Policies

I work in 90 minute increments on weekdays and on Saturdays. On weekdays, I do sessions at 4:30, 6:00, and 7:30. On Saturdays, I make myself from 9:30-5:00 pm. As we get closer to a popular test date (October and June tend to be popular), I will make myself available on Saturday evenings until 9:30.

My rates as of 2016 are $63 per 1.5 hour session. Rates are subject to increase in August of each year.

In order of priority, this is what I would really like for your child to bring:

  • The belief (or at least a hope) that they will improve regardless of past performance.
  • Openness to some of my techniques that might seem counterintuitive.
  • At a minimum, knowledge of previous scores; ideally, actual test results and a test booklet
  • The EXACT same calculator that they will use on test day.
  • If working on the SAT, The Official SAT Study Guide (2016 Edition), AKA the blue book. Additionally, I am offering my own SAT workbook beginning in July 2018. If working on the ACT, I recommend the The Real ACT Prep Guide, AKA the red ACT book. If they don’t have one of these, I will be offering all three books at a discount starting in July 2018 .
  • Paper, pen/pencil.
  • A spiral notebook that they will dedicate to vocabulary work only.

When I was a junior in high school, I received notification from the College Board that I was in the running for the National Merit Scholarship program based on my performance on the PSAT in October of my junior year. Since my parents had told me from a young age that the onus for paying for college was on me, I knew that this would probably be my best chance at covering some of the costs of college. Therefore, the stakes were very high for me.

The summer before my senior year of high school, I studied a Princeton Review book and the equivalent of the blue book. I took a complete practice exam, graded it, scored it, and went back to see why I missed what I missed. I repeated this process 27 times. I took almost every test in the book three times by the time my senior year was about to start.

It is important to note here, that I did not do this because I am some master of my personal time. Far from it! I have ADHD, and I struggle mightily to finish mundane tasks. Just ask anyone who’s needed me to check my schedule when I get home after 10 pm. So what truly motivated me? MY PARENTS! They were 85% of the impetus required to get me in motion that summer. My parents’ diligence paid dividends, though. From beginning to the end of the summer, I brought my score up about 200 points (from mid-1200 to mid-1400). This in turn earned me National Merit Finalist, a full ride academically to UGA and admission to their honors program, and later, an appointment to the United States Military Academy.

In addition to my work in my high school years I have been tutoring since 2010. I probably average about 400+ hours of tutoring per year. That’s quite a few hours of watching students make many of the same mistakes year after year.

For my students seeking very high test scores, one area that has helped me more than anything has been my own work on my GRE score (for those of you who’ve not had the pleasure of the GRE, it is essentially the SAT to get into graduate school). In essence, I repeated my efforts on the SAT by repeating dozens of practice exams on the GRE until I had what I like to call mental muscle memory on certain processes. Since the GRE is made by the same company that makes the SAT, I have seen literally hundreds of problems that would be considered the hardest questions on the SAT.

Before I answer this question, please make sure you read the answer to “how do I know this stuff” question.

Do I expect that same level of commitment from your student? No, not really. The idea here is that you take advantage of my knowledge. Since I will be pointing out things that work and things that don’t work, we should streamline your student’s preparation. Not only do I try to teach students how to take the test, I also try to show them how to practice. That said, I find that the following process leads to the most success:

  • Your student follows my techniques.
  • Your student practices my methods at home in addition to their actual session. Ideally, this practice takes the form of one session a day. This represents a time commitment of 25 minutes a day.
  • Your student starts a Vocab journal. The goal is to learn five words a day, using my methodology. This should take an additional 10 minutes a day.

I realize it might sound like a cop-out answer, but there is no way of predicting this. I’ve had some students’ scores jump a ton with minimal sessions, and I’ve had others move about 50 points in both subjects. There are simply too many variables to consider answering this question with any level of certainty. For example

  • What is your student better at, the SAT or the ACT? These tests are quite different and take different types of preparation. Are you prepping for both? Then it will take more time.
  • What have they already been taught? For example, if your student is taking the ACT, and they have never had trigonometry, I have to teach them from scratch. It doesn’t take forever, but it does take some time.
  • How well do they remember it? Many of my students take most of the math they need for the SAT by the time they are sophomores. It takes time for some students to brush the cob webs and dust off their memory banks on a subject they have not used in over a year.
  • What was their starting score? If you are starting at a 900 (two score), it goes without saying that it will probably take time to learn what is needed to score a 1200.

To put it bluntly, whoever says that one test is easier than the other for “every student” or “most students” is speaking from ignorance. Both tests are designed so that their scores will be normally distributed (nerd-speak for the tests will follow a bell curve).

Nationally, one test is not easier than the other.

Individually, however, SOME people do noticeably better on one test than the other, when compared by percentiles. Many people score essentially the same percentile score on both tests.

I HIGHLY encourage every student to get a book for each test and take a practice test on both tests. They are very different.

