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How to Find a Test-Prep Coach?

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By Paul Lim | Kaplan SAT & ACT Trainer

This is a continuation of the discussion we have previously on what a test-prep teacher should be like?  Should he be a tutor or a coach?  My answer to that question is obvious: he should be more like a coach than a tutor because he should focus his efforts on improving the student’s capability rather than just teaching knowledge and skills to the students.  Then the next question will be: what are the properties of a good test-prep coach?  To answer that question, we need to see this in the light of a sports analogy.  Most people know that to play any kind of sports well, we need to have a good coach.  And what are the properties of a good coach?  A good coach should take a personal approach to the student using scientific improvement methods.

In doing many sports these days, a lot of people employ personal trainers to help them.  In test-prep, having a personal trainer (coach) is even more important.  The coach must understand your gaps, strengths, and weaknesses so that he can help you to improve in the best possible way.  But for most people, this is not the main quality that they look for in a coach.  Most people, at least in sports, look for coaches who can play the sports better than themselves.  For example, if Usain Bolt is trying to a find a new coach, he should look for someone who can run 100 meters faster than himself.  Most people would laugh at this example, but it is true.  What I am trying to say is that this is not an essential criterion for a good coach.  A good coach should be someone who can help you to improve, although he may not be the best player in that area.  What a good coach does is to take a personal approach to each student.  Every student has his own idiosyncrasies, strengths, and weaknesses.  A good coach should look at these and come up with a personal training plan for the students just like your personal trainer has a training plan just for you.  A “one-size-fits-all” approach is not going to work very well.

Sticking to our sports analogy, a good personal coach should also be someone who knows sports science.  Sports science is a term that has come into vogue for the past couple of decades.  These days, there are many universities in which you can study sports science.  Without doubt, science has played a major role in the improvement of sports.  Look at the Olympic athletes of today and you can see that their performance has been so much better than those of decades ago.  World records have been shattered one after another with the passing of each Olympic event.  If science can improve our performance in sports, do we have a Learning Science that can help us to improve our learning and testing?  Neuroscience is the first step in the right direction, and I hope Learning Science will take further steps to improve our learning and testing.

Although Learning Science is still in its infancy today, there is no reason that we should not use scientific methods to help us improve.  A good coach should adopt a scientific approach to his improvement methods.  Just like doing scientific experiments, he should be able to control the parameters and measure the performance of the students, analyze the data, and then implement programs and exercises to improve their performance.  A data-oriented approach will help students to improve their performance just like Sports Science has been able to improve athletes’ performance.  To be sure, this is a right step in the right direction, and I hope we will be able to take bigger steps by incorporating fields like physiology, psychology, and human engineering etc.

Although learning and testing has been around for hundreds of years (since the Middle Ages), there have been very little changes since then.  Through Learning Science, we need to change that so that our students can achieve their best results with methods and techniques that are focused on the individual person and scientifically proven to improve their performance, much like what we are doing now in our Personal Consultation sessions.

 

Mr. Paul Lim

Mr. Paul Lim

Kaplan SAT and ACT Trainer

MBA, National University of Singapore

B.Sc., Harvey Mudd College

TBE

TESOL

  • Over 15+ years of experience in teaching SAT and ACT
  • Graduated from a prestigious U.S. college
  • Proven record in helping students achieve a perfect subject section score of 800
  • Author of a book on effective learning strategies for mastering vocabulary

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