plateau. And one-on-one tutoring works better than a class because a class, by definition, is a group of students with competing needs. Some students will be just starting out and need to learn the basics. Others will be quite advanced and want to concentrate only on difficult test questions. Most will be in the middle. That’s why classroom teachers are always told to TEACH TO THE MIDDLE. It’s the only way to reach the most people. But if you take a class that teaches to the middle, you’ll wind up with a test score in the 50th percentile. I’ve had many students who come to one-on-one tutoring after spending a lot of time and money taking a class somewhere else because their score plateaued in the 50th percentile. It’s as far as the class could get them. Other complaints about classes are that the instructor can’t really answer too many questions, is not available outside of class, and is afraid to deviate from “the script.”
What should I look for in a tutor?
Many people who have scored in the 99th percentile on the SAT, GRE and GMAT have set up shop as tutors. When I hire a tutor, I look for high test scores, but more importantly, I look for teaching ability. It won’t do you any good to hire someone with a perfect score who says “Well...it wasn’t that hard for me, so I’m not sure why you’re not getting it.” So when I interview tutors and check their references, I’m looking for people who work well one-on-one with students and are able to impart information in a way students can understand. I hire people who can get at a subject in several different ways, because we have students with learning disabilities, ESL students, and returning students who have been out of school for a while.
Most of our tutors have graduate degrees in their areas of expertise, but more importantly, they have experience teaching standardized tests. There are lots of math and English tutors out there with advanced degrees, but I look for people who can teach the GRE math or SAT verbal. Our tutors are able to teach test-taking tips and tricks along with the subjects they specialize in. Because they specialize in tests rather than subject areas, most of our tutors can teach all parts of the test.
When you look at the long term, a good tutor means a better score on your test. A good score gives you a chance to apply to better schools. Graduating from a better program will give you a better education, but it will also provide a better outlook for your career and your future. What you pay a good tutor is the first installment for the tuition to your first-choice school. You’ll earn it back once you get a great job with your graduate degree.