I grew up with a wonderful mom who made terms like "restrictive appositive" dinner-table conversation! Not everyone needs (or wants!) to know the technical terms of important grammar rules. But I taught grammar and writing to middle school students for ten years, so I became good at explaining the technical rules in simple, even intuitive ways. I genuinely believe that clearing up your grammar helps you not just communicate effectively, but it even helps you THINK more effectively!
If you're taking the GRE, congratulations! You're probably pretty smart and have done well in college. But the GRE also takes you back to that long-ago land of standardized tests -- and the content you probably spent college keeping away from! The good news, I believe, is that you're wiser now, and you can more efficiently learn the predictable kinds of questions the test contains. The content is hard, no doubt, but as a cognitive scientist I will help you think not just about the content itself (e.g. trig or vocab), but about how to learn this stuff better than you did in high school.
I taught at three independent schools over a decade and am well aware of what the ISEE exam covers. I taught 6-8th most often, and worked with younger students as well in two schools that were K-8. I'd be happy to work on test prep for the exam for students of all ages.
My first job in college was proofreading cover letters and creating résumés. That was 20 years ago, and since then I've read enough writing by middle school through grad school students to be very quick at proofreading. My experience proofing résumés made me sensitive to extra spaces and uneven indentation. My experience reading essays at all levels has given me good radar on both common and uncommon mistakes. On top of all this: anytime I'm not absolutely certain about a grammatical issue, I ask my mother! She's the Englishwoman who taught me English grammar, and she hasn't failed me yet!
I taught middle school for a decade and am well aware of what the PSAT covers. Instead of focusing narrowly on “test-taking skills,” as I find too many tutors do, I aim to use a student’s focus on the exam to teach them to be a truly better thinker. While many question the benefits of standardized testing, exams such as these, I believe, require important skills of precision and logic. Training an adolescent in the early years of high school to be precise with language and logical in reasoning pays enormous dividends as they move to more mature thought and more advanced SAT testing.
SAT math is hard. And yet so much of it depends on what I call “intuitive math” and having good “mathematical radar.”
There are many tutors who can teach the logical operations of mathematics. But for what it’s worth, any textbook or test prep book can teach these as well!
I aim to be one of the few teachers/tutors of adolescent students who recognizes that most students have not automated critical basic skills; I have tutored many students scoring above 600 in math who are slow and inaccurate in basic multiplication of single-digit numbers, or subtraction of two-digit numbers, for example. These are students who can indeed solve SOME complex problems, but whose weaknesses in quick, intuitive mathematical thinking truly limits their ability to solve complex problems very quickly – which is what the SAT demands.
My academic research is in cognitive science, and thus I think a lot about how people think and how to best teach the most basic building blocks of mathematical thought. For the first decade of my professional career I taught students in classrooms, and for the second decade I have conducted academic research on how minds and brains learn best. Together, these experiences help me help you!
In my view, too many tutors focus on "test-taking skills." These will, indeed, help one gain a few points on the SAT, but I really focus on the knowledge itself. I truly believe that in studying for standardized tests one can, in fact, become a smarter and more insightful person. To this end, I work to discover the best of many possible memory strategies for learning vocabulary, for example. Sections such as correcting sentence errors test many rules that are a bit esoteric by the standards of everyday language use, and yet in learning them one can learn the great value of true precision in both language and thought.
I aim to help students avoid a very common pitfall: after identifying an area of weakness, many students immediately do more problems of that sort – without ever examining the patterns of thought that led to wrong answers. I have many years of teaching and tutoring experience, and in listening to students talk about a problem I can very often intuit the unspoken assumptions and reasoning that need correcting.
Finally, I actually enjoy the SAT (though, true, it’s not me who’s taking it this time around!). I work hard to convey the joy of learning and thinking.
For a decade I taught writing to middle school students, and for five years after that I taught a writing-intensive introduction to psychology to Harvard sophomores, winning teaching awards each time. This range of experiences has helped me develop both strong methods of instruction and strong intuitions about how to understand and organize the thoughts of an adolescent writer.
One simple yet useful approach to the SAT writing section is to recognize that in most respects it is more like scientific writing than expressive writing. Notwithstanding that the test often asks writers to express their opinion on an issue, the graders are looking for a certain kind of *structured* reasoning. Approaching the writing section in this way, I find it fairly straightforward to show students the skills that will help them build strong essays.
I taught middle school students for ten years -- like herding cats, as they say! One under-appreciated aspect of study skills, I found, was the ability to break down a larger task into bite-sized components that kids could easily identify and learn -- and then practice and practice some more. I think I can help kids get past the panic (let's be honest and clear: panic) that overwhelms them when they are faced with a long and multi-step process. I enjoy doing this well, and I especially enjoy the pride kids then take when they realize they can check tasks off their to-do list and move on confidently to the next task!
I love teaching writing, both creative and analytical. I cannot say enough: good writing is good thinking! Not everyone needs to be a fantastic, gifted writer -- but everyone can learn to write CLEARLY. And when you can write clearly, everyone (including YOU) sees and understands your main ideas better. I taught writing to middle school kids for a decade, and I continue to love working with kids of all ages. For the last 5 years I've taught scientific writing to Harvard sophomores. And to all the adults out there: if there's just one task where a few hours spent now will help you in your job, it's writing.