I took the SAT three times. In preparation for the first two tests I worked with a lovely woman who helped me in many ways. While I had wanted to prepare one final attempt just to see if I might improve under less stressful conditions, my mother who is a story in herself, decided that I should try a new approach my preparation. Someone had told her about this amazing guy who was a brilliant math tutor, but just a math tutor. I would need someone else for reading and writing. Though at the time I found this process quite cumbersome I did learn how it could be beneficial to many.
First I need a quick disclaimer about bias. In truth I do not think my last two tutors and I were very compatible. While they were both nice people I have always worked better with female tutors, and both of these tutors were male. There were also many other stress factors during this preparation as it was over the summer and I was involved in multiple activities. I am restricting this article to the general negatives and benefits that I found from having multiple tutors.
Both of my tutors were very skilled in their respective subjects. They were exceedingly accomplished in their areas, and given the specialization of our sessions we were able to explore the nuances of the material. I experimented with different ways to format my essays than I had ever considered, and I took a new approach to math questions.
A huge part of the reason I was encouraged to get a new tutor at this point in my preparation was because there is only so much one person can teach you. My tutor had given me all the resources that she could and the methods she thought were best, and the new tutors offered a different opinion. Given my previous work with my first tutor we did not go into test taking methods too heavily, and were able to focus more on the material and my specific problems. When we did talk about test taking strategies we looked in depth into different approaches for the principle subjects and the types of questions within them.
The major con of this approach can be summed up quite simply as overwhelming. My schedule became flooded with double the weekly meetings as I met with both tutors. My head felt like it was going to burst as I tried to sift through the new ideas while still retaining the old methods that had been working for me. My tutors often assigned their own sections and so I would end up with a Frankenstein practice test unrelated sections.
In this process I really struggled to retain some of my general test taking skills that I had not previously struggled with. Time management, anxiety, and focus problems reared their heads when I had to sit for full practice tests and I had to again sift through both tutor’s advice on these matters.
For me this approach had little effect. My math score went up by ten points, and that was the only change after a summer of work. There were other factors that may have had an effect on the magnitude of change, but even under perfect conditions I do not think I am the sort of student who would ever benefit from such and approach.
What are ideal conditions? Well first I think the student has to be one who has the time to meet with more than one tutor and to consider how to coordinate work. A student should also have a good understanding of the way that they learn and be able to hybridize the advice of multiple people to be suit them. I think it would be very helpful if the tutors communicated with each other on how to present a coherent approach to the student, and how their assignments can compliment each other rather than confuse the student.