Stuart H. Radin - Mathematics Tutor

 


Standardized Test Tutoring Approach

I have developed my own program and philosophy for standardized test tutoring. I use assessments developed by the governing body of each respective test (for example, the College Board for the SAT), to target specific areas of weakness. I then use problem sets which concentrate on those specific areas of weakness to improve the student's skill level in these areas. These problem sets are resources that I have developed and are not available in stores! Instead of wasting a student's time and money by completing practice test after practice test, I focus on the areas where a student needs the most help. I encourage students to periodically complete full practice tests, but I do not push you to pay me to proctor the exam, when a parent or sibling can easily serve as a proctor.

There has been a movement of late among many of the high schools in this area to insist that each student take the PSAT in both their sophomore and junior years. When pressed as to why these schools are doing this, school officials' response tends to be: "That's the way we do things at XYZ High School". As if there is some sort of badge of honor students will earn by taking this test twice! I think that this practice is not only a total waste of time and money, but can also hurt a student with their test taking performance in the long run.

The PSAT serves two purposes: 1) It provides a shorter version of the SAT, so that students can become familiar with the format and content of the SAT, and 2) It qualifies students who are smart enough to earn the status of "National Merit Scholar", and subsequently earn a National Merit Scholarship. The PSAT provides a baseline to gauge where a student's test taking ability lies and to indicate strengths and weaknesses within the various content areas of the test. The results of the PSAT are not shared with anyone but the student, parents, and the appropriate high school officials. Colleges and universities never see the PSAT results and the results never factor into the college admission process, unless..the test score is in the top of 1%. Students who score at this lofty level qualify for a National Merit Scholarship. These scholarships are for the elite of the elite!

I can see no logical reason to take the PSAT twice, unless the student has a reasonable chance to score in the top of 1%. Obviously, most students do not. I question the logic of taking a practice test twice. Why not move on to the SAT, where the results actually count? I also believe that there is a phenomenon I refer to as "test fatigue", where a student can get themselves psychologically ready and motivated only so many times to sit through these tests. And once a student hits the test fatigue tipping point, no amount of study and preparation will increase their scores. So why waste a limited number of opportunities on taking a practice test again? It defies logic.

There are standardized test prep outfits and tutors out there who advocate the instruction of specific test taking "tricks". I believe that developing content knowledge is the primary factor which leads to success with standardized tests. In theory, the "tricks" look good, but they are usually demonstrated in an obvious case, not for ambiguous examples. I feel that a student will waste too much time deciding which "trick" to implement, rather than analyzing the content behind the question. Instead of teaching tricks, I stress improving a student's knowledge of the content. I have developed an extensive list of test taking strategies, to support the mastery of content. These test taking strategies are organized in a handout which I provide to my students.

Recently the SAT has been redesigned to more closely mirror the ACT. Although the two tests are more closely aligned, there are still a number of differences between the content of the two tests and the underlying strategy necessary to reach one's goals on either test. When working with a student for both tests, I highlight the tests' differences.

  Canton, CT

(C) 860-670-4848

(O) 860-352-8915

 

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