Prep with Justin (see plans by clicking here):
HI, I'm Justin Van Wely, founder and CEO of Perfect Score Tutoring & Test Preparation.
As a self-proclaimed test prep nerd, I find the only thing I love more than taking tests is teaching others how to take them. This is why many of my students have found immense success on these exams, some students increasing their scores as many as 510 points between administrations of the old SAT and 16 points on the ACT.
While point increases may vary, one thing that stays the same is that all students who work with me find my love for the tests infectious.
As the essayist Donald Miller explains in Blue Like Jazz:
"I never liked jazz music. But I was outside the Bagdad Theater in Portland one night when I saw a man playing the saxophone. I stood there for fifteen minutes, and he never opened his eyes. After that I liked jazz music."
To do well in something, I believe you have to love it a little. And, sometimes, the only way to love a thing is to watch someone else who loves it, first. It is like this with standardized exams, which is why I make it my personal goal to get students to enjoy test taking, in general, treating each exam as a challenge to overcome, a puzzle to solve, a game they can win. Most students eventually do find they love taking these tests once the proper methods are in place.
Frequently Asked Questions About My Private Tutoring Service
WHAT SECTIONS DO YOU TEACH?
I teach all sections of SAT, ACT, SAT II, SSAT, GRE, GMAT, and LSAT.
WHAT MATERIALS DO YOUR STUDENTS USE?
ALL of my students work with only real College Board or ACT Inc. approved tests. Once the SAT/ACT prep begins, the student will have access to my full complement of course materials, including The Official SAT Study Guide of the College Board "blue book," or "REAL ACT Prep Guide," my own workbooks, and my own reference guides. Many of these materials will be available as free downloads off of my website.
DO YOU TEACH STRATEGIES, CONCEPTS, OR BOTH?
While much of the prep will involve learning the test content, I also teach my students how to efficiently navigate the exam, including how to use a host of smart time-saving techniques to solve more difficult questions. I teach my students to think of such “shortcuts” not as a way to circumvent learning the content but rather as tools that can help them avoid silly mistakes and keep them within the high-pressure time constraints.
DO YOU ONLY DO INDIVIDUAL TUTORING OR DO YOU WORK WITH GROUPS TOO?
I am willing to work with up to five students at one time. Occasionally, more students simply means more distraction; however, I also find that, in extremely small groups, students will sometimes feed off each other and can gain an extra perspective as well as a partner to help them navigate the program.
WHERE DO SESSIONS TAKE PLACE AND HOW LONG IS A TYPICAL SESSION?
In-person tutoring sessions are typically one to two hours based on need, and I am normally open to meeting my students directly at the home (I operate within a 10-mile radius of Glenmont, N.Y.), although most students prefer to meet at a more convivial location, such as a Starbucks or Panera Bread.
I am also willing to tutor via Skype if distance is an issue, and those sessions are typically one hour. The rate for a Skype session is the same as the rate for in-person.
HOW MUCH DOES IT COST FOR ONE-ON-ONE TUTORING?
Big box chains in the area charge anywhere from $165/hour (for 36 hours) to $285/hour. An extensive course of prep with me typically runs between $1500 - $3000. Most students who work with me from PSAT to final SAT will invest about $2800.
DO YOU OFFER BULK DISCOUNTS OR PACKAGES?
While I do offer package tutoring (see our products & pricing page), I like to stress that the overall goal is to help my students reach their target scores whereby increasing their chances at gaining acceptance to their top-choice schools. For some, this may mean 18 hours of prep, and for others it may mean 30 or 40. There really is no set amount of test prep that fits every student, so offering a package, therefore, is not as constructive as, say, simply working with a student until he/she is consistently scoring within the desired range. My programs offer between 10 and 30 hours of individual prep and programs of 20 or more hours include access to my SAT or ACT class.
HOW SOON DO YOU USUALLY START WITH A STUDENT ON SAT OR ACT PREP?
