Recent Tutoring Session Reviews
"We focused primarily on reading comprehension and math today. I encouraged her to go back to the story for every single question on the reading comp, which did improve her performance. In terms of math, we will do a big primer on Tuesday."
"We spent the entire session reviewing math formulas and topics. We also reviewed previous sections of practice tests."
"This was the first session I had with the student, who is an 8th grader taking the SAT. She purchased the prep book in advance, so I selected a timed practice quantitative section, reading section, and vocabulary and analogy section for her to complete in front of me as a means of gauging her strengths and weaknesses. Her quantitative and readings skills are excellent as she had already prepared for and taken a related exam. Her weakness lies in vocabulary and analogies. We will focus on expanding her vocabulary by making flashcards of unknown words, learning useful prefixes and suffixes, and finding easy ways of deciphering and remembering meanings. Moreover, we will practice detecting more subtle nuances in analogies."
"The student and I began by working on 4 reading comprehension sections. The strategy that I introduced with Reading Comprehension was for him to first read the questions provided for a given passage but NOT the answer choices, and then read the passage itself before going on to select between the answers. I find that reading the answer choices in addition to the questions before reading the passage can not only waste time (because 4 out of 5 of those answers are incorrect so you won't need to be dealing with or understanding them in-depth anyway) but can even trip up even the best test-takers. This is because oftentimes the test makers include overly difficult vocab words, high-level concepts, or puzzling extraneous information in the *wrong* answers to throw kids off the trail of the right one. For instance if the passage is about sea turtles but the student read in one of the wrong answers something about jazz music, he will likely read the text searching for a random musical reference (missing the details that are actually vital in the process) or become flustered when he doesn't find anything to do with jazz. The second strategy I introduced for all sections was that if he can confidently eliminate 2 of the 5 answer choices, he should answer, and not skip, that question. From now on we're only going to skip if he can eliminate 1 or fewer of the answers. Sure enough, out of the 7 questions over the course of our session that he said he would have skipped if this had been the real test, he answered 5 correctly using this strategy with no input from me. Boom! Another 10 percentile points right there at least!! Among the other things we discussed with reading comprehension: -Test-makers are very conservative with the language they use in the correct answer choice so as to eliminate any room for argument or debate that it is, in fact, the right answer. Therefore whenever he sees strong language such as superlatives (best, strongest, tallest), hard and fast comparisons (better than, more significant than, more important than), or other "passionate" language (perfect, without a doubt, almost always), he should be wary. This probably won't be the right answer. -The test is very specific in its instructions that for the verbal, students should choose the BEST answer, not the only answer that could possibly be correct. Therefore he should be prepared to see more than one answer choice that looks like it may work, and deliberate between them from there to determine which is the best. We discussed metrics and strategies for doing so. We had time to take a quick pass at vocab towards the end. With the "choose a synonym" section I imparted the following strategy. The page will have between 10 and 12 questions on it, with the prompt words (the words for which you need to choose a synonym) in all caps. The first thing he'll do when he sees pages like this are look at the prompt words, and circle all of the questions where he's heard of the word before. We will definitely answer all of these. We will look at the ones he didn't circle at the end just in case, but we will likely skip them. My main strategy for the synonym questions is for him to think of where he's heard the prompt word used before, and try to use it in a sentence. Then substitute in each of the possible answer choices for the prompt word in that sentence, and use this to eliminate any that don't make sense. The main point here, however, is that from now on when he studies SSAT vocab, he *won't* use the traditional method with a word on one side of a flashcard and the full definition on the back. This is far more information than he needs for the purposes of this test. We're looking for *one word definitions* or *synonyms*. Overall what you have here is an extremely bright young man who just needs some inside help get into the mindset of the test-makers and unpacking what it is they're trying to glean from his understanding of this material, and what is extraneous. In addition a lot of what I think this tutoring will provide him comes in the way of increased confidence dealing with these kinds of subjective questions: confidence on the level he already has with math. It was a delight meeting him and I look forward to making some real progress together."
"Today we went over the hw and I helped with some problems he could not solve. Then we continued doing reading passages in the prep book. We also went over some of his more recent vocabulary words."
"Very productive session with the student; timed essay for which she had outlined, based on sample prompt, we reviewed and revised for vocabulary options. Timed full reading comprehension practice test. She's managing her time well."
"SSAT Practice Test 3: Section 1 Quantitative 19/25; Section 2 Verbal 28/39; Section 3 Analogies/Vocabulary 53/60; Section 4 Quantitative 22/25."
