The Secrets of Test Prep

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With Alex Nelson, Director of Test Prep

Hi there! My name is Alex Nelson, and I’m passionate about helping each student achieve their desired score on the SAT or ACT. As the Director of Test Prep, I’ll work one on one with your student to master standardized testing. I’ve tutored the SAT and ACT for over 10 years, and achieved a perfect score on both tests.

Let’s Dive In!

Analyzing a student’s mistakes in real time

I start all my engagements with a complimentary consultation, so I can get to know your student, you, and your family’s situation. Every student is unique, and each has their own score goal and target colleges. During our first session, I’ll tailor my tutoring plan to meet your student’s unique goals and challenges. 

The next step in my test prep program is a diagnostic practice test. This test allows me to analyze which concepts you have mastered and which require more attention. I’ll compare the diagnostic test score to your student’s goal score in order to determine specific areas of improvement. From there, the work begins in earnest.

How it Happens

The core of my program is practice tests. This allows you to acclimate to the time constraints, get used to the style of questions, and gain an understanding of which sections and test topics you struggle with and which sections you excel at.

Your student will take a practice test for homework, and see which questions they got right or wrong. When your student gets a question wrong, they will record it in a document called the mistakes journal. The mistakes journal is a compilation of all the topics your student struggles with. This technique has proven to lead to score improvement. Your student will also outline why they missed the question.

I spend an hour before each session going over how the student did on their practice test, and what they wrote in their mistakes journal. This allows me to make the best use of my 1-on-1 time with a student. Instead of wasting time on subjects a student already understands, I focus on the ones that trip them up, and concepts they struggle with.

I will also employ live drills in sessions. By watching a student attack a problem in real time, I can spot mistakes in your form, and analyze where you spend too much, or too little, time when answering a question. With the mistakes journals and live drills, I know what problems to assign you for homework, so you see real improvement between each session.

Parental Check-Ins

I know that the test prep process can be stressful for students and parents alike, so I send regular messages to keep you up to date on the progress your student is making. I compile notes on each meeting, and share them with you directly, so you can track victories and setbacks.

Here’s a sample communication I sent to a parent recently:


Martha has put more effort into her prep for our last two meetings, and it has paid off! After scoring a 1270 on her first practice test for me in January, she got a 1410 on her most recent practice test. This exceeded my expectations, and I think she’s got a great chance to score in the 1400s on her real test this Wednesday.

Martha and I agree that she is far from her potential on the test, so we will continue our prep for the June 5th test. I think that we will average 45 minutes of 1-on-1 time per week for the 13 weeks between now and then, making a total of 9.75 hours.

I’m encouraged by her commitment and improvement this past week, and if she keeps it up, I expect her to be scoring around 1480-1500 in a couple of months.


Potential Improvement

Parents frequently ask me how much an average student improves their score, and whether or not I offer guarantees to match that average. I do not offer this kind of guarantee; In my 10 years of test prep I’ve learned that each student is unique, and no two cases are alike.

I do guarantee that I will work as hard as I can to help your student and to offer them all the guidance they need. I cannot take the test in your place, but I can give you the tools to take it with confidence.
If you want to get started, schedule your free consultation today; I’m always eager to meet new students. If you want to learn more about my tutoring process, check out my article on our blog, which explains my test prep methodology in more depth.

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More To Explore

Wendy Y.
Below is my son's review. He was accepted to his dream Ivy League school!

From an admitted student's perspective, I am incredibly grateful to have met Sasha - he has been instrumental in helping me achieve my educational dreams (Ivy League), all while being an absolute joy (he's a walking encyclopedia, only funnier!) to work with.

Many people are dissuaded from seeking a college counselor because they think they can get into their desired college(s) either way. Honestly, going that route is a bit short-sighted and can jeopardize your odds of acceptances after years of hard work. The sad truth is, the American education system (even if you attend a fancy private school and ESPECIALLY if you go to a public school) doesn't really tell students how to write a compelling and authentic application. Going into the admissions process alone, without speaking with an advisor, is like going to court without a lawyer - you put yourself at a significant disadvantage because you don't have all the facts in front of you, or the help you need to negotiate the system.

