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Saturday, November 18, 2017

I have worked with students of all levels and abilities all over New York and Bergen County over the past 10 years, and have dealt with every conceivable issue students face with their college admissions exams.

Taking the stress out of test preparation for students and their families is a major priority in a successful tutorial. Many parents, especially those who are new to the college application process, struggle to find the right resources and often feel like they are too late in getting their students into the right program. Students, in turn, often feel overwhelmed by the volume of work that is required of them. An experienced tutor can help both parents and students manage the necessary preparation to become competitive candidates for the schools of their choice.

Some students from schools with demanding curricula, such as Bergen County Academies and Dwight Englewood, struggle to balance the high score requirements of their target schools and their demanding academics. The best way to help prepare such students is to give them a head start with test preparation and keep them on a schedule of regular lessons and practice tests integrated into their schoolwork.

Some families choose to power prep over the summer between sophomore and junior years, so that students don’t have to split time between school work and test prep. Another advantage of this approach is that it allows the students to build a solid base even if they choose to re-test in their junior year. Other families prefer working the prep into their students’ schedules at the beginning of junior year, making it an organic part of their workload. In all these cases, understanding the student’s goals and school work load is crucial in helping to manage their testing preparation. This is especially true of student athletes!

I have also worked with students from schools such as Frisch and Yeshiva University High School who had their sights set on honors programs at certain universities. In those cases, the goal was not simply to be admitted but also to qualify for the programs and earn scholarships. While the requirements for those are often higher than for admission, working toward those scores is certainly a worthwhile investment. Many of my former students have earned considerable merit scholarships based on their SAT and ACT scores, and some have received full scholarships for their undergraduate studies.

I have also worked with numerous Sinai Schools students with various learning disabilities. From dyslexia to ADHD and various processing difficulties, the challenges these students face are remedied with very specific instructions for dealing with each problem type on the tests. Just like with all other students, the strategies they learn must be reinforced with regular drills, homework and periodic practice tests; however, in the case of students with learning disabilities, the tutor must find different ways of presenting the strategies that resonate with the student. Working on repetition and strategy recognition, as well as adjusting pacing for students with extended time accommodations can yield tremendous score improvements and help students get into the school of their choice.

A rigorous tutorial and testing program can be condensed into a matter of weeks or spread over several months, depending on a student’s schedule and target tests. I cannot stress enough how important it is to set goals early on in the tutorial and have an exact timeline for achieving those goals. Periodic assessments are crucial to ensuring that students are meeting their benchmarks throughout the process.

Different students may encounter vastly different issues on the ACT or SAT exams. For some, the issue is timing; for others, it’s accuracy; for others still, the material on the test may be unfamiliar, or they may be too anxious to recognize in test settings what they actually know well. From high achievers to students who struggle academically, anxiety seems to be a common thread. The best remedy for testing anxiety is to give students the tools and practice for each test

When students have the necessary support from a knowledgeable resource who provides them with sufficient exposure to the different facets of each test, from content to pacing, they gain the confidence to achieve the score necessary for getting into the school of their dreams.

By Anna Gazumyan-Silverman