Ethan is a student we once had a few years ago who had gotten 18 on his first ACT. The family decided to buy an 80-hour package after talking with us about the benefits of a large tutoring package. Below is a session-by-session breakdown of the progress he made, the subjects he was taught, and the practice exams that he took. Ethan ended up heavily improving and got a 33 on his real ACT exam, fully exemplifying the success he achieved with the help of Victory Step Education!
The introductory session involves the Victory Step Education tutor meeting Ethan, getting to know where he is at in terms of study habits, what his preferred and weak subjects are, and to give an overview of the ACT. The structure of the exam, how important the timing is, and a brief outline of each section is included in this overview. Science reading along with some practice 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. Any questions Ethan may have are answered by the tutor in detail, allowing his to see what mistakes he might have 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 with reviewing first and new material second. After that, Ethan and the tutor start focusing on evidence-based reading questions. 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.
Branching from the last session, they go more into detail about correct punctuation and sentence structure and the basics of algebra. Ethan asks many questions which are answered by the tutor. Encouraging questions from the student is paramount to a productive tutoring lesson. 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 estimate where Ethan 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 slightly improve from 18 to 19. Question and topic analytics from each of the sections will be provided with this and every following exam.
After the first exam, Ethan loses a bit of confidence, not improving as much as he wanted to. The tutor assures his 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 what he did wrong. Online diagnostic science modules are assigned as homework.
After reviewing his homework, the tutor and Ethan start head on with reading, 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. Homework for the next session is to do an entire reading section from a practice test in the book.
Reviewing the reading homework gleams some flaws in Ethan’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 Ethan 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.
With the English and math homework review underway, the tutor and Ethan see a few mistakes here and there like how he sometimes doesn’t read the entire paragraph in a sentence rearranging question or isn’t completely sure on exponent rules. The latter half the session is a math lesson about more advanced algebra rules to remember. Online modules about words in context and evidence-based reading are assigned.
After going over the modules from last session, Ethan and the tutor jump into the topics of the day: advanced math and evidence-based reading. Those are Ethan’s weak points still, so going over subjects in those sections is quite beneficial. The reading lesson is all about 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. The tutor promises to go over math next time. Homework is a full exam, untimed, to test Ethan on endurance.
The first half here is Ethan and the tutor reviewing the homework, which he has improved quite a lot especially in terms of English and reading. Math is his other weak subject, so the rest of the session reinforces ideas like teaches linear equations, their different forms, graphing them, solving them, and identifying their parts. Homework consists of Victory Step Education curated online modules in critical reading and some higher level math.
Taking some time to focus on the high-level problems that the online homework had, going over many math topics multiple times to drill the rules into Ethan’s head. The English lesson is about identifying correct word choice and utilizing vocabulary in tone and style with the passage. They talk about some test-taking strategies like pacing oneself, eliminating wrong answers, and efficient bubbling.
The second practice follows the 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. He gets through most of the questions in the exam, but doesn’t completely finish. His score slightly improves from 19 to 20.
This time around Ethan’s mood has improved along with his score. As progress is being made in his skills and knowledge, so too is his confidence growing. 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. 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. Homework is reading an article in a scientific journal and then answering questions about it.
The majority of this session is going over the homework exam from last time. Ethan did quite well on it, much better than his practice exam. That is to be expected as the stress of time wasn’t a factor in this case. 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. Homework is a full practice exam that Ethan will record his time taken on.
Ethan and the tutor find that there are some math questions he sometimes misses, but he is getting better at finishing on time. Therefore, they think that dedicating the rest of the session to mathematics is the way to go. They review factoring, the distance formula (and how it’s actually the Pythagorean Theorem), exponent rules, logarithms, and synthetic division. The homework this time is online modules about advanced math.
After going over the advanced math modules, the tutor shifts gears, diving back into reading and English. Ethan practices evidence-based reading and how to spot important details in a passage relating to questions as well as further practice about punctuation leading into colons, semi-colons, and dashes. Since last week was a short homework assignment, the tutor gives Ethan a full practice test to take at home. Victory Step Education gives parents the option and instructions to proctor their children while taking a test, allowing for a more authentic test-taking experience.
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. The rest of the lesson is pouring into the homework exam, picking apart how and why Ethan missed this quadratic formula problem, that conjugation question, or some evidence-based reading question. Picking apart a student’s learning and thought process are skills that Victory Step Education instill in all its tutors. Homework is a full practice test again.
