SAT/ACT Coach's Lament: "Do it!"

Follow your coach's direction

I’m in NY for a conference organized by the NY Times on “Schools for Tomorrow.” I met yesterday with Alexandra Zabriskie, a top-notch NY tutor for the SAT and ACT (and school subjects too).  Alex talked about coaching her students to take practice tests under the practice conditions, in other words, when it’s possible, to take at least one practice test at the place you’ll take the actual exam.  “I tell them how important this is, they say they’ll do it,” Alexandra says, sighing, “But they don’t follow through.”

If you are working with a coach it’s important for two reasons that you follow through. The first is that your coach is not your mother, not your father, not your teacher, but your coach. Your coach knows what you need to do to succeed on the test, just like the coach of an athletic team knows how you should practice to succeed.  Imagine what would happen if you were on a team and you didn’t follow your coach’s direction.

The second reason that this particular coaching — take a practice test at the test site — is important is that you need to simulate the conditions of the exam itself.  Taking the practice test at the site is vastly different than sitting on your bed at home and practicing there. Why? Because at home there are a zillion distractions: texts from your friends, snacks in the fridge, comfy pillow where you’ll just take a rest for “a minute.”   Zzzzzzzzzzzz.  Try doing any of these in the exam room (well, don’t try, actually).

Follow your coach’s direction. Chinese say, left ear in, right ear out. Don’t do that. Hearing what your coach says and go, yeah, yeah, yeah, doesn’t raise test scores. Doing the right things and practicing in the right way does. After all, if you don’t listen to the coach, why do you go to him/her in the first place? doesn’t make sense.

A special shout out to Alexandra Zabriskie in NY. She was an early follower of my work and she does a terrific job of understanding her students’ needs and tailoring her tutoring to them. Check out her website: (That’s Alex, on the left, in the picture above.)

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