The most important skill a tutor must have is helping a student reach his or her full potential.
In “How to Choose an SAT Tutor – Part 3”, we looked at are some questions that can help you figure out how good at this a prospective tutor might be.
Now let’s take a look at how to determine if he knows how to help your son or daughter in the areas where it’s hardest to improve.
7) How do you eliminate careless mistakes in the Math section?
You can think of a careless mistake as one where you knew the right answer, but made some sort of mistake along the way. The issue isn’t carelessness, though, it’s a loss of focus.
When doing a math problem, a student has to do 3 things correctly.
He has to read the problem correctly, meaning he has to know what information the problem is giving him, and what specifically it’s asking him to solve for. Then he has to figure out how to solve it. Finally he has to do a calculation correctly. If he makes a mistake anywhere along the way, he gets the problem wrong.
An unskilled tutor will simply say that careless errors come from rushing and the solution is to slow down. Or he’ll say that nothing can be done about them.
A skilled tutor knows that the way to eliminate careless errors is for the student to take a few seconds after reading the problem and ask himself, “Did I read this correctly?” Then after finishing the problem and before moving on to the next one, take a few seconds and ask, “Did I calculate this correctly?”
When mastered, that’s a silver bullet.
A skilled tutor knows that “careless” errors happen when a student loses focus. He might not describe the steps to correct them exactly as I have here, but should know they’re correctable and have a plan to do it.
8.) What’s the key for a student who wants to improve his score in Critical Reading?
Reading more and studying vocabulary are two important steps a student can take to get a better score on this section of the SAT, but if a tutor gives you this answer, you have to follow up, because it passes all the responsibility to the student.
There are two other keys to improvement that a tutor should know.
A skilled tutor knows that the most important thing to focus on in the reading passages is the main idea of the passage. When a student who’s a pretty good reader has trouble with this section, it’s often because he got stuck on the details and missed the main point.
A skilled tutor also knows that students who do really well on this section use the process of elimination to eliminate the answers that are clearly wrong, then pick the best remaining answer. Unlike in math, where the right answer is clearly right, in the Critical Reading section a student has to look for the best possible answer among the choices given.
Give the tutor extra credit if he tells you that if a student is still unsure of the answer after eliminating those that are clearly wrong, he should pick the one that most closely reflects the main idea of the passage.
The Critical Reading section is the hardest one to improve on. If a tutor doesn’t give you one of these answers, he won’t be able to help your child on this section.
9) What material should you practice with, official College Board SAT material, or proprietary material designed by a test prep company?
A skilled tutor will only use official College Board material. A student has to know exactly what’s going to be on the test. Pattern recognition is extremely important. The only way to do that is to use official material.
It’s fine to use material produced by a third party to remediate a lack of knowledge. If a student is weak in algebra or geometry, is sorely lacking in grammar, or needs additional practice in reading comprehension, a skilled tutor might use additional material to teach and practice the concepts.
However, if a tutor doesn’t use the College Board’s own material for the bulk of his work with your son or daughter, look for a different tutor.
Here’s what happens when a student takes his SAT score to the next level.
He learns that he can do things he didn’t know he could do before.
He sees the improvement in his homework and on his practice tests. He believes that his efforts are paying off and expects to do well. His confidence and self image as a student and a test taker grows, which motivates him to practice even harder. The process builds on itself.
A skilled tutor knows how it works. He knows it’s all about helping his students have an inner shift, the right frame of mind, and a positive attitude. Then the material covered on the test, the problem solving skills, and even the level of focus he needs to do really well become pretty easy to learn.
Use these questions as a guide. They’ll help you find the right tutor for you. When it comes to getting the highest SAT score possible, that makes all the difference.