Dear Ms. Stier:
I recently came across your website and I love it! Thanks for doing it.
I could really use some advise on how to approach SAT test prep for my quadruplets. [me: OMG]
I have 3 girls and 1 boy. They took the PSAT in sophomore year and they will take the PSAT again this October.
One of the disadvantages of having all my children the same age is that any mistakes I make affects all four. None of them benefit from me learning from my mistakes so I hope to get this as right as I can.
Do you think I should have them study as a small group together under my guidance (from experience it is like trying to herd cats); get a tutor for the four of them in a small group; have someone tutor them individually; or send them to a SAT test prep center? Or a combination of all of these? I need to watch my costs too.
How do I find a good tutor? What is the best test prep company?
If these are questions you can help me with I would appreciate it. If it is not something that you can help me then that's okay and I appreciate you taking your time to read my email.
Thanks again for the website info
Dear Multiple Mom,
My gut says to do some work together with all four (e.g. lots of vocab, full practice tests, and they can explain answers to each other because that's a great way to learn), and do some preparation separately. If you can find an affordable tutor(s), that's the most efficient means.
Try Stacey Howe-Lott at Red Horse Tutoring. She's fabulous and works via Skype.
Here are a few questions to ask a potential tutor (or test prep company):
1) Do you customize your approach and, if so, how?
2) What’s your average score gain per student? Many tutors won’t answer this question because there are so many variables that it’s almost not fair to ask. That said, an excessive “average score gain” should be a flag. e.g., 200 points in a month.
3) How long do you advise students to prepare for the SAT and how much will it cost? The right answer will be individual and will depend on where the student begins and what the goal is.
4) What test prep materials do you use? (If it’s not official College Board material, be wary.)
5) How much homework will there be between sessions? (A great tutor will have students do as much work as possible off the clock, such as vocab and practice tests.)
The first step is to have all four kids take an official College Board practice SAT. You can use one from the College Board's Blue Book, or the College Board has a practice test on its website.
You need to determine what they need to work on and whether they need foundational work or more traditional test prep polish. My guess is that they need foundational work, as most kids do (and as I did!). Make sure you pick a tutor or test prep company who can assess that well!
Regarding test prep companies, I'd steer clear of anyone who doesn't primarily use College Board material (that would include most/if not all large, brand-name test prep companies).
Here are some signs to help you identify the good from the bad:
Signs of good test prep:
**Refers back to Blue Book. Helps student interpret the Blue Book.
**Written by an SAT expert. (Don’t assume PhD signals “SAT mastery.” Maybe but maybe not.)
**Recommends official material for diagnostic SAT, and full official practice tests as part of test preparation.
**Has a goal-setting strategy: For sections that are in “order of difficulty” you should strive for a mastery of questions inside a goal zone before attempting harder questions. Put simply: you should leave hard questions blank if you haven’t mastered the easy ones.
**Addresses issue of fundamental skills and test strategy. Exception: test prep aimed solely at high achievers.
Think about what their goals are and be willing to discuss that with a tutor. Slow and steady wins the race. It's nice to have a long runway, which you do! Start NOW!!!
KEEP ME POSTED. I'm in awe!