Tutoring FAQs

General Questions about Tutoring

Read on to find out how we work, but don’t hesitate to contact us to set up a call with a Placements Specialist who can answer all these questions and many more.

Frequently Asked Questions

Most families choose PrepMatters for two reasons: our expertise and our professionalism. Both are rooted in the fact that our tutors simply tutor more than many others do. Some of our tutors are successful professionals with active day jobs, but almost half tutor as their sole profession. And none are college kids looking for a quick part-time job. Our SAT and ACT tutors tutor a minimum of 10 hours per week and some routinely see 30 or more per week. And as we like to preach around here, there’s almost nothing that doesn’t improve with practice. And our founder, Ned Johnson, has had lots of practice with over 40,000 hours of 1-on-1 tutoring logged over his career! And in that 20 years, we’ve also built the infrastructure that contributes to our student’s success. From our annually updated workbooks and materials, to weekly proctored practice tests, to regular calls from our Quality Assurance Director, there’s a complete team in place to help your child succeed.

All of our tutors undergo the same training and are implementing the same PrepMatters developed and refined methods – we’re all coaching from the same playbook. Our senior tutors, however, have literally thousands of hours of one-on-one experience that they can bring to bear in a session to be able to intuit the nature of their student’s roadblock and possible strategies to overcome it. While there’s no substitute for experience, PrepMatters’ having physical offices fortunately facilitates collegiality and cooperation among our entire staff so that newer tutors can get better faster. In fact, all new tutors are required to attend at least one roundtable a week with a senior tutor during which they can discuss their students’ needs to improve their own tutoring and their students’ results.

Tutors typically have three goals during a first session: to learn about the student, to debunk myths about these ridiculous tests, and to deliver some pedagogical content.

Establishing rapport is the first goal. Tutors will likely ask your student some of the same questions you answered in your placement call, not because they didn’t read your answers but because hearing how teenagers frame their answers and think about themselves as students and testers is invaluable in knowing what approach to take. That initial conversation may take 2 minutes or it may take 20. Tutors will of course take into account impending test dates: a student testing in 3 weeks needs strategies sooner than one testing in 12 weeks. The longer the planned engagement, the more important – and ultimately more efficient – is the use of the initial chat in the first session.

Students often come with may preconceived notions about these tests: what they measure, what they mean and how they feel about them. It’s important to understand the context any student brings and make sure they know these aren’t intelligence tests and are simply tests of acquired skills – skills that can be acquired, like any others, through practice.

Choosing the right test can be important but shouldn’t be stressful. About half of our students do equally well on the tests. In other cases, students’ skills or tastes will align more with one test or the other. If there’s a large discrepancy in scores, the path is clear. For scores that are within the error bars of each other, the tutor and student will work together to decide the best path. The tutor will bring his professional opinion as to which scores can more easily be improved and the student her preference for one test over another (really not so much liking one but disliking the other!) All things being equal, we tend to go with students preferences. After all, tutoring is a process best done with students rather than to them. Their taking ownership of the process and making the decision themselves can go a long way to increasing the work they put in and the results they achieve.

We neither calculate nor publish an “average score increase”. Every PrepMatters student is different. Some of our students start preparing two weeks before the test while others try to start two years before the test (we do our best to dissuade the latter!) Some begin at the 9th percentile and others at the 90th. Any average we would calculate or share wouldn’t be helpful in understanding what you should expect for your child. Goal setting, however, is a critical part of what we do, so talk with your tutor about what reasonable goals and expectations are for your particular situation. Your tutor can tell you what sorts of score increases are consistent with students like yours. As for a guarantee, we don’t guarantee a score increase, but we also don’t lock you into a package deal. What we can guarantee, however, is that your tutor will do everything she can to help your child be more successful, whether it’s in the classroom or on a test. We can also guarantee you’ll receive regular feedback in the form of notes from tutors and practice test results so that you stay informed of the progress that is being made.

The average PrepMatters student typically has between 12 and 14 weekly sessions. But, in truth, the length of road traveled depends upon where you start and where you’re going. In much the same way, it’s difficult to predict how many sessions any student will need without more details. You should begin by taking advantage of our diagnostic testing. With those scores in hand and some goals in mind, your tutor will have more specific advice and recommendations for a tutoring schedule and testing plan that’s right for you. One of the reasons we only do one-on-one tutoring is so that we can tailor a learning plan to your child’s needs, rather than subjecting them to needless exercises during which they’re not really learning anything. It’s always safe, however, to get started a little early. If you’re seeing practice test scores that are reaching your goals, you may want to test earlier than planned. Or scale back tutoring to shorter or less frequent sessions. Our tutors are typically overbooked during the weeks leading up to the test and will appreciate the break. Conversely, it can be difficult for them to accommodate additional sessions during those weeks no matter how much they might want to help.

Tutoring in our offices helps students by providing them a distraction-free environment that allows them to do their best work. Working at home or school may be convenient but that convenience comes at the price of attention. And success on these tests is as much about reading, writing and math as it is about maintaining attention and focus over the course of a long exam. Working in our office allows students to also practice those less obvious but no less important skills. It’s also important to remember that the ACT and SAT won’t be taken at home in their bedrooms with the TV on in the background and their phone buzzing away, so we should – as the coaches say – practice like we’re going to play.

Our offices also contain extensive libraries of practice tests, workbooks and other pedagogical materials that tutors can easily draw upon. One of the virtues of one-on-one tutoring is the adaptability it provides. There’s no script and no fixed lesson plan for the day. Our tutors have the ability to and often do adapt their plans to suit their students’ needs that day, so being able to access the right materials to help a student take that crucial next step is imperative.