Featured Test Prep Student: Monica O’Donnell

July 14, 2015 

Monica_ODonnellMonica O’Donnell has a myriad of extracurricular activities on her résumé. She plays marimba in the marching band, runs track, takes piano lessons, is a member of various honor societies, participates in the ski club, and finds time to mentor incoming freshman students. Even with all that on her plate, the 17-year-old rising senior from Council Rock High School North is a strong student. 

But when her PSAT scores didn’t reflect how well she does in school, her guidance counselor recommended she look into A+ Test Prep and Tutoring.

Monica agreed that some extra help would be beneficial. “It was all new to me, and I probably would not be able to teach myself to take the test,” she said.

Her mom, Lois O’Donnell, spoke with Susan Ware at A+. “I was impressed with the conversation, and we decided to go for it.” 

Monica began the program by taking diagnostic tests for both the SAT and ACT. The results showed that she had the potential to score higher on the ACT, so she decided to focus on preparing for that exam. Monica began meeting with her tutors the summer before her junior year in preparation to take the test in December.

“It was a really great experience,” Monica said. “They were flexible with my busy schedule.”

Monica had two tutors: Shannon Wasilewski for math and science, and Julie Mueller for the verbal sections.

“Monica was a very hardworking student,” Shannon said. “She has a bright personality, and was very motivated to do well on the ACT.”

Shannon said Monica needed help getting used to the types of questions on the ACT test. “To help Monica avoid misreading and misinterpreting questions, I had her underline or circle the question so she could determine what was being asked before diving into solving the problem,” she said.

Julie said that Monica was very upbeat about the whole process and was willing to try anything they discussed to help her figure out how to do better on the reading test.

“We spent a considerable amount of time working through each passage and trying to determine if her difficulty was passage-based (a certain type of passage), or if she struggled with the questions instead,” Julie noted. “We analyzed as we worked, adjusting how she took the test or how she looked for answers.”

Monica agreed that through the tutoring program, she was able to focus more on not only solving the question correctly, but also choosing the right answer.  She also was glad she chose a one-to-one tutoring method.

“The individual attention was great when I had questions and needed clarification. I didn’t have to compete with 10 other students.” 

She approached test day feeling good, and her score reflected her hard work. Her ACT score increased by 6 points!

Lois said she has recommended the program to other parents. “One of the things that impressed me right out of the box was that they wanted to determine which test she should be taking,” she said. “That was a really important thing for her, because she obviously did better with the ACT. And, the fact that they came to our home was really helpful.”

“The best advice the tutors gave me was that for the reading and science sections, the answer is there in the passage or diagram. I just had to find it,” Monica said. “One little thing someone says can make something much clearer for you. The tutors made taking the test much easier for me. I had positive results with A+, and it’s clear that others did too.”

Monica hopes to continue benefitting from individualized academic attention. She is undecided about what she wants to study, but she plans to apply to smaller liberal arts colleges: “I want to have smaller class sizes and professors that are accessible.”


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