I just finished an SAT/ACT tutoring session with a couple of students and I was so excited about how it went that I had to share.  I attended a Method Test Prep training workshop for tutors last night and picked up a bunch of strategies that I was able to apply this morning.  These strategies had a huge impact on how effective the session was; this was my third session with these 2 students and it was by far the most effective. 

The fact that I learned so much at the training session surprised me for a few reasons.  For one thing, I have been tutoring for the SAT and ACT for the last 12 years and have logged about 10,000 hours of tutoring so I didn’t think there was much more for me to learn.  For another thing, I am the president and founder of Method Test Prep so it was strange to feel at some points like the other educators in the room knew more than I did about how to effectively teach.  But it was a great reminder for me about something I have always been passionate about.  Being a great teacher is something you never master; there are always things to learn from other teachers, especially master teachers.  

One point that was driven home to me was the importance of students first quickly reading as much of the SAT or ACT passage as they could in 1 – 1.5 minutes and being able to articulate the main idea.  Teaching the main idea is something English teachers stress from elementary school to high school but I had not been emphasizing enough to SAT and ACT students to quickly articulate the main idea of the passage.  When I focused on this strategy this morning, it made the students more able to eliminate wrong answers and ultimately select the right answer.  The strategy also improved their confidence, even when dealing with the most difficult SAT questions.

A second point that was emphasized at the Method Test Prep training session last night was to spend more time on each math question covered.  This is difficult to do because as SAT or ACT tutors, we often only have 1 hour per week with a student and we feel like we need to cover so much each week.  Unfortunately, this time pressure has led me to try to speed through as many questions as possible sometimes- partly because the students come with so many questions from their homework. 

This morning I focused on eliciting more responses from the students on each math question we covered.  I also forced them to focus on each step of the problem to identify exactly where they were getting stuck. As a result, we only got through 1 math section and 1 reading section.  This was somewhat disappointing to me as the students had completed the 5 sections of homework I had given them so we didn’t have time to go over 3 of those sections.  However, the math instruction that I was able to provide was so much more effective.

Overall, both the students and I felt today’s session was the most productive one we have had so far.  This was directly due to the strategies I was reminded of last night.

Photo by Lower Columbia College.