Andrew Plummer is a 4th year medical student at UTSW in Dallas, TX. He is currently interviewing for a residency position in Ophthalmology and is newly married to a second grade teacher. Andrew is an expert in test taking strategies and specializes in pre-medical, medical and general science exams. He has a wealth of experience as a tutor and formerly worked as an instructor for The Princeton Review MCAT prep course, in which he taught 11 courses across 4 cities and received excellent reviews. Anyone looking for a complete, well-rounded tutor who can coach students for short- and long-term success will find Andrew to be a good fit for their needs.
Undergraduate Degree: Baylor University - Bachelors, Biology, General
Graduate Degree: University of Texas Southwestern Medical Center - Current Grad Student, MD
ACT Composite: 34
ACT English: 34
ACT Math: 35
ACT Reading: 32
ACT Science: 33
MCAT Biological Sciences: 14
MCAT Physical Sciences: 14
MCAT Verbal Reasoning: 14
Woodworking, Playing drums, Scuba diving, Weightlifting
College Application Essays
College Political Science
MCAT Critical Analysis and Reasoning Skills
Elementary School Math
GED Social Studies
GRE Subject Test in Biology
GRE Subject Tests
High School Biology
High School Chemistry
High School Political Science
MCAT Psychological, Social, and Biological Foundations of Behavior
Middle School Science
SAT Subject Tests Prep
Study Skills and Organization
What is your teaching philosophy?
I believe that anyone can be a successful learner and a skillful test-taker. I try to coach my students to think like the test-writer and see beyond the content of the question. Using my strategies, students will be able to successfully answer questions regarding topics of which they have no knowledge. I then combine these strategies with common sense examples to make the educational objectives stick. My students know me for my love of the subjects I teach, my meticulous organization of the material, and my dedication to helping each individual achieve their personalized goals. I believe these are the three most important components of a successful tutor.
What might you do in a typical first session with a student?
The first session with a student is all about getting to know their strengths, weaknesses, and needs. In an ideal situation, this visit will empower future sessions to leverage a student's best learning style and maximize progress. I like to open by having a student show me what they can do. For example, if they're working through a sample set of questions, I'll have them walk me through their thought process up to the point they got stuck. Then, I can better identify what strategies are working and where some fresh insight might be most helpful. Each session thereafter builds on that rapport until the student and I have an efficient and trusting relationship, in which we can both work to achieve the student's goals.
How can you help a student become an independent learner?
My biggest goal with each student is to teach them to love learning and to love being good at what they do. When the student earns that satisfaction that comes from hard work and a job well done, they will be self-motivated to succeed for the rest of their lives. More specifically to academics, I believe it's important show students how they can think about any problem from multiple angles. If they can see how content knowledge, test-taking skills and creative thinking can each get them to the right answer, they'll be more likely to succeed in future scenarios when I'm not around to coach them.
How would you help a student stay motivated?
I'm a big believer in positive reinforcement. Specifically, I think it's important to show students how much progress they're making with well-timed complements and reviews. Each step they take should be built on the steps that came before, and it's vital that they see the big picture of what they're trying to achieve. This is why I spend time getting to know each student and what drives them to do better. I find that most students respond really well to a little honest praise, but have been in situations where individuals needed a firmer touch to keep them on track. I believe that each student has a unique learning style and comes to tutoring with unique needs, and I do my best to use those to the student's advantage.
If a student has difficulty learning a skill or concept, what would you do?
If there is a problem with a concept, there is usually an underlying problem with a simpler concept somewhere further back in the curriculum. I try to break down the issue to identify just where the knowledge gap is, then spend extra time reviewing those concepts at their most basic level. We, as a team, can then gradually build back up to where the problem arose. Students usually find that by the time the get back to where they were, the problem has resolved itself and they have a much more comfortable grasp of the material.
How do you help students who are struggling with reading comprehension?
I have two strategies that are helpful in this scenario. In the first, I ask the student to place themselves into the text, either as the subject or the main character. I then ask them what they would do in the given situation. This helps students understand the motivations of the author and builds lasting connections that can be used later on. The other technique is to ask the student to tell me a similar story from their own lives. By comparing their story to the passage they're reading, they sometimes unknowingly relate to the subject and therefore understand it better.
What strategies have you found to be most successful when you start to work with a student?
Positive energy, positive energy, positive energy. Students, regardless of age, need an engaging and energetic tutor to make sessions more enjoyable and therefore more memorable. Beyond this, I make every effort to get to know my students so that I can customize their tutoring experience to their learning style. I've found that is does no good to enforce my way of thinking or thought process onto the student. Instead, I have to adapt to their needs and make the content relevant to their lives.
How would you help a student get excited/engaged with a subject that they are struggling in?
As a medical student, I've collected a lot of amazing stories from my time working with patients, and have been impressed by how often they relate to lessons I learned when I was the age of my students. Using these anecdotes, I can show students how what they're learning can be useful in their lives outside the classroom. I then draw on the student's own experiences to make the lesson relevant. By doing this, I can help a student love learning, which is always my foremost goal.
What techniques would you use to be sure that a student understands the material?
In the hospital and clinic, we use a technique called "teach backs" to ensure patients understand their instructions. By having students "teach" their tutor the material, they can demonstrate just how much they've learned, or expose areas that need more attention. This helps me know where I've spent enough time and where I haven't done a good enough job in my sessions. Overall, if a student can teach the material to someone else, they'll never forget it for the rest of their lives.
How do you build a student's confidence in a subject?
This is the most important role of a tutor. Studies have shown that confident test-takers score higher on exams. I instill in my students a sense of pride and self-worth from the very first session. Everything we do together starts from a belief that the student is a capable and skilled learner. By making this the emphasis of every session, students begin to believe in their own ability, and as sessions progress their confidence grows. I believe this leads to as much increase in their test scores as comes from knowing the material.
How do you adapt your tutoring to the student's needs?
Most students (people in general) I've worked with respond really well to a little positive feedback. Being told you're doing well is a self-fulfilling prophecy: the praise motivates and encourages the student, which leads to genuine improvement. In some rare cases, especially at higher levels of education, students need a more aggressive coach to bring the most out of their potential. In these cases, I try to balance their need to be pushed with their need to feel successful and supported.
What types of materials do you typically use during a tutoring session?
During in-person teaching sessions, I like to use a whiteboard and multicolor markers to organize the material. This is a technique I learned at The Princeton Review and has been study-proven to enhance comprehension and retention. Barring this, there are a number of great technologies that help convey ideas even through online communication. In a pinch, I believe a cocktail napkin and a pencil can be worth more than just the words coming out of my mouth.
How do you evaluate a student's needs?
This important task in an ongoing process that begins in the first session, where I get to know the student and take stock of their personality. Sometimes, students will be forth-coming about their learning style and what has worked for them so far. For others, it can take several sessions to pin down exactly how to get the most out of our time together. In all cases, this is critical to maximizing their potential and ensuring effective tutoring sessions.