Test Preparation Philosophy

Our method is based on our philosophy that understanding basic cognitive psychology is crucial for effective teaching.

Cognitive psychology teaches us that modeling is a powerful way to teach. We use this knowledge when we train students to take high-stakes tests. We model for them how to handle the entire test experience. We want our students to know how to do the math on the SAT, but also we want them to know how to handle their reaction when they see a math question that is totally alien to them. So when we are teaching test preparation, we model a problem-solving strategy and we teach math content. For more about the power of modeling in teaching we refer you to the work of Albert Bandura.

We keep up with current research about students and how they approach high-stakes tests. For example, one study has shown that girls and boys who score over 700 on the math portion of the SAT approach the problems in very different ways. Boys find shortcuts to arrive at an answer, whereas girls write formulas and equations and solve problems thoroughly. Both approaches work equally well, but it is important for tutors to be aware of a student’s natural preference for problem solving and to teach students that there is always an alternate approach. Another study dispels the myth that you aren’t supposed to second-guess or change an answer on a multiplechoice test. To read more about this we refer you to the work of Michael Pressley.

Lastly, our philosophy about test preparation focuses on helping students learn about their study habits. In general, people first study what they know, not what they don’t know. They do this because it is more comfortable. They should do the opposite and study first what they don’t know so that the newest material has the most time to consolidate in memory. With a tutor, students can learn how to attack material they don’t understand. With improved awareness and study skills students improve on standardized tests and become better at studying for any kind of test. For more on this we refer you to the work of Michael Pressley.