Few students feel that tests provide them with opportunities to demonstrate their mastery of content. Fewer still feel that tests give them an opportunity to shine. In the hundreds of conversations we’ve had with parents, students, and other educators, one phrase repeats itself time and again: “I’m not a good test-taker.” That statement serves as the bedrock underlying why and how we do what we do.
First, because we believe that “I’m not a good test-taker” means exactly that. It doesn’t mean that students are less intelligent, or that their intelligence is somehow less valid. It doesn’t mean that they can’t learn or remember or apply information as effectively as can their peers. And, having spent thousands of hours interacting with standardized tests, we can say with some degree of certainty that how well a student performs on the SAT or ACT is a reflection of exactly one thing: how well that student performs on the SAT or ACT.
Second, we believe that test-taking - like any other skill - can be learned and perfected. No, we don’t think that every single student can (or should) aim for a perfect score. But we do know that each student can develop the skills he needs to turn the test into an accurate reflection of his content mastery. We also know that this process requires more than to simply learn and apply strategies for speed reading and process of elimination (although those certainly play an important role). The challenge lies in helping each student identify the roles of her anxieties, learning differences, and habits in shaping how she sees the test. The reward lies in determining how best to overcome or harness those elements into a holistic strategy that works for her.