“Keep going to keep growing. Thanks to the help of my tutors, I was able to stay motivated and achieve my goals.”
Disciplined and resilient are just a few of the ways to describe soon-to-be senior at Abington Senior High School Mina Abdelrasak. Interested in science, and eager to earn test scores that will impress her dream colleges, Mina enthusiastically embraced the opportunity to prepare for the SAT with A+’s help. As a result, Mina was able to improve her SAT score by an impressive 140 points! We recently spoke with Mina and her tutors, John Silbaugh and Patsy Graber, to better appreciate her amazing accomplishment.
A+: Let’s start at the beginning. What interested you about test prep with A+?
MINA: Even though some colleges I’m interested in are test optional, I still wanted to submit my scores. I thought that the best way to improve my scores was to get help preparing for it. So, when I was given the opportunity, I jumped at the chance because I wanted to do everything in my power to get the scores I wanted.
A+: As you completed your preparation, what challenged you most and how did you deal with it?
MINA: One of the most challenging things was the verbal section. I had to practice a lot of vocabulary and relied on context clues to figure out what is the best word that would fit in a sentence. Sometimes I felt discouraged. But I have a pretty good support system, and that’s basically what got me through it. I would also remind myself that this is a journey and everyone has setbacks that push them forward.
Mina’s verbal tutor, Patsy Graber, recalls Mina’s struggles and her successes well. “Mina admitted that she tended to lose her focus during the second half of the exam. She also had some difficulty on the more science-oriented passages.” However, Graber says that Mina “worked hard to read actively and map the passage, taking ‘brain breaks’ when possible,” and ultimately “all of these strategies paid off.”
A+: Aside from a specific subject on the test, was there anything else you found difficult?
Another major challenge overall was getting the motivation to sit down and just do the practice. I actually sought out additional practice online. That level of dedication I put in it paid off later in each section, as I would get a little bit better and a little better. Seeing the results is the biggest motivator for people to keep going on top of having a strict routine and disciplining yourself to sit down and just do the practice.
It’s this commitment to practice and growth that impressed Graber the most. “She definitely took test prep seriously. She is an avid reader, which is a great advantage in exams such as the SAT. Mina asked important questions when she didn’t understand a question, and was adept at absorbing and applying all concepts that she was taught.” Mina also “used extra materials, such as the A+ Writing and Language packet, to enhance her experience.” Yet, it’s the fact that Mina “enjoyed her progress, but didn’t allow the occasional dip in practice test scores to discourage her” that Graber believes had the most impact.
A+: You and your tutors mentioned having a good work routine. Can you elaborate on the kind of routine you had and why you feel it helped you?
MINA: I feel you’re more likely to be successful if you have a set routine and time and place to practice. For me, spaced repetition, work, and practice helped me master skills better. It all depends on the person and what works best for them, though. But I think that having a set time and days to do it definitely helps, and results in incredible progress.
A+: Another part of your routine was, of course, the instruction you received from your tutors. How did your tutors help you succeed?
MINA: My math tutor was incredibly supportive throughout the whole process. He noticed my struggles and would assign more work for a specific topic I was struggling with. Both tutors helped motivate me by keeping me updated on my progress. I know other people would not enjoy being compared to others, but it was helpful for me to know how I was doing compared to other students at the same stage in the test prep process. It would motivate me to keep going because I would know that what I am doing is working. My math tutor also gave me a great motivational speech. He told me that what I was doing was really good, and that I’m going to succeed in the future.
Silbaugh, Mina’s math tutor, is equally complimentary. “Her commitment to growth was the most important factor. She stuck with the program, trusting that she would expand her range of ‘doable’ problems and reduce the number of errors on easier problems. And that’s exactly what happened.” Silbaugh adds that “Mina was very willing to ask questions and open to suggestions. She recognized that there were math content areas that she needed to refresh and did the work to make it happen. Especially in the second half of the program, her homework preparation was very strong; she checked her answers ahead of time so we could focus on the small number of questions she missed but didn’t understand how to do. Overall, Mina took the program seriously and committed to facilitating the improvement she wanted to see.”
A+: After everything you’ve been through and accomplished, what advice can you give students who are just starting or considering test prep?
MINA: First, you have to set goals. My goal was to get about a 1200 for my first official SAT, and I exceeded that goal. I think the fact that I set that goal just encouraged me a lot and gave me a lot of motivation. I also would talk to a lot of people who had already taken the SATs and just asked them about their experience and how they dealt with stress. Ultimately, it was all of my hard work that gave me the confidence that I had done everything I could. So my advice is to just set your goals and always remind yourself of why you’re doing this and that it is all going to be worth it at the end.
A+: Now, let’s look ahead to your future. Where do you want to go to college and what would you like to study?
MINA: I hope to get into my dream schools, like Drexel and UPenn, where I think I am going to major in either bio or neuroscience.
Tutors Graber and Silbaugh are delighted with Mina’s achievement and are confident that she will continue to accomplish great things. Both describe her as a “pleasure to work with” while Graber describes her as “a great student, a very hard worker, and a lovely person. She goes above and beyond to achieve success, and I know it will serve her well in the future.”
At A+ Test Prep and Tutoring, our practices are based on the latest developments in educational theory and research. We have an excellent team of tutors who can help you with standardized testing, executive functioning, or achievement in any other school subject. If you want to find out more about our services, our Client Service Director Joelle Faucette can be reached at 215-886-9188.