For fourteen years I have taught SAT and ACT prep to small and large groups as well as one-on-one. There is no question that one-on-one achieves the biggest gains in the shortest amount of time, but why?
In private tutoring, every question is considered according to the student's needs. The tutor observes what the student sees and doesn't see. There is the wonderful opportunity to see how a person answers a question, point by point, and how a person solves a problem, step by step. Improvement in these areas -- comprehension, reasoning, and problem solving -- is the best way to significantly improve on a standardized test.
Why this clue and not that? Why this step first? What makes one word the key to a question, or one phrase in a passage the key to an answer? What is the most efficient way to solve a certain type of math problem? What kind of thinking do you cultivate for the hardest questions? (Simple and direct is the key.) The best way to teach these tests, I have found, is to focus on one skill at a time for each of the sections. Practice the skill, refine it, and your score on the section goes up. This kind of work, as you can imagine, is best done one-on-one.
More specific information is also crucial for doing well on the test: which four dozen math problems come up over and over? Which grammar rules appear most often? What's the best way to study for the reading test?
Also, good tutoring means finding ways to motivate a student. A tutor must push certain students while helping others to relax. All the while, sessions have to be fun (at least some of the time). How does a tutor accomplish this last part? One strategy is to have a student approach the test as if it were a game or a puzzle. A student who relaxes will learn faster.
Finally, test prep offers the opportunity to teach time management, for the test and for life, and to manage stress by visualizing test day, just as any speaker or performer would visualize a speech or performance. My approach then is to teach skills, a number of which are helpful beyond test day. If you're thinking about one-on-one test prep, take a moment to read through this website or call me for a free consultation.
Bill Jackson, MFA