That said, you need a good lawyer just like you need a good college counselor. And that's where Sasha distinguishes himself from the crowd of people claiming they'll get you into Harvard. I came to Sasha worried about and frankly dumbfounded by the college admissions process. I was unsure what to write about and how to go about drafting the essay that perfectly captured my passion, interests, and self. And I was highly skeptical that anyone could really help me. But, damn, did Sasha prove me wrong. From the beginning, Sasha amazed me with his understanding of the process, and ability to lend clarity and direction to me when I desperate needed it. After interviewing me about my background, experiences, activities, outlook, and vision, he helped me see qualities about myself I had not previously considered 'unique' or 'stand-out.' This process of understanding myself was so incredibly important in laying the groundwork for the essays I eventually wrote, and I'm certain I would've drafted boring, inauthentic essays without it.

Looking back, Sasha's talent is that he can see where your strengths lie, even when you don't see them. The truth is, although we don't always realize it, everyone has a unique story to tell. Sasha helped me see mine, and with his big-picture insight I was able to write the application that truly encapsulated my life and vision. He inspired me to dig deeper and write better, challenging me to revise and revise until my essays were the most passionate and authentic work I had ever written. As clichéd as that sounds, that's really what universities are looking for. In retrospect, it makes sense - in the real world passionate (not simply intelligent) individuals are the ones who make a difference in the world, and those are the individuals colleges would like to have associated with their brand.

In the end, I was accepted to the college of my dreams, a feat I could not have achieved without the direction Sasha lent to me. Essays (and the personal narrative you develop through your application) matter so much, and can literally make or break your application. I have seen so many of my 'qualified' friends receive rejections because they wrote contrived essays that didn't truly represent who they were; conversely, I have also seen so many friends with shorter resumes accepted because they were able to articulate their story in a genuinely passionate and authentic way - I fall into the latter category.

As a former admissions officer at Johns Hopkins, Sasha knows what types of essays jibe well with universities, an invaluable asset to have in the admissions process. He is responsive, flexible, creative, positive, and witty. For anyone who is serious about going into the college admissions process informed and prepared, I highly recommend Sasha.
Arda E.
I used Ivy Scholars to mainly help me with college applications. Within weeks of using this service, Sasha was able to simplify the already complex process. When it came to writing the Common App essay, Sasha didn’t just help with grammar and syntax, he brought my essays to life. Sasha also worked tirelessly to help solidify my extracurricular activities, including research and internship opportunities. Without his help, I would have never had an impressive resume.

Sasha is not only an extremely knowledgeable tutor, but also a genuine brother figure. His guidance, throughout my last two years of high school, was everything I needed to get me an acceptance letter from my dream schools (UC Berkeley, Tufts, Emory).

When it came to testing, Ivy Scholars worked like a charm. Sasha offered a very comprehensive plan when it came to completely acing my standardized tests. Without his test taking strategies I would have never gotten straight 5s on my AP tests and a 35 on the ACT.

Working with Sasha, I didn’t just become a good student, I became a genuine scholar.
Samson S.
We worked with Ivy Scholars during my son's senior year. I was concerned that we may be too late to take advantage of college advising but the Ivy Scholars team quickly and confidently directed us through the steps to ensure no deadlines were missed. Sasha's knowledge about schools, what they looked for in candidates, and how to maneuver the application process was invaluable. Mateo and Ryan worked with my son to help him create an essay that would get noticed and I am so appreciative he had their guidance.

Prior to securing Ivy Scholars, we tried using a less-expensive online service which was a terrible experience. As a parent, Ivy Scholars brought peace of mind to an area that was frankly overwhelming. This service was invaluable in the knowledge that we gained throughout the process. He has also met with my freshman daughter to provide guidance for her high school courses, career paths, extracurricular activities, and more.

Prior to signing with Ivy Scholars, I tried a less expensive online service and was very disappointed.

As a result of our work with Ivy Scholars, I am pleased to say that my son will be attending Stern Business School at New York University this fall! I highly recommend Ivy Scholars. Highly recommend!