Standardized testing is an inescapable fact of academic life.

Unfortunately, many students receive low scores simply because they lack the necessary test-taking know-how, preparation tools, practice habits, or skilled instruction required to maximize scores on tests like the SAT and ACT.

Nowhere is this more evident than on the math sections of such tests.

Of course, mathematical ability is the best predictor of success on any math test, and many tutors use an entirely content-based approach in an attempt to quickly increase standardized test math scores. In most cases, however, this is a fool’s errand.

The only way to markedly improve command of mathematics is through hundred of hours of dedicated effort in the classroom and at the homework desk. For all but a few students, even considering the narrowed range of topics featured on standardized math tests, attempting to strengthen scores through intensive, comprehensive math tutoring only makes sense as a long term project. Tutoring is expensive, however, and for practically all families such an approach is cost-prohibitive.

In any case, a carefully-crafted, multi-faceted approach is nearly always the best way to boost math scores and typically produces better results in a fraction of the time.

In fact, done correctly, preparation for standardized tests provides significant additional benefits by training essential skills not covered in class yet vital to success in higher education and beyond.

Math for standardized tests is my specialty and area of expertise, and it's been my privilege to have helped legions of students optimize performance on standardized tests since 1978.

Following are the core ingredients in my secret sauce.

Targeted Instruction

Math is math, and normally it's necessary to spend some time covering mathematical concepts and techniques. In my work with ambitious students, however, teaching of course content is kept to a minimum in favor of more immediately useful and fruitful elements of test prep. The closer one gets to a perfect 800 the less the need to review basics and the greater the need to incorporate other ingredients listed below.

Test-Taking Acumen

Artful tactics are vitally important on high-stakes standardized tests. Simple yet powerful math strategies enable students to quickly pick correct answers without employing difficult or time-consuming analytic techniques test makers expect to be used. Teaching students to implement the most effective standardized test math strategies is one of the pillars of my method. "If the math isn't that hard, do the math. Otherwise, use a strategy!"

Productive Practice

The story is told of a man lost in downtown Manhattan, late for a concert. He stopped to ask a stranger for directions. The stranger happened to be a famous violinist. The man asked, “How can I get to Carnegie Hall?” The maestro answered, “Practice, practice." Copious, consistent, finely tuned, expertly coached practice and rehearsal are also fundamental in mastering standardized test mathematics. For this reason, loads of timed and untimed practice with question banks, “mini-tests," and full length math sections using official materials forms the third pillar of my approach to bettering scores.

Error Analysis and Tracking

Every mistake is an opportunity to elevate performance – but only if errors aren’t repeated. Students of mine use proprietary error analysis and tracking tools to identify and monitor the most serious and persistent mistakes they make, and record the best ways to avoid these score-crushing errors. By focusing awareness and attention on precisely what’s going wrong and how best to fix it, students are quickly able to reduce unnecessary errors and substantially raise scores.

Hardest Questions

Students with top scores only have trouble with hard problems. The higher the score, the greater the need to focus additional practice and coaching on extremely difficult questions. Utilizing my library of hundreds of official practice tests, students concentrate on learning to solve these most perplexing problems. Emphasizing work with tough end-of-section questions, my students master the creative thinking skills, specialized heuristics, and esoteric solution types necessary to crack even the weightiest math problems. Top students thus become able to squeeze from the test those last few points required to earn a perfect score.

Blind Review

Effective review of pivotal insights is imperative, and students of mine keep digital copies of key practice problems in a folder for further study. It's crucial that students rework these questions – without answers or notes – until they're mastered. Only by employing such a "blind review" process can students properly reinforce their learning and most swiftly advance.

Energy Management

Generating and sustaining maximal energy is key to maximal success. Test taking is a competitive activity, and as in athletics or the performing arts, lagging attention and lackluster commitment won’t cut it. Highly-intentional concentration and deliberate, laser-like focus light-up the brain like a Christmas tree, allowing students to move more quickly and cleverly, think more creatively and productively, and make the most of what they already know. Maintaining a sharp, mindful, energetic focus throughout the test is critical. This is so important that, without it, almost nothing else matters.

To learn more, I invite you to read my reviews and contact me if you have any questions.