Diego is a student we had who had gotten 26 on his ACT. His family decided to buy a 36-hour package after talking with us about the benefits to a medium-sized tutoring package while still wanting to be conservative with their money. Below is a session-by-session breakdown of the progress he made, the subjects he was taught, and the practice exams that he took. Diego ended up greatly improving and got 33 on the real ACT exam, truly showing how much a student can benefit from tutoring with Victory Step Education!
The introductory session involves the Victory Step Education tutor meeting Diego, getting to know where he is at in terms of study habits, what his favorite and least favorite subjects are, and to give an overview of the ACT. The overview includes the structure of the exam, how important the timing is, and a brief outline of each section’s question types. Chapter reading along with some practice science questions in the provided textbook are given as homework.
Starting the second session out, as with many subsequent sessions, is a review of the homework from the previous session. Encouraging questions from the student is paramount to a productive tutoring lesson. Any questions Diego may have are answered by the tutor in detail, allowing him to see what mistakes he has made and how to avoid them in the future. From here on, they start running through different sections of the exam, breaking down strategies and subjects to study. More reading in a textbook and practice questions are given as homework.
In this session, the tutor goes over homework from the previous session and the rhythm of the tutoring is set from here on: reviewing first and new material second. After that, Diego and the tutor start focusing on evidence-based reading questions, interpreting graphs and figures in conjunction with a passage, correct punctuation and sentence structure, and the basics of algebra. Homework is simply reading some chapters in the book focused on how the ACT sections are structured.
The first proctored exam is a practice exam designed to gauge where Diego is and will be utilized to guide him from there on certain subject areas he may be weak in and reinforce ones he is strong in. His score has slightly improved from 26 to 27. Question and topic analytics from each of the sections will be provided with this and every following exam.
After the first exam, Diego learns he has a long way to go before he will see the significant improvement he wants. The tutor assures him this is a gradual process that takes time, dedication, and practice, practice, practice. They both go over the exam he took over the weekend and question by question, review what he did right and wrong, emphasizing process of elimination, healthy timing tactics, and reinforcing strategies he is already implementing effectively. Online diagnostic quiz modules are assigned as homework.
Continuing from the last session, they go more into detail about evidence-based reading and how to spot important details in a passage relating to questions, further practice about punctuation leading into colons, semi-colons, and dashes, basic algebra rules to remember, and interpreting graphical data to experimental design. Tutor engagement in a student’s learning is incredibly important. In more specific terms, a tutor has to put in a good amount of work as well as the student. Reading chapters and practice questions in the textbook are assigned.
After reviewing homework, the tutor and Diego start head on with math, his worst subject from the last exam. At Victory Step Education, targeting weaknesses and elevating strengths is a key tutoring strategy to boost student performance. The lesson emphasizes putting each answer in a reading passage in context with the sentence, paragraph, or passage in question. Similar reading with sample questions, as well as some online modules, are assigned. Victory Step Education utilizes online modules and resources to their greatest extent to maximize the student’s success.
The second practice follows an increased amount of advanced material and test-taking strategies. These practice exams are meant as a benchmark for how he has progressed as well as solid practice for the real deal. Diego gets through most of the questions in the exam, but doesn’t get to double check all his answers. His score improves from 27 to 28.
As progress is being made in Diego’s skills and knowledge, so too is his confidence growing. The tutor points out that having a good attitude during study time, practicing, and especially actual exams is a key factor. After all, if one believes they will do poorly, they probably will. However, a positive attitude isn’t the only factor in getting a good score, so they review the exam from the weekend like last time. Online modules about words in context and evidence-based reading are assigned.
After going over the modules from last session fairly quickly, Diego and the tutor jump into the topic of the day: mathematics. That is Diego’s weak point, so going over subjects in those sections is quite beneficial. The tutor teaches factoring, the distance formula (and how it’s actually just the Pythagorean Theorem), exponent rules, logarithms, and synthetic division. Any good tutor must learn how the student studies, why they answer questions in a certain way, and what their strengths and weaknesses are. Homework is a full exam, untimed, to test Diego on endurance.
Reviewing the reading homework gleams some flaws in Diego’s test-taking and critical reading skills, which they intend to address. The first part of the session is the tutor pointing out and rectifying many of the problems he has such as not going through every answer. The rest of the session is a English lesson about transition words, sentence flow, and the relationship between sentences. This time the homework is an entire English section from the book as well as a math section.
This next exam sees Diego really starting to connect with and implement the lessons he’s been studying for the past few weeks. Taking a practice exam gives him insight into how the actual ACT will feel like and hands on experience. He has extra time at the end of each section to review answers he wasn’t completely sure about, fixing them and gaining some more points. His score has greatly improved from 28 to 30.
Now Diego’s tutoring sessions are really showing their benefit. This session there aren’t enough wrong questions to go over in the exam to take up the entire time, so they go over the homework from the previous sessions as well. Then, the tutor reviews goes over reading concepts like the main purpose of the passage in question and how to distinguish between vague ideas, overly detailed claims, and true summaries. The science section has a lot of overlap with the reading section, albeit having many figures and graphs attached to its passages. Online modules about trigonometry and other geometry topics are assigned.
With the math homework review underway, the tutor and Diego see a few mistakes here and there like how he sometimes doesn’t check his answer with the given equation and isn’t completely sure on exponent rules. The latter half the session is a math lesson that teaches him about systems of equations, their graphs, and how to solve them. Also, there is a English lesson about identifying correct word choice and utilizing vocabulary in tone and style with the passage. Again, homework is a full exam, untimed.
The majority of this session is going over the homework exam from last time. Diego did quite well on it, much better than the timed practice exams. That is to be expected as the stress of time wasn’t a factor in this case. The tutor makes a point to teach how practicing healthy test-taking strategies and going at a comfortable, yet brisk, pace are extremely important things to do in any exam. Focusing on test-taking and timing skills is a cornerstone of Victory Step Education, as the way a student takes an exam is as important as the exam’s content.
Utilizing the previous few sessions’ increased focus on timing and process of elimination, Diego manages to follow a trend of building up test-taking endurance. Practice exams are meant to be taken as endurance challenges and as a way to give students the confidence they need. This time, he blazes through the reading and science sections but takes his time on math to comfortably soak in the information and double check his answers. His score improves again from 30 to 31.
Since Diego has improved so much, this session starts with the tutor going over practice exam, but also sees a shift in how their lessons will go from here on. Rather than straight lectures or questions about specific topics, they go through practice exam after practice exam, covering the wide range of topics as they progress. The bread and butter of Victory Step Education is how their tutors can break down an exam to its core concepts, strategies, and structure and impart that onto their students. Homework is a now timed practice test that can be taken piece by piece.
The now timed homework shows that Diego has gotten better at all the topics at hand. This session, the tutor answers questions that he has about the author’s intent in reading passages, sentence and idea flow in English passages, and a multitude of ideas in trigonometry and geometry. These include trigonometric functions, circle functions and graphing them, and special triangles. Additionally, he asks about linear equations, their different forms, graphing them, solving them, and identifying their parts. Another timed practice test to be taken section by section is assigned as homework.
A few sessions ago, Diego ran out of material in his original ACT book. The tutor had to recommend and provide him with a new book so that they may continue tutoring lessons unabated. This session is all about Diego asking for clarification on specific questions he either got wrong or wasn’t sure how he got right in his book. Before the next practice test at the Victory Step Education office, they review some test-taking strategies. They go into depth about process of elimination, skipping harder questions in favor of easy questions first, making sure to show work and mark down evidence, and how to narrow down what information is important or not in tables and charts.
At this point, Diego is very used to the questions at hand, finishing every part of his exam with time left over. This gives him ample opportunity to go over his answers and possibly get extra points through reevaluation. Additionally, he headed into the exam room and left it with self-assurance and a feeling that everything went well. Tutors at Victory Step Education pride themselves on instilling confidence, positivity, and knowledge in students. His score improved 31 to 33.
Another successful practice exam gives Diego even more confidence and his parents are elated at the success the tutoring sessions have been. They recommend Victory Step Education to all of their friends and family, but more importantly, Diego reviews his practice exam with the tutor and shores up on all the small mistakes or even repeated mistakes he has made for a while now. Breaking bad habits is a huge part of learning and making mistakes and recognizing them is the best way to learn! Another timed practice test is assigned as homework.
After his last practice exam, Diego is fully ready to take on the ACT in just a few weeks. From here, the tutor and he plan to go over a few topics that he wants to double check on before the big day: tone and emotion in reading passages, probability and central tendency, and some miscellaneous English strategies. Additionally, they practice a few science passages for good measure. The tutor assigns the last homework of the package and it’s a huge surprise: another timed practice test!
Once they’ve examined the homework from last time, the final session is an overview of how much progress Diego has made since the beginning and is an opportunity for the tutor to give more holistic tips on taking the exam. Get to sleep early, eat healthy every day but especially before and the morning of, drink lots of water and bring a snack and drink to the exam, and most of all, stay positive. The rest of the session the tutor answers any last minute questions his now prepared student might have.
Diego took the ACT shortly after his last session and got 33, helping him get a place in Harvard! He and his family were extremely receptive, welcoming, and grateful to Victory Step Education and his tutor!