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How to Make the Most of Your Test Prep Experience
Monday, November 3, 2014

by Kristen R., Tutor Tango Test Prep Expert Test Prep

Standardized test prep tutoring can make a tremendous difference in your SAT and ACT test scores. In the 7 years I've been tutoring high school students for these important tests, I've helped them fill in knowledge gaps, incorporate test-taking strategies, and build confidence for test day. But once- or twice-a-week tutoring sessions alone will not maximize your test performance. Homework assignments, from vocab and grammar drills to practice test sections to math problems, are just as important as session time with your tutor. 

So how do you get the most out of your test prep homework?

1)  Actually do your homework – every day!

So many students view their test prep homework as optional or “extra practice,” when in fact it’s essential for success. To do your best on test day, you must be disciplined about your homework every day. Set aside 30 minutes a day for your test prep homework and tackle it in a quiet space at a table or desk (not on the couch!). Setting a timer can help motivate you to give that homework all you’ve got for the required 30 minutes.

2) Be an advocate for your own learning.

As a tutor, I want my students to know their material backwards and forwards. So I not only instruct and guide, but I also question and poke and prod to make sure that the student’s comprehension is complete. I’ve found that the students that see the greatest improvement in their test scores also play an active role in their own learning. They take notes during sessions, review the notes (in addition to completing homework!), and revisit questions they’ve gotten wrong. But perhaps most importantly these students take note of homework questions they struggle with, even if they ultimately get them right, and then ask to review them during the next session. This extra effort not only provides a great starting point for sessions, but also gives the tutor insight into what a student is struggling with.

3) Ask for help.

A passive student is just along for the ride during the tutoring process. An active student engages with every part of the tutoring process and, most importantly, speaks up when he or she needs help, whether it’s another explanation, more practice, or some encouragement. Be an active student! Assess your homework performance, and tell you tutor you need more help with those algebra word problems or subject-verb agreement or reading comprehension. Your tutor can best help you when you ask for it.

Successful students follow these rules to ensure they’ll do their best on the ACTs and SATs, but don’t forget, these principles apply to schoolwork, too.