The skill and experience of the tutor who’ll be working with your child is more important than the reputation of the company that the tutor works for, as we learned in “How to Choose an SAT Tutor – Part 2”.
Here are some questions that will allow you to gauge what level of skill the prospective tutor actually has in the most important area: How to help a student reach his or her full potential.
4) What are the most important factors in getting the best score possible?
The first is “focus.” Focus is the most important factor in getting the best score possible. When taking the SAT, if a student isn’t paying full attention at every moment, he’ll get questions wrong when he knows how to get them right.
Answers that seem right but are actually wrong are built into every section of the test. A skilled tutor knows this and is always helping his students sharpen their focus. It’s the absolute, number one key at all score levels.
The second factor is motivation or perseverance. As President Obama said in his back to school speech,
“People succeed because they understand that you can’t let your failures define you – you have to let them teach you. You have to let them show you what to do differently next time… If you get a bad grade, that doesn’t mean you’re stupid, it just means you need to spend more time studying. No one’s born being good at things, you become good at things through hard work… You’ve got to practice. It’s the same with your schoolwork. You might have to do a math problem a few times before you get it right, or read something a few times before you understand it, or do a few drafts of a paper before it’s good enough to hand in.”1
Studying for the SAT can be frustrating. It can make a student feel stupid sometimes. The key is to keep working at it.
It sounds obvious, but sometimes that’s what eludes us. If a tutor doesn’t know that motivation and perseverance are the key to massive improvement, he either hasn’t worked with enough students, or he doesn’t know how to help his students address these challenges.
5) What are the 3 keys to keeping a student motivated?
The first is knowing why you want to get your results. When a student is motivated by a strong desire to get into a particular school, she’ll stay motivated to push ahead with studying for the SAT even when it gets tough.
The second key is expecting a positive outcome. If a student gets discouraged and feels like she won’t reach her goal, her motivation to keep studying will weaken. When a student expects to be successful, her motivation will stay strong.
The third key to staying motivated is enjoying the process. It really helps when the tutoring sessions are fun and engaging.
A skilled tutor will impact all of these areas. If a tutor says that motivation is purely the student’s responsibility, find a different tutor.
6) How do you accurately gauge a student’s strengths and weaknesses? How do you gauge her potential score?
A skilled tutor will interactively go through official College Board SAT material with a student and carefully watch how she works. When she struggles, he’ll ask her what she’s thinking and listen carefully to her response. He’ll offer suggestions and see how she responds. He’ll encourage her to ask questions of her own. He’ll be patient and watch how she responds to instruction.
A skilled tutor eliminates the pressure of time and creates a relaxed atmosphere. He knows that going slow is the key to building a student’s confidence. It shows both the tutor and his student what the student really knows and what she doesn’t, what her real level is.
It’s often the case that someone who thinks she’s bad at math, for example, rushes the questions because she’s nervous or insecure. She’ll get more questions wrong this way, of course, and reinforce her belief that she’s bad at it. The same is true for someone who thinks she’s bad at reading.
In order to know a student’s true potential, the tutor has to create the conditions for it to come out.
A skilled tutor knows that every student is different. When a tutor works with a student this way, it takes no more than a few hours to see what her real issues are, identify her strengths and weaknesses, and formulate a plan to help her improve based who she is as an individual.
A tutor who works this way can not only assess his student’s potential score, he can also give her a taste of reaching it, and show her what she needs to get there.
If a tutor tells you the way to do it is with a diagnostic test, walk away. If the he tells you that he plans to give a diagnostic test that’s produced by a test prep company rather an official College Board SAT, run.
The results of a diagnostic test can only show what questions a student got wrong, not why, and it can’t show a student her potential, only her limitations.
A tutor who’s focused on limitations can’t get the most out of his students.
Now it’s time to ask about the two things that are hardest to improve. “How to Choose an SAT Tutor – Part 4”.