For 17-year-old Sam Hunt, balancing a busy schedule and finding time to prepare for the SAT was a challenge. His college counselor recommended that he sign up for a test prep program with A+ Test Prep and Tutoring.
“At first, my biggest fear was that the program would add extra stress to the whole process,” he remembered.
However, the rising senior from Wissahickon High School soon learned that spending dedicated time focusing on the test was just what he needed.
His mother, Lisa Hunt, evaluated the options and determined that one-to-one tutoring with A+ could be a great fit. “I really wanted it to be time well spent,” she said, noting that with group classes, he might not get the maximum benefits of a tutoring program. “His schedule was just so crazy. I wanted him to make the most of time he did have,” she said.
Sam entered a full test prep program, meeting at his home with tutors Elizabeth Sweger for the verbal portions and Daniel McDowell for math. Since Sam typically excels in math, A+ customized his program so that more sessions were spent on his (relatively) weaker areas: Critical Reading and Writing.
Sam found that his tutors were personable and kept expectations realistic.
“Finding a balance between the tutoring homework, schoolwork, and extracurricular activities was difficult,” Sam explained. “My tutors kept in mind that I had other very large commitments.” He plays varsity and club soccer, is a member of Future Business Leaders of America, and enjoys snowboarding.
Sam learned test-taking strategies that helped him improve little by little throughout his time in the program. He was answering most questions correctly in the Math section, for example, but McDowell helped him fine-tune his approach by helping him determine how many questions he should skip, and which ones he should answer.
On the verbal side, Sam found the content more challenging. Sweger was able to teach him to “think like the test makers” and understand how to pick a right answer, even if he wasn’t sure how to answer a question.
“One of the things I believe helped Sam most was practice,” Sweger said. “Not only did it help him become a more flexible test taker who could adjust his approach depending on what types of sentences or passages he encountered, but it also helped him identify areas in need of improvement.
“Providing Sam with vocabulary lists, practice passages, sample essays, and advice from a variety of sources enhanced Sam’s knowledge and comfort with the test so that he could achieve his goals,” she said.
Sam took the SAT three times and improved his score each time. He attributes his continual improvement to taking practice tests and focusing on the Critical Reading section. His attitude toward the test also changed throughout the process and impacted his scores positively. “It was really about confidence for me,” he said. “Learning to ‘like’ the sections was difficult, considering I just wanted the test to be over at the beginning. I changed my attitude, allowing myself to become way more ‘excited’ for some of the sections.”
Sweger agreed that Sam had the right attitude. “He was never satisfied with doing less than his best and, as a result, he was able to make admirable progress.”
After taking the January 2015 SAT, Sam took it again in March and saw a 230-point increase in his score. When he took the SAT again in June, his score jumped another 90 points.
“By the third test, I went in with an extremely prepared mindset, and I was ready to do well,” Sam remembered.
Lisa concluded that the tutoring program was really worth the investment. “So much depends on the kid, but with our experience, the tutors really clicked with Sam and gave him what he needed,” she said. “It was a positive experience. We have a daughter two years behind Sam, and we will look into using A+ again.”
“If you want to succeed, you will,” Sam concluded. “The sessions are what you make of them. If you don't do the homework and don't pay attention during the tutoring, it will be hard to improve.”
With a strong SAT score under his belt, Sam looks toward college visits and applications. “I am looking to study business during college,” he said. “My first choice is Bucknell, but I am also interested in Elon, American, and Maryland.”
With his strong work ethic and willingness to put in the time, Sam is sure to be successful at the next level.