"For the first session, we started by talking about what parts of the test they felt most confident and most nervous about, as well as what kinds of questions to expect to see on the exam. Both boys asked to work on the Math section, since the first student really enjoys math and the second student was worried about the level of math on the test. We incorporated some time-savers and ways to simplify the test problems into a review of basic skills like adding and multiplying multiple-digit numbers, using long division, and borrowing for subtraction. Both boys were excited to learn that they could solve a problem for only a couple of digits, rather than the whole answer, and they took turns solving long arithmetic problems for the first (or last) two digits while the other one solved for the entire answer, to see how much time it could save them on the test. We also reviewed how to multiply and add fractions, how to work with percents as fractions or as decimals, and how to think of basic exponents as multiplication problems. the first student expressed some worry, and the second some curiosity, about sample questions in their book that used letters instead of numbers, so we talked a little bit about the basic concept of variables in order to make those questions look less alien to them. Once they realized that, for example, 3x = 18 is just another way to ask how many threes we need to make 18, they felt somewhat reassured. I emphasized that they shouldn't feel pressured to be able to solve algebra problems aimed at students in higher grades, because their scores will only be compared to those of other 5th-grade students taking the test, not those of 6th- or 7th-graders; if they see a question that doesn't look like anything they've learned yet, it might help to remind themselves that there are questions for 7th-graders on the test, too, and that the question they're looking at is probably one of those.
Both boys are bright, personable, and enthusiastic, and they enjoyed both helping each other and showing each other up. I look forward to continuing to work with them."