Tests are hard. Maybe your student gets tripped up by the phrasing of questions, has trouble with timing, or, like for many students, is losing the battle with testing anxiety. No matter their unique situation, finding the right tutor can be just as much of a struggle. Tutoring should be approached like a teeter-totter (remember those playground staples from your own childhood?) with the tutor providing just the right amount of help to balance out the student’s needs. But what should you look for in the beginning, when you know your student needs help but you don’t know where to start? Diving into the search can seem daunting so we’ve come up with six signs to help you know when you’re on the right track.
1. They care about their students
First and foremost, you want to find a tutor who genuinely cares whether or not your child succeeds. In every field, there are going to be those employees who are just punching the clock and trying to do as little as possible as fast as possible. When it comes to tutoring, weeding those people out is the most important first step. A good tutor should recognize that your child is an individual with a unique skill set and specific needs and be able to adapt their lesson plan accordingly. They should be able to establish a trusting relationship in which they can engage and motivate your student. Keep in mind that tutoring doesn’t have to be boring! A tutor with a sense of humor is always an added bonus.
2. They scored in the 99th percentile
Someone who remembers getting a decent score on the SAT when they were in high school is not going to be an effective tutor. Believe it or not, an above average score (let’s say 30 on the ACT or 1350 on the SAT) is still not going to cut it when it comes to test prep tutoring. The right tutor should be able to ace whichever test your student is studying for. This is incredibly important regardless of the student’s own goals for scoring. Even if you are only aiming for a 27, a tutor who had a 99th percentile score on the ACT will be far more effective. Here’s why — scoring in the 99th percentile on either test requires more than just knowing the material. The highest scores only come from knowing things like timing tricks, strategies, and the overall construction of the test. Because the SAT and ACT are testing you not only on your knowledge but your test-taking skills as well, you need a tutor who can provide you with the ins and outs of the test.
3. They use the newest materials
So now you know that you want a tutor who scored 1600 on the SAT, right? Well, if they took that SAT in 2014 their score would actually have been out of 2400. Because the tests are constantly changing, you want to make sure your tutor is up to date on the newest developments. It’s not just scoring that changes either. In March 2016, the SAT made changes to several question types and shifted the focus in some areas as well (for example, more obscure vocabulary words were removed to focus on those that students would be more likely to encounter). A good SAT/ACT tutor will always have the most recent version of the test. It should also be taken from a reputable source, such as College Board.
4. They give timed practice tests
No matter how many tutoring sessions your student goes to, nothing will prepare them for exam day as well as a practice test. The most effective tutor will be able to provide a quality practice test that simulates the real testing environment. This is important for improving timing and overcoming test anxiety. Your student should be able to take as many practice tests as he or she needs to feel confident walking into the exam. Companies or private tutors that do not provide this service on an unlimited basis to clients are simply shortchanging or up-charging you.
5. They provide data-driven reports
Most students are going to struggle on their first practice test. A good tutor will expect this and have the right tools to see exactly where they went wrong. A cumulative practice test score tells you nothing about the student’s strengths or weaknesses and is often not an accurate indicator of how they will score on exam day. Data-driven reports break the test down not only by section but by question as well. To truly help your student, a tutor needs to be able to see how many questions were answered incorrectly AND how many were unanswered altogether. In-depth score reports are also a wonderful tool for determining the success your student will have on the ACT versus the SAT (an important decision to make at the beginning of the test prep process). It is also important to note that these reports should never be used to scam you into paying more for tutoring. A reputable tutor or tutoring company should include them in every package.
6. They know when and where to take the test
When your student is ready to take the official exam, their tutor should be able to provide them with all the information they need for exam day. They should know when the exam days are and how to register. In addition, they should be able to tell you all of the locations where the exam is being held in your area and what your student should bring on exam day. Easy access to this information is a no-brainer and any tutor worth their salt should have the necessary resources to give your student the accurate days, times, and locations of the exam.
The bottom line when looking for a tutor is to find someone with a thorough and up-to-date knowledge of the test your student will be taking. The right tutor will adapt to your student’s individual needs and make them feel comfortable and capable of success. Asking a potential tutor for their own score and whether or not they provide practice tests with data-driven score reports is the smartest way to weed out those tutors who do not have your student’s best interest at heart. Finding the right tutor can be a struggle but a careful search will always yield the most success.
Remember, not only is your score on the line but a boatload of cash too.
By: Emily Sahli, Staff Writer, Curvebreakers