Thank you for reading the first blog entry from Sexton Test Prep & Tutoring L.L.C. I want to discuss how to set up an SAT program that maximizes score improvements.
First of all, here is the program I recommend for a student who wants helps preparing for all three sections of the SAT:
-12 to 15 80-minute meetings
-Meetings occur once weekly, every week
-The program ends the week of the test
-All tutoring is one-on-one
By far, the best predictor of SAT score improvement is the number of tutoring sessions. A significant cutoff occurs around eight sessions. Over the past three years, students who completed nine or more sessions with me saw an average score improvement of 221 points; students who completed eight or fewer meetings – in many cases only three or four – saw an average score improvement of only 114 points. Every student whose score improved by 200 or more points, except for one, completed at least a full twelve-session course.
I get a fair number of calls from parents who only want a few meetings to discuss test-taking strategy. These meetings can yield modest improvements, often in the vicinity of 100 points. The big gains, however, do not come from these programs. If you need more than a modest improvement, a full SAT program is the way to get it.
If you want to cover only one section of the test, fewer meetings may be needed, but the general principle remains the same – more meetings equates to more score gains. I had one student who I met with 12 times for the math section, and that student’s math score alone improved by 130 points. I had another student who I met with for the Critical Reading section 12 times, and that student’s Critical Reading score improved by 150 points. The number of meetings may seem excessive, but the score gains are more than worth it. To put things in perspective, the last student’s 150-point increase moved him from the 49th percentile to almost the 90th percentile in Critical Reading.
Two things to avoid when planning your SAT preparation are inconsistent meeting times, and programs that end prematurely. Meeting consistently, one a week, right up to the test, is crucial. When students go more than a couple weeks between meetings, they forget what they’ve learned, their skills atrophy, and much of the progress is lost. The same thing happens if a student stops tutoring weeks before the actual test.
Finally, tutoring in pairs can work, but only in certain cases. Students whose scores are far apart, even if only in one section, will not work together well. The topics and strategies they will need to learn will be too different. In order for students to work well in pairs, their scores should be relatively close together (i.e. no differences greater than 50 or 60 points) in all three sections of the test.
I hope this information helps guide you through your SAT preparation process. Please come back soon for more blog entries about all things tutoring and test preparation.