Truth be told, finding your student’s starting point is just that—a starting point. If you truly want to know what your student’s maximum score could be on either the SAT or ACT, your student should prepare for both tests. I say this because sometimes my tips/tricks work better on one test than the other, and this again, bears itself out individually. For example, I may have one student score in the 50th percentile and 55th percentile on the two tests. After working with them, they might improve to 65th percentile and 60th percentile. Other than putting in the work, there is really no way to predict exactly how this will happen for each individual.

If I am working with students with a very short timeline and they do not have time to prepare for both tests, then I will ask you to consider the following:

  • The ACT tests students on more material in a slightly more straightforward manner, but with a massive time crunch. If your student struggles to digest / read a lot of material quickly, this test may prove very difficult.
  • The SAT tests students on less (and at times, easier) material, but with trickier questions. If after practice, your student still cannot “crack the code” of how the SAT asks its questions, the ACT may be a better option.

Short answer, your student is not in a class. Your student is typically receiving one-on-one instruction while another student is working on a problem set. For certain scenarios, I will discuss problem sets at the same time with the two students. This combined instruction, however, is not the norm.

Here’s the long answer. In my first year and a half of tutoring, I used to sit side by side with a student and walk them through problems. I’m quite embarrassed to say that it took me that long to figure out that this is not an efficient way for your student to learn. Much of the learning for both the reading and the math portions (I realize I am simplifying this to apply to both tests) requires students to venture outside their comfort zone and try to figure out the next step—whether it is figuring out the meaning of a sentence logically or doing a multi-step geometry problem. I realized that when I sit at the table, they cannot resist asking for the proverbial “life-line.” Considering how much I enjoy teaching, I cannot resist answering their question. End result…the student does not venture outside his or her comfort zone and never builds the confidence required to take on harder problems. This method of teaching leads very quickly to stagnation of the student’s progress.

I finally started to give assignments that would cover what I just explained, and then walk away for about 15 minutes while they work their way through it. This forces the student to “guess” about the next step in a process. It’s not so much a guess as it is growth!

After about a year of looking at motorcycle magazines while my students do their assignments (yet again, I’m embarrassed to admit that), I had two students that requested that I work with them at the same time because my schedule was completely full. I placed them at two tables close by, and I bounced back and forth, alternating instruction and student practice.

I usually have follow-on questions to this, like why do both kids pay full price when I’m splitting my time. Truth be told, they are getting just as much of me as if they were by themselves. If I have a light schedule or a no-show, I still get up and walk while they work on a problem set. Remember, I cannot resist answering the question, and they will not grow if they get to ask a question every time they hit a bump in the road.

Nine years of age, and if you have not started then it is too late. I kid, I kid!

The College Board used to say that the best way to prepare for the reading portion was a lifetime of reading. I tend to agree with them on this (it is rare, but I occasionally agree with the makers of the SAT). There are ways to play catch up, however, and that is where I come in.

The very best time to start prep in earnest for the SAT is the summer before your junior year. If you do well on the PSAT given in October of your junior year, you may be in the running for the National Merit Scholar program.

If you miss this gate, there is still time to improve enough to earn other scholarships.

I make myself available as much as I can. I always have a huge spike the month before the October test, the January test, and the May test. That said, what is probably the best time for most students to get started is the one time most students don’t want to do any schoolwork—you’ve guessed it—the summer! As I have mentioned before, most students make gains at home. Imagine the gains your student could make if they were not distracted by the simultaneous requirements of school, AP classes / exams, sports, clubs, community service, Young Life, dating, trips, and the occasional TV or video game! If you prep during the summer, you have eliminated a few of these distractions.

The best answer to this question is to look up your target school’s SAT/ACT scores on collegeapps.about.com. On this website, they will list not only the average, but also the 25th and 75th quartiles. Put simply, a score at the 25th of the entering freshmen scored lower than that score; a score at the 75th of the entering freshman scored higher than that score–which means that half of the students have a score somewhere between those two scores. If your student has a test score under the average, they could still get in. I would be more confident, however, of them getting in if their score as at the average or higher.

Bottom line: none of us sit on an admissions board, and choosing enrollees is not an exact science. Get the best scores you can, rather than shooting for the minimum that will get you in. Besides, if you exceed the average, someone just might give you some money for tuition.

I am now requesting people give me a four-hour notice if they cannot make it to a session. My interest here is not taking folks’ money when they cannot show for a valid reason. It is primarily to hold people to the slot for which they ask. Frequently, there are probably two people behind you waiting for your spot.

A valid reason for missing a session is an emergency that you cannot foresee or control (i.e. death in the family, car accident, etc.). If you missed a session for a valid reason then I will refund you in the following manner:

  • Reschedule you to a time that you agree to or
  • Refund your session

If you missed a session for a reason that is within your control or could be foreseen, then I have to charge for that session. I understand that we are all human and goof up on occasion (myself included). If I miss a session for a reason under my control and do not notify you within four hours of the change, then I will owe you for the missed session. I will attempt to reschedule you for a free session; if we can’t work it into your schedule, then I will refund you.

Therefore, if you need to cancel, please do so four hours before the start time. This should give me enough time to try to help other students take your place.