For our first session, I mostly focused on preliminary information and diagnostic assessments. I brought my GRE preparatory book, and she brought the official ETS guide. First, the student and I talked about what the test itself would look like: I talked her through the format, what was generally covered, and what the test itself looked and felt like. I specifically emphasized the importance of overcoming test anxiety, and how to get over it: the student told me that her text anxiety mostly stems from her anxiety around her math skills, and also encompasses general stress around large standardized tests such as these. Therefore, we agreed that we would devote our time to practicing and reviewing quantitative reasoning knowledge that she hasn't practiced for many years, and also practice test taking strategies. We spoke about what her skills are and what else currently fills her life, and decided that most of our work would be around the quantitative reasoning section and general test taking strategies: her verbal reasoning and writing skills seem to be excellent, as she recreationally reads entire history books and writes long essays on them. We also spoke about her goals for the GRE itself, and decided that she should aim for a stellar writing and verbal score, and a solid quantitative score.
Then, as a diagnostic, I had her attempt to work through ten test questions in the time provided. From this, it became clear where her test anxiety was coming from, and the work we have ahead of us: she struggled with many questions and could only solve a few on her own. What was quite promising is that she was able to work through some problems once I reminded her of a key algebra concept or validated an instinctual reaction she had to some questions. The key for the student's success will be to remember mathematical concepts that she has learned and used before, figure out ways to visualize problems, and build confidence in her mathematical instincts.
As we parted, I left her with some things to get done before our Wednesday meeting. I encouraged her to work through 2 sections each of verbal reasoning and quantitative reasoning from her book, and to mimic test taking conditions as closely as possible (2.5 hours early in the morning, minimal breaks, no eating or drinking) while being as verbose as possible in her answers. This will give her practice in building up her test taking endurance, being exposed to the test, and facing her own test anxiety in safe context. This will also give me very important diagnostic information: I need to know exactly how much math she remembers, where she makes mistakes, and if her verbal reasoning skills need tuning. I also encouraged her, if she felt up to it, to tackle one practice math problem from her book a day, and to flip through her preparatory book and read a few pages.
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