In order to have the best chance of obtaining outstanding results (what I've seen to be 300 - 500 point increases on the old SAT and 8 - 10 point increases on ACT), students are encouraged to take their first diagnostic the summer going into their junior year or earlier and to prep consistently for at least six months prior to their first actual exam. Highest scoring students will have taken a number of practice tests before the actual exam and will have been exposed to every type of question they are likely to be asked on test day.
I recommend setting enough time aside before the last available exam so that the student can meet with me long enough that they are consistently scoring in their target range. For some, this will be a few weeks; for others, it may be months or even a year—the length of prep should simply depend on goals and distance from diagnostic to goals.
WHAT TYPE OF STUDENT DO YOU TYPICALLY WORK WITH?
I work with a wide range of students. For all my students, however, a must have is high motivation—students must want to succeed and be prepared to work hard to succeed just as much as I want to see them succeed. I find these students gain the most out of the prep and have the most enjoyable time during our sessions.
HOW OFTEN DO YOU ASSIGN HOMEWORK?
Homework is assigned after every session as a way to reinforce the lessons learned. For the typical students I take on, homework is usually not an issue and done on time. I try to always assign a fair amount of work for the busy high school student (usually a practice test section or two) just to keep them actively engaged in SAT or ACT work when studying over an extended period.
WHAT DOES A TYPICAL TUTORING SESSION INVOLVE?
Each session after our introductory session will begin with a review of the homework to make sure the student understands the concepts we went over in the previous lesson. Afterward, I might show a short 5 – 10 minute PowerPoint presentation on a topic, discuss a new concept, or have the student take notes on a formula, etc. We always build new, more complex understanding on top of firm foundations of previous knowledge. In each lesson, for example, we will look to understand simple ideas deeply, to find the familiar within the abstract, to continue a process until a pattern emerges, etc. It is true that much of the prep will involve answering real SAT/ACT questions on and off time; however, these fundamental skills of efficient thinking will always be reinforced. My background in the Union Graduate College Master’s in the Art of Teaching program and Harvard University’s Teaching Mathematics program has taught me that true understanding arrives through analogy, pattern recognition, repetition, and new application. In every session, my students will learn to be better thinkers by understanding both the details and how those details fit together to form the bigger picture.
HOW MUCH DO YOUR STUDENTS TYPICALLY GO UP FROM EXAM TO EXAM?
While score improvement depends on a number of factors, including how many times the student and I meet, where he/she was already scoring, how well he/she takes to the methods and if he/she is regularly practicing these methods outside of our prep sessions, etc., almost all of my 20-or-more-hour students have increased their scores on the old SAT from baseline to final exam at least 230 points with many increasing 350 points or higher.
HOW DO YOU COMPARE TO THE BIG BOX CHAINS?
For starters, I used to work for one of those big box chains and was even a developer for this area. I believe I have more and better materials (excluding on-line materials), an unmatched expertise, and a unique ability to help students look differently at standardized tests. My programs are more individualized and tailored to meet the specific needs of my students, the tests I provide are more accurate (they are real previously-administered tests!), and I teach more effective systematic test-taking procedures than the big box companies.
DO YOU HAVE REFERENCES?
Yes. I have a number of references which can be found on our testimonials page and more recent ones can be obtained via e-mail. Just send your request to Justin.firstname.lastname@example.org. The fact is I cherish the relationships I form with my students, and I tell them to keep in touch with me long after the sessions are over to let me know if I can help them in any way through the rest of the journey. Recently, over the past several years, I’ve even bought a t-shirt from the various schools my students have been accepted into (and enrolled in) so that I can wear it proudly to support them (I have a lot of shirts now and my wife is always saying the laundry is piling up from all the t-shirts!). In short, I truly love what I do, and I believe I have the best job in the world being able to meet and work with so many interesting new students each year.
DO YOU OFFER A GUARANTEE?
Yes. Because I only work with highly-motivated, hard-working students, I am as committed to seeing them do well on the tests as they are themselves. Occasionally, I will meet a student additionally for free if I feel they just really missed something or if they were simply close to their goal and I wanted to make sure they got there. The decision to do so is almost always based on how hard the student has worked with me and how important reaching that goal is to them.