I am an experienced tutor with a focus on coaching people for standardized tests. I graduated from Yale magna cum laude with a degree in philosophy and I've been in Chicago for two years working with the Lawyers' Committee for Civil Rights on voting and democracy issues. I scored well on my standardized tests (LSAT, ACT, AP Tests-5 on eleven different tests) and like helping other people do the same. Those tests are all beatable, and I think they can even be kind of fun once you start to feel yourself mastering them. Plus, it's rewarding to see my students' scores improve, which is almost guaranteed with the right kind of practice.
Education & Certification
Undergraduate Degree: Yale University - Bachelor in Arts, Philosophy
ACT Composite: 34
ACT English: 36
ACT Math: 31
ACT Reading: 36
ACT Science: 31
AP Calculus AB: 5
AP Physics B: 5
AP Physics C: Electricity and Magnetism: 5
AP Physics C: Mechanics: 5
AP English Language: 5
AP US History: 5
AP World History: 5
AP Computer Science A: 5
AP Human Geography: 5
AP Macroeconomics: 5
AP Microeconomics: 5
SAT Subject Test in U.S. History: 710
SAT Subject Test in Physics: 760
SAT Subject Test in Literature: 750
Improv comedy, martial arts, Tarantino and Coen Brothers movies, Greek philosophy
Q & A
How would you help a student stay motivated?
A great way to stay motivated is to feel control over and knowledge of your weaknesses - categorizing and analyzing your weak spots can help you avoid feeling hopeless and can give clear, specific targets for improvement that allow you to celebrate achievements.
If a student has difficulty learning a skill or concept, what would you do?
In the case of standardized tests, there are different phases to working through difficulties. The most important (and often skipped) is to figure out exactly where the difficulty lies by doing lots of practice to zero in on the problem. From there, the way to proceed is to keep trying different methods of approaching it until one of them "sticks" for the student. Mastery is about finding what works for the student, not about doing it "my" way.
How do you help students who are struggling with reading comprehension?
A key on reading comp is to re-orient yourself away from thinking you have to understand every part of the passage and instead to thinking very specifically about what your goals need to be: answering the questions. Focusing on the questions and what you need to answer those takes the pressure of students who are struggling and zeros in on the things they actually need to understand.
What strategies have you found to be most successful when you start to work with a student?
Setting clear, realistic goals and expectations for study time at the start is crucial. Especially with standardized tests, there is a temptation to always aim for the top score. But if that's not actually necessary for your goals, you risk preparing in a way that gets you a worse score than if you set the target that you actually need.
How would you help a student get excited/engaged with a subject that they are struggling in?
There's a vicious cycle with being disengaged: usually, you feel most excited about the material you are good at, so you work at it more and get better at it. Meanwhile, the things you aren't good at aren't fun, so you don't work on them and get worse! A key motivator is to get very clear on what exactly the struggles are (what question types, what time during the test, what subject matter), so that you feel control over your weaknesses and can attack them as manageable obstacles instead of impending doom.
What techniques would you use to be sure that a student understands the material?
Checking for understanding is one of the main parts of a teacher's job. I ask students to explain material back to me and to apply the explanation to new material to make sure that they have their own version of the method (rather than just repeating how I laid it out).
How do you build a student's confidence in a subject?
I think confidence can come from seeing yourself improve: I keep track of how a student is doing at the beginning and regularly check in to show them how they have improved since last time. It's also important to relate new, difficult material to things that the student already feels confident in.
How do you evaluate a student's needs?
In the case of a standardized test, I start with a diagnostic test to get an initial sense of a student's strengths and weaknesses. Then, after each practice test, I help the student categorize exactly where they went wrong and keep an ongoing list of those difficulties to guide future practice.
How do you adapt your tutoring to the student's needs?
Test prep is all about adapting to the student: a main goal of every session I do is to figure out exactly where the student is struggling so that the plan can be constantly tailored. The initial plan should provide structure but always be open to modification.
What types of materials do you typically use during a tutoring session?
To the extent possible, I try to always use actual old test questions from the writers of the official exams. These are the bulk of good tutoring materials. I've also read several 3rd-party strategy guides and make use of the best of those, too.
What is your teaching philosophy?
I think of test prep as similar to coaching someone for a sport - the point is to tune up exactly those muscles that they need and to be continuously adjusting based on what's working and what isn't.
What might you do in a typical first session with a student?
A first session would start by figuring out a student's goals for the test, setting a target score based on that goal, and getting a realistic sense of the amount of time the student can commit to studying. Then, we would review a diagnostic test that would give us a sense of how to set the curriculum for the first phase of the tutoring.
How can you help a student become an independent learner?
One of the key things a tutor can do is give a student the bigger-picture perspective of what mastery of a test looks like. This allows them to do the work on their own by categorizing and studying their weaknesses in a way that will let them set their own practice schedule after I give them a sense of how to do that.