Test Prep Guide: General Test Planning & Strategy FAQ
How long is the test prep process?
● Most prep is 4-7 months, but students show a wide range of needs
● To determine an accurate prep program for a student, you need:
○ A robust diagnostic to determine your starting score and content/testing issues
○ An ideal score based on the schools you’re applying to
○ A reasonable score based on consultation with a tutor
● Prep under 3 months is often ineffective (i.e. don’t start ISEE/SSAT prep in 8th grade)
● Students benefit greatly from summer prep without other academic distractions
● Use practice section diagnostics to gauge if you’re meeting your targets
What promotes successful tutoring?
It’s not just tutoring. It’s training. While there are few tutors who have an internal map of every question type, topic mastery is only one component. What’s needed is:
● A tutor who can teach recognition strategies for each question type
● A tutor who can customize problem-solving strategies for each question type
● A tutor whom the student respects, likes, and wants to impress
● A tutor who can provide coaching of long-term plans and milestones
● Consistent scheduling and drilling so that the material stays fresh
● At least 45-60 minutes of well-executed homework per session
How many times a week should students meet with tutors?
● As often as allows them to complete the homework well
● 2x a week for ambitious students and students in need of oversight
○ Greater frequency of contact with the material enhances retention
○ Students who can meet 2x a week typically complete prep in less than half the time of students who meet 1x a week… if they keep up with homework
● 1x a week for over-committed or unfocused students who can’t complete work (esp. ISEE/SSAT)
How many practice tests should students take?
● Forum advises 3-4 before the first official test
● Why do we not recommend the standard 9-10?
○ We believe it’s better to master skills, then practice sections, then full tests
○ Taking full tests along the way can reinforce bad technique
○ Full practice exams should test anxiety and exhaustion issues—not skills that should have already been mastered and tested through practice sections
○ Forum is the only agency that can diagnose practice sections on the way, so that students don’t need to take full mock tests to see how they’re doing