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What Makes an Effective Test Prep Instructor?

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For teenagers who are beginning to map out their college-planning journey, taking the SAT or ACT is one of the most important steps to focus on. Most universities look at these test scores to determine how prepared a student is to succeed in college. Higher scores translate to a higher likelihood of academic success, which boosts an applicant’s chance at being admitted to his/her desired school. Similarly, high scores also can result in thousands of dollars in scholarships, reducing the financial burden on the student and his/her family. 


Because students realize the impact that their SAT/ACT scores can have on their future, many plan to gain an edge by enrolling in test prep classes or finding a test prep instructor to help them on a one-on-one basis. There are many private tutors and companies who offer these services, which can make it difficult to decide which option will be the most impactful. 


If you’re a teenager who is preparing to take the SAT or ACT, or a parent who is focused on helping your son or daughter prepare for his/her academic future, here are some of the most important things to look for when searching for a test prep instructor


Proficiency in Subjects and a High SAT/ACT Score

The subjects that the SAT covers are reading, math, writing and language, while the ACT covers English, math, reading and science (which is really data analysis). Both tests also have an optional essay section. Clearly, you will want to find an instructor who is knowledgeable in these areas. 


One of the best ways to ensure that an instructor is proficient in these subjects is to seek out someone who has taken the test and received a score comparable to the one that you hope to obtain. This shows that the test prep instructor will be competent in the subjects you will be tested on, and it also serves as a confidence boost that he/she will be able to guide you on how to do well with the specific format and style of the test. 


Some test prep companies even require that their instructors obtain an SAT or ACT score that falls within the top percentile. Looking for companies that have high standards like this for their employees, or individuals who make their own scores known, can help you narrow your search. Additionally, asking about how much test scores improve on average can also be telling of whether or not a provider is effective. 

Ability to Foster an Engaging Learning Environment 

Just because someone has the skills to ace the SAT or ACT does not necessarily mean that he/she is qualified to teach someone else how to earn a high score. A high quality instructor will be able to explain concepts thoroughly enough for students to fully understand a concept but concisely enough to avoid confusion. Additionally, the best instructors are able to adapt their teaching style to accommodate different types of learning, which is especially important if you enroll in an SAT or ACT test prep class where there will be other students. 


An engaging learning environment is one where students feel inspired and absorbed rather than bored and apathetic. Before committing to a test prep provider, ask how the individual or the company works to ensure that the learning atmosphere helps students feel involved in their own success. If references or reviews are available, they can serve as an excellent way to evaluate this as well. 


Strong Ability to Motivate and Build Confidence in Students

One of the main benefits of utilizing professional test prep services is that it can help you identify your strengths and weaknesses so that you can develop a personalized, targeted study strategy for the SAT and/or ACT. In order to achieve this, it’s important that your instructor is honest about how he/she views your progress. 


Some personalities find it difficult to point out areas where others could improve upon, and other personalities have no tact when addressing weaknesses to the point that they come across as abrasive. An ideal instructor will be able to cultivate a natural balance of pointing out where students are struggling while still managing to build confidence. Students shouldn’t feel stressed out, anxious or discouraged after being told they may need to focus harder on certain areas. Instead, they should feel motivated and supported to work hard to achieve a stronger understanding of the subject. Taking time to consult with the instructor can give you a sense of their default personality, as can calling references or reading reviews. 

Focus on Helping Students Develop Proven Study Strategies 

While the main goal of ACT and SAT test prep is to achieve a satisfactory score, a high-caliber instructor will teach study strategies and test-taking tips that will help you succeed beyond one test. Ideally, you will develop skills that you can apply to your remaining high school career and even into college. Asking how the material you’ll learn will help you beyond the SAT and ACT can give you a sense of whether the provider has developed a program that fosters success and provides you with an academic edge that can be useful across many situations. 


Effective Communication with Parents

Parents are often deeply invested in their teenagers’ academic success. An effective test prep instructor will be able and willing to provide detailed, reliable updates on how their students are doing. It’s helpful to ask questions on how the instructor will provide updates, how often to expect these reports, and how progress will actually be measured. Finding this information out ahead of time helps ensure that both students and their parents will be satisfied with the provider. 


Closing Up

The scores you receive on the SAT and/or ACT impacts your college acceptances as well as your eligibility for scholarships and grants. Because of this, it’s easy to feel daunted by the tests, but an effective instructor can help you feel more confident by ensuring that you are well-prepared when the day arrives. If you take the time to find a test prep provider who fully understands the test based on personal achievement, creates an encouraging atmosphere where you are actively engaged in your own success, and can provide you with strategies that will help you ace your SAT/ACT and future tests as well, you should be well-equipped to achieve your academic goals.


Raise Your Scores with CollegeDrive’s Expert Test Prep Instructors

Here at CollegeDrive, all of our test prep instructors score in the 90th percentile or higher on the SAT/ACT, and all of them are passionate about helping our students develop test-taking confidence and improve their understanding of the material. Our methods improve test scores by an average of 135 points, illustrating our effectiveness in helping students succeed. We understand that preparing for the SAT/ACT can be stressful, and we work hard to create an environment that is interactive, positive and encouraging. 


Between practice tests, one-on-one tutoring and test prep classes, we have a variety of options that can fit your unique needs and schedule. Browse our services, or get in touch with any questions. We are here to help you succeed!


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