Updated: Jul 13, 2022
My students did extraordinarily well this year! Below are the improvements of my students who started working with me between June 2021 and March 2022.
Minimum 9 weeks:
Results Summary: Industry standard for SAT tutoring is about +150 points, and every one of my students outpaced that. Students with me for one season averaged +170 points, and those who were with me for longer averaged +240 points. No matter their starting point, my students were consistent in their improvement. All were successful, generally hitting their scoring targets outright and improving by more than industry standard. I am looking forward to seeing where they are going to go to college, and I'm very proud of them!
My approach of focusing on elevating native reasoning ability is a key reason why my students can reach such heights, and I'm happy that I'm able to work with kids whose motivations, personalities, and native abilities differ.
My short-term results were a mixed bag: two successes and one failure. One of the successes was major -- a large improvement that helped her gain admission to her choice PhD program. The larger lesson is obvious -- come to me early, not at the last minute! We can craft a program that goes at the right rhythm that will help you put your best foot forward for college admissions.
Reflection: I always hesitate to call myself a "tutor" because elite SAT/ACT preparation requires that I be a mixture of a coach, motivator, friend, tutor, guide, and teacher.
One reason I've been so successful is that I manage to connect well with my students and elicit the best from them, even from the few who didn't particularly like me or enjoy the preparation process. Students know that I'm there for them and fight every day to make them better.
I. One thing I have begun to do, and want to do more proactively going forward, is to craft and discuss a holistic plan of action with each student at the very beginning of their program. This gives students a stronger sense of purpose and agency over their work. It is also essential for crafting unique plans tailored to each student and, more importantly, for identifying which test dates a student should sit for. Knowing my students goals and what it is that we are aiming to improve helps us maximize the odds that they will succeed. Blindly sitting for every test date offered and trying to improve before each one is a recipe for stunting potential, minimizing improvement.
I'm currently putting the above into practice with one student. He is starting at a 1250 yet wants to reach 1500, a very tall order that will require major improvements in his baseline reading, grammatical, and mathematical reasoning. Now that I know that that is our overarching goal, we are incorporating a robust grammatical tutorial incorporating an analytical method I learned at Yale for dissecting the grammar of Latin sentences for sight reading, something I don't normally do with students. This tutorial will inevitably add a week or two to our preparation, but it will raise his ceiling on the English section, making it far more likely he will hit his score target.
II. I often get some short-term students in the Fall, particularly seniors who are unsatisfied with their scores and come to me at the last minute. These clients are always stressful to work with, as you want them to succeed, but you feel so pressed for time. Based on my experiences this past year, I believe a better approach going forward will be to work with these students on a narrower range of topics -- perhaps even just focusing on one section -- so that we maximize improvement in a short amount of time.
III. One improvement in my teaching has come from becoming more flexible with my core content program. I'm quicker now to combine Algebra I and II for older students, and to go straight to SAT/ACT problems if a student has basic mastery of a topic. One benefit to going through core content quicker is that it gives more time to drill areas of weakness and focus on areas where I feel a student could really improve their ability and score.
IV. I've noticed that my students, almost ubiquitously, enjoy verbal analogies. There is a big batch of them in a collection of old GRE exams I have, and from time to time we do them as a fun puzzle and mental break. High school kids actually enjoy doing them, and they're a fun way to learn vocabulary and develop nuanced verbal/analogical reasoning.
V. I have a wonderful crop of students this summer, most of whom are the family, friends, and classmates of former students. I'm looking forward to helping these kids become better thinkers and raise their college prospects.