I use as many materials as possible from the test makers when working with students, rather than from other educational brands. I am also in the process of writing my own SAT prep curriculum for the revised test, as well as an ACT math book, and on occasion will pull from the chapters I have written when working with students. (Our first book series on the ACT math section is slated for release in Fall 2016). In addition, I work with books from independent tutors (who actually write better content than some of the bigger labels) as well as some exercises I have developed on my own. By breaking down the “standardized” way the test is constructed, and teaching them precisely “what” is tested, I help students readily identify answers. I also teach them what “wrong” answers look like, as the test has predictable “types” of wrong answers. By understanding the format and layout of the test, and its high level of predictability, I help students know what to look for, so they can better realize the scores they desire. I also expose students to as many actual tests as possible. Familiarity is key to a higher score.
For each student, I first have him or her take a diagnostic test. I then create a personalized lesson plan to target and address weak areas or sub-topics. For elite level students aiming for top scores (99th percentile), we focus on difficult questions, advanced grammar and mathematical skills, and more advanced deliberation strategies between the most tempting two or three answer choices, so they don’t waste time going over problems they’re already getting right. Additionally, I work with students to avoid careless errors, pace themselves, and maximize their potential.
During the past ten years, I’ve been helping students find their best personal stories and craft them into a powerful personal statement. I have an MFA in filmmaking, which has significantly contributed to my ability to help students build interest and emotion through their own stories. I have worked with many students on undergraduate, transfer, graduate, and medical school admission essays, as well as successful appeal letters to universities such as UCLA.
I’ve been teaching grammar for eleven years, and know that when students struggle with writing, it’s often because they lack concrete knowledge of the elements in their “writer’s toolbox.” By focusing on sentence level grammar, I teach students the elements that make up sentences, so that as writers, they have a choice as to how they express themselves. A single sentence can bear a multitude of nuance and meaning. When students become aware of how to create variety and make deliberate composition choices, they open up a world of articulation and rhetorical strategy.
For more advanced writing students, we focus on constructing compelling arguments through the use of organization, diction, sentence variation, corroborating evidence, logical construction, and voice.
In high school, I won medals and awards for my math achievements on a state level, and now I teach students 8-18 how to score higher on standardized tests, and how to become more agile and proficient in completing math problems. Most math problems can be approached from a variety of angles – students who can see several approaches to a single problem can choose the most efficient and simplest means of solving problems and in doing so, save time, and ensure accuracy. I joke with my students that I’m the “lazy mathematician,” meaning that I’m always looking for (and teaching them to look for) the least complex way to achieve the answer.