"We spent the first part of our session focusing on reading comprehension--the student had worked a section since our last session, which had gone relatively well. We went over these passages in detail, making sure that she was looking for tone, for style, and using the clues in each paragraph to decipher the main idea and purpose of the passage. We also discussed how this section doesn't just test ability to read--it also tests a reader's ability to see the underlying structure of a piece of text. After working this for half of the session, we switched to quantitative reasoning section, which she worked perfectly. She did not miss a question and worked under a more limited time constraint. We discussed how she should handle questions that seem to require a lot of work and how to use her reasoning when she is unfamiliar with a concept. She seems to have developed the ability to step back from problems that she feels unsure about and work backwards. She doesn't get flustered in the mathematics, which is great. We ended with a couple of analogies, familiarizing her with the many ways the test-makers may throw curveballs. For next session, she will work a mathematics achievement section. We will review this session and work some more verbal examples in our next session."
"Reviewed the Verbal Section of the SSAT - roots and analogies. Made a good bit of progress as far as going over roots and common relationships found in analogies. Will be able to get a better gauge as time progresses."
"The student was able to take a complete practice test before our session and had already gone over some of the questions he had gotten wrong with his parents. I again stressed how important it is to NOT answer a question if he has zero idea what the answer could be. We spent some time looking over the verbal questions he had gotten wrong, going over any unknown words or misunderstood analogies. For math, we went over the area, circumference, radius and diameter of a circle, and then worked on some harder math problems that he had been having problems with on the test."
"The student asked that we work on some ways to manage the essay within the strict time limit of the exam, so we began our session by talking about how he approaches timed writing tasks and what his biggest concerns are. We also discussed the format of the SSAT writing task, which has changed somewhat from that which the study guides describe; although students now have the option to write a creative piece from a story-starting prompt, he expressed that he would feel more comfortable using the traditional persuasive-essay prompt instead. With that preference in mind, we explored how he might manage his time and structure his planning process in order to lay out a clear thesis and supporting arguments in an organized fashion. We also talked about some of the different criteria by which he could demonstrate his critical thinking skills, such as by anticipating and responding to counter-arguments or by exploring the limitations of the stance he adopts. We brainstormed thesis and example ideas for a several sample essay prompts, and he got a feel for how he might balance concrete, real-world examples (whether from history or from his own experience) and hypothetical or literature-based arguments. Throughout our work on essay preparation, he showed nuanced thinking and familiarity with a broad range of potential source material for his supporting examples; moreover, he was quick to see how certain types of source material -- particularly from history -- could lend itself to a variety of different essay topics. Next, we turned our focus to the reading comprehension section. He expressed some trepidation about fiction-based and poetry passages, so we went over some strategies specific to dealing with those passage types and discussed why some of the approaches that work well for him with prose non-fiction might be ill-suited for poetry in particular. At his request, we followed up our work on the SSAT reading section with some more general work on analyzing poetry for tone, metaphor and allusion. It's been a pleasure to work with the student, who is very bright and personable; I wish him the very best on his exam."
"The student is taking her test very soon! We talked about the pros and cons of her using her last 2 hours for another lesson before the test. Her other option is to use them afterwards, to talk about the exam she's taking in the spring. Her mom will let me know if she wants to use them during the upcoming week. I gave her a final quiz on all the vocabulary she has learned -- it's a lot! She did a generally awesome job. I'm confident that she'll learn the last few words in the next week. Her younger sister has been quizzing her. I declined to give her more words for the next week, advising her to relax just before the test, to focus on getting sleep and doing things that make her feel good - she has already done a good amount of intensive prep work. We spent the remainder of the lesson working on essay time management. We began by coming up with "canned" example sources -- one piece of literature, two episodes in history, one piece of technology, and one world figure (important person) -- all of which are adaptable to almost any essay topic. We explored a range of abstract essay topics, as well as a few more narrow, concrete, practical topics. She practiced using her "canned" examples to outline different abstract topics, and then she wrote a full essay on one narrow, concrete, practical prompt. We went over micro-timing in detail and came up with strategies to deal with some of the things that block efficiency when she's being timed. I advised her to do one more timed, practice essay on her own, because while she wrote a good essay in our lesson (practicing wise time management), I think she will feel more confident and be best prepared if she tries it once on her own before the test. I also recommended that she skim through the math sections of her prep books one more time, to catch things that haven't completely solidified yet. She's a good student though, so I think she will do well!"