I am a lifelong learner with an academic background in language and literature, and, before that, in mathematics. I pride myself on having strong problem-solving skills, a can-do attitude, and the ability to share what I know with others.
Beyond being just a good test-taker, a tutor must also be able to articulate robust reasons for favoring a specific approach to finding the answer or solution to a problem. A good instructor can make these reasons intelligible and abstract from them lessons that students can then apply independently. Since there are usually at least two ways of finding the right answer to a multiple-choice problem, it is important to be able to provide in-depth, theoretical solutions for those who want to go into the nitty-gritty, but also to solve problems using surface strategies for excluding wrong answers — for students who, for instance, are more interested in ‘surviving’ the quantitative section rather than ‘acing’ it. Different students are likely to want different outcomes from their tests, and these goals and expectations should be determined in advance.
As a tutor, I want to share my passion for problem-solving with others and foster an open, positive attitude about standardized tests. Attitude is very important — a student who is open and confident about being able to solve the problem, even if not initially exactly sure how, might be closer to the right answer than one who actually knows how, but who has to first overcome a threshold of intimidation before being able to start thinking about the question itself. Part of the tutor’s job is to make the tests less daunting and more approachable. I will give students not just the information they need to solve a problem, but also the confidence that they can dependably answer others like it in the future. Minimizing students’ bafflement in encounters with math or complicated verbal reasoning questions, and replacing it with a spirit of ‘you got this’ is part of a successful tutoring experience.
I see no better tool for intellectual exploration than guided conversation. Learning is best framed as dialogue, not as a one way-communication. A conversation can help students identify their strengths and weaknesses, and find out how to direct their efforts to improve. Self-knowledge equates with self-reliance, and a proficient test-taker is ultimately an independent thinker who can recognize the applicability of strategies that she has learned beforehand, and apply them without needing input or confirmation from a tutor.
Like the teachers who have inspired me to internalize the critical mindset and quick response needed to become a proficient test-taker, I am confident that I have a good body of knowledge to impart, and welcome the opportunity to provide others with the kind of guidance which I myself have benefitted from.
Education & Certification
Undergraduate Degree: University of Bucharest - Bachelors, Comparative Literature
Graduate Degree: University of Chicago - Masters, Comparative Literature
GRE Quantitative: 770
GRE Verbal: 720
Playing guitar, reading, creative writing, listening to podcasts, playing chess
High School English
Q & A
What is your teaching philosophy?
Dialogue is the best way to keep a learner engaged. To help a student participate by coming up with their own correct answer is more valuable than to just give them the correct solutions.
What might you do in a typical first session with a student?
Establish the student's strengths and weaknesses, as perceived by the student. Then go on to test and verify the correctness of the student's self-assessment using practical problems, and ultimately start working on the areas of actual difficulty to resolve the issues.
How can you help a student become an independent learner?
First, by identifying the areas / types of problem the student perceives as being most difficult. Second, by walking the student through enough sample questions, providing the missing information and extracting general principles. Third, by setting up a rigorous course of practice problems in the areas least comfortable for the student.
How would you help a student stay motivated?
By providing instruction mainly in dialogue form, by coming up with relatable, contemporary analogies and anecdotes, and by being a friendly, open source of authority.
If a student has difficulty learning a skill or concept, what would you do?
Increase the number of examples and ways of understanding that specific concept, focus on problems and questions specifically relating to that skill or concept, and come back to it frequently, to make sure that the learning has become firmly established.
How do you help students who are struggling with reading comprehension?
Focus on ways to break down a complex text into its simpler constituent elements, raising awareness of the importance of key words and connectors, make suggestions for vocabulary improvement, and direct attention to excluding obviously wrong answer choices.
What strategies have you found to be most successful when you start to work with a student?
As a first step, establishing a friendly, open dialogue, asking about a student's academic history, what subjects interest them most, what subjects they feel least comfortable with, etc. This is done to determine what the student's needs actually are. As a second step, starting with simple practice questions in a growing order of difficulty, to establish how far a student's knowledge extends, and what level of study the work actually needs to address.
How would you help a student get excited/engaged with a subject that they are struggling in?
Firstly, I believe a well-placed anecdote illuminating the larger context in which a certain type of problem is likely to occur, or making a concept more intuitive, can do great things to readjust a student's subjective feeling about an academic subject. A differential to a function may not be compelling in itself, but framing it as the velocity or acceleration of a body in space may be better suited to kindle their enthusiasm if they are a racing fan, for instance. Secondly, working in dialogue form has the power to show a student how much of a solution actually comes from them and not from the instructor. This is a great way to show students how much they already actually know, and to keep them going on the path to mastering that subject.
What techniques would you use to be sure that a student understands the material?
For science, perhaps the best way to check for a thorough understanding of a problem or theorem is to ask for a proof. Another good way to assess this is to have the student come up with a visual analogy of a mathematical phenomenon. For the verbal side, the student can show understanding by elaborating articulate answers to the question 'Why did you choose this specific answer option?’ with support from the text.
How do you build a student's confidence in a subject?
If the instruction is framed as a collaboration / dialogue, the answers to the questions will come as much as possible from the student, and only as necessary from the instructor. By participating in this way, a student can be made aware of how much he or she already knows about the topic, and how close they actually are to mastering it. A student who feels they have a running start to mastering a subject is usually a confident, motivated student.
How do you evaluate a student's needs?
A proper understanding of a student's needs usually comes from two sources: first, from what the student herself perceives and communicates as her needs, and second, from how she performs across the various areas being tested. From these two sources, an instructor can usually determine a student's strengths and weaknesses.
How do you adapt your tutoring to the student's needs?
The main things to adapt to are the different levels of difficulty that the student is currently prepared to handle across the different areas being tested. Once the instructor has established where more work needs to be done, the shared focus must be directed towards that area — by solving more problems and discussing that specific topic in a more sustained fashion.
What types of materials do you typically use during a tutoring session?
Sample test questions, dictionary, calculator, mathematical theory books explaining the concepts involved in the questions.