It’s not uncommon for students to be intimidated by standardized tests, especially when the content and format are unfamiliar. We actually take advantage of the intimidation factor and use it to boost our students’ confidence and give them tools for success beyond the test. The experience of one of our high school entrance test prep students illustrates this perfectly.
Jenny* set a goal of improving her SSAT score by a considerable margin so that she could get into a highly competitive boarding school. Her pre-test showed that she needed to build up skills for all three sections of the test (reading, math, and verbal). This was frustrating for Jenny because in school she excelled in all of these areas. Needless to say, she was not super excited about having to do test prep.
Jenny’s not alone. Many of our students are top performers in school who have a tough time on their pre-test. Sometimes it’s the tight timing of the test, other times it’s the way the questions are worded. Regardless, students get discouraged, and it’s our job to explain how we’ll use their strengths to help them tackle the test, as well as become an even better student.
Our first goal was to help Jenny become more confident by reviewing important concepts for each section and introducing key strategies. For example, the tutor started by teaching her word elements that would help her decipher the meaning of the challenging words on the verbal section. It was amazing to see the progress Jenny made in a short amount of time with these basic strategies. The best part was when she commented that she was applying these word elements to her language arts class in school. Yes! Success beyond the test.
As they dove further into test preparation, the tutor noticed that Jenny had test anxiety, especially about the math section. At some point in time, she’d decided that she was “no good” at math. After some investigation, it became clear that much of her anxiety stemmed from the fact that she’d never mastered basic concepts, such as long division. To address these gaps, Jenny began reviewing these concepts routinely in tutoring sessions and on her homework. Her new confidence in SSAT math spilled over to her confidence in school math work. Again, she experienced success beyond the test!
As she approached the final stretch of her test prep work, Jenny began to demonstrate much more confidence with all three sections of the test. By the time she took her SSAT, she acheived an impressive score that helped her gain admission into one of her top choice boarding schools! Our test prep sessions not only helped her attain this goal, but also helped her to review a wide variety of math concepts, improve her reading fluency, and expand her vocabulary. These skills will serve her well for many years to come.
Test prep is more than just a numbers game. We love helping students become better learners, armed with skills to succeed on high stakes tests and beyond!
*Not her real name