How to Keep SAT and ACT Skills Sharp During the Holidays
As Method Test Prep’s Vice President of Education and tutor, Evan Wessler helps students prepare for the SAT, ACT and develop general positive study habits. He loves working with students in different settings – from individual and group tutoring. In this interview, we covered what it takes to be a great tutor and how students can make the most use of the holiday season.
What is the most rewarding part of tutoring students for the SAT and ACT?
For me, it’s when you see that a student has put in the time to improve because you’ve given them the confidence that’s going to help them improve. A lot of people say when “students get it.” And eventually all students will get something, but for me, it’s really gratifying when you realize that a student understands the merits of hard work and diligence with preparation.
What is the most challenging part?
With tutoring, you have to be prepared to think in many different ways in order to explain one concept. That concept may come intuitively to you as an instructor, but it may not be intuitive at all to a student. You have to see a concept that you might assume is simple, and may have to rework it in three or four or five different ways before a student really starts to get it.
How do you get students involved with the tutoring process?
From the very first meeting, I try to show them something that they don’t know and might not have been able to take advantage of if they just sat down and took a test on their own.
I try to find a certain math or an English technique that they can understand use and recognize on the test. If we can do that within the first hour of tutoring, it can really inspire a student to realize that this isn’t some behemoth that they won’t be able to improve on. The tests are accessible and predictable.
Another way to motivate students in the first session is to show them the breakdown of points for each test. On the SAT, one question correct is equal to 10 points. On the ACT, one question correct is worth 1 or sometimes 2 points. Both tests reward repetition and familiarity. Once students understand this, they are confident that they will see the same thing each time.
What else do you do during the first session to get students into the right mind frame for test prep?
Method Test Prep’s tutors take a couple of different approaches. Typically what I do is use that first session as an exploratory session. With my students we’ll go over a couple of different types of problems in each section and poke around and see what the student is capable of, what they have difficulty with, etc. From that first session we come away with a pretty good idea of where that student stands, and where they are going to need the most help.
What can students do during the coming winter break in order to prepare for the tests in the spring?
The most important piece of advice I can give is to not ignore the PSAT results. The vast majority of students who took the PSAT will be receiving the test at the end of December. Students will get a score sheet with all of the results detailed, and many will ignore it completely or lose it in their locker.
Those scores have valuable information. On the report, you’ll get your scores and also the breakdowns of question types, difficulty levels and more.
If you take a look at the math section and you see that you did pretty well on the math but got slammed in the algebra, you should make it a point to take a look at those questions and really see what you’re struggling with.
You should take a look at the difficulty levels of the questions – they have easy, medium and hard. Focus on the easy and medium questions that you got incorrect on the PSAT, and see if you can go back and understand what you did. For example, you can find more problems like them, whether it’s through buying the official SAT study guide and looking at the practice tests, or going onto the Method Test Prep online SAT test prep, or getting private tutoring.
It’s so important to take advantage of those PSAT results. It’s a very good preview of the real thing. When students forget about it, they are putting themselves at a disadvantage.
Is there anything else students can do to prep in their free time this winter?
Even if you’re not doing “real SAT stuff” – you can at least improve your skills in other ways. Reading helps a lot. Students who read outside of class and read for pleasure often do better on the SAT reading and writing section. Reading really improves based upon itself: if you read more, you’re going to become a better reader – and that can help you on the test pretty significantly. Whether it’s a book, newspaper or reading online, it can help.