So you’ve decided to work with a tutor.
Here are some tips on picking a good one.
Some students are able to leverage their tutor-aided studying into a fantastic score. Others struggle, becoming frustrated with their lack of progress. What makes the difference?
While it’s nice if your tutor magically transforms you into a CAT-acing machine, it’s more likely that you’ll have to do some work yourself. Here are a few ways to get the most out of a CAT tutor:
Set the Focus
Unless you are starting from square one, odds are you have some idea what your strengths and weaknesses are. Even if you plan to work with your tutor on all aspects of the CAT, it will be extremely helpful if you tell your tutor where you’d like to spend the most time.
The more specific, the better. Rather than saying you have difficulty with Word Problems, flag a few questions from your most recent practice test. Over time, your tutor will be able to help you isolate your weaknesses, but unless you want to wait until the third or fourth session to learn the most appropriate material, you can jump-start the process.
While this principle is most valuable in the first session or two, don’t ignore it later on. If you do 100 practice math questions in a week, continue to isolate the particular problems and topics you find most challenging. This allows you to jump right into relevant instruction without wasting time.
Most of the CAT-prep work you do will be studying solo. You may have a general idea of how to spend your time, but your tutor should know better. Never leave a tutoring session without a specific homework assignment.
If you are planning on working with your tutor for a half-dozen sessions or more, it’s important to make a general plan at the outset. The long-term plan may change (after all, that’s part of the reason you’re getting one-on-one service), but there’s a lot of value in understanding how you’ll get from here to the finish line.
And Follow Through
As I’m sure we all know, it’s one thing to make a plan, another to stick to it. If you don’t follow through with the specified homework assignment, you’re throwing away much of the value you’re paying for with a CAT tutor.
More than in a classroom course, tutoring sessions are (or should be) tailored to you. If you don’t hold up your end of the bargain and do assigned work, what do you expect to accomplish in the next session? I can remember far too many sessions I’ve had to cut short for this very reason.
Of course, there will be obstacles, and sometimes you and your tutor will have to adjust your plan. But in my experience, once a student starts falling behind, it’s awfully difficult to avoid falling even further behind. The only sure way to avoid that fate is to keep moving forward.
Your tutor is your tutor. He or she may be comfortable lecturing as if you are a class of one, but that’s not why you’re paying for tutoring. Don’t be afraid to ask anything at any time.
In particular, make sure you understand how to do things yourself. It’s much easier to watch someone work through a tricky probability question than to walk through the steps yourself. In fact, if your tutor shows you how to do something, it’s often worth the time to stop, see if you can replicate the steps yourself before moving on.
Don’t let topics or problems go by without figuring them out. You might think that it’s better to skim your way through twice as many topics per hour, but the opposite is the case. Use your time with your tutor to fully understand as many concepts as possible. It’s that deeper level of understanding that is usable in CAT. That’s what you’re paying for!
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