Your baby’s growing up. PSATs, SATs, college…life! Help them rule the world with test tutoring. As of March 2016, the SAT—Scholastic Assessment Test—is changing in subject matter and testing style, so even if you nailed it back in the day, you might not be helpful for your kiddo now. Two top-rated Thumbtack tutors, John Linneball of John Linneball Tutoring serving the San Francisco Bay Area and Carl Schwaber of Carl’s Tutoring, Editing & Writing Services (a Best of Thumbtack 2015 & 2016 winner) in Greater Los Angeles give you insights on who, what, how, when, and why.
Who should consider tutoring?
Pretty much any kid that wants to rock the test.
John shares that some students need help with everything—so if that’s the case, don’t be alarmed. Others, he says, are already prepared but want to be amazing. The most common situation is a student who’s strong in either math or verbal, is often weaker in the other. John cautions that even though your kid is a math whiz, if she took geometry in 8th grade, she might need a brush-up before being tested on the topic four years later her senior year of high school.
Carl asserts that colleges are much more competitive than they were in the past. With the new SAT format, students will also be tested on humanities, history, literature, and science. He says the content is more relatable to the ACT. Carl believes the new format doesn’t delve as deeply into a child’s brain as the previous test, but it does take a skill set to navigate taking the test. Learn more about the new format and grading.
How far in advance does my student need an SAT tutor?
The simple answer is approximately three months prior to each test. But…of course there are exceptions.
Students can take the PSAT (pre-SAT—a temperature gauge for the SATs) as early as sophomore year. Ideally students take it spring of junior year, says Carl, after having worked with a tutor for two to three months. The PSAT gives a sense of where weaknesses are. He recommends students take the test again fall of senior year—having again studied with a tutor two to three months prior. He believes that as students get older, they get wiser. He says the SAT is a snapshot of where they are in life and has a lot to do with critical reasoning. Life experiences impact test scores, so exposure to new ideas, jobs, volunteering, and especially reading all impact outcomes.
John agrees that at least three months out is optimal for test prep. If your kid wants a really elite school, or struggles in certain areas, up to six months might be best. He stresses that vocab is a crucial element, and that’s not something you can learn overnight. It does go back to reading—well-read kids tend to excel in this area. Carl suggests kids read at least 30 minutes each night. He says it doesn’t have to be off a school list, just anything that interests them and gets their minds engaged.
How long are SAT tutoring sessions?
Two hours is the sweet spot, says John. He admits more than that is torture for everyone. He advocates for once a week over three to six months—as opposed to nightly cram sessions one month before the SAT.
Where do students need the most help?
Math is always a doozy. John sees challenges for many students in exponents. He says the test makers are great for creating “facepalm” problems that integrate different types of math, like geometry and algebra. More than having students parrot responses, the college board want to see that students understand the big picture.
Carl shares that much of his job is teaching students how to navigate the pitfalls of the test and have effective strategies for success with the way the questions are framed. Even intelligent kids with great knowledge can underperform if they’re not savvy to the nuances of the SAT.
What happens in-between weekly sessions?
Most tutors keep students engaged throughout the week. John likens it to his own work with a personal fitness trainer. He gets the tools each week at workout, but it’s up to him to eat well and follow the action plan until they meet again. John’s plan for students involves a syllabus and homework, culled from the college board guidebook. He’s all about the theory that practice gets you where you want to go.
Carl also uses the college board guidebook as a tool for practice tests and lots of homework. He bases the students’ weekly homework on where their challenge areas are.
What can hiring a tutor can do for kid?
Above all else, it teaches them strategies for taking a test that can determine which college they attend.
John finds that beyond the more engaging and dynamic experience of working with a human who is expert in the taking the SAT, having a tutor leads to important conversations with the student and parent. He often educates kids and their folks about colleges, scholarship opportunities, timing for taking tests and submitting applications, and strategy for it all.
Carl agrees that tutors play a unique role in addition to readying students for test success. He helps parents and students understand how to advocate for learning they may not be receiving from their teacher or the school. Furthermore, he helps identify where these gaps are, as some kids may not even be aware of what they’re not learning.
Ready to rocket your kid toward success? Sign them up with a tutor today.