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I Get a Lot of Questions...

Do you offer classes?

No. I think that test prep classes are an ineffective way to prepare for standardized tests. If you sign your son or daughter up for a test prep class, he or she will likely see some limited improvement, but he or she will also waste a lot of his or her time working on things that he or she doesn’t need.

I speak as someone who has taught many test prep courses over the years. I have seen good average improvements among my students, but on the whole, I see better results in tutorials. It would be different if every student in the class had the same relative ability on the test, getting the same relative scores because of the same relative strengths and weaknesses, but getting a group of students who are comparable is nearly impossible, especially when you have open enrollment in your course.

One thing you need to remember is that test prep isn’t like an academic subject. In a history class, for example, the teacher has a set of concepts that she needs to cover in the course, and she has, by virtue of the sequence of courses, a good sense of what her students should already know before the course starts. Test prep doesn’t have a similar “set of concepts.” There are a few basic techniques that virtually every student will benefit from, but after those few techniques are done, effective instruction should focus on the specific needs of the individual student, with feedback on that individual student’s performance. In a classroom setting, this feedback is virtually impossible to give.

But I really want my son/daughter to take a course. Can you set one up for me?

That depends on why you want your son or daughter to take a class. If cost is a primary factor for you as you make this decision and my rates are too high, I’d suggest talking with me about setting up a self-study program for your son or daughter. For the cost of a typical test prep course, I can provide those few basic techniques that everyone needs and then set up a schedule for self-prep that will include select opportunities for performance evaluation and feedback, usually in response to the results of practice tests.

If your son or daughter simply works better in groups (yes, some kids do better in groups than one-on-one), give me a call. If you have a group of kids in mind, I can give you an estimate for a custom-built course for your group. In most cases, the cost for a custom-built course is comparable to the cost that a national test prep company would charge.

Now that you mention it, what are your rates?

I charge $150 per hour for standardized test tutoring, $100 per hour per child for shared tutorials, and $50 per hour for academic tutoring.

Seriously? Why are your rates so high?

Well, by the standards of the test prep industry, they really aren’t that high. If you go to one of the national test prep companies and work with a tutor with my credentials, you will pay as much as $300 per hour. Yes, there are some local tutors who charge less, and the national companies have tutoring packages that cost less per hour, but in most of those cases, you have to enroll in a pre-arranged number of hours—with payment in advance—and you have no idea what kind of tutor you might end up with.

If you want to know what you’d be getting into with me, call me and set up a free consultation. I’ll come to your home and talk with you and your son/daughter for an hour or so about the test(s) you’re thinking of taking, and you can get a better sense of what you’d be paying me for.

What about this “shared tutorial” thing? What’s that?

There are some instances in which two students who are remarkably similar—and who work very well together—want to go through a tutorial together. (We’re talking really close friends or twins or something along those lines.) While I discourage group tutorials (for the same reason I discourage classes), there are occasions when it makes sense to share a tutorial. If you think you have a couple of kids who would thrive in a shared tutorial, give me a call and we can talk about it.

What do you include in your tutoring rate?

All materials are included in my rate, including practice tests. Additionally, if I proctor tests for your son/daughter, that proctoring is included in my rate. (The exception to this rule is any test that is proctored at a highly inconvenient time. If the only time your son or daughter is available to take the test is 4am on a Thursday and you absolutely insist on my proctoring that test, I’ll charge you. Sorry about that.)

What kind of guarantee do you offer? 

Good question. My guarantee is this: I don’t work on a contract. You have no commitment to me beyond what we have already done. You have no payments due up front—there are no minimum numbers of hours. If at any time in the tutorial you are not completely satisfied with the work I am doing with your son/daughter, simply tell me that you want to stop the tutorial.

Wait… Other people/companies have money-back guarantees and whatnot. What about you?

Well, if you check the fine print on those guarantees, you’ll see that they are largely empty. Yes, they’ll offer to give you your money back, but the overwhelming majority of their students won’t qualify for it. (All it takes is one missed batch of homework problems, or one missed or rescheduled test or tutorial…) Even when the student is qualified for the guarantee, the company will make you jump through a BUNCH of hoops to get that money.

And I don’t blame these companies one bit. Test prep is an educational service, and educational services are notoriously hard to guarantee. (For example, I don’t know of a single college or university that guarantees its degree programs.) As your child’s tutor, I am responsible for helping him/her get the highest test score possible, but I don’t have complete control over that process; consequently, I can’t provide an air-tight guarantee.

The important point here, though, is that NO ONE can provide an air-tight guarantee. If you think another tutoring provider is giving you an air-tight guarantee, please re-read that fine print. I think that those guarantees provide a false sense of security for parents, so I don’t use them.

As I said above: if you think, at any time, that I am not helping your son or daughter as much as I should be, just let me know, and you’ll be free to pursue another test prep option—no harm, no foul.

What tests do you offer tutoring for?

I offer tutoring for the SAT, the PSAT, select SAT subject tests (literature, history, and math), the ISEE, the ACT, and select AP tests (literature, composition, history, and government). If you are planning to take a test that isn’t listed, let me know. I might still be able to help you.

What academic subjects do you offer tutoring for, and what is your academic rate?

I offer academic tutoring in English, including composition, grammar, and literature. (My degrees are in English, and much of my professional career has involved my teaching college-level English courses.) My academic tutoring rate is $50 per hour.

Wait… Why is your academic tutoring rate so much lower than your test prep rate?

Another good question! Make no mistake—I’m a very good English tutor, but there are a lot of good English tutors out there. However, good standardized test prep tutors are rare. Many people think they can tutor standardized tests because they know the subject matter, but really performing well on a standardized test involves much more than just knowing the subject matter.

I would argue that a person who offers the same rate for academic tutoring as for standardized test prep tutoring is either wildly overcharging for the academic stuff or not as well qualified to offer the test prep stuff. (But that’s my opinion—take it with a grain of salt.)

Do you have experience working with students with learning disabilities?  

Yes, I have worked with many learning-disabled students. While I claim no special training or certification in learning disabilities, I will say that the students I’ve worked with have responded well to the same techniques that I teach all my students, so with minor modifications, I fully expect your son or daughter to do well on his or her test. All students have differences in learning styles—that’s the main reason I prefer tutoring to classroom instruction.

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