Sep 21, 2017
Four of the most important things parents should consider when hiring a standardized test tutor.
Fall testing season has officially arrived, and it’s time to talk about preparation. Whether your child is planning to take a test in the coming months or in the spring, they’re probably already feeling the nerves (and you probably are, too!). The pressure to achieve a high score and get into a preferred college can weigh on students, interfering with successful outcomes. One of the most effective ways to alleviate the pressure is to provide support, and hiring a tutor is a great way to do that. How can parents make sure they’re choosing the ideal tutor for their child’s standardized test prep? Here are four important areas to assess before making a decision.
Customization. Effective student outcomes rely on a certain level of customization when working with a tutor. The person you hire should be able to identify your child’s learning style and tailor sessions accordingly. They should also spend enough time with your child to determine areas within the test that need the most improvement and focus on those areas. A tutor who isn’t willing or able to adjust lesson plans and modify sessions to specifically address your child’s needs is probably not the best option. Look for someone who is flexible and well versed in different learning styles.
References. Test prep tutors are some of the most sought-after professionals, so it’s generally not difficult to get references. Find out if your child’s school has recommendations for standardized test tutors. You should also talk to your own personal contacts who have gone through the same process with their children. They will likely be able to provide a good amount of helpful information, positive or negative, about the tutor they worked with. Any tutor you hire should also be willing to give you contact information for past clients who you can contact for references as well.
Experience. While having scored high on the test is certainly essential, it doesn’t mean much if the person hasn’t tutored before. Working with students is a specific skill. They must be able to communicate information, assess strengths and weaknesses, provide feedback, create lesson plans, and much more in order to be a successful tutor. Ensuring your child’s prospective tutor has worked with other students and shown positive outcomes is imperative. Before you hire someone, confirm how extensive their experience is and ask for information about past student results.
Personal Results. This one may seem obvious, but you’ll want to hire a tutor who aced the test themselves. The SAT, ACT, and other standardized tests incorporate questions that are written in a different way than those regularly encountered in the classroom. Scoring high is often dependent on mastery of unique strategies and other factors not taught explicitly in school. This means that even the smartest people can have trouble with these exams, and simply hiring someone who has an advanced degree or is generally intelligent won’t be effective. Ask for the tutor’s results on the exam and ensure they are in the top percentile as this will indicate mastery in the intricacies of the test. It should be noted, however, that the tests have changed significantly over recent years, so it doesn’t always translate perfectly to today’s exams (although it is still a strong indicator).
Once you’ve decided on a tutor, there are a few things to keep in mind throughout the engagement.
Sessions. Hire your tutor with enough time in advance of the exam to reap the benefits of their assistance. This depends on how much help your child needs but, in general, you’ll want to find a tutor at least two months in advance. Schedule consistent, weekly sessions with your child’s tutor.
Expectations. Ensure that your expectations for your child’s score are realistic. While working with a tutor can certainly increase a student’s test score, that improvement is most often around 200 points. Expecting that your child will go from a low score to perfect is not practical.
Practice. Make sure your child continues to study for the exam between sessions. Frequent practice will keep information fresh and help familiarize your child with test strategies. Without practice between sessions, your child won’t score at their potential even if they do understand all the key exam strategies.
Breaks. Finally, it’s important to remember that everyone needs a break. Consistent and frequent preparation is ideal, but too much can cause a student to burn out, which is never ideal. The most successful test days occur when a student walks into the exam well prepared, but also relaxed and clear-headed.
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