The practice exam that was assigned as homework seemed to be much harder than usual or Ethan had an off day. In either case, the tutor explains that sometimes this happens, which is why he should take the ACT multiple times to get a good amount of chances to score big. The tutor emphasizes process of elimination, healthy timing tactics, and reinforcing strategies he is already implementing effectively. A worksheet the tutor has prepared with topics specific to Ethan’s weaknesses is assigned.
Ethan says the worksheet helped quite a lot in pointing out where he still needs to study and practice. Tutor engagement in a student’s learning is incredibly important. In more specific terms, a tutor must put in a good amount of work as well as the student. Any good tutor must learn how the student studies, why they answer questions in a certain way, and what their strengths and weaknesses are. Identifying and addressing these things helps the student immensely and having a great tutor is part of why Ethan has found such success so far.
Utilizing the previous few sessions’ increased focus on timing and process of elimination, Ethan follows a trend of building up test-taking endurance. Practice exams are meant to be taken as endurance challenges and to give students the confidence they need. This time, Ethan gets nearly all the way through the English and science sections but still must take his time on reading and math. His score improves a decent amount: 20 to 22.
Once they have gone over the third exam, which Ethan is happy about, the tutor starts a broader lecture on studying, test-taking, and critical reading. The tutor has noticed that Ethan will sometimes either skim over a passage, or read just part of a question in a hurry, or won’t write down his work. Breaking bad habits is a huge part of learning and making mistakes and recognizing them is the best way to learn! The tutor gives Ethan a unique piece of homework: reading a number of passages and solving a math worksheet with the point being to show all his work and marking all important evidence.
A good number of sessions ago, Ethan ran out of material in his original ACT book. The tutor had to recommend and provide his with a new book so that they may continue tutoring lessons unabated. This session is all about Ethan asking for clarification on specific questions he either got wrong or wasn’t sure how he got right in his book. Clear and concise explanations by the Victory Step Education tutor as well as a full practice test assigned as homework follow.
With the new book, Ethan and the tutor review a chapter all about systems of equations, their graphs, and how to solve them. His confidence in math has skyrocketed since the beginning of the tutoring sessions, and they’re only halfway done so far! Ethan finds himself propelled past many of his peers in class and his quite happy about it, but the tutor makes sure to not let him get complacent, so he assigns him a fully timed practice test in the new book.
The end of the school semester draws near, so this will be the last session for a little while. Ethan decides he wants to dedicate it to working on subjects he’s not completely comfortable with for finals season. The tutor acquiesces to this, happy to help in any way. They go over some history, biology, and chemistry review sheets Ethan was assigned. The tutor gives some reading chapters as homework to keep him sharp on the ACT and to reinforce ideas for finals.
After a couple weeks, Ethan and his tutor meet again. Finals were exhausting, but they need to get back into the swing of things, so they go over subjects from every section of the ACT: sentence addition and deletion, word choice in terms of tone and context, and trigonometric identities. The homework is a series of advanced algebra practice problems and science passages.
Once they have gone over Ethan’s homework from the last session, the tutor decides that, before the next practice test at the Victory Step Education office, they will review some test-taking strategies. They go into depth about process of elimination, skipping harder questions in favor of completing easy questions first, and making sure to show his work and mark down evidence.
Taking a practice exam gives his 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 22 to 25. Improvements like this are what Victory Step Education strives for and regularly achieve.
An extremely successful practice exam gives Ethan 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, Ethan 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. Online modules on subject-verb agreements, sentence placement, and systems of equations are assigned.
Seeing as Ethan has improved so much, this session starts with the tutor going over the homework from last time, 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 Ethan 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. Another timed practice test to be taken section by section is assigned as homework.
Today, Ethan would like to focus on story math problems, something that confounds him on occasion. The tutor makes clear that these are much simpler than they appear and that the main point of them is to test whether the student can extract an equation from the words or not. Once they’ve meticulously gone through a set of questions, Ethan has an easier time reading a word problem, identifying the important parts, and generating a matching equation. The homework is a question packet filled with story problems.
The lesson of this session is reviewing some English concepts in order to keep Ethan sharp in the subject. They go into detail with combining sentences, transition words, addition and deletion of phrases and sentences, redundancy, and relevancy. In addition, Ethan asks about interpreting figures in terms of the passage in reading and science, which the tutor summarizes as simply identifying which answer has correct information/data. The homework is a fully timed practice test.
Ethan’s parents want to sit down and speak with his tutor during this session. In particular, they would like to know about how tutoring has been going (aside from the notes they are sent after every session), what the tutor thinks Ethan can get on the real ACT, and how realistic certain colleges are. The tutor, having spent so long tutoring Ethan, answers every question they have, leaving them ACTisfied and with increased confidence in the tutor, Victory Step Education, and their son.
