When you are a twin (like I am!), you get used to sharing a lot with your sibling. Twin sisters, and Hatboro Horsham High School juniors, Sammy and Lexi Fuchs recently added a new thing to their list: they both succeeded in improving their college admissions test scores after working with A+ tutors, Rob Gelb and John Silbaugh. Sammy and Lexi took different paths to earn their truly remarkable results, however. Sammy prepared for the SAT and increased her score by 150 points, while Lexi prepared for the ACT and increased her score by 5 points. Intrigued and impressed, we wanted to know more about how tutors and twins worked together to achieve top scores.
A+: First of all, congratulations on your scores! Now that the whole process is over, can you reflect on how you got started with test prep at A+?
SAMMY AND LEXI: Yes, thank you! Our sister, Ava, saw an increase in scores and had a positive experience going to A+, so we decided to go too.
“I tutored Sammy and Lexi’s sister a few years ago,” recalls verbal tutor Rob Gelb, “so it was a pleasure getting to work with the rest of the family as well.”
A+: It sounds like the whole Fuchs family has gotten something positive out of working with A+. Is there any piece of advice you remember getting from your tutor that was particularly helpful?
SAMMY: The best piece of advice I got from my tutor was just to take a deep breath and relax. At one of my last sessions, my tutor told me that everything I have done so far has prepared me to take the SAT, so now all I can do is feel confident in knowing that I will be able to perform to the best of my abilities.
LEXI: The best advice I got was to take everything one step at a time. Whether that meant reading passages in smaller chunks or looking at all of the math problems separately in an order that worked best for me; moving at my own pace and creating smaller goals both helped.
What makes test prep tutoring work well goes beyond tutors simply offering advice. It’s a collaborative relationship. Sammy and Lexi’s tutors felt each girl brought something special to the table. For Sammy, it was her ability to persevere and build confidence that stood out.
ROB GELB: Sammy was great to work with, though she was definitely nervous at first given the breadth of material and the unconventional time pressure associated with the exam. However, once she relaxed and saw the exam as a whole, it became much easier to disentangle the individual reading and writing passages. Sammy also benefited from looking at every session as a chance to try new approaches and give herself permission to make mistakes. This helped in seeing what worked for her and what didn’t with the exam without feeling like every slip up was the end of the world. A nurturing space made all of the difference.
JOHN SILBAUGH: Sammy’s work ethic was #1, followed by her patience with herself and her belief that she was improving skills and honing strategies, even when practice test scores did not immediately show it. She trusted the process, and so the process really paid off. Sammy gave every assignment her full effort, and she came to our tutoring sessions prepared with questions about any problems she had missed. She was very motivated to learn good strategies for taking the SAT as well as to refresh a few mathematical concepts that she had not seen for a while. As a result, working with Sammy was like coaching a strong athlete—we were on the same page, equally invested in the same outcome, so the sessions felt very collaborative. She was terrific to work with, and I’m so pleased that she was able to achieve—and surpass—her goals on the SAT!
For Lexi, it was her ability to adapt that most impressed her tutors.
ROB GELB: Lexi had an early command of the material, so it was tougher to figure out ways to develop her already sharp verbal abilities. Much of our work involved seeing the passages as less an academic slog and more of a positive learning experience given the variety of topics. Reading actively and not passively made learning what each passage was about rewarding, and it was worthwhile to push Lexi into making that mental investment. Once she felt invested in passage material, further comprehension was possible.
JOHN SILBAUGH: Lexi’s self-confidence and self-awareness were keys in her progress. She also brought very good questions about select practice problems to each session. She picked up things so quickly, sometimes it seemed like she was a step ahead of me! Once we reviewed any mathematical concept, she had it down cold! In her preparation for the science section, she read for content carefully and could recognize when some of the questions seemed especially misleading. She completed every homework assignment faithfully and really worked hard to get a full understanding of why she missed the problems she missed. She was fully invested in transferring her strengths as a student to successfully taking a standardized test.
The strengths of each individual tutor and student became most evident when they encountered challenges during the process. For Sammy and Lexi, patience was key.
ROB GELB: While Sammy and Lexi have very different personalities and approaches, there was an initial frustration because their scores weren’t increasing very much at first. Often, higher scoring students struggle to see obvious progress from a numerical perspective, so I tried to make it about the larger learning process throughout our time together. It happens frequently: once a student who has done the work and really put the effort in is near the end of their program or even sitting at the actual exam, something clicks, and that is when their best scores happen. In other words, the goal was patience, since every reading and test taking technique we went over took time to develop, but the end results speak for themselves.
A+: Sammy and Lexi, what challenges do you recall facing and, other than your tutors, what do you feel helped you overcome them?
SAMMY: My biggest challenge throughout the process was having confidence in myself. Initially, I thought the time given was not enough to get to all the questions and answer them correctly. Repetition and review helped. It is important to take many practice tests and complete all the assigned homework so you will know what to expect on the real test. I also looked over my incorrect answers to understand why I got them wrong and how to get those types of problems correct in the future. After some practice, I soon realized that it was possible to answer all the questions and get many of them correct, which helped me to become more confident.
LEXI: Changing the pace at which I did my work was very difficult to do at first. I had a hard time slowing down and reading questions slowly in order to better understand them. What helped me was having a similar structure of work to do at home every week. The similarity of my work from week-to-week helped me find motivation to complete what needed to be done.
With their challenges and tests behind them, Sammy and Lexi are now able to switch from the ones receiving advice to the ones giving it. To students who are looking ahead to their own test preparation, Lexi recommends taking “the practice tests as seriously as possible. It might be hard to do so, but it really helps to familiarize yourself with them so that you feel less pressure on the actual test day.” Similarly, Sammy encourages new students to “practice and to have confidence in themselves. It is important for them to become familiar with the test materials, and that can only be done with repeated practice. Confidence comes with practice, so it is necessary to persevere and always try to be the best you can be.”
Sammy and Lexi are also using their improved scores and confidence to achieve their goals for the future. Although neither is ready to get too specific, they do have a general sense of what they want to do. Sammy wants “to work in the medical field, maybe as a doctor or nurse,” while Lexi would like “to work with books in some capacity.”
We at A+ couldn’t be more proud of what Sammy and Lexi have already achieved, so we wish them both the best as they pursue their dreams.
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.