This next exam sees Ethan really clicking with the lessons he’s been studying for the past half year. He gets through the reading section with almost no issues, completes the English section with a personal best time taken, and takes on the math sections without stumbling too hard. His score jumps again from 25 to 27.
Now Ethan’s tutoring sessions are really showing their benefit as he hits his stride fully with his test-taking. This session there aren’t enough wrong questions to go over in the exam to take up the entire time, so the tutor reviews some concepts that Ethan would like to go over again for practice and re-emphasis. Tutors at Victory Step Education have a duty to listen to and address any problems their students may have. Online modules about trigonometry and other geometry topics are assigned.
Going over the homework is a routine by this time; both Ethan and the tutor are in a rhythm of reviewing questions, explaining them in detail, and confirming understanding of the concepts. After that, Ethan wants to focus on reading sections, so they exclusively do reading passages this session. Topics like anticipating how a character or person might react, interpreting graphs and figures in conjunction with a passage, and singling out evidence are reviewed. The homework is another practice exam, fully timed.
The practice exam from last session proved to be somewhat harder than most, prompting a lower score from Ethan. He requests that the tutor review some reading subjects like author intention, anticipating how a character or person would react to a specific stimulus, and the main claim vs. the summary of a passage. The tutor explains these in detail. For example, the main claim is what the point of the passage was, what it intends to achieve, while the summary of a passage is simply what happens in it. A series of reading chapters are assigned as homework, focusing on more abstract critical reading ideas.
In this session, the tutor and Ethan continue their deep dive into critical reading for the first half. They talk about passage tone, implicated meaning, and words in context. These topics are quite important as they help the reader understand the passage to an extremely high degree. The tone of the passage indicates how the narrator or author views certain perspectives, people, or ideas. Any implicit meaning in a passage must be discerned before full understanding is reached. Being able to read and appreciate how words are chosen while considering the context is a key skill to have. After that intensive session, the tutor assigns a full practice test as homework.
Once the homework has been reviewed and dissected, Ethan asks the tutor to go over those important math equations he must remember for the exam. In the ACT, many equations are provided: area of certain shapes, volume, and special triangles. There are additional formulas that are used frequently in the exam that aren’t given to students. These include the equation for graphing a circle, the quadratic formula, the distance formula, and how trigonometric identities relate to each other. The homework assigned consists of problems centered around these equations in order help memorization.
Before his final practice exam, Ethan would like to review some test-taking skills and ask about how the tutor would take an exam. The tutor says that everything Ethan has learned thus far is something they would have used in any exam. These skills are universal, working with any type of exam, a multitude of projects, or even real-life situations like in a job. That’s the point of the ACT: teaching time-management, decision-making, and preparation skills. Additionally, they practice a few science passages for good measure.
At this point, Ethan is very used to the questions at hand, finishing every part of his exam with time left over. This gives his 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 his head held high and assuredness draped on his shoulders. Tutors at Victory Step Education pride themselves on instilling confidence, positivity, and knowledge in students. His score improved from 27 to 31.
After his last practice exam, Ethan is fully ready to take on the ACT in just a few weeks. From here, the tutor and his plan to go over a few topics that he wants to double check on before the big day. Reviewing the test from the weekend takes no time at all and they proceed to review topics like tone and emotion in reading passages, probability and central tendency, and some miscellaneous English strategies. A final batch of online modules are assigned, this time with much harder questions.
Again, they are starting to run out of material in the third book; they are near the end of the tutoring package, making this good timing. The tutor decides to give Ethan the opportunity to ask about any problem or passage in any of his books that he thought were particularly difficult or vague or just downright confusing. They go through a good number of math problems, which the tutor pick apart with precision and clarity. Also, the few reading passages that Ethan requested help with are broken down, sentence-by-sentence, by the tutor in order to help Ethan understand what is being said. The homework is one of the last practice tests in the book.
After going over homework as usual, the tutor offers a different kind of session this time. Instead of specific topics, Ethan will ask general questions about the exam, its structure, how to game the questions, and what scores will be good for what colleges. A review of healthy test-taking strategies and time saving tips follows that. Reinforcing healthy test-taking strategies and comprehensive studying are two of the many skills that Victory Step Education teaches, as we have seen. 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 Ethan 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.
Ethan took the ACT not too long after his last session and got a 33, which helped him get a scholarship to Baylor University! He and his family were extremely happy and grateful to Victory Step Education and the wonderful